by Clay Mills
May 3, 2021
At least twice a week I get an email seeking advice on how to overcome writer’s block. For many songwriters the worst part of the whole writing experience is just getting started. Those times when we sit down to write and nothing comes out. We feel like we have nothing to say. Well here are 5 techniques I’ve used to permanently eliminate writer’s block and free up creativity.
Writing a little everyday.
Songwriting has much to do with momentum and confidence. And we feel more confident when we do something everyday. We get into a creative groove. I’ve often noticed that after I return from a vacation and sit down to write is when I struggle the most. I have to get back into that groove.
Lower the bar.
American poet William Stafford gives this advice to writers who suffer from Writer’s Block: “There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.” Now this sounds really bad at first but it’s very true. Writer’s block is really that inner critic that says to us “This is junk” “I can’t write today, I’m not inspired” or “Nothing I write is interesting today”. When we set the bar too high it is impossible to be creative. We must learn to turn off that inner critic and give ourselves room to explore.
Keep your antenna up.
Even if you can’t sit down everyday to write, you can always be on the look out for ideas. Carry around a small pocket-sized notebook or PDA device that you can jot down bits of conversation you hear that might be developed into a song. Write down that line from a movie you are watching, or that book you’re reading. By always collecting ideas you keep your mind in a writing groove and will have lots of ideas to pull from when you do sit down to write.
This is so important! If you get stuck on a line or melody, take a break and go for a walk around the block. (Pun intended!) It has been proven in many studies that the human mind not only works better while our bodies are moving, but we learn and retain knowledge better as well. I’ve known many writers that pace the floor while they write. The point is if we sit too long we wont be creative.
Another trick I use to avoid writer’s block is to skip around to different sections of a song. Ever find yourself writing a verse to a song and getting stuck on that one line? Try skipping ahead and writing the chorus first and then comeback to that line that gave you fits in the 1st verse. There are no rules for what order things have to be written. By writing another part of the song you give your subconscious a chance to work on the problem area while you work on another part of the song.
Keep Growing Your Skillset
One of the biggest causes of writer’s block is getting stale. Taking the same approach to your writing day after day digs deep ruts. The longer you do it, the harder it is to climb out of the hole. All of the top pro writer’s and artists that I work with make it their mission to keep learning new tricks and skills. So, if your output has stalled, take the time to input. Try reading a book on melody writing or becoming a better lyricist. SongTown has over 800 lesson videos and a full staff of pro mentors. It’s a great place to grow if you are in need of inspiration.
So here are my 5 tips for overcoming writer’s block. Try them next time you get stuck and get back to what you really love to do: Songwriting!
Write On! ~CM
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