When Top Songwriters Get Writer's Block, This Is What They Do

Tommaso Zillio

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Have you ever wanted to compose a song, and found that the only thing you could do was to stare at a blank piece of paper with no ideas coming out of you? Have you ever been through a dry spell where you go for weeks or months without being able to write a song?

Writer's block is a constant in the life of many songwriters (and creative artists in general). It does not need to be this way. Writer's block is usually caused by trying to do too much, having a routine that makes you avoid any new experience, and in general being too hard on yourself. As such you CAN deal with it and, with a bit of attention, eliminate it from your life once and for all.

But if you don't do anything and just accept it, then you are opening yourself to a series of problems one worse than the other. I have seen people changing career from music to something else, or even self-destruct because their writer's block condition was too painful to them. This does not need to happen.

If you find that your creative juices are blocked, here are a few suggestions that will help you get our of our funk and start writing again.

Take It Easy

Sometimes writer's block is just caused by you trying to do too much. If you are under pressure, you have short deadlines ("we need the album ready by next month"), or your life is simply too busy, this could easily dry up your creative juices

The solution is to take it easy. Take a day off. Or three. Breathe. Smell the flowers. Relax that mental cramp that has taken hold of your brain.

And don't forget to get enough sleep! I know at least one songwriter that got through a 6-month dry spell because he was sleeping only 5h a night. He was so anxious to experience life, party with friends, and move all his project forward that he started sleeping less and less... after one week that he started sleeping regularly again (7h+ per night) his creative abilities came back like magic.

Try With A Different Instrument

Some of the best guitar songs have been composed on piano. And some of the best orchestral movie scores have been written on guitar.

Sometimes if you are TOO familiar with your instrument, it's harder to be creative. Ask a friend to explain to you the basics of a new instruments. Your goal here is NOT to become proficient... it's just to get another perspective on music.

Learn Something New

If your life is boring, your music will be boring. One of the best ways to stimulate your creative brain is to learn something new. I'm not saying to become gung-ho about extreme sports... but taking a class at the local adult education center could just be the ticket.

Another songwriter I know started taking pottery classes to get out of a writer's block period. While her pots and vases never came out straight (but don't tell her that, ok?), the positive mental effort that she put in trying to learn something new had a beneficial effect on her. After just a little time she was writing songs like a fountain spills water.

Travel

Sometimes you just need to change air. If you are adventurous, go to the closes airport and buy a ticket for the first departing flight. Or, if this does not strike your fancy, plan a travel to a place you always wanted to see.

If you have traveled (or lived) in different countries, you will realize that the most trivial aspects of daily life can become a source of inspiration. There is lots more variety out there than you can imagine (unless you are already well-traveled).

But even without crossing national borders, are you really sure that you know all the interesting places around where you live? I am sure that you can find some very interesting location at less than 1h drive from where you are right now. Ask your friends for cool places, and then spend an afternoon being in a place you've never seen. Bring a notebook to write down any musical ideas... they will come.

Get To Know New People

Get out of your house, go to the closest bus stop and start a conversation with the first person you see there. Seriously! Try to find everything you can about this person, and listen to their answers. Note: I don't (necessarily) mean that you have to go and pick up a girl... anyone will do to have a conversation.

In fact, the more unlikely is the person you are going to find, the more interesting the conversation is going to be... IF you listen to them. I got great ideas for a song once by talking with a disabled elderly woman. She had great stories of her life. I got to write a few good songs, and apparently I made her day too with that conversation. What's not to like?

Pick Up Meditation

Learning to relax your mind is a great way to allow your creativity to come forward. I'm not saying that you should travel to India and find a guru. Just that you learn how to meditate. There are many ways to meditate so I'm sure that with a bit of research you will find a discipline that is compatible with your worldview (apparently this is a sensitive issue...)

You can also make it a habit to meditate a few minutes every morning or every evening - whatever works best for you. I found that many songwriters either meditate or use similar rituals (that they made up) to put themselves "in the zone".

You Can Get Out Of Your Rut

Of course I cannot guarantee that ALL these methods will work on you... but at least ONE of them WILL work. You are not alone in being in this situation, in fact every single creative person I know has experienced it at least once... and got out of it. So don't despair, pick one of the suggestions here, and I look forward in hearing your songs!

A last, but not least suggestion to get out of writer's block... is to check our course How To Put An End To Musical Writer's Block And Gain Inspiration For Songwriting: it will help you. It says so right in the title!