Measure For Measure: Using The “Fuzzy-To-Focused” Songwriting Method

“Sketch with broad strokes first; fill in details later.”

While listening to Margo Price’s “Hurtin’ (On The Bottle)” and contemplating a few tequila sunrises of my own, it suddenly occurred to me that songs of loss and loneliness — worlds of hurt, in short — are among my favorites (yours, too, probably). But why. Catharsis, perhaps. A purging of pain via empathy for others.

Why not let the critics and scientists sort that one out while we pose a humbler but more interesting question, namely, “How do you write a song about a broken heart.” With the help of a secret weapon in the war against the blank page, I’m confident a solution can be found within.

The “secret weapon” in question is a tried and true cure for the creative blues I call the “fuzzy-to-focused method.” In essence it means, “Sketch with broad strokes first; fill in details later.”

I learned “fuzzy-to-focused” in art school and have been applying it everywhere ever since. Take this column: Though it’s No. 34, my reaction to the call of duty was an all too familiar sensation known to many a songwriter: panic. “Fuzzy-to-focused” saved the day, so let’s try it out.

Step 1: Research

Step one is easy: Fuhgeddaboudit! Yeah, just forget about writing a song, and do research instead. But here’s the secret agenda: You are anesthetizing your inner critic with facts, a tempting treat she just can’t resist. Kokopelli willing, your playful imagination will get bored long before you’re done and whisper something mischievously... Sign In to Keep Reading

To view this content,

Join Today

or Sign In

The Benefits of Membership:

  • Limited-time FREE Feature Magazine Content
  • Exclusive access to members-only contests and giveaways
Click to Join

We've started a free American Songwriter membership. Click here to learn more.