Most songwriters have their own kind of writing schedule that works for them. Some work best when they have a project in mind — an album, let’s say, or perhaps a show — and so they work hard, day after day, being guided by the project.
And then between projects, their writing slows down, and their musical activities move into areas such as performance in a band or perhaps producing other artists.
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Other songwriters maintain a more-or-less regular writing regime, trying to write every day.
There’s no way to say what the right approach is for you. I can tell you that if writing frustration happens for you with any sense of regularity, your writing schedule (or perhaps lack of it) might be a key reason.
Balancing Work and Downtime
If you have a full-time job, you’re likely working something close to 40 hours per week. For many, that might mean working 8 hours or so per day, Monday to Friday, with the weekend off. For others, especially if you work in a restaurant or bar, weekends might be your busy time, and you get time off during the week when things are less busy.
In any case, the ideal situation is if you’re able to enjoy two or three days off in a row. I don’t know anyone who would want to take their 40-hour workweek and split those hours up over the seven days of a week, with no day completely free.
That would result in shorter work days, but never a day off. And frustration with the job would no doubt increase quickly.
By pulling together those two or three days of downtime, you can get away from the job and relax.
Songwriting and Downtime
The same, I believe, holds true for songwriting. I often say that songwriting should be a daily activity, but then I usually qualify that and say that “daily” means five out of every seven days. To me, full-time songwriting still offers days off.
The benefit that comes from giving yourself a couple of days off from writing every week is the same benefit that you enjoy when you get two or three days off from your job: you’re able to relax, put those daily tasks away, and think about something else.
And the main advantage that comes from giving yourself a few days away from writing is that frustration is far less likely to grab a hold. And since frustration is the main catalyst for writer’s block, you’ll find that limiting your writing to five days out of seven often keeps frustration from building.
There will always be times when you’ve got a project with a deadline, and just like any job, you may be required to “do some overtime.” But in general, you need to now look carefully at your own writing schedule and find two or three days every week when you can give yourself a break.
I believe you’ll be a much happier songwriter for it!
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
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Being a songwriter enthusiast, also running a very successful business, I find the songwriting actually gives me downtime from the stresses of my business. So I do something almost everyday even if it’s just look for titles or catchy phrases or some idea I write in my song possibilities journal. I’m always on the look out for the unique or unusual to keep the ideas rolling. Another thing I do is always carry around a little notebook and I’m always writing little creative sketches like little mini movies, much as an artist would quickly sketch people on the street. I believe creativity is a learned activity that has to be practiced and that keeps one from ever having writer’s block. I’ve been writing for six years now, part-time and have written over 300 songs and I’ve never had writer’s block. I probably have my share of mediocre songs, but I can always come up with a song.
You bring up a great point, which is that sometimes songwriting might be the simple task of creating titles or coming up with short, catchy phrases and word combinations. You’ve given us a great reminder that we mustn’t always feel that we have to be writing a complete song. I think pacing oneself the way you describe is a excellent suggestions. Thanks, as always, for your very good thoughts!