Five Things I Learned from Songwriting

It has been almost three months since my last blog post and I am very happy to be back! A lot of events happened recently which caused my hiatus in writing, but I think one of the biggest factors was my journey in songwriting. A few weeks ago, I was surprised by how I survived the past months without writing on my journal or blog as often as I did. It was then that I realized how the Lord allowed me to express both my hurts and the lessons I have learned through music.

By God’s grace, He gave me the privilege of writing ten original songs about my walk with Him in the past nine weeks since the month of June. This morning, I listened to them again and remembered the pain and comfort I felt before as I read through the lyrics. I thanked the Lord because even though I didn’t get to write my thoughts down as much as I could, they were somehow immortalized through these songs. Personally, I find myself singing some of the lyrics especially when I experience the same struggles again.

TEN SONGS:

  1. “It’s You, Jesus”  – Walking by faith whenever I struggle with worry.
  2. “This Is Love” – No earthly love can ever compare to Jesus’ love for us.
  3. “Not Even a Hint” – Pursuing purity and fleeing from pornography.
  4. “You Are” – Amazed by how beautiful nature is, but even more awestruck by who our Creator is.
  5. “Into Your Arms” – Experiencing God’s forgiveness after falling into sin.
  6. “I Can” – Battlecry in the midst of problems and pains.
  7. “White as Snow” – Surrendering regrets and shame (because of my past) to the Lord.
  8. “No One Like You” – How God is the strength and desire of my heart.
  9. “You’re In Control” – Trusting in God’s will.
  10. “Don’t Ever Forget” – Finding hope in God’s love whenever we are downcast.

I loved listening to music, singing songs, and playing simple chords in the guitar and piano growing up. If it is God’s will, I do hope I can continue enjoying and making music for His glory. As I celebrate my 10th song in a row since June, I would like to share five keywords that I have learned along the way. I hope that these will encourage your heart somehow:

 

1. INSPIRATION

After writing the sixth song, I told a friend “I’m so tired. Although I enjoy being able to express myself through songwriting, it does come with a lot of emotions.” Don’t get me wrong, my heart has been very grateful to the Lord for this opportunity. But to give you an idea of how it usually happens to me, it starts with a struggle in my heart. It could be about pride, anger, lust, insecurities, worry, loneliness, and many more. When this happens, I bring it up to the Lord and ask Him to help me fight it with His truths found in the Bible. Afterwards, either a random melody or a few lines about who God is or my identity in Him would pop up in my mind. Then, I would be able to finish the rest of the song eventually. Imagine this process happening every week for the past 2 ½ months. Haha!

But, I do praise God because He knows how much music speaks to my heart. So, being able to merge Biblical truths and music really does help me fight the struggles. Although this process has been emotionally heavy at times (as countless tears were shed), I realized that these struggles and God’s grace through them became the inspiration of the songs. Whenever I experience new struggles in my heart, the Lord continues to renew my mind and help me see things through His perspective and Word.

 

2. DISCIPLINE

I am an amateur guitarist, singer, and songwriter. This year, I had the desire to be more intentional in songwriting and by God’s grace, He has been allowing me to grow through it. It does take up a lot of time and effort. During the first two songs, I struggled recording them at home because my fingers would feel this burning sensation after playing the guitar a couple of times. That’s when I knew I had to develop callouses on my fingers to help me play with ease. I literally played the guitar for at least 15 minutes after work each day for two weeks. This eventually helped me play the next songs without feeling much pain on my fingers.

Another aspect of discipline that I learned in the recent months was prioritizing songwriting. I remember having to decline some of the hangouts with friends and colleagues because I intentionally scheduled some of my nights for songwriting and guitar practice. Also, I have been more conscious of my health since I started writing songs consistently. I made sure to boost my immune system with vitamin C, drink more water, lessen my sugar intake, and workout more regularly. If I do not become disciplined in this aspect, I may not be able to sing well because of the usual health issues I have: sore throat, cough, and colds.

By God’s grace, songwriting has also helped me practice writing poems, properly strum and pluck the guitar, transpose, find the key that is right for my voice, learn from the different styles of other songwriters, and improve after every song.

 

3. PATIENCE

One of the struggles of songwriters is having a growing list of unfinished songs. I can’t begin to explain how frustrating it is to hear melodies or words in your head and not be able to put them in a song. In my phone’s voice memo, I have MANY 10-second to 30-second recordings of melodies and words that I haven’t finished writing yet. Haha!

But what I’ve learned in the past months is being able to persevere in being patient. In my case, since I write about my walk with God or who He is, I trust that if ever He does want me to finish a song, He will allow it to happen in His perfect time. In the recent 10 songs that I’ve written, here are the various times it took me to finish them: 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours, 3 days, and 5 days. It’s fun to finish it in less than an hour. But when days have passed and the song isn’t finished yet, it’s tempting to just give up and forget about it. But I thank the Lord for His grace in giving me patience and helping me follow through.

 

4. AUTHENTICITY

I enjoy being with people who are real and it’s also because I like being real too. I remember one aunt casually told me: “You know, Nicole, it’s interesting and nice that you share what is in your heart whenever you blog. I mean, others wouldn’t really be that open with their struggles.” Another friend told me: “Nicole, we need this kind of realness in the world! Thank you for sharing!” There is beauty in authenticity that isn’t enjoyed or encouraged in the society often. Whenever I blog or write in my journals, I usually do not hold back and I share my hurts, the lessons I’ve learned, and how I am humbled through them. So, even in songwriting, it’s one of the non-negotiables that I have whenever I write the lyrics.

I still remember the very first time I wrote a full song back in 2009. I wanted to find a song that expresses exactly what was going on in my heart, that I could sing along to. But I couldn’t find one at that time. So, I thought “Why not just write a song from your heart? In that way, your heart would really relate to every line that you sing.” As the years passed, people would randomly share how some of the songs I’ve written spoke to them and how much they could relate to them. Some even mentioned that they worship the Lord through some of my songs. It’s amazing how being real allows us to connect with others, even strangers, in an uplifting way. It’s okay to be broken and weak because God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness.

 

5. HUMILITY

As the Lord dealt with my heart’s struggles in the recent months, He made sure to remind me that at the end of each day and at the end of every song I’ve written, all the glory goes to Him. I can’t thank God enough for how He has used this recent journey in songwriting to show me that He alone is God and I am not. No one else is.

I also appreciate the many times I’ve received constructive feedback from family and friends on how to improve the way I choose my words, melody, and even beat of the song. For Christian songs, I learned from Tommy Walker how writing lyrics based on Bible verses not only makes the song beautiful, but it also impacts our hearts more than lyrics based on our own emotions. Of course! The Bible verses are God’s words! I’ve experienced this as I wrote the songs I mentioned above. It’s amazing how music helps me memorize verses from the Bible and encourages me to dig deeper in their context as I write about them.

This truth has been humbling my heart and helping me see my need to constantly abide in Him. With this, I take no glory for any of the songs I have written since I started. It is only by His grace that He gave me the privilege of being used by Him to make music for Him.

There were moments when I would tell God: “Lord, what if you remove my hands, my eyes, or my voice? What if I won’t be able to listen, sing, and make music for you anymore?” Then, God helped me realize that it isn’t about what I am able to do for Him, but it is always about His goodness, love, faithfulness, and grace for us. As He is teaching me to be humble, I am learning to surrender songwriting to Him and His will, whether or not He allows me to pursue this in the future. But for now, as long as I am able, I pray that I will keep my heart, ears, and hands open for His glory.

“Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things…” –Psalm 98:1

“…Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –Ephesians 5:18-20

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