Songwriting Challenge #2

Thank you everyone for the incredible response to the first challenge.  Many of you are already accomplished songwriters which is great.  I’m looking forward to building this community and I hope that these “challenges” help to push everyone to be better songwriters.

This month I want to move away from building complete songs and work on the process.  There’s a book called Lyrics – Writing Better Words for Your Songs by Ricky Rooksby that I like a lot.  Maybe I like it because I’m a terrible lyricist 🙂

One of the first discussions in the book is about finding inspiration for songs.  The book recommends using anything and everything for inspiration – the newspaper, books, art, TV, media, conversations, the list goes on.  Sometimes I think that as Christian artist in general – we tend to stray from anything secular when writing.

So for October I’m proposing that we simply write down inspirations.  Simply comment on thoughts, experiences, scriptures, poems, stories, etc.  that you think would make good song material.  Given that its October, fall, and scripturally ordinary time – I think we have a lot to pull from.  Don’t worry about trying to put these into songs yet (of course unless you want to 🙂 ) but I’m hoping to pick several to use in future challenges.

Happy Inspirations!

10 thoughts on “Songwriting Challenge #2”

  1. I was told once by a record producer that reading was a top priority for good songwriting and he meant all kinds of reading. We need to read spiritual books but we need to read all kinds of books, both fiction and non-fiction. I recently read a children’s novel by Paul Gallico about a boy who mysteriously turned into a cat. The book however had a much deeper universal truth about feeling abandoned and unloved, and a child’s need for parental love. The book also explored themes of self-sacrificing love between the boy when he was a cat, and the female cat, Jennie, who rescued him and taught him what he needed to know to survive. These are good themes to explore for songs so long as you can take the information gathered from such a book and condense it into succinct and powerful lines that sum up the universal truths. Not an easy task! I am finding now as a writer that I have to journal pages and pages of notes in order to write a few sentences that really say something. I haven’t been able to write song lyrics for a very long time but I am praying for St. Hildegard’s intercession so that I can write songs again.

    1. Thanks for the comments and honesty Susan!

      I couldn’t agree more on the need to read in order to improve lyric writing. I want to go back and read several novels with an eye towards gathering songwriting material out of them. I’ve always been a fan of CS Lewis’ Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but have never read the rest of the series. We have been watching some of the movies here at home and I know there is a wealth of lyrics in there.

      I also wanted to share something that another Richard Schelty found when I was looking for fall themes to use at challenges:
      Or how about All Hallow’s Eve?

      Tricks or treats — old style

      Begging at the door grew from an ancient English custom of knocking at doors to beg for a “soul cake” in return for which the beggars promised to pray for the dead of the household. Soul cakes, a form of shortbread — and sometimes quite fancy, with currants for eyes — became more important for the beggars than prayers for the dead, it is said. Florence Berger tells in her Cooking for Christ a legend of a zealous cook who vowed she would invent soul cakes to remind them of eternity at every bite. So she cut a hole in the middle and dropped it in hot fat, and lo — a doughnut. Circle that it is, it suggests the never-ending of eternity. Truth or legend, it serves a good purpose at Halloween.

      The refrains sung at the door varied from “a soul cake, a soul cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake,” to the later:

      Soul, soul, an apple or two,
      If you haven’t an apple, a pear will do,
      One for Peter, two for Paul,
      Three for the Man Who made us all.

  2. Oh yes, Peter, Paul and Mary did a song about that called “A Soulin'” – I even learned the guitar part 🙂

    Journal writing is also a good way to improve expression. In the case of songwriters, it’s a good idea I think to learn about editing your journal entries if you have written one specifically with the idea of gaining ideas for song lyrics. It can take several rounds of edits before what we have written is clear; you think you may have properly expressed something theological only to find later after study and editing that your expression was not so clear. For example, I was writing about grace and talked out the power of grace increasing. I realized after editing that it is not grace itself that increases in power for grace is a constant coming from the constant God; it never changes. It’s the ALLOTMENT of grace that changes – it can come out as a trickle or in a rush, see what I mean? I am learning as I write just about important precision in language us.

  3. New to this group and grateful to have found you folks. I am a long time singer/songwriter mostly of the secular variety. Here’s my suggestion, one I have begun to work on myself. I have recently made a decicion to return the Catholic Church. I won’t provide the details of this decision other than to say it is a ‘homecoming’ most welcome. Please understand, however, it is not a Prodigal Son situation, I have followed a different path for years, but not one I would compare to the Prodigal. Rather a different spiritual path that did end up unsatisfying, but never was it a period of wasting of an inheritance or immorality. Just a turn down a new path that turned into a dead end. Ok, that’s it, Just putting it out there.

  4. Hi-I’m a Catholic songwriter, and I need to find some names, & addresses of producers, artists, managers, etc., who are looking for songs to record/perform.
    I’ve had NO luck searching the web-there are far too few Catholic resources for this.

    1. Hi Guy,
      I feel for you. There is precious little infrastructure for Catholic artists. The one formal group I know of is Spirit and Song, a division of OCP at

      You can also contact World Library Publications ( and GIA Publications (

      Beyond that you will need to learn to become an indie. Here are a couple of groups to explore:

      CatholicMusicMinistries on Yahoo groups – go to this URL and click on Join:
      Or send an email to:

      There is also a Facebook group called Catholic Jukebox at – George Leite is the moderator and webmaster of

      Be prepared to carve out your own path for there is little out there. My advice is to get to know other musicians through these groups and educate yourself on becoming an independent musician and/or songwriter. CCM is pretty much dead and the Catholic Church culture does not support CCM-type music. The best way to use music is with other mediums – public speaking, liturgy, youth ministry like Confirmation, etc.

      I’m sorry I can’t offer you more (except prayers). I was a part of a grassroots Catholic music scene in the late 90s/early 2000s but that scene is pretty much gone now. Something new will need to be created.

      Good luck Guy!

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