Songwriter with guitar

Five Best Ways to Avoid Songwriter’s Block

There is nothing wrong with being a slow songwriter. Leonard Cohen was practically famous for how long it took him to complete songs to his satisfaction.

But if your songwriting process is slow because your creative brain constantly blocks up, that’s more than just being “slow.” The main annoying feature of songwriter’s block is frustration, and that should never be a part of anyone’s process.

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Since everyone is different, everyone will have their own unique causes for the creative blocks from which they suffer. If songwriter’s block is your constant companion, here are five causes, and five ideas that are worth a try:

1. Create a small goal for each songwriting session.

In other words, don’t just sit down and noodle away, trying to see what happens. Give each session a small purpose or goal, and the smaller the better: “I’m going to write the first line of lyric for my verse” — that sort of thing.

The purpose for listing such insignificant goals is that you’ll likely achieve it, and you’ll benefit from the shot of positive energy and mindset that comes from achieving even that small goal. If you write more, that’s fine of course.

If you set yourself large goals, you’re probably building on the frustration you’re feeling, and that will only make things worse. When it comes to songwriting goals that help cure writer’s block, less is more.

2. Keep your sessions short, but daily.

The old adage regarding audiences, “keep them wanting more”, applies inwardly, to the songwriter’s brain. If you end a session feeling that you’ve been on a roll with creating ideas, don’t worry that stopping is going to kill those ideas.

Feeling creative when you stop has a way of generating positive attitude, and you’ll reap the benefits in your next session. So two short sessions on one day is better than one long one. But try to keep a daily (or almost daily) schedule.

3. Get inspired by other songwriters’ music.

Listening to other good songs has a way of stimulating your own creative brain. Just as looking at good food can make you hungry, listening to good music will make you feel creative. Make daily listening an important part of your process.

4. Keep a songwriter’s journal that documents how you’re feeling.

Most of the time, a songwriter’s journal is something that contains song ideas, bits of lyric, and so on. But there’s something else you can do: keep a journal of how easy or difficult your songwriting session was on any particular day.

If you have a bad day, creatively, write down why you think that might be. Over time, you’ll start to notice patterns. For example, you may find that writing at the beginning of the week is easy, but writing at the end of a week is hard. That’s important for you to know if you’re trying to get a handle on why your process suffers on certain days.

5. Perform your songs for others.

If songwriting is a solitary activity for you (i.e., if you don’t do collaborations), it’s going to be important to get your songs out there, heard by others. These days, that probably means streaming online.

Writing but never performing puts you in a creative vacuum that’s hard to sustain. Getting feedback of any kind can be an important part of what keeps you feeling imaginative and creative.

And since I’ve mentioned collaborations, don’t count out the creative excitement that can come from a good collaboration with another songwriter. Done well, a collaboration can be a great way to have another songwriter “fill in the blanks” that you can’t fill in your own songs, and if their style is a little different from yours, you’ve got a way of co-writing something unique.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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