When I was young, I liked to take long walks around my neighborhood. There were many interesting streets of houses and green spaces as well as a trail along a canal bank. I loved watching the trees as they changed through the seasons. I loved to hear the water rushing by. I enjoyed the views looking up to the mountains as well as looking down towards the valley. As I walked, I sang to myself. I sang lots of songs that I knew, but I also made up all sorts of songs. I guess I didn't need much to entertain myself.
(Curiously, even now, I find that going on a walk helps me think. Sometimes, I go out walking and if I am trying to come up with an idea for a song, much of the song can literally write itself by the time I get home.)
During college, I got discouraged by all of the talent I saw around me. The many teachers and students seemed so much more talented than I was. The more I learned about musical elements and poetic devices, the more I guessed that my gift was just being able to sing. Then, after graduation, I ventured out into the real world. There I learned that with the right inspiration, I could produce interesting and worthwhile music, too.
For me, which comes first? Well, I have to say that the music and the words pretty much come at the same time. If I get an idea of something that needs to be said in the lyric, then the words dictate the melodic line and rhythms. If an interesting melody starts forming in my mind, then I play catch up to try to find the words that should fit the music. Some songwriters say that they start with the title. But giving my song a title is usually the crowning detail of my songwriting efforts. I have a hard time naming my songs. The default title often comes from the song's "hook."