A very controversial idea that comes with songwriting is that the process is utterly organic and comes to the songwriter naturally. While yes, some days, words and melodic ideas flow out of you without you having to make much effort, on other days, you stare at an empty page, blank-minded. It can leave you with a sense of defeat, frustration and even scare about coming back to writing afterwards. Writers block happens to everyone and can happen at anytime. Here are many tricks to help in overcoming it.
Collaboration is always a good idea whether you are stuck on an idea or want a fresh approach to songwriting. It is also a very good way to learn how to compromise and to learn how to not get too attached to ideas while standing up for the ideas worth fighting for. Everyone you will write with will have different approaches. Therefore, if it doesn’t work out with one individual, just move on to the next person! A great way to find people to collaborate with is to be apart of music groups online, or being apart of the social feature of Jellynote. You could also contact up-and-coming acts in your area and suggest a writing day.
Another thing you can do is research. Don’t limit yourself to the internet and google search. Read books and go to a library, listen to music (live and recorded), go to museums, watch movies, meet with friends and listen to their stories and current life situations. Anything can be source of inspiration if we look hard enough. The fact that you are struggling to write is already a story and starting point for a potential song. That feeling of fear, not being good enough and doubting yourself is a universal theme that everyone goes through at some point. It is something people relate to and that can lead to great songwriting.
The reason we block ourselves is because we feel the need to write the best song ever every time we write. It always needs to be better than the previous. By doing this, we begin to doubt our capacities and doubt blocks us, hence songwriters block. Another trick is to consciously decide to write something you would usually consider “bad”. Allow yourself to create your worst work.
There is always something to you can edit and improve on a page full of bad lyrics, however, on a blank page, there is nothing you can work with.
Try Something Different
One of the biggest challenges as a songwriter is to constantly be reinventing ourselves and our approaches to songwriting. The best way to do this is to try something different. If you usually start writing with lyrical content, mix it up, try starting with some chords or a beat. If you usually write on a guitar, try a different instrument like a piano or bass. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
You can also use different writing techniques. For example, David Bowie used a “cut-up technique” which consisted in him cutting up words from a preexistent written work and then mix-match them by hand. He almost left it up to fate which can be very liberating when you usually choose every single word meticulously. A similar concept is free writing which consists of writing down anything and everything going through your mind in a incoherent way. It can include single words, or sentences, or anything you’d like. This is a very interesting exercise as your subconscious will take over and lead, hopefully giving you a starting point or theme to write a song. Alternatively, you can play around with some samples or logic loops. Using a new DAW can also be quite refreshing. If you usually use Logic, give Ableton or Protools a go! Reusing old ideas by either writing over preexisting tracks or recycling lyrics can be another great approach. Recording an a cappella idea, chopping it up, and reconstructing it is also very interesting.
Overall, collaborating, researching and trying something different are the best tools you can use when facing writers block. Writing in a consistent matter can definitely improve your writing and help you avoid writers block so keep writing, everyday, even if it isn’t your best work!
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