Object writing is one of my favorite songwriting exercises that has helped me through some tough writer's block. Coined by Berklee's stand-out professor Pat Pattison in the mid-90s, object writing is an exercise that encourages you to use all 7 seven of your senses to describe an object. You may be wondering, when did we get 7 senses? While we have the more common senses that include sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing, you will also want to consider organic senses and motion senses.
Organic (or body) senses deal with the feelings that our bodies go through like a racing heart, tired muscle, or chills that are a reaction to a certain object. It slightly differs from the sense of touch since it's all going on in our bodies without us needing to touch anything.
Motion (or kinesthetic) senses are also similar to the sense of touch since it deals with how we feel in our bodies as well as in our minds. A motion sensory feeling could be the sense of being trapped, floating, spinning in circles, running, or something similar. Motion senses are very often used in creative writing in the form of songs and fictional writing in the 1st person.
Object writing can be as simple as finding an object in the room like a chair. Start simple with an immovable object in comparison to trying to use a person as your object. The object can be any noun you think of, and it is encouraged to try several different types of nouns once you really get into the process of object writing as a recurring exercise. You can start writing about abstract ideas, general locations, collective nouns, and much more. The possibilities are really endless!
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The first thing you will want to do when preparing for an object writing session is to find a space where you can be undisturbed and in the zone. You don't want to go into this process with any outside noise or distractions. The best time to start the process is when your mind is most alert, which is often the first thing in the morning for many creatives, or it can be in the wee hours of the night if you keep a crazy schedule as I do.
Once you find a good time and space to get in the mood for some creativity, set a timer and limit yourself to around 10 minutes. You don't want to overthink this process, and it'll be great to get into the habit of doing this a few times a week if you want to see long-term results in your creativity and clarity. The next step is to find your object, and start jotting down ideas from every one of the 7 senses.
Remember to try to see things from your own perspective as well as a universal perspective that many people can relate to. For example, if you're writing about that chair in your room, you can begin to describe it as a place where we as people lazily watch tv, or you can take a very personal approach and describe it as the place your grandma used to cornrow your hair.
When it comes to object writing, the goal isn't to write down everything that's a gem. It's more of a freewriting process where you will jot down several ideas and begin to piece some together into a potential song while most of the content will be something that you can throw away. Unless of course, you're just in a zone where you struck mental magic and you really get the inspiration to write down perfect lyrics that come out rhyming and everything. If not though, you don't need to force rhymes or even force a cohesive story yet when you're just jotting down your senses in relation to the object you choose. The goal is to get great details and great metaphors for a potentially great song of yours.
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Katy Perry's hit song "Firework" is a great example of songwriting that was done with object writing in mind. The writers of this hit took the object of a firework, a plastic bag, a lightning bolt, and so many more lifeless objects and described them in a way that we as humans could objectively relate to emotionally. The descriptions were visual, motion, organic, and much more. The lyrics paired with her emotional delivery really add depth to this song that would otherwise be generic.
Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" took the idea of joy driving and put an entire tragic love story in the background with visual, organic, motion, and audio sensors. While object writing can make for some fantastic metaphors, sometimes it can just link a simple object to a very compelling and relatable story that we can all easily cling to as music lovers and people, in general.
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