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01/06/2015 02:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Multi-Platinum Winning Songwriter and Poet IN-Q Talks Poetry and How to Break Into the Music Industry

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Answer by In Question, Multi-Platinum winning songwriter and poet

How do professional songwriters break into the business and begin working with well-known artists?

They have to connect with other people who are already successful in the industry. My experience was through getting a publishing deal with Rock Mafia. When we started collaborating I had an easier path to much larger artists than I would have had on my own. With us, every song is different. Sometimes the artist comes in and we write together, sometimes we collaborate with other songwriters, and sometimes we write in studio and get the song placed. There is no right way as long as the art finds the audience.

I also believe sharing your own work is important. I've managed to connect with songwriters and artists through my spoken word poetry over the years and have been lucky enough to make lasting friendships. Aloe Blacc and I originally connected through poetry and Hip-Hop, but I had the chance to co-write "Ticking Bomb" off his Life Your Spirit album, which has since been nominated for a Grammy. Mike Posner and I originally connected through recorded poetry together and now he is a special guest at an upcoming show I have at the Mark Taper Forum in Downtown Los Angeles on January 15th. I wouldn't have had these types of opportunities if I didn't continue to create and put my art out into the world.

What is the best way to go about writing a poem?

For me, it always starts with something that's true. I make an effort to pay attention to my daily interactions so that when something resonates with me, I write it down. It's easy to build on an idea if it sparks me. That being said, sometimes it's harder to find the spark than it is to fan the flames, so I am very aware of making sure I take every opportunity that comes my way.

After that, it's about giving myself the time to explore the idea and not judging what is coming out before it has a chance to flourish. When I teach poetry workshops I always give prompts that force people to choose subjects in their life that move them and have impacted them in a special way, because if it means something to you it will most likely mean something to those who are listening.

What is the best poem you have ever written?

My favorite poem will always be the next poem that I write. To say that I have a favorite piece from the past makes me feel limited. I really enjoy the process of creation. It's a puzzle trying to figure out each piece. I enjoy speaking as well, but bringing something to life that didn't exist before that moment is explainable. It's a conversation with the deepest part of my soul. I just have to listen intently so that I can translate through my words.

What are the best ways to overcome writer's block?

I give myself some space. There is usually a state of flow that I reach when I am working where the poem or song is writing itself and I am as much of a conduit as I am a creator. There are other times when it suddenly feels very difficult to find the words. Usually at that point I step away and distract myself so that when I return, I see the piece through new eyes. This allows me to rediscover it from a different angle, which is where the fun happens.

How I do this varies depending on the circumstances. Sometimes I'll step away for five minutes, five days, or five weeks. Once, I took a whole year to complete a poem. It was a very personal piece called "Father Time", about my Dad not being around and I wasn't willing to compromise its authenticity. It was, for obvious reasons, very important to me and I had to make sure that it was right. When I finished I felt like I had completed a marathon. In general, I tend to assume that if I can't find the words I don't have them yet, and I need to live more to know what the next line is supposed to say. The point is that I try not to take my writers block too seriously. The process is more important than the product. Give it time and you'll be able to create.

How does one become a better storyteller?

By doing it. The best way to get better at something is by doing it. I encourage everyone to find their voice in any art form they can. If poetry or songwriting calls to you, then answer. If it is something else, then follow that path. The most important thing is the repetitive experience of doing it. Perform, over and over, whether it's for an audience of one person or one hundred people, you'll continue to get better and more confident every single time.

It can also be very empowering to express yourself. Art allows us to be vulnerable from a place of strength, which is something the world desperately needs more of.

IN-Q is a multi-platinum winning songwriter and poet who began as a founding member of Da Poetry Lounge, the largest poetry mic in the U.S. As a poet and a rapper, he's shared the stage with artists such as John Legend, Eminem, De La Soul, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and performed on the main stage at the Life is Beautiful festival. His groundbreaking collaborations range from being the first poet to perform at a Cirque Du Soleil production, to co-writing this year's Official Coca Cola World Cup anthem.

In the world of songwriting, IN-Q has written with renowned artists including Miley Cyrus, Aloe Blacc, Mike Posner, and Selena Gomez, whose #1 hit single, "Love You Like a Love Song" went multi-platinum and earned him a Broadcast Music Inc. Award.

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