Our top tips for overcoming writers block
Posted: 13 August 2019
Those that teach writing often say that there’s no such thing as writer’s block and while that may be true, it’s not overly useful to hear when you can’t get those creative juices flowing. At one point or another, we all find ourselves struggling to write music.
There are multiple reasons for writer’s block, from bad timing to a fear of failure, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. So how can you overcome this dreaded creative curse?
Freewriting is a technique that’s often used by bloggers and creative writers but can easily applied to writing music. If lyrics are a struggle then grab a piece of paper, set a timer and write down every thought that comes into your head during the allotted time. Or you could use your phone to record yourself playing around on your instrument. The idea is to just experiment and be random and avoid getting weighed down by logic. Later you can go over the notes or recording and see if there’s a particular segment that can be developed into an actual track.
Another thing that freewriting encourages you to do is to keep writing. If you find that it sparks and interesting idea, try to keep your flow, even if it means writing ‘na na na’ instead of actual lyrics.
Listening to music has always been a useful way to get inspired but instead of scrolling down to your favourite playlist, why not try something different. Exploring another genre might spark up ideas for a cool fusion track. While playing a bit of Beethoven might seem worlds away from your riff-heavy sound, classical music is often sampled by modern artists. Some musicians have even found success after sampling pop songs from the 80s and 90s.
Whether you achieve this artificially with an espresso or more naturally with a brisk jog, getting your blood flowing can help you get in the mood to write. The idea is to feel refreshed, alert and ready to work.
Sometimes our best work comes from a raw place but that doesn’t mean you have to start a fight with your loved ones every time you write. Watching the news or reading a book can be enough to stir up strong emotions. Gather up all that bitterness you’re still harbouring about the end of Titanic and channel it into your next track.
Sometimes writer’s block is our brain’s way of telling us we’re just not interested in what we’re writing. When this happens, you know you need to change things up. Why not try deviating from your usual song structure, using a different time signature or switching up your chord progression?
Another top tip from the world of creative writing, keeping a journal can provide you with an endless stream of inspiration. Don’t worry if you were terrible at writing a diary as a kid, this kind of journal is more for jotting down the things you observe than confessing your innermost secrets. Overheard conversations and descriptions of strangers often make the best entries but feel free to add a detailed account of your lunch if that’s the kind of thing you find inspiring.
Do a quick search for writing prompts and you’ll find hundreds of suggestions. While a lot of these are geared towards fiction or poetry writers, you could easily apply them to lyric writing. You could also use the title of your favourite book or film as a starting point. For an instrument, you could take the opening bars of your favourite song and try writing your own continuation. At the end you can either go back and change the beginning or ask permission to sample that part of the track.
Most of us have an activity that gets us singing, whether its tidying the house, baking cookies or washing our hair in the shower. You might even find yourself tapping to a random beat while you’re waiting for a bus. Your nonsense rhyme about preparing a salad might not be hit single material but at least it’ll get you in a musical mood and inspire you to write.
Overcoming writer’s block doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly produce a chart-topping masterpiece, but that’s not the point. The point is to get out of your head and start writing because you love making music. Some ideas will have potential and others will end up in the recycling bin, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. And maybe someday, when someone asks you how to get over writer’s block, you’ll be able to say that there’s no such thing.