Jealous musician

Can Jealousy Get You Through a Bout of Writer’s Block?

When you’re experiencing a creative block of some sort, one where writing is causing considerable frustration, a good solution is often to simply step away for a few days and let your creative mind have a bit of a rest.

And during that stepping away, it’s good to keep yourself immersed in music. There are lots of things you can do, including playing music, teaching, pursuing other creative interests, and, of course, just listening.

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Listening is a good one, because sometimes we get so caught up in writing that we forget how important it is to listen to good music. It can stimulate your imagination and get you excited to write again.

But there’s another benefit that comes from listening, though you might not recognize it as such: listening to a successful songwriter can make you a bit jealous.

Jealousy is normally seen as a negative emotion. Feeling jealous of someone else’s friends, relationships, possessions… well, there’s not much good that can come from that.

But I’d suggest that there’s a healthier kind of jealousy — healthy, as long as you keep things in perspective and treat it as a thought experiment. Here’s what I mean.

Healthy Jealousy

Let’s say, during one of those times when writer’s block has gripped you, that you spend time listening to a recording by someone else in your genre. You make note of the polished sound, the level of production, the gorgeous melodies, the clever lyrics. If you’re normal, you might start to feel a bit jealous of that musician’s achievement.

Instead of following jealousy down its normal path of leading to anger, I’m suggesting that you go down a somewhat different path: explore feelings of creative excitement and energy that come from hearing good music.

And ask yourself: Why aren’t I writing music like that right now? Why can’t that be me?

By thinking that way, you acknowledge the excellence of the song you’re listening to, not disparaging or denigrating it. And you use that emotion as fuel to get your creative juices flowing again.

This is not unusual, of course. We actually do this all the time. When I was learning trumpet at university, the thing that got me practicing more than anything was simply listening to and acknowledging the excellence of my classmates. And feeling a little bit of jealousy when they were better than me.

But it’s amazing how lethargic we can become as writers when writer’s block kicks in and stops our songwriting in its tracks. You get so depressed about your temporary inability to write that you forget that you can use your ego to get you back on track.

So the next time writer’s block grabs hold and refuses to let go, spend a good amount of time listening to music. And don’t be afraid to let a little bit of good ol’ fashioned jealousy of someone else’s success snap you out of your creative block and get you back to writing again.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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Essential Chord Progressions

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