We have all been there. When writing lyrics or the music itself, especially when it comes to the hook line or riff that will make the song, we have been struck down by our own malicious brains; claiming ‘I’m all out! I will never complete that line!’
Fear not, there are ways to overcome this. From simply taking a break through to forms of meditation, there is something for everyone. Here are some ideas for you to think about. Try them all if you have to. After all, writer’s block is never a one-time thing.
It can really be this simple. Have a cup of tea, watch some mindless TV, or listen to a favourite album. The point is to let your brain relax, which is the running theme of this article. As with a lack of REM sleep, when overworked the brain does not function as well as it can, so by giving it a rest, the brain can recharge and you can return to your work refreshed. Having a nap comes under this bracket, as it is another form of taking a break. Just don’t fall asleep for too long and waste your day.
Try not to force your hand. When stuck in a hole, the worst thing you can do is force yourself to produce a moment of clarity. Although improvising with lyrics sounds unlikely, it is doable. Just start writing in no particular pattern or punctuation. Let the words flow and you may find that you come up with a phrase or word that gives you that break-through idea. With music, it is the same process. Keep playing in steady rhythmic pattern in your chosen key, changing the intonation on small phrases or bars, or add in runs and silences to change the rhythm. You may find you come up with more than one hook or riff, in which case you have just started writing your next song. Just make sure you write it down or you will never forgive yourself – I have made that mistake one too many times.
If you are stuck on one particular song, leave it for a day or two, and start on a new track. The process of writing the next song could lead to finding a phrase or lyric that breaks the writer’s block you had for the previous one, but this does not mean you should instantly go back.
Push on through the new track having written down what you just created, and go back once the one you are working on is complete. Even if you do not find what you have been looking for, the new material will have stopped your brain thinking about where you got stuck, and so going back to it will feel like you are starting fresh.
The old proverb ‘A change is as good as a rest’ is alive and well today. As with taking a break, your brain has a chance to rest, especially if your other hobby is not a creative one.
I know some of you will not want to hear this, but sport is one of the best past-times for relaxing the creative side of your brain, as the analytical side takes over.
Linear video games have a similar effect, which I’m sure is good news for some of you. Taking the focus away from creativity is another way of resting the mind, so you may find that you are more productive with your music after an hour or two of a workout, and you never know when you may suddenly have a moment of clarity; you could be playing Frisbee with a friend, but again, remember to have a notebook handy to write down the phrase or sequence you created.
Getting in touch with your spiritual side as a way of overcoming the creative block is something that many people overlook because they do not see themselves as a spiritual person. You do not have to be of a religious persuasion in order to meditate.
Finding a quiet space – I find that places in nature are often great for this; sitting in your local park under a tree is a favourite of mine – will help relax you, then just close your eyes and let your mind wander.
Clearing your head of negative thoughts and focusing on calm, tranquil ones is like rebooting your mind to its default settings. You are now a blank canvas on which a masterpiece can be written.
If all else fails, take inspiration from the work of others. Listen to some music and take notes of aspects you like. You should not have to copy exactly what the other musician has done, just gain inspiration from it. The same can be done with novels and short stories.
Try picking out random phrases from a book and use them as lyrics. Put your own music to them, them change the lyrics, and suddenly you have a new song. I tried this with a couple of friends and a copy of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, and found it surprisingly productive, managing to write three songs in the space of a few hours.
You may not find that all of these tips are useful, but hopefully, if you ever find yourself struggling, one of them will help you get back on the writing wagon. If you know any methods that break through your writers block then don’t be afraid to share them in the comments! Then ‘Like’ & share on Facebook & Twitter!