Songwriter’s block is not only solvable, you can make sure it never becomes a problem again.
I’ve been writing a new book for songwriters on the topic of songwriter’s block. It will be published by Backbeat Books. Editing has recently been finished, and so it is now in the layout stage. It’s working title is “Beating Songwriter’s Block – Jump-Start Your Words And Music”, and I am suspecting that it will be ready for sale sometime in 2014. I’ll keep you updated.
It will be available in hardcopy, and distributed by Hal Leonard. It is a comprehensive and detailed look at writer’s block – approximately 80,000 words. The publisher has given me permission to post a short excerpt for you, which I’ve placed below. This is from the middle of the first chapter, which introduces the various intensities of writer’s block that songwriters can experience. Other chapters then go deeper into the problem, providing research along with exercises and other solutions. The point of the book is to show how songwriter’s block is not just fixable, it’s possible to keep it from recurring in any significant way.
From the section on “moderate songwriter’s block”:
When a day or two becomes a week or two without the ability to write music, you might be experiencing something deeper than a mild block. A moderate block is not necessarily cause for alarm, but it generally means that your difficulties with writing haven’t been solved within a few days. A moderate block could have psychological causes that go a little deeper than the causes of a mild one. In that sense, writer’s block is as serious or pernicious as its underlying psychological cause. For most people, even so-called promotion-focused individuals, a fear of failure is normal. But while fear of failure is a non-specific condition, a moderate block can cause the sufferer to go a bit further and make the fears more precise. People with moderate songwriter’s block can now look back over the past few days or a week and see a pattern emerging, while those with a mild block may simply be fearing the future: what if I don’t solve this? In moderate block, the fear deepens because the songwriter now feels that they have evidence that the problem is growing, and that a solution (which at this point is probably to stop trying to write) is not yet solving anything.
Most of you reading this book right now will likely be experiencing a moderate block. If it were mild it would have corrected itself before you even had a chance to buy the book. So it is therefore to address moderate songwriter’s block that most of the exercises and articles in Chapter Three of this book have been written. As you will see, many of the activities are simple and enjoyable, with the purpose being to reduce fear and anxiety and bring fun back into the songwriting process. Later on you will find information on the key features of song structure, and specific advice on creating memorable melodies, chord sequences, and lyrics. The idea of these sections is to help motivate you and prevent you fixating on your difficulties. Allaying fear is the greatest weapon in the battle. A reminder of the logic of how music works can help you keep your anxiety at bay.
But fear is not always the cause of songwriter’s block. You may also need to deal with other extra-musical pressures. What are the common extra-musical concerns that affect our ability to express our creative selves? Anything that distracts us that doesn’t have a quick solution:
- Anxiety. It can be as mild as the worry you feel when you know your mother is coming for a visit and you’re not sure how long she’s staying. Or it can be as severe as the worry over the health of a loved one, the loss of a job, or a change in the status of a close, intimate relationship. Anything that doesn’t solve itself quickly can freeze up your creative expression and cause songwriter’s block.
- Fatigue. Songwriting requires a certain amount of stamina, and an inability to get a good night’s rest, particularly in the long term, is debilitating. Often the solution lies with developing personal organization skills, but there are times when the solution is evasive, such as when sleep is disrupted by a small child not yet sleeping through the night, a noisy university residence, or a job with an ever-changing schedule.
- Daily distractions. If you haven’t set aside an almost-daily time that is your time to write, that may indicate a lack of discipline that leaves you open to being unfocused or constantly distracted.
Once you’ve solved these often-complicated life circumstances, you’ll find that the creative juices usually start to flow once more. Sometimes, simply knowing that your block has a likely cause can reduce your stress to the degree that you feel ready to work again, and it’s a great feeling.
Within the next week I’ll be posting a second excerpt in my free Songwriter’s Quick-Tips Newsletter. (Click here to subscribe and get a free songwriting e-book).
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