Restrictions Give You Freedom


The word carries negative connotations but it has a very important place in any creative process.

It’s easy to start a lyric and get halfway through only to find that you have no idea what you’re really writing. Where is any of this going?

Lets say a love song. What does that even mean?

  • Love unreciprocated?
  • Old love that has faded?
  • Trying to come to grasp with love?
  • Being unable to stand the fact you love someone?

A love song can be hateful in the right context (Queue Addison from Bounce screaming Get Out Of My Life!) . Without narrowing down what your aim is, without restricting yourself to a certain idea or scenario you can end up with a pile of words that try to say everything but end up meaning nothing.

Now, lets put up some restrictions on a love song.

A man in Massachusetts has a mechanic shop he has worked in since the age of 16. His father died and this business was his only inheritance. All the loving memories of his father are intertwined with this building of brick, and this man is doing everything he can to hold onto his fathers memory.

He recently married his high school sweetheart who secretly always longed for the big city. She rings him up and out of left field lets him know shes leaving on the 12:00 train for New York; shes not coming back.

Its 11:38. His younger brother currently has the family car.

So this man runs in the pouring rain for 20 minutes, and gets to the station; wrench in hand looking like an idiot. The conductor does last call right before he see’s his fiance with a single piece of luggage; shes wearing her favorite yellow polka-dot dress.

It’s so obvious what this songs about. The restrictions put in place give you so much freedom to create something beautiful. There are suddenly an ocean of details to pull from. Defining exactly what you’re writing about gives you so much more than “Write a song about ___”. Even if you don’t write from a Musical Theater tradition.

So if you’re in a situation where you’re writing and you’re not fortunate enough to have detailed source material, try restricting yourself.

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