6 Simple Yet Effective Ways to Overcome 'Songwriters Block' For Musicians
Updated: May 8, 2022
Are you stuck in a creative rut? Are you struggling to write lyrics to your songs? Is that 4 bar progression missing something?
We've all been there.
You spend minutes, hours and days writing and re-writing, trying to create that banging hook or that chart topping 8 bar melody; but it's just not clicking.
So you crack open another energy drink, forcing yourself to go harder... go hard or go home right?
Well, not quite.
As artists, the 'Songwriter's block' is the one thing we all fear. However, the real issue lies in how we approach it.
Why? Well in my own experience as a music producer, the writer's block is usually self created as a result of one or both of two things:
1. ineffective thinking
2.living inside of our comfort zone.
So in this article, I have listed 5 simple yet effective ways to deal with both of these issues so you can stop banging your head against a brick wall and and finally get back into flow state.
Just to clarify, these tips are aimed towards songwriters, lyricists, composers & music producers; but can be used in any creative endeavour.
As we all know, life is full of stresses and we are bombarded with more information than ever before. Our minds can get cluttered very quickly, and because of this, our thoughts can distract us, throw us off and block our creative powers.
This is where meditation can be a useful tool .
But what does meditation have to do with music? Isn't meditation for Buddhist monks and those new-age yoga specialists? Well, first we need to understand what meditation actually is.
Meditation comes in many forms, however I am referring to the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is essentially being aware, but not getting caught up with, our own thoughts.
The more we try to fight with our own thoughts and force our ideas, the more we end up feeling frustrated and uninspired. Trying to force creativity in this stressed state just makes things worse, creating a cycle.
Practicing mindfulness meditation (click here to learn how) for just 5-10 minutes every day can help you get out of your own head, offers you clarity and that much needed headspace.
2. Get a life...
Our brains love familiarity. However habits and routine can lead to close mindedness, and keep us stuck in the comfort zones. And mentioned in the intro, the comfort zone can quickly grind our creativity to a halt.
To quote Albert Einstein, it is silly to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.
To break out of writer's block, we need to adopt new ways of thinking - and this can be done by a change in environment and gaining new experiences.
Going outside, experiencing new places & talking to people can help stimulate your brain to come up with new ideas and fresh perspective. If you cannot get outside, even thinking about and reflecting on your own life and past experiences can do the trick.
Break your usual routine and I guarantee you will come back to work inspired and ready to work.
3. Switch up the flow
This point is also related to the comfort zone and ineffective ways of thinking. Humans are creatures of habit. Once we practice & engrain a specific way of working, our brains will default to this pattern every time it is needed.
This is great when it comes to efficiency and speed, but can lead to a plateau in your creative thinking.
To combat this, switch up the sequence of your workflow so your brain is forced to think of new angles and approaches. For artists, this could mean structuring the flow first without writing a single lyric, or for a music producer it could mean building a drum pattern first instead of after the melody.
Whatever it is, do not let the fear of the unknown hold you back; many times, switching up my instrumentation, sound selection and even music genre has helped me break out of the creative chains and set me back on a path of inspiration.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” - Pablo Picasso
Thinking you have to write something that is completely 'new' or ground-breaking can be an intimidating task and can cause major procrastination.
The first step is accepting the fact that every idea most likely contains influences from several other ideas & concepts.
Like Steve Jobs said:
"Creativity is just connecting dots."
So, study the work of your favourite artists or composers; you could take parts from each of them and piece them together in a different way.
To be clear, the idea isn't to completely plagiarise someone else's work; it's about gathering more 'dots to connect' so you have a range of sources to draw inspiration from.
5. Limit yourself
You may think that not having enough options is the primary cause of the dreaded 'writer's block'.
However, having too many options can be as detrimental. This is because too many options can lead to a mental phenomenon called 'choice overload'; which was coined by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book, Future Shock.
Choice overload causes overwhelm, creates fear of making mistakes, and is another big source of procrastination.
So, it can be beneficial to limit yourself in some ways.
This could mean:
1. sticking to a certain theme, musical genre
2. Simply setting a timer and only allow yourself a limited time to create, like 10 minutes.
These tips can help destroy procrastination and get you back in your groove.
6. Stop trying to be perfect
Perfectionism is something I have personally struggled with. Perfectionism is the belief that something has to be 'perfect' in order for it to be good enough.
This belief massively holds us back and stops us from even wanting to create in the first place.
A simple way to start overcoming your perfection problem is to apply the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, coined in 1906 by Vilfredo Pareto.
Keep in mind that this is not a hard and fast mathematical rule. It is a concept.
To apply this as an artist, commit to get your work to 80%. This will actually get you started because there is no pressure to create a mind blowingly good piece of work - just get to 80%.
Then, you can take it further from there. But keep in mind nothing may never feel like 100% done to you.
But just commit to the process and avoid putting unrealistic expectations on yourself
To conclude, creativity really is a mind game. Once you are aware of the things holding you back and creating that 'block', you can quickly get back to working on your craft and reigniting your passion.