Looking Beyond Songwriting to Cure Writer’s Block

Is writer’s block digging its heels in? Sometimes all you need to do is to switch temporarily into a new way of expressing yourself.


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Shakespearian ActorYou likely know the feeling that comes from doing the same thing all day long. Your brain starts to feel numb, and it gets hard to concentrate. We all know this, which is why when it comes to things that require us to think hard for long periods of time, we need a little time away.

When you compose music you get the same feeling after an hour or two: your musical brain feels a bit overloaded, like you need a change. It’s why after an hour-long writing session, it’s often best to stop what you’re doing and get on to something different.

That same feeling of “numbness” happens when we do the same thing day after day. So even though you may be giving yourself plenty of breaks during the day, keeping songwriting to an hour or two, the daily songwriting might start to feel like a grind. That’s when writer’s block can set in.

If you feel that you need a break for a week or two from trying to write songs, there is a way to keep your brain involved in creative activities. The solution is simply to try something from another art form. Here are some ideas to try:

  1. Learn a new instrument. This is a great activity for songwriters, because a new instrument can start to generate new chordal and melodic ideas that don’t necessarily feel natural on the instrument you’re already playing. So switching from your guitar to trying to play piano will result in some new musical ideas that will give your songwriting a freshness when you get back to writing in a week or two.
  2. Learn to paint. There are many musicians who spend a lot of time painting. It’s a completely different way of being imaginative and creative.
  3. Join a drama club at a local college or university. You might find drama to be one of those activities that helps you see words from a new viewpoint, which can be vital in your normal task as a lyricist. With drama, you learn about pacing, and that can make a great contribution to your songwriting.
  4. Teach music. One of the best activities for helping you make sense of music is to teach it. By teaching, you are required to see the individual elements and structure of music in a way that requires you to communicate it to others. Teaching can clear your mind, and help you understand music even better.
  5. Write short stories. In a sense, songs (particularly of the pop genres) are the music world’s “short stories.” You are required to offer to the listener a coherent musical journey that takes 4-6 minutes. If you try your hand at short story writing, you’ll see that you’re doing a similar thing. You’re working on a miniature scale, offering to the reader a coherent literary journey of 4-6 pages. The lessons you learn in that activity are indeed transferable to music.

By moving into another area of creative activity, you’ll quickly feel refreshed and revitalized. The world of songwriting will start to feel fun and exciting again.

So give yourself a few days or even a week or two in a different activity if you feel writer’s block digging its heels in. That time you spent away will have been time well spent.

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