Great Books for Artists (of any kind) Pt. 3

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by Jan Seides
Wednesday 19th February, 2014, 12:22pm

Over the years, I’ve found a number of books that got me motivated, thrust me into action, or helped me resolve some of the many stumbling blocks artists are prone to.  I discovered them mostly in random fashion, or they were recommended by a friend, or mentioned in something else I was reading. Here is an aggregated list (about 5 at a time, so you’ll have time to investigate them) of all the ones I found useful, and usually entertaining. (Disclaimer: I am not financially involved in any of these. Just appreciative.)

Screen shot 2014-02-12 at 11.07.27 PMSheila Davis has long been a respected writer and teacher of songwriting skills. The Craft of Lyric Writing is in use on the University level, and has been required reading for years. In it, she analyzes the lyrics of skilled professionals like Don Henley, Jimmy Webb, Stephen Sondheim and many others.



Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 1.11.01 AMSuccessful Lyric Writing is an intensive workbook based on the principals of songwriting that Davis set forth in the former. It takes awhile to get through it, and is one of those workbooks you go back to periodically, but it’s totally worth the time and effort.



Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 1.11.58 AMThe Songwriters Idea Book is subtitled 40 strategies to excite your imagination and help you design distinctive songs, and keep your creative flow.  It will help you break new ground in your songwriting, by revealing the relationship between language personality and the brain.

According to the publisher, the book covers territory like: using whole brain technique, stimulating the creative process, designing metaphors, and other poetic skills and learning to prevent writer’s block by increasing productivity.

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 1.16.23 AMWriting Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, though ostensibly about writing prose, is one of those books that is helpful to the creativity and imaginative play that produces everything we think of as art. As the blurb says, “Natalie Goldberg takes the practice of writing into the domain of the soul.”

The contents include exercises  and advice for circumventing writer’s block, finding ones own style, being compassionate toward one’s work. . Many of the chapters take the form of a personal journal of her life as she writes this book, and the reader begins to realize that every writer, even the ones that make it look easy and effortless — or maybe especially those — struggle with those issues with which we are all familiar. How to keep going, and keep writing, despite the adversity that is part of really living. Some of the most heart-breaking chapters deals with the illness and death of her favorite teacher. Even if one hasn’t lost someone important, reading about her loss, told her way, was a special and endearing experience. This is a writer who pulls no punches, and her books (she also wrote Wild Mind, which is a similar exploration) teach by example.

If you would like to investigate how this played out in my own songwriting, please check out my music at and I’ll send you some examples for free!




Category: Music, Songwriting

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