Any working songwriter will tell you that writer’s block is one oftheir fiercest enemies, something they must constantly work against to keep at bay. A bad dose of writer’s block can completely sap the fun and enjoyment out of songwriting, and make you feel like a rank amateur.
Writer’s block is, in short, the inability to summon the creative juices. If you recognize any of the following symptoms, you’ve likely suffered:
- Your lyrics feel stiff and uninspiring;
- Your melodies feel like aimless wandering
- Your chords just seem to lie there and not make any sense.
Most people suffer from it, but the real question is can anything be done?Yes! There is a cure for writer’s block. You really can bannish it from your creative life.
Did you notice in my list of symptoms of writer’s block that I didn’t say anything about a lack of basic inspiration? Writer’s block is not the feeling that you are uninspired to write. You should be able to write songs even if you feel “uninspired.” There are people who’s job is to write all the time. Think of the people who write radio jingles, or who compose movie scores. They must write, and must do it daily, and they don’t get the chance to consider at all how inspired or excited they may or may not be!
So how do you cure writer’s block, and make it possible to write successfully every day? Follow some of these suggestions:
- Set a regular writing schedule. Set aside a period of time every day, a half hour to an hour, where you will undertake to write something. The music critic Ernest Newman once famously said, “The great composer…does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working.”
- In times of writer’s block, don’t pressure yourself to write an entire song. Try coming up with only a short melody, or a two or three chord progression. Take the pressure off to create an entire song.
- Set a timer for a 2-minute test: See how much of a song you can create in two minutes. If it works, you’ve got something you can use. If it doesn’t – no harm done, and you probably gave your creative juices a well-needed shot!
- Using a graphics program and photos, try designing a CD cover for an imaginary recording that you’ve done. You’d be surprised that just that one non-musical activity can spark a creative surge that will get you “over the hump.”
Making songwriting a regular activity, something that you do every day (or at least 5 out of 7 days a week) will ensure that you are relying as much or more on the craft of songwriting as you are on simple inspiration. And craft will take you much, much further than inspiration. Inspiration is like a shot of vapour that flares up and dies away quickly. The craft of songwriting has much longer staying power, and will keep you writing every day.
-Gary Ewer (from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website)