A couple of posts ago, I wrote about what to do when you think all your songwriting ideas sound bad. Thinking about that always seems to bring things around to writer’s block, and it’s possible that you’re going through that right now. Is it bad enough that you find yourself asking, Can my songwriting abilities disappear?
There are all sorts of ways to ask the question you see in the title of this article:
- Why was songwriting once so easy, and now so hard?
- Why can’t I finish any songs anymore?
- Why are all my songwriting ideas sounding the same?
- Why is songwriting frustrating when it used to be actually kind of fun?
- Why am I not building a fan base for my songs?
At its simplest level, the answer to the question as verbalized in the title of this blog post is: probably not. You’re not likely going to lose abilities you once had.
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However, it is possible to lose finesse. Athletes experience this if they stop working in their sport. A baseball player will lose their finely-tuned skills if they stop playing. Similarly, you will lose artistic finesse if you stop writing.
But if you find yourself asking the question, “Can I get worse instead of better”, I suspect you’re not talking about the kind of diminishing abilities that comes from not using those abilities. It’s more likely that you’re trying every bit as hard, but you’re not getting the results!
And that’s what you want to know… Is it possible to simply lose your edge?
The answer to that might be yes, but most of the time, those are temporary frustrations. It’s possible to not get the results you once were able to get, and I think all songwriters (and in fact all creators of anything artistic) go through that. It’s something we call writer’s block. It happens.
The best solution to the temporary frustration we might otherwise call a mild or moderate bout of writer’s block is to stop, step back, take a breath, distract yourself with something else, and be patient.
Usually, a week or two — maybe 3 or 4 — will be all you need to sort yourself out.
From time to time, some songwriters will encounter a creative block that seems so debilitating — so deep and apparently without solution — that it can cause that person to question whether they were ever a songwriter in the first place, and to consider simply giving up. It’s a painful time, because it calls into question an important part of what they always considered to be a part of their identity.
If that feels like you, the first solution to consider is the same one you’d use for mild or moderate writer’s block: step back and take a break.
There are several possible reasons for severe writer’s block, the kind that makes you want to throw in the towel completely. Here are 4 of the most common creativity-killers:
- You’re encountering a long-term stress in your life that’s requiring your constant attention. Sickness, or sickness of a loved one is the kind of thing that can severely diminish creative abilities.
- You have a full-time job, and it’s not giving you enough time to get into a creative flow. Some people can jump right in and write with no downtime, but you may need some prep time that you just aren’t able to get.
- You get easily discouraged when songs don’t come together quickly.
- You get easily discouraged when people criticize your songs.
Identify the Problem, Find Your Solution
Identifying the source of your frustration is a vital first step in solving your creative block. Once you’ve identified the problem, you need to find a solution that works for you. How can you do that? Make a list of possible solutions, and target the one that seems to be the best fit for your situation.
That may be finding a new time to write. It may be learning to write in short bursts that fit into your life a little better.
It might be learning patience to help you deal with the discouragement of songs that are hard to finish, or developing the peace of mind necessary to accept that not everyone will like your songs, and being OK with that.
So give yourself a break — literally and figuratively. Some of the best artistic minds in the world have dealt with writer’s block, and you will find a solution that works for you, if you start first by taking a good long break from writing, and not feeling guilty or stressed about doing so.
And then, ease back into writing, with no agenda, and no demands on yourself other than to write something. Write a line of lyric, or create a short, catchy chord progression, and leave it at that. Come back to it tomorrow and see what you can add to it. And be satisfied that you still have a imaginative mind that can create music.
By reducing the stress and demands on yourself, you’ll find yourself getting back into a flow. It may be a new kind of flow, perhaps a new approach, or a new schedule, but you’ll see that it’s all still there!
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