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Got Songwriter's Block?

Writer’s block is a pervasive problem in many mediums. It can be debilitating, cutting off an artist from their productivity. The main cause of writer’s block is a lack of inspiration and excitement for a new project. This can feel overwhelming to overcome, especially when a project is not optional for an artist to finish, for instance if it is for a graded class or a paid commission. I will outline some strategies for finding inspiration and motivation which will help you get over even the worst cases of writer’s block.

Whenever possible it is a great tool to be able to diverge from an invested path that is currently paying no dividends. In a scenario where you aren’t “under the gun” to finish a specific project, it’s fine to set something aside that isn’t motivating you to work. It’s key to remember that we undertake music for fun and enjoyment and if a project isn’t providing us with them then it is most likely it either needs to be knocked out quickly or set aside. It’s healthy to come back to a project with new perspective and ideas and to complete it when you are feeling more inspired. Don’t allow yourself to bang your head against a project continually that is giving you nothing back.

In an instance where a project must be finished there are still strategies that can help you. Getting feedback from others is invaluable for any artist. I’ve seen too many creatives fall into the trap of being precious about their art. Don’t fall into this trap. Using advice or ideas from others does not make a piece any less your own. The advice and ideas you receive can often be used well beyond their first intention.

Keeping an arts journal can also be helpful for creative artists. Jotting down great ideas helps you internalize the information and can be browsed through until a useful idea for your current project jumps out at you. For instance, suppose you are in the middle of writing a song and realize you need a different element but just can’t find anything that fits. Take your art journal and make a list of songs that are similar to what you’re creating (even if only tenuously similar), focus on the songs in your list that you most connect with. Spend a session listening to each of those songs and keeping notes about what they’ve done musically and what stands out to you. Did they add a bridge? Did they modulate? Did they add sparseness or density? Have you played with these same ideas in your piece?

Don’t just limit yourself to your inherent art form. Can you look at a painting, see how the artist broke up the monotony of an image and find an analogous musical method to achieve the same effect for your current work? Have you seen a film recently where the writer’s have lulled you into a false sense of security and suddenly ripped that away from you? Is this something you can recreate musically? Developing this sort of world system view of art and growing your ability to interpret ideas and concepts from other mediums will only help you gain more potential as a creative.

An exercise that can be fun and challenging is to write music in a style you are not accustomed to. Acclimating yourself to new idiosyncrasies that one genre of music employs that another does not can give you many new ideas. It will also certainly enhance your musicianship.

No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, it is important to keep yourself working and growing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on music, but it should be something that continues to build your creative muscles. Momentum is important in the arts and keeping yourself moving forward is vital.

My hope is that this article has provided you with the fuel you need to keep working. Most of what is prescribed here boils down to awareness, both of yourself and all the things happening around you. Engaging with your life on a deeper level and keeping better track of the things that move you can help keep you inspired for years to come.

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