I don't know what level of writing you consider "hack." One person's hack is another person's craft.
Given the Dylan song you mention, that kind of chord progression certainly lends itself to an intuitive melody approach. The harmony is basically diatonic. The melody move just about anyway you like diatonically provided it goes to sensible points like the tonic chord tones or the dominant degree to center or end phrases. That could be a basic tonal palette and the rest becomes mostly rhythmic to make the melody scan with lyrics.
Certain common melodic fragments can help guide that like
DO RE MI or
SOL LA SOL. Also, while the neighbor above
RE, in many tunes the lower neighbor is
LA even when
LA doesn't fit the chord, like a
Ideally, with enough practice, if you intuitively make a melody this way you sort of "hear" basic accompanying chords with your inner ear. You could try building up that skill with some simple strumming and humming. Just pick two chords and a three tone group for the melody. Vamp the chords back and forth, hum rhythmically using the three tones to go on and off the chord. If you used
Am with melodic tones
C A G, the "off" tones are only
C chord and
Am chord, the resolution of which is always just one place away.
If I try to write my melody while using chord progression as a guide I feel like I am going too easy to the point of monotony.
I'm not sure what "going too easy" means, but you can try approaching it as just craft. Work the most banal material into some kind of respectable line by using the musical devices that good melodies feature.
Start with a progression like the Dylan song and first just hit the chord tones with a decent melodic contour like an arch...
...but the rhythm of that is really dead. From a metrical point of view it doesn't move toward the 1 beat, it actually constantly hits the 3 beat, and that very flat.
As a mere process keep the series of pitches exactly the same, but create some "lead in" notes before the barlines (anacrusis it the technical word.) The helps create some drive to the 1 beat and provide a basic dynamic of strong to weak rhythmically. The half notes on the 2 beats are technically syncopation, but it helps keep the line moving instead of plopping down on beat 1 and dying. Syncopation helps keep a line moving and is appropriate for pop styles.
Again, keeping the pitch sequence mostly the same add some non-chord tones. Those are the
app appoggiatura or suspension and
n.t./ant neighbor tone or anticipation. NCTs are standard and can easily be looked up. The add dissonance to a line and normally get resolved in standard ways. This creates a tension and release dynamic which is both expressive, dissonance can be viewed as emotional intensity, and provides forward momentum.
I don't think I could handle playing a 3 minute piece of four chords repeatedly.
It's possible to do that, heck some songs use just two chords, although such simplistic harmonic material is often dressed up with interesting riffs, rhythms, tonal color, etc.
You can break up the monotony of just four chord using alternate endings or inserting little contrasting phrases, like a few bars of instrumental fill. The example progression
E G#m C#m A could be given alternate endings...
|E |G#m|C#m|A |
|E |G#m|C#m|B |
...or an instrumental fill could be...
verse: |E |G#m|C#m|A |
break: |G#7|C#m|A |B A|
You could do it many ways. This is just a quick idea to vary the basic progression.