As you write songs, you’re digging into your creative mind to concoct something imaginative — something that the world hasn’t heard before. That level of creativity isn’t easy to maintain. If you’re a daily songwriter (and most of the successful ones write almost every day), there is an unwelcome partner working alongside you: frustration.
Frustration is normal in the creative arts. That’s because songwriting is coming up with ideas, testing them out, and then tossing whatever doesn’t work. Most of the time, you’ll toss more than you keep. But as long as, by the end of the day, you’ve kept enough to make your day of writing feel that it was worth the effort, you’ll accept the frustration that comes with tossing out the “bad” ideas.
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Success in songwriting can make you feel inspired and energized (“nothing succeeds like success”), but frustration also has a way of propagating. If you’re having a bad writing day, each little frustration you experience feels stronger, so that by the end of the day you feel creatively lousy.
On those days, it’s a great idea to simply stop writing, and in fact, you might be wise to take a few days or longer away. You might think that the purpose of stepping back from writing is to allow your creative mind to generate some new ideas, but that’s not really what’s going on.
By purposely stopping your songwriting, you’re also putting the brakes on the frustration that’s been growing inside you. You release yourself from the responsibility of getting music written to a deadline, and you generally feel less aggravation in your life.
Stopping your songwriting also gives you the opportunity to focus more on your past successes, and to remind yourself that you’ve got a lot to be proud of.
Creative Activities While Not Writing
While you’re purposely not writing, you can and should be doing other things that allow your musical mind to stay engaged:
- Listen to lots of music.
- Play lots of music.
- Read interviews with professional songwriters, and find books and other materials written by songwriters.
- Talk to other songwriters about how and what they write.
- Help other songwriters by sitting in on band rehearsals, helping to produce their recordings, and generally giving advice.
Returning to Songwriting
When you return to songwriting, you’ll notice that frustration is the one element that seems to be diminished. Your creative abilities feel every bit as strong, and possibly more so. But in the time away, you’ll notice that frustration has subsided, and it’s a nice feeling.
So remember, just because you’re a songwriter doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to cut yourself some slack and back away from the activity once in a while. You’re only human. And every once in a while, you’re going to need a break.
Take that break, and don’t feel guilty about it!
Also, check out Gary’s book on writer’s block, available on Amazon: “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music“