Writer’s block is universal. It hits all musicians in different ways at different times but is equally frustrating. You write a part in your new song that you really enjoy. Enjoy playing, humming along to when you’re out and about and enjoy coming back to when you pick up your instrument. The only problem: you can’t seem to get past that part. This guide will take you through understanding what writer’s block is, where it comes from and how you can overcome it.
What is writer’s block
Writer’s block, simply put, is the inability to escape a particular part of your process. It’s not always wanting to get to your destination but more so wanting to get out of your current rut. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing lyrics, a song or a score for a short film, writer’s block can feel suffocating. In order to get out of writer’s block, it’s important to first understand where it’s coming from. Once you’ve identified that, it’s much easier to focus on getting out of.
Common causes of writer’s block
You may be experiencing writer’s block because it’s the wrong time in your process to be writing. Maybe you have to go into discovery or get some inspiration to write yourself out of a rut. Try taking a break, consuming a new medium of art, or go on an adventure to experience something new to write about.
There’s a deep vulnerability that artists put into their work that often prevents them from showing it to others, but many times, it prevents them from finishing their own work. Fear keeps us from doing a lot of great things in life. Ask yourself, are you writing this piece for a particular reason? Do you think that you will be judged or scene differently if people saw this side of you? Letting go of this fear can be very liberating and unlock your songwriting.
Sometimes procrastination can go hand in hand with fear or vulnerability. It can stem from the idea that if you never finish something you won’t have to enter that state of showing a vulnerable side of yourself. You may be stuck in a writer’s block because you subconsciously don’t want to finish your song.
Artists are very prideful, for good and bad reason. Sometimes it can come from the idea of perfectionism. You want your song to be perfect before showing it to the world. Sometimes it can come from selfishness. You don’t want to expose your work in progress out of fear that someone will come by and steal your idea. The negative sides of your pride may be combated in order to overcome writer’s block.
We live in a world of distractions. Often these can be a good thing, as they are often great sources of inspiration. Other times they are the blockers that keep you from finishing your song. Sometimes it takes turning off your wifi so you don’t browse the internet, sometimes it takes turning your phone off or using an app like FocusMe or Freedom to block apps and websites so you can focus. However you want to accomplish it, sometimes a little focus is all you need to get out of a rut.
Ways to overcome writer’s block
There are many ways to get over writer’s block, the best method is whatever works for you. The technique may change from project to project, the important thing is that you get through your songwriting rough patch and onto finishing your song.
Figure out who you’re writing for
Are you writing this song for a particular person? Maybe you’re stuck because you’re not ready for them to hear it. Are you writing this song for your fans or a particular audience? That may be writing for the wrong reasons and come off as disingenuine. Try to change the focus of your song and write for yourself. First work on making yourself proud of your work. Impressing yourself first will give you the confidence to share your work publicly.
Change your environment
Changing your environment is a great way to get out of your own head and into your flow quicker. Try the following to shake up your environment:
- Write at a different time of day – Do you typically write at a particular time of day? Try changing it up a little. Wake up an hour earlier and try to get some writing in before work or school. You may unlock some new productivity
- Write in a different place – Getting out of your comfort zone is a great way to spark creativity. Go on a walk in the park or visit a bookstore to get some different creative stimulus.
- Write with a different instrument – Are you stuck on guitar? Try sitting down at the piano, singing or humming a tune over the piece you’re stuck on. It may help you hear things differently.
Once you get into a flow, a lot of preventing writer’s block is staying in that flow. Process and repetition create routine and are great for training your brain to get into creative mode. Try a tool like FocusMe or Freedom to eliminate distractions and focus on writing.
Not all distractions are bad so long as they don’t take you away from your process for too long. Sometimes having a quick distraction can help reset your creative brain and let you return to your song refreshed.
Set a timer for 15 minutes and try one of the following, make sure you go back to your song!
- Call a friend or relative
- Make some coffee or a quick bite to eat
- Go for a quick run
- Play a video game
- Clean your room
Get others to give you feedback
Writer’s block is brutal because it often locks musician’s in their own head. A great way to get out of that is to show your song to a friend, family member or another musician. Ask for feedback. Get feedback on what they would do to improve or move forward? You don’t have to use their suggestions, but the additional ideas can give you some new avenues to explore.
Move onto another part of the song (or a new song entirely)
Getting stuck on a lyric, part or song is incredibly frustrating. You want to do anything in order to push through and finish your song but sometimes it’s just not working. Try to move onto another part (or a new song entirely) and come back to your problem area later. Your piece will always be there and getting some creative momentum on another piece can be leveraged when you do return to finish.