A Minimalist Approach To Songwriting

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

This is my workspace. Yep, it’s pretty clean and clutter free. I’m a minimalist these days. Now, I’ve had elaborate home studios and every piece of gear I could get my hands on over the years but, something changed. 

It began with our daughters going off to college. A disclaimer here. We lived in the Temple Hills area of Franklin, outside of Nashville, and our daughters enrolled at Belmont University, about 20 miles away from our home, but lived on campus. This was a great house for our family but it became apparent it was way more than we really needed. So we downsized, townhome style, which meant getting rid of a bunch of stuff. If you’ve ever been in this situation you know you have to make some serious concessions. Some things you can’t imagine living without…until you do.

Over 13 years later I have to say there is a freedom in decluttering. Even when it comes to songwriting. I found myself having more fun with less and less gear. Gear is great and served me well but I had hit a time of less is more in every way. Almost as if the fewer options I had the clearer the mission became. You know the saying a great song should hold up with just an acoustic guitar or piano? Maybe, but I do know it’s a terrific test of a solid song.

As I moved into coaching writers online, I took this new found approach even further. I created a workspace made up entirely of essentials. A great, simple desk*, laptop, pens, pencils and a few favorite coffee mugs. It felt like the more uncluttered the space the more uncluttered the thought process.  My wife gave me the little “inspire” piece in the picture and that’s been a huge part of my coaching decor :-) 

The great American choreographer Twyla Tharp wrote one of my favorite books called “The Creative Habit” and one of her suggestions for creating good work habits was to choose one thing to take away from your normal routine. To start, just for a week. Maybe something that seems necessary but might really be a distraction. She chose clocks. By not having them in her studio her eye wasn’t drawn to the limitation of time. She felt it freed her mind - her subconscious was able to be a little more creative. 

So what am I suggesting? Give some thought to where you create with an eye to just the essentials. See how it feels to purge here and there. Maybe you can maximize your creativity with a minimalist style.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: iPhone

Bottom photo: Eric Brown

* Desk: Urban Woods

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I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com


Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Song a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book, “Song Journey” to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.