11 Tips For Unblocking the Writer’s Block
For many years as a songwriter, it never dawned on me that thousands of other songwriters were in the same predicament. That of being alone in my bedroom with instrument in hand, bent over a piece of paper, toying with phrases and melodies only to quickly abandon them and stare at the wall for a particularly long period of time. Like many other songwriters, I also share the desire to sit down, reflect, then create a soundtrack to that feeling. The process may vary between us, some of you may not stare at the wall as much as I do. Some of you may not even find the paper, however there is fundamental element in us that is the same. Aside from this comforting thought, the songwriting process can sometimes be a tormenting one. Here are some tricks I use to help push me to the finish line.
1. Name it
Creating a title for a song often leads to the song simply writing itself. If the juices aren’t flowing however, try looking through magazines where you can find interesting play on words or hyperboles. If magazines aren’t your bag, head to your local book store and straight to P for poetry. Draw from poetry titles. You’ll often find just entering a bookstore will inspire.
2. Gather what’s around you
Be in the moment and listen to the passing conversations around you. The random one-liners are often priceless. Play with these phrases and make up stories about the passers-by.
3. Carry your tools
You never know when inspiration may strike, so make sure you have your pen and paper on your person at all times. Record ideas on your phone too. Recording all ideas will make you realise your creativity is not as stagnant as you think.
4. Keep it all
Hang on to all your little ditty’s. That suitcase of ideas may come around and take you somewhere unexpected. Try not to be harsh on those ideas. They are all leading to something.
5. Write all the time
Keeping it constant will ultimately ease the creative process. It builds familiarity with yourself as a songwriter and an artist. Accept the good, the bad, the stunningly beautiful, and obscenely grotesque. Writing consistently keeps you working on what is inspiring you at any given moment. It doesn’t even matter if it fits your style.
6. Know your patterns
If you’re feeling blocked, it’s not because you don’t hear anything. It may be because you’re reverting to your old patterns in songwriting. Using the same phrases, chord progressions, lyrical content, so on and so forth. Identifying this is a useful step into breaking the regime.
7. Be kind to yourself
Self criticism can really get you down when trying to write a song. It’s only fear and it can be turned off. What’s the reason behind the fear? Is it because you think it’s not good enough? If you’re present and honest while writing that will always translate. Authenticity is key.
8. Ask for a helping hand
If a song has reached a point where it can go no further, don’t be shy in asking for help. Give yourself a timeframe to finish it solo, and once you’ve passed that point, reach out. Collaborating is always a learning curve.
9. Pick up another instrument
Find inspiration on a new instrument. The less you know how to play it, the better. Put yourself out of your comfort zone and mess around on something new. Drums are particularly good for finding new ideas.
10. Have a break, have a Kit Kat
Walk away for a while, eat something, make a tea. Listen to music, read something or go for a walk. I personally wouldn’t recommend turning on the TV. That’s often a downward spiral.
11. Draw ideas from your fave’s
Put on your favourite song and jam along with it. This sparks inspiration for all sorts of musical ideas, from chord progressions, song structures, dynamics and lyrics. All artists appropriate from each other. Your interpretation makes it your own. I also asked some of our engineers and resident artists what there thoughts are on overcoming writer’s block.
Antonia Gauci, resident Studios 301 producer / engineer / songwriter, shared her thoughts:
“I collaborate with other people. I take things outside. The other day I went for a walk in the bush with my friends and took a mini recorder. I meditate. I get off social media. The biggest thing is to try not to put so much pressure on yourself, and don’t be afraid to make an idiot of yourself!”
Cam & Joey from GLADES, EMI’s most recent signing and 301 production studio tenants, had this to say:
“Keeping the space and environment that you are in creative is most important. There’s so many times where you hit a wall and that’s the time where you have to break. It’s time to play table tennis, and go for lunch. We normally take about 2-3 breaks per day, it’s really important to refresh your mind. If we had to summarise it would be to go and do something that’s not writing.”