Discovering the difference between imagination and creativity is a crucial part of musical success.
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- You imagine a short musical idea.
- You get excited and inspired by your idea.
- That excitement stimulates your creative brain.
- You generate more ideas to tag onto the first one.
- You throw out any ideas that don’t work, and generate new ones.
- Keep the ideas that partner well with whichever ideas you’ve gathered.
- Keep doing this until your song is complete.
As you can see, songwriting is a combination of being imaginative (that’s Step 1) and being creative (that’s Step 4). In between Steps 1 and 4, you get excited and inspired. The steps after Step 4 are the ones that allow you to see your song taking shape.
And though the seven steps sound a bit simplistic, and perhaps tongue-in-cheek, writing songs really does amount to that.
Songwriter’s block often happens because the quality of your imagined ideas is poor. So if you’re suffering from a creative block right now, to the extent that you can’t even start a song, you’ll see that Step 1 is causing you problems, which means that Step 2 isn’t happening for you. And of course, none of the other steps are happening either.
If you’re halfway through a song, and you feel unable to continue, it’s Step 5 that’s the problem step.
You can learn a lot about the creative process by looking through those seven steps. For example:
- It is possible to be imaginative without being creative.
- Songwriting success depends on the quality of the musical ideas you generate in the first place.
- You can be a brilliant teacher of creative songwriting while suffering from writer’s block.
- Inspiration is Step 2, not Step 1.
- Too many people count the number of ideas they throw out, and get musically depressed by it.
- The amount of time that passes between generating one musical idea and the next one is usually irrelevant.
- You can get musically excited to write music (Step 3) by doing something unmusical, such as attending an art exhibit, learning to dance, writing poetry, or building a bookcase.
Though it may seem difficult, a creative person should be able to write a song even in the absence of an initial shot of excitement or inspiration. In fact, most composers who write to fill commissions, or who write films scores, don’t have the luxury of waiting to be inspired. Waiting is wasteful.
Most experienced writers learn that the best source of inspiration is the inspiration that comes from hearing their own musical ideas taking shape.
So that means that the best cure for mild or moderate writer’s block is: start writing.