Sometimes, an Inability to Write Isn’t Writer’s Block

When you sit down with your guitar but can’t come up with anything creative, you’re likely to think that you’re going through a bout of writer’s block. And then it’s a matter of waiting it out until the creative juices start flowing again.

But there’s a problem with this quick analysis: creativity in humans is something that naturally ebbs and flows. It’s normal to have days when nothing seems to be working, when your creative senses just seem to be lacking.

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And when you immediately label your difficult writing day as being the start of writer’s block, that label has a way of cementing your difficulties, making it a challenge to solve the problem and become more creative again.

If it’s not writer’s block, what do you call it? Personally, I don’t call it anything; a day where it’s difficult to create music is just simply “one of those days” to me, and I put the pencil down and turn my creative attention to a different kind of activity.

That different activity might be something as simple as working on a different piece of music, practicing my instrument, or perhaps reading what other songwriters are saying about music. All of these things have the benefit of keeping my musical brain engaged and working without requiring me to generate song ideas.

The Problem with Labels

So a lack of creativity on any given day, then, is a normal circumstance that we should expect from time to time. It doesn’t require us to label it.

Once you put a label on something, it becomes a problem to solve, and because an occasional inability to create is something we should anticipate, we only make things more difficult when we label it.

So instead of calling your current difficulties writer’s block, what should you do?

The best solution is always to turn your attention to some other creative activity that releases you from the duty of writing songs. There are other ways to engage your creative side, ways that, in the long run, will allow you to still feel creative.

All I’m suggesting is that labeling your difficulties as a creative block tends to cement those difficulties, and make the solutions less effective.

No Matter What You Call It…

In the recent research paper “An Analysis of Writer’s Block: Causes and Solutions” (Sarah J. Ahmed and C. Dominik Güss), the authors interviewed 146 writers, and asked for their most popular solutions to bouts of writer’s block. The top four:

  1. taking a break from writing;
  2. working on a different writing project;
  3. forcing themselves to keep writing, and
  4. discussing ideas with others.

Those are four great solutions for those days when you find writing to be difficult. Several of those solutions can and should be done by songwriters as a daily practice anyway. (Forcing yourself to write is a solution that might work, and might not; you’ll know if it’s a viable solution.)

So the next day that you find songwriting to be difficult, don’t be so quick to label it as “writer’s block.” It may simply be one of those expected downturns in creativity that needs no other solution than to put your pencil down.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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