This agenda was tailored for my friend John but you can easily adapt this to suit your own circumstances. So clear your schedule and start writing.
8:00 Wake up hangover-free.
8:15 Ask Lindsay to play any single song chosen at random. You must listen to it from another room. Suggest you grab a shower. Indirect listening is important.
8:20 Put on that favourite shirt.
8:25 Strictly no social media.
8:30 A gossamer-thin fragment of melody from Lindsay’s record stays with you.
8:30 Brave the weather by walking to Montreal’s very best coffee shop. Suggest going to an unfamiliar cafe, if possible. Hum that melodic fragment. Just the fragment. Order their very finest brew. Cost is irrelevant. Order from the pretty, chatty barista — not the tattooed monstrosity who looks like Goebbels in a lumberjack shirt. Absorb the hum of humanity. Capture any fleeting inspiration on notebook, iPod, whatever.
9:00 Return home. Brew a pot of coffee. Quality not important at this point: this round of java is for maintenance. Quickly ingest toast, cheese, orange, peanut butter.
9:04 Go ahead: take a quick look in the mirror. Fucking A: you look great today.
9:05 Find that quiet space.
9:06 Turn off all phones.
9:07 Tune guitar.
9:10 Open notebook to a fresh page.
9:12 Got your favourite pen?
9:15 Recording device handy?
9:16 Any other ambience-adjustments (for sound, sunlight, comfort, feng shui, etc.)
9:17 Play or hum three notes. If need be, play three notes from that fragment of melody you heard in the shower.
9:20 Imagine what you think should come next. Should be easy: you’ve been obsessively listening to music your whole life. You know where this should go.
9:45 Something wonderful and new is underway (you think). There’s a 50% chance you’re right.
9:46 More coffee? Good idea. Stand away from the guitar & notebook for a few minutes. Let your new melody roll around in your head. It will do unexpected things. This is a critical step.
9:50 More standing or walking about if necessary. Do not leave the apartment.
10:00 Get back to it. Get into the meaning of the song, musically and lyrically. Feel it.
10:05 Placeholder lyrics needed at this stage. Choose dummy lyrics that can be easily rhymed with. This helps with the flow. If you have proper lyrics happening, all the better.
10:15 So far, so good. But you need to see if you can improve this by 40% merely by adjusting the key: throw on the capo. Any improvement?
10:20 Carry on.
10:25 By now you’re ready to record your progress. Do so.
10:28 Damn, that sounds good. New song more than 75% done.
10:30 More standing. More thinking. Another look in the mirror. Fuck: you are brilliant!
10:35 Really feel the excitement.
11:00 Carry on, if need be. If writing lyrics on paper, use your best handwriting, not that Satanic scribble you use for grocery lists.
12:30 Off to the guitar store. Your fresh accomplishment at the songwriting desk gives you a wonderful confidence. You’ll be damned if you don’t deserve to rent something new.
2:00 Other commitments.
3:45 Make a note of the very first thing you think of when you wake up — especially if it relates to your song.
4:00 Review recording from this morning.
4:05 Post-nap refinements? Try using the New Thing you rented/bought from the music store.
4:15 You sense there is a something deeper going on in this song than you initially thought. Ignoring your modesty, you tell yourself, “I am brilliant.” Let that sink in for a moment.
4:30 Stop there.
4:35 Email draft to songwriting friends or privately share with them via SoundCloud. Or not. You can choose to sleep on this one and come back to it tomorrow.
4:45 Tidy up. Spin records. Greet the family. Stretch. One small drink. Think about dinner and evening entertainments.
5:00 Once more to that mirror. Tell yourself: “I really know what I’m doing.”