1. Prepare. Do your homework. Google your co-writer. Almost everyone is out there somewhere on the internet for you to check out. Or check with the person who set up the co-write. What kind of stuff does this person like to write? Are they stronger at melody or lyric? What have they written that you should know? Do some listening to what you think you’ll be writing. Get some ideas going. It’s awesome if you can go in with one thing that’s just an idea or a title, one idea that you’ve started work on, and one song that’s further along in the process.
2. Be brave. It takes courage to co-write any time you do it, even with a friend. You will wake up the morning of this sort of weird "blind date" with a queasy feeling that says, “Why did I agree to this?” You’ll probably be able to think of a dozen reasons to postpone or cancel. Go anyway. It’ll all be over in a handful of hours no matter how it goes. Believe me when I say, every real songwriter feels this way.
3. Be comfortable. Pay attention to stuff like what you’re going to wear and what you eat before you go there. What you’re going to do is stressful enough without suffering with clothing that’s uncomfortable or trying to digest chips and salsa while you’re also trying to write. Keep things simple. This also applies to wearing stuff that is comfortable for your co-writer to look at. It’s a sensitive topic, but if what you’re wearing becomes the focus of your co-writer’s attention, for whatever reason, that’s counter-productive.
4. Pray. Pray before you go. And ask someone else to pray for you. I take a lot of strength from knowing that my husband is praying for me. And by the way, if you have a co-writer friend who doesn’t have someone praying for their writing every day, why don’t you commit to being that person for them?
5. Be confidant. There’s a reason God has you in the room (although it may not be to write a hit song), and there’s a reason your co-writer has agreed to do this. Believe that you can hold your own. You may not totally believe it, but tell yourself that message.
6. Be humble. Yes, you’ve earned the right to be there, but it’s still a gift to be in that room. Be thankful, but not “gurmy.” Humble without going overboard with “I can’t imagine why you’d want to write with me!” Don’t think less of yourself. Just think of yourself less.
7. Find common ground. Don’t plunge into writing without some real conversation at first. It’s ok to spend 30 minutes to an hour just talking. Really it is. Where does your experience or situation overlap with your co-writer's? That can often be a great place to start writing. You don’t have to come away with a whole song written, so don’t put that pressure onto an already intimidating situation.
8. Listen. It’s possibly the greatest tool in your arsenal. Let what you’ve been reading and listening to and watching and witnessing and going through lead you in what you’re going to write. To quote a great song by Ronnie Freeman, “maybe it’s God speaking.” Quit thinking about what you have to offer or what you want to say next, and really listen. Besides, some silence in the room is often a good thing, so don't feel like you have to fill it constantly.
9. Dare to suck. Put yourself out there. Don’t clam up and just wait on your co-writer to do all the work. Your dumb line may be just what your co-writer needs to think of the right line. Just like in basketball, if you make the pass that leads to the basket and your team scores, you both win!
10. Value the person more than the song. The best thing that happens in your co-write may not be a song. You may have to write with this co-writer more than once or twice before it bears “song” fruit. This could be the start of a deep friendship or you may never write with him or her again. But the person is always more important than the song you write. Invest your energy in that.