Four Suggestions for Dealing With Writer's Block

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer, Senior Instructor, Dalhousie University, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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Songwriter at workAs you likely know if you’ve read my blog or my e-books, I am a big fan of not waiting for inspiration to write music. If we only ever write when we feel inspired, how would film score composers ever get the job done? But sometimes, even with the best of intentions, the songwriting ideas just won’t happen. And even when they do, you can’t seem to finish anything. So what do you do?

Successful songs have as much or more to do with getting the structure of music right than it does with coming up with ideas. The “block” happens when the part of your mind that helps you structure your ideas seems to turn off. The best way to keep writer’s block from happening too often is to make your daily songwriting projects short and undemanding, at least until the juices start to flow again.

Here are some activities that can get those creative juices flowing. These ideas aren’t meant to write your song for you, but they’ll sometimes jump-start the creative process, and get your imagination working:

  1. Set up a rhythm track on a synthesizer and play random melodies and/or chords. You’d be surprised how much this can actually help. Most synthesizers have built-in rhythm tracks with synchronized chord playback. Within a minute or two, you’ll hear a chord or melodic shape against a rhythm that will click with you.
  2. Write down a word or phrase from anything – a newspaper, a government form, a recipe… and then see if you can work it into a lyric. You’ll find that the original phrase you chose might not (likely won’t!) make it into the lyric, but some of the ideas it created might.
  3. On a keyboard or guitar, play a low note ostinato – a note that simply repeats over and over. Above it, improvise chords, regardless of the bass note. Eventually, you’ll stumble across a couple of chords that work nicely, and that might be enough to get your songwriting floodgates open.
  4. We tend to be inspired by other musicians’ creativity. So by all means start the songwriting process by listening to music. Experiencing a songwriter’s imagination tends to spark our own. If you’re afraid that you’ll simply start writing what you’re hearing, try listening to a genre of music you don’t tend to listen to.

Everyone needs help once in a while coming up with musical ideas. Unfortunately, our tendency is to isolate ourselves from other musicians. So on those days when you feel the least creative, get your ears working by listening to music. The drought won’t last for long!


Keep writer’s block to a minimum by learning everything you can about how great songs work. Download “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6 e-book bundle right now.

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  1. Excellent post. Thank you. There are many similarities between writing narrative and music. I like the idea of not isolating ourselves from others. Very important!

    • I’ve often found that songwriters sometimes have a fear that if they listen too much to other songwriters, they’ll possibly unknowingly plagiarize something they’ve heard. But I believe that in reality, the opposite is more the case. The more you listen to others, you’ll be less likely to copy specific ideas, and more likely to simply become inspired to write. And listening to good songwriters is the best way to dig yourself out of a writing-rut.

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