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How To Beat Writer's Block
July 31, 2018
Force yourself to sit down and write
This is the most important thing for beating writer's block. You need to force yourself to write. As a songwriter, I will avoid writing if I know that I'm not feeling inspired or I'm fighting writer's block - it's easier than hitting your head against the wall trying to think of something. Fight through that urge. You don't have to sit down for hours on end, just put aside half an hour without any distractions and see if you come up with anything. If you don't, do the same the next day or the day after and so on until you have found your inspiration again. But you can't knock down the wall if you don't pick up the axe.
List of titles/phrases
This is more of a preemptive strike against writer's block. I always have a list of titles and phrases that I want to put into a song. So, start this list and whenever you think of something new - jot it down. Then when you have writer's block, you can go to the list and pick one - either a specific one or at random - and just start singing about it. You may end up with a great song, you may end up with garbage, but at the very least it should help to get the ball rolling.
Jam on guitar, sing nonsense
Grab your guitar or sit at your piano and just sing. Sing about anything and everything - the spider on your windowsill, the mess on your floor...the weather! Don't think about a song structure, choruses, verses, just sing. When I've done this, at times I've been singing for half an hour straight - just moving on with the nonsense story I had come up with - it's like a conversation with the music, just let it flow no matter how incoherent it may seem. Like with the tip before, it may or may not create something genius, but it will get you thinking and creating and that's the most important thing.
Sing to an object in "you"
This one I got from a seminar I went on with the Songwriting Academy. I wasn't too sure about it at first but when I tried it myself, it actually worked. Pick an object - maybe your water bottle. Pick it up, stare at it - and sing to it. I know this may sound silly and I definitely feel ridiculous when I do it, but sing to the water bottle or hairbrush about what it does for you, how it helps you and be sure to address the object. I can't say the lyrics will be too enlightening since you're singing about how something brushes your hair! But you might find a great melody or a one-liner that you love and you can build a song from there.
Listen to other music
Still not got anywhere? Have a break. Stop concentrating on your work and take a look at others'. Relax and listen to the music that you love. Don't just listen to enjoy it, though, listen to take notes, to get inspiration. Maybe you like the premise, maybe the choice of lyrics, maybe the melody...whatever it is, take that and roll with it. Of course if it sounds similar to the actual song you got inspiration from, you may need to alter things - but it will give you a good starting point.
This is another great technique for anything to do with creating. Mind maps. Now, I have to say I am a list person, but even I can admit that mind maps can be better in some ways. Take one word or phrase or theme and write it down. Then write down a word or phrase or theme connected to it. Keep doing this until you have a ridiculous A3 piece of paper that is unbearably messy - unless you are the one person you can do a mind map neatly - and then go through and see if there is a song in there somewhere. As with all these tips, they may not give you any inspiration, but they will definitely help you get there.
Pick something that happened yesterday
Now for this one, I have to be very strict with myself. Pick an event that happened yesterday - it has to be yesterday. Not the day before or today or what's going to happen tomorrow. Yesterday. Once you've picked it - there is no altering. You're stuck with that event. Now, write about it. Choose a direction - whether it's the event itself or how you felt about it and so on, and stick with it. Every decision you make needs to be final and from there you have to write a song. Not start a song - write a song. Finished. And don't get up from your chair until it's done. This song may be absolutely dreadful and you may rip it up and burn it, but by forcing yourself to complete a song, you are practicing songwriting and it is getting you straight out of the writer's block. Even if the song is bad - you still wrote it - so you're no longer blocked. If you believe it then it's true.
This is another exercise similar to the one above that is just good practice. Set a timer of fifteen minutes. No more no less. And write a song. By having this time pressure, it will allow you to get out of your own way and your subconscious to take over, you won't overthink everything and you may end up with something great. Of course, no song is perfect rushed so you need to go back over the details and iron out the creases, but it's a good exercise. I did it with my friend once and we actually came out with a pretty good song.
Now, songwriting isn't an exact science, so these tips and tricks aren't going to work for everyone and they aren't magic so you may not suddenly have floods of inspiration after doing one of them. But they are also not one-time only exercises, so you can't do them as much as you need to until you are out of the rut.