How to Write One Song Book Review


I knew I wanted to read How to Write One Song after hearing Jeff Tweedy interviewed by Malcolm Gladwell on Broken Record. The book is a short, fun-to-read guide that offers specific tools you can implement to write a song of your own. The title aims to make songwriting seem accessible and down-to-earth rather than some form of capital-A art (similar to the ideas offered in Danny Gregory’s Art Before Breakfast).


  • Invite inspiration into your life rather than wait for it. (p. 19)
  • Have a work ethic. There’s value in repetition and routine. (p. 35)
  • His perfect work day (p.43-51)
  • Emphasis on “how much I feel we can all benefit from a day-to-day creative regimen.” (p. 109)
  • “If you can unburden yourself of your more judgmental and discerning self with some regularity, you’ll have a better life.” (p. 121)

Influence on Me

  • Gave me the idea that I could write a song, something I have never before thought I might ever do. It’s similar to how I never thought I would create a recipe of my own, but then I took a class and did it!
  • I really enjoyed the word ladder exercise. I probably haven’t done any writing exercise since high school. I could see it becoming a regular, fun habit.
  • The idea of writing one song, breaking the task into a small and possible size, reminds me of something I learned in a drawing class with Gabi Campanario. He taught us that he loves a pocket sketchbook because it has smaller pages, so making a many drawings is more attainable and you’re more likely to persevere.
  • I have not given much thought to songwriting in my life, but I have heard the episode of This American Life where Starlee Kine wrote a breakup song. This book made me think of that podcast, naturally.

Why You Should Read It

Even if you don’t want to write a song, there is great stuff in here about the creative process in section one. I think the later sections about writing lyrics and music could even have an influence on someone with any creative outlet. Jeff Tweedy’s writing will make you laugh out loud. At the end of the day this is a book about welcoming beauty and inspiration into your life so you can live better.

Are there books by musicians you recommend?

Your friend,

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