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Tips for Minimizing the Threat of Writer’s Block

Every songwriter struggles from time to time trying to get a song finished. It’s unavoidable because it’s the nature of the human brain’s ability to be creative. There are days when things flow easily, and other days when it seems all but impossible.

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There are three levels of intensity when it comes to writer’s block:

  1. Mild. This is common to everyone in the creative arts like songwriting: you try but just can’t get your musical imagination working for you. So you put it aside, and try again in the next day or so.  At that point, you usually feel the creative spark returning, and everything’s fine again.
  2. Moderate. After a few days of diverting your attention with other musical activities such as playing your instrument, talking to other musicians, listening to music, etc., you still can’t get back in the groove. A moderate case of writer’s block might mean a few weeks, even a month, before you feel your old creative self coming back to form.
  3. Severe. It happens: writer’s block can take hold and make you feel uncreative, and you can’t seem to find your way back. You probably then start to doubt if you were ever a songwriter in the first place. With a severe case of writer’s block, the problem may seem insurmountable. And it sometimes is.

In most cases, writer’s block as described above can be reversed and solved if it’s dealt with quickly, as soon as you see the symptoms and feel the frustration beginning to build. Severe writer’s block is avoidable.

Here are four quick tips if you find yourself in the midst of dealing with writer’s block. The sooner you try solutions, the sooner you’ll be back writing songs with a bit more ease than you’re experiencing now:

  1. Schedule breaks away from songwriting. Songwriting, like most creative activities, should be an almost-daily activity. But the negativity and frustration that comes from a creative block is quickly cumulative. So take a look at your calendar and, like scheduling a family vacation, choose a couple of weeks where you preemptively decide you aren’t going to write.
  2. Break songwriting down into smaller tasks. If your aim is to sit down and write a song, that goal may simply be too big — too daunting. If your songwriting session is going to be for an hour on a given day, decide beforehand that you’re going to use that hour to solve smaller songwriting problems. For example, determine that you’re only going to write a hook, or write one verse of lyric, or a page of potential song titles… that sort of thing. Setting goals that are smaller means setting goals that are much more easily attainable.
  3. Edit older songs. It can be very therapeutic and satisfying to look back at older songs you’ve written, from the standpoint of making small changes to make them even better. It still requires you to be creative, but the tasks are easier because the basic song is already there. This is a great way to use your time if your brain seems stuck in vacation mode.
  4. Help other songwriters. So many songwriters go online to ask for help with their songs. Many of these people are songwriting newbies, and if you’ve got some years as a songwriter behind you, your kind of experienced advice might be just what they need. This kind of help that you might offer still allows you to be creative, and takes your mind off your own temporary difficulties.

The great thing about these tips is that you can (and should) be doing them all the time, whether you’re feeling the creative juices flowing or not. By constantly diverting your attention away from what you’ve always thought a songwriting session should be, you make it less likely that a creative block will take hold in the first place.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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