If you’re a songwriter, you’ve already dealt with writer’s block. Everyone feels it in its mildest form at least, and most feel it from time to time at a moderate level. For some, writer’s block becomes severe; it digs its heels in and lasts for months or longer, and can be debilitating.
It may seem that there are many different causes for writer’s block, but most cases stem from a fear of failure. In that case, it’s not much different from what an athlete goes through when they can’t win games or races anymore. The fear that it’s just going to get worse becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of the worst kind.
For many songwriters, it’s not just a fear that you won’t be able to finish anything you’ve started, it seems to be more than that: it becomes a fear of not being great, even if you do manage to finish something.
You want to write songs, but you want to do more than that… you want those songs to be significant contributions to the world of music! You fear that something you’ve done will be thought of as mediocre, or worse than that, boring.
No one ever said that songwriting is for the faint of heart. It takes courage and determination. If you find yourself worrying constantly that even if you do finish a song it won’t resonate with anyone, here are some tips:
- Always look at the big picture. Your career in songwriting will be lifelong. You won’t hit homers every time, but that shouldn’t worry you. Most songwriters who have made their mark have a large catalogue of songs, some of which are huge hits, others that barely get noticed. That’s normal, even for the best songwriters in the world.
- Write honestly, from your heart. Listeners want to hear you. They want to hear some honest emotions, some honest opinions. A songwriter puts their heart on their sleeve, and makes the audience feel something. When that happens, that’s the only definition of great that you need to worry about. Some songs will click and be bigger than you thought they’d be, while others may not have the impact you hoped for. Most of the time you can’t control that part. What you can do it to write with honesty, and let the chips fall where they may.
- Quiet your inner critic. The worse thing about an inner critic is not the criticism, it’s the rush to judgement — the criticizing before the song is even finished. It accounts for the large number of songs that remain unfinished by so many. Resist the temptation to judge your songs before they’re even finished. Also, get comfortable with the fact that your first songs may not be astounding, but you’ll improve with each one.
- Listen to music daily. It’s such an important part of improving. Great songs can serve as a model for how we should be approaching the art form.
- Make songwriting a scheduled activity. If you leave songwriting to something you’ll do when you have time, it will always feel unimportant to you. Schedule it into your day, and set real goals… a song a week, or every 3 days, or every 2 weeks… whatever your goals are, you’ll benefit from the positive mental attitude that comes from that kind of disciplined approach.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter
Check out Gary’s book, “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music“