It’s a situation that hits every songwriter, no matter how good, no matter how experienced: writer’s block. You strum away on your guitar or try different chord combinations on the piano, to no avail. And it can leave you feeling that writing a song is about as far from fun as a visit to the dentist. What causes the creative juices to dry up like this, and what can be done about it?
A big source is the fear of failure. But another source is the inability to picture the final product at all. In this case, try this little tip for helping to visualize the finished song: Using a graphics program, draw a jacket for a CD that features your song. Pretend that it’s a big hit, ready to sell in the stores. Seeing your song featured in that way can give you a shot of creative adrenalin and inspire you to keep going.
But another more common cause of writer’s block is the fact that writing has not become a regular activity in your life. Writing, like any skill, needs to be practiced and honed in order to become better.
So take a look at the following activities, and let them help make writer’s block a thing of the past:
- Set aside a regular writing time every day, or every second day.
- Listen to recordings of other writer’s songs every day. Try to verbalize what you like and what you don’t like about the songs.
- When songs seem very hard to write, give yourself little challenges that are easier to meet: Set a timer for 15 minutes or less, and see if you can come up with a verse, a chorus, a 4-line poem, or any other small component.
- Take the following chord progression: A D Bm E F#m D A (or any other strong progression) and see how many melodies you can create. Set yourself a short time limit to add an even greater challenge.
- Try creating a melody that uses only two notes, or perhaps three. You’d be surprised that by limiting the number of notes you use, you’ll start to find that your songs gain a sense of cohesiveness that they didn’t have before.
- Get into the habit of recording your own songs and listening to them.
These ideas really work, because they take the pressure of writing a whole song away. You’ll find that writing small bits of songs as a little mini-challenge will make you feel more satisfied and more successful right away.