Frustrated songwriter

When Writers Block Isn’t Really Writer’s Block

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Are you stuck, creatively? Everything you try to write just turns into garbage within 2 minutes? It may seem strange to say this, but you might not be suffering from writer’s block, at least not in the strictest sense of that term.

Since writer’s block is an inability to be creative, we tend to think of any occasion where the creative juices are lacking is writer’s block. But once you look at the precise workings how creative blocks take hold, you might see things a bit differently.

And I’m not just playing with semantics here. Whether it’s writer’s block or something else, you would be well within your rights to say, “Stop playing with words… the situation is that I CAN’T WRITE!” But identifying exactly why you can’t get going with your writing projects is an important first step to solving it.

So… it’s either writer’s block, or its something else. Here’s a standard description of writer’s block as it pertains to songwriters:

  1. Inspiration is gone.
  2. You can’t generate musical ideas that are worth developing into a full song.
  3. Negative opinions of others stop you in your tracks.
  4. Even positive comments worry you, because you fear letting people down.
  5. The success of others makes you fearful that they’re getting ahead while you’re stagnating.
  6. You’re overly critical of anything you write.
  7. Your latest songs all sound the same to you.

As you can see, those are circumstances that are inward-pointing. They all relate to how you think about yourself and your abilities. But how about the following 3 statements. Do any of these apply to you?

  1. You’re so busy (work, school, etc.) that you find yourself scrambling to get a few moments to yourself to write.
  2. You’re taking care of a loved one who needs special attention, giving you little time to feel creative.
  3. A major crisis in your life is preoccupying your every thought, and it’s hard to generate musical ideas.

I don’t really count those three circumstances as examples of writers block, but one of those 3 conditions may be affecting you right now. And they give the same result: it’s difficult or impossible to write music.

When your life presents you with circumstances that result in precious little time for your own activities, it’s almost impossible to connect enough minutes together to even get your brain into a creative mode. Taking care of loved ones, for example, is a huge responsibility in many people’s lives, and will become more of a possibility for you as you get older. What can you do?

If you find that the basic structure of your life makes it difficult to find any time at all to be creative, here are some bits of advice that I hope will help you:

  1. Never let your songwriting schedule be a “whenever I can get to it” event in your day. You don’t need much time — perhaps only 30 – 45 minutes in a day. If you’re constantly caring for a loved one, see what you can do to allow others in your family to take your important duties for a short period. And if transferring responsibilities isn’t possible, think of songwriting as an important personal activity that you’ll schedule in to start or end your day, perhaps at a time when your responsibilities are less intense. It won’t be easy, but it’s almost always possible.
  2. Don’t feel guilty about needing daily time to be creative. When you are caring for others, it can seem wrong to think of yourself. But staying psychologically healthy is going to be an important part of being able to care for others, and so allow songwriting to be a vital part of your day without feeling guilty about it.
  3. Start a songwriting session with a mental break, no matter how little time you’ve got. Even if you’ve only got 20 minutes to write, use the first 5 to lie back, close your eyes, and let your mind slow down. It will make the few minutes you have all the more creative.
  4. During busy times, make your daily songwriting goals less ambitious. It’s completely fine to use a songwriting session to simply work on 1 line of lyric, or to get a hook working for you, or to come up with a creative chord progression. Don’t feel that every day needs to see you creating a full song. That’s just not realistic for most people’s lives.
  5. Use music and songwriting as a way of managing stress. If a major crisis is flooding your thoughts, you may find that music is a great way to manage that stress. Use your words, melodies and singing to help you express your feelings. It’s amazing what that can do for your own mental health. Don’t pressure yourself, but simply use creativity as a way of keeping your stress levels low. It really does work.

An inability to be creative due to the difficult circumstances in your life is shouldn’t be lumped together with more standard causes of writer’s block. If, through no fault of your own, you find it difficult to impossible to find the time to be creative, I hope that the suggestions above can help you get back to a state of mind that allows you to do that thing you find so important.

You can do it!

Gary Ewer

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

Gary’s “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle covers every aspect of songwriting, from writing melodies, chords and lyrics, to writing hooks, applying musical motifs, describing royalties and rights.. everything to make you a better songwriter! Read more.

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One Comment

  1. Hi, my opinion on Writers Block is a way to get over it, if you feel you
    have it, we can revitalise ourselves by simply giving some time to
    something completely different.

    Preferably something that takes a bit of energy and sweat, off course
    thats hard to do if one is an invalid, but even when our mind is not
    thinking of the latest song or novel our subconscious is still trying to
    work out the next stage of your assignment we can think too hard
    about a musical phrase or a lyrical line, the fact is that even when we
    are asleep we can still be searching for the same answers as when we
    are awake , Writers Block is generally something that comes
    from our ego’s, our inner selves, and often it’s just a lack of confidence;
    the thing is we cant take anything out of our general knowledge that has
    not been put there in the first place, it usually depends on how long you
    have been trying to be a successful song writer

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