The first step in curing writer’s block is recognizing these 7 basic symptoms.
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Writer’s block makes any songwriter miserable, and so preventing it is enormously important. I’ve written often on this blog about the basics of writer’s block, and that’s because of all problems that face songwriters, the inability to write is the most universally debilitating one, its solutions the most elusive. It’s fair to say that all composers approach musical composition in completely different ways, and so narrowing down why writer’s block happens to any one songwriter requires individual solutions.
Obviously, you know you’ve got writer’s block when you can’t write. But there are ways of narrowing down the problem. And narrowing it down is going to be a vital part of devising solutions.
Here’s a list of 7 of the most common symptoms of writer’s block that songwriter’s suffer from, and some suggestions for dealing with each one.
- Your latest song sounds just like the one you just finished last week;
- Your inability to finish a song seems to come from a lack of inspiration;
- You can start a song, but partway in you get stuck;
- Your lyrics are boring and unfocused;
- Your musical ideas seem disorganized, as if they all come from different songs;
- You feel the pressure of writing your next song, and it makes you feel defeated before you even start;
- Your mind goes blank when you try to think of how to even start your next song;
There are lots of symptoms, even more than are listed here. For example, the pressures that come from family and job can be a major cause of writer’s block. An inability to write can be the result of several overlapping causes. Let’s look at each one listed above, and come up with solutions that can hopefully get you writing today.
- Your latest song sounds just like the one you just finished last week; SOLUTION: It never works to start consecutive songs the same way. So don’t even try. You need to develop experience in starting songs in several different ways, even if only one of those ways is your favourite. Lyrics first, melody first, rhythmic groove first, chords first… how a song ends up has a lot to do with how it started. Get creative!
- Your inability to finish a song seems to come from a lack of inspiration; SOLUTION: If you wait for inspiration every time you write, you’re wasting a lot of time. Make writing a regular, even a scheduled, part of your day.
- You can start a song, but partway in you get stuck; SOLUTION: It all starts out well, and then fizzles. As with many writer’s block problems, this one can be solved by leaving it alone, and giving it time. There’s no rule that says that every song you write has to be written in one day, week, month, or even year. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to put it away. At some point, when you’re least expecting it, you’ll suddenly get an idea that brings it front and centre again.
- Your lyrics are boring and unfocused; SOLUTION: I’ve just written about this one, so check this post out. I can promise it will help.
- Your musical ideas seem disorganized, as if they all come from different songs; SOLUTION: The thing is, they may actually come from different songs, in the sense that you may simply have too many ideas going on. Songs, particularly pop songs, are 4 minute miniatures. Too many ideas causes listener confusion. If you’re struggling to get all your ideas working in the same song, see if you can pare it down, and simplify the song structure.
- You feel the pressure of writing your next song, and it makes you feel defeated before you even start; SOLUTION: Feeling successful is so important. So if you feel negative about your abilities before you even sit down to write, try some songwriting games that are fun, and take the pressure off.
- You don’t have a songwriting procedure; SOLUTION: By “procedure” I don’t mean “formula.” Every writer needs a structure, even if that simply means a schedule. The more you leave songwriting to chance, the more it becomes a hit-or-miss activity that results in few finished songs. Schedule your songwriting day, and even with many possible ways to start a song (see Point #1), develop a procedure for writing that you feel comfortable with.
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