Idea Collection

One technique that’s used by many songwriters is ‘Idea Collection’. Although there are numerous approached the basic premise is always the same.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you were going to work on a song about jealousy. You’d start by writing down whatever popped into your head about the subject: hate, broken heart, loss, other man, ring, alone, loneliness, anger, trust, insecurity, no answer on the phone, broken promises, unfair, juvenile, lover, etc. Try to list as many ideas as possible. They can be a word, a phrase, a concept, whatever.

It’s important that you’re non-judgmental during this process. Be sure not to be critical of any of your ideas. Just keep jotting them down. Quantity is more important than quality for this to work.

Now start writing your jealousy song. If you’re like most songwriters there will be times when you can’t come up with anything. That would be the time to review your ‘Idea Collection’. You’ll find that often there’s a better word or concept that you can use or perhaps a direction to go in for the bridge.

I think that this approach can be helpful because of the freedom you allow during the creative process of compiling the Collection. When you’re actually writing the song your brain is multi-tasking. It’s thinking about the song form or the rhyming scheme or the meter. If you can free it up a bit with the ‘Idea Collection’ it can work much more effectively.


4 thoughts on “Idea Collection

  1. yep – this is one of the 2 ways I ever write a song. It is the harder of the two; the other way, inspiration strikes and the song marches out of my mouth. That’s more convenient EXCEPT it doesn’t always happen whenever I want it to happen.

  2. I find that using resources such as to find a collection of “related words” can stimulate the thought process. It will give you not only synonyms, but words which have your input word in their definition, words which are used in the same context, more generalized related concepts. In the case of “jealousy”, you not only see some of the obvious such as “envy”, but also “to covet”, “vigilance”, “to admire”, “green-eyed monster”, “hatred”, “jaundice”, “alertness” and many others which might stimulate the thought process.

    Another valuable resource is Roget’s International Thesaurus (not the college version). A public domain version from 1922 is on line: .

    A more up-to-date version can be found on published in 2010. You can get it for about $17.50.

    The International Edition is a 1300 page collection of categories, ideas, lists and parts of speech, fully indexed. Far more than a synonym dictionary, it can supply you with interesting and colorful vocabulary to supplement that which is on the tip of your tongue.

    The on-line version, being 91 years out of date, can give some antiquated vocabulary which may or may not be useful (“jealousy” gives the expression “jealous as a Barbary pigeon” (WTF?)), so maybe an investment in the 7th edition is worth the money.

    An interesting site which lists categories of words could also be useful (e.g. Emotions and feelings, names of countries, flowers, animals, negative words, positive words, transportation, etc.) Check it out:

  3. Thanks Jim! This is a great idea, and I look forward to giving it a try. I often fixate on one aspect of the song, then feel stuck, then get frustrated and give up. Next time I’ll try this (cuz giving up is no fun!).

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