I just finished off a bunch of songs that have sitting around unfinished the past year. Mainly, because of the polar vortex preventing me from going, well, anywhere. Secondly, because I have an discomforting amount of spare time which I should probably use more wisely. (As in: not playing with the latest IPad/Iphone game/social networky thing.)
One of the questions most asked of anyone who has ever written a song is how you get the lyrics written. In my case, musically, I usually have a good idea about how the song will go. Usually, I have at least chorus melody and chords to most of the song. Sometimes, I even have a full demo without any words and the barest sketch of a melody. I try to vary the way I write a song because that way, if I get stuck in writing it, I'll have a fairly robust set of tools to get me out of a jam.
One of the tools in my tool kit is a song title and phrase list. This is a list I used to keep in my lyric notebooks. Over the years, I eventually moved it to my computer. Now, I keep it on my mobile devices using a database program and a note taking program called Evernote. Basically, its a list of titles, interesting phrases, band names, brand names or what ever combination of random words a person says that catch me.
For example, in my song "Shining Your Light" off my CD "Club Bordeaux" I used the phrase "feel like a liar in my search for the truth" to start writing the lyrics of the verse. That random phrase was in the list. The actual chorus and title "Shining Your Light" was somewhere else on the list. In the end, the "feel like a liar" line ended up more in the middle of the song. Funny sidenote: the original title of the song, which started out as an instrumental, was "Backdoor to Heaven". THAT would have been some interesting NSFW lyrics.
There are some commercially available tools that work in a similar to this. A fairly expensive program named Master Writer does this a little bit. But, I kind of like working on my own master list of phrases that have either a physical or emotional echo for me. It just makes it easier to write. For example, I recently wrote a song called "Breathe the Life" that has the phrase "over sea and stone". For anybody that has read children's fiction from the 1970's it is semi-recognizable from a Susan Cooper book title "Over Sea and Under Stone".from the "Dark is Rising" series. I just liked the phrase and it has emotional ties to my childhood. So, when I sing the song, It's easy to get in an emotional space to sing it. I've even gotten my kids into the act. The new album title "Ghost Museum" and the song title "Hurt Your Heart(Break Your Feelings)" comes from them. Those little rugrats are actually good for something!
Since I literally have hundreds of these phrases now I, being a tech geek, decided to create a database. It's what tech geeks do. I have tags to each phrase based on what style of song I think they might be suited to(ballad, country, rock, jazz), meter, rhythm and number of syllables in a main phrase. Sometimes, I even sketch out a plot or direction based on the phrase and put it in the database in case I use it. This way, I almost never get stuck on a phrase or direction of a song for long.