How to Write Songs: Notes on Collaboration from Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman

• Write around others. If you’ve ever walked into a Starbucks, you’ve probably seen at least one or two people with a Macbook open, earbuds in, sipping a soy latte, and studying or writing on something. I used to scoff at such individuals. “You really mean to tell me you get up, drive to a coffee shop, and pay $4 for a cup of coffee just to sit and do something you could do just as well back at your apartment?” Actually, I was wrong. It’s scientifically demonstrated that an individual is more focused and productive when working around others who are working. The person does not even need to be communicating with the others, and they do not even need to be working on the same material for the correlation to hold. The same works for writing songs. You don’t need to be in a coffee shop, but it does help stir your inspiration and focus your attention to be around others who are also writing music.
• Write with others. Different songwriters bring different strengths to the table. Chris Tomlin is better at producing melodies, and Matt Redman is stronger at penning lyrics. Your strengths will complement others’ weaknesses, and vice versa. That’s why it’s important to take the risk and bring others into your writing.
• Write with friends. The safest place to work on songs together is in years-long friendships. When you trust another person, you are not afraid of your ideas being discouragingly shot down. In mutual, meaningful relationships, you can trust each other’s criticism because you trust each other’s positive intentions.

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