Songwriting: What should you do to overcome songwriter's block? Every musician goes through songwriter's block from time to time. But it can really hinder your progress, especially when you're on a deadline.
Many musicians choose to take a break from the creative process or clear their minds to overcome a songwriting block. Others might change things up by approaching the process differently or writing with an alternative instrument. Exploring new sources of inspiration or collaborating with other songwriters may help. And listening to other artists' music is always a good idea.
Songwriters are a special breed. They take an idea and turn it into a work of art that can make people feel something. Whether it's happiness, sadness, love, or anger, songs can evoke powerful emotions in listeners. Some might be inspired by a personal experience they've gone through, while others might be inspired by other people's music.
But how do you ensure that when songwriter's block strikes, you have the tools you need to put pen to paper? How do you ensure that you can still move forward in creating your music and lyrics? Here are a few tips to help you overcome songwriter’s block and get back into the creative saddle again.
11 Effective Methods to Overcome a Songwriting Block
1. Think of a Great Title First
One of the best aspects of being a lyricist is connecting with your listeners as a storyteller. But when faced with a songwriting block, thinking of a great song title could help inspire the song's lyrics.
Therefore, to overcome songwriter’s block, focus on creating a title for your song. Think about what you're passionate about. Or consider an emotional experience you or someone you know has been through.
Remember that your song title is a crucial element that leads the songwriting, recording, and production process. The title is often a phrase repeated in the chorus of the song. So, with a great song title in hand, you may find yourself dreaming up a brilliant chorus in no time.
Some songwriters prefer to write the lyrics first. This gives them a clear idea of what their song will be about before tackling the title. And that's great for those who already have some inspiration for the lyrics they want to write. But working from the title "backward" is an excellent approach when words fail you.
If you’re trying to write the melody without much success, the song title may also provide you with a good starting point. Here, the song title acts as a foundation for the song. And, as such, can inform the lyrics, melody, rhythm, and more.
2. Look for Inspiration Elsewhere
As a creative, you know that inspiration can be found anywhere. You don't always have to be inspired by other people's music to write intriguing melodies and lyrics. You can also find inspiration in other things that interest you.
For example, some people find inspiration for their lyrics in paintings, movies, books, and even conversations with friends. The key is to keep an open mind and not be afraid to experiment when finding new ideas for your songs.
The next time you feel stuck on a songwriting project, try exploring some other forms of art. You might find the inspiration you need to write your next hit song and a new appreciation for a different artform.
3. Clear Your Mind
We often carry our concerns and troubles in our minds. And when our minds are cluttered with negativity, concentrating on writing a new song can be challenging. That’s why you need to clear your mind as much as possible if a songwriting block has reared its ugly head.
The best way to approach this is to sit down with pen and paper and simply write down everything on your mind. If you have a million things to sort out that week, make a list. Or, if you've had an unresolved disagreement with someone, write down how you feel.
By writing your thoughts down, you no longer need to carry them with you. You have, essentially, moved them from your mind to the paper. And you know that if you need to focus on one of those things, you can always refer to the piece of paper.
This way, you’ll give yourself a little extra headspace to work with. And it should then be easier to process new information and let your creativity run loose.
4. Songwriting: Keep Writing
Sometimes songwriter's block can be overcome by simply continuing to write. Even if the words you put down don't make any sense at first, it may help to spark an idea. In fact, numerous respected musicians have used this technique to overcome a songwriting block.
For instance, perhaps you've seen the documentary "The Beatles: Get Back". If so, you may recall a clip in which George Harrison is struggling with the lyrics to the song "Something". John Lennon's advice is to say whatever words come into his head until he finds the ones that work.
Using this same principle, allow your mind to wonder. Whether you’re physically writing the words or dictating them into a voice recorder, just let go. A similar approach can be applied when writing the music for your song. Initiate a beat in your mind or start singing in any key and just let your mind run free.
Doing this should kickstart the creative thought process. And chances are that you’ll produce some great lyrics and music before you know it.
5. Use Software for Inspiration
Using software as a remedy for a songwriting block is a great way to find inspiration for that new hit song. Using your favorite digital audio workstation (DAW) software, you can begin with a simple beat or loop.
Of course, this solution is only helpful if you have access to a DAW. This is why having your own basic recording studio at home is beneficial. A small studio space in your house allows you to create whenever the mood strikes. If you don't have equipment at home yet, read our blog post on how to set up a home recording studio.
When employing this method, try not to take the process too seriously, and let your curiosity guide you. Play around with the beats until you find something you like. Then slowly add layers of percussion and other instruments to create an amalgamation of sound pleasing to the ear.
If you feel a rush of ideas come in, grab your preferred instrument and try to add a melody, harmony, or groove. You may not use any of what you’ve produced during this exercise. However, the objective is that it will spark an idea and give you some inspiration to write your next song.
There are many online lyrics generators you can use for inspiration when it comes to lyrics. And when starting with the title, you could try a title or name generator. Again, this is not to say you’ll use any of these lyrics. But messing about with these tools could ignite the creative flame within and have you writing fresh lyrics before you know it.
6. Collaborate with Someone
If all else fails, there's no shame in reaching out to a fellow songwriter for help. Collaborating with someone can be a great way to become unstuck and produce new ideas.
Writing songs in collaboration is one of the most effective methods in overcoming a songwriting block. This way, you have another person available to bounce ideas off of. And they could help you decide if your song ideas are any good or not.
Sometimes collaborating is as simple as sharing their thoughts on the songwriting process and what they think could be improved. Other times it might mean working together to write a verse or chorus for your or another person's song.
Either way, the collaboration process can help both parties learn from each other. You’ll get to experience and understand each other’s creative processes and how you work best together.
The important thing is to be patient, open-minded, and communicative when working with someone else. This can help make the songwriting process far more enjoyable for everyone involved.
7. Songwriting: Write with a Different Instrument
We often have a go-to instrument when it comes to writing new songs. Many songwriters will reach for their trusty acoustic guitar to hash out a few chords and dream up lyrics and melodies. While others typically gravitate toward the piano as their primary songwriting tool.
But if you’re in a bind with songwriter’s block, it may be time to switch things up. Some artists recommend picking up an instrument you’re not familiar with. The idea is that through exploration the doors of the mind will open to let creativity in.
You could begin with a basic beat behind a drum kit and let the rhythm guide you. Or you might start building an engaging baseline on the bass guitar and see where that leads to.
Experiment with the instruments you have at your disposal and approach them with a sense of curiosity. Try to view this process as an adventure into unchartered territory. And hopefully, your mind will go to imaginative places it's never been before.
8. Change the Order in Which You Do Things
If songwriter's block is a problem, it’s best to change things up to get your songwriting juices flowing. For instance, many artists begin by crafting the music for their song and then add the lyrics afterward. While some begin with the lyrics and let them shape the melody, harmony, and rhythm.
When the dreaded songwriter's block pays an unexpected visit, take your usual approach and flip it on its head. Boredom or redundancy can often lead to a lack of stimulation. By altering the order in which you typically approach songwriting, your mind is forced to look at things differently.
9. Step Away and Take a Break
Sometimes songwriter's block is simply a result of writer's fatigue. Perhaps you've been slogging away for extended periods, and you just need to take a break from the creative process.
You can still keep your creative mind engaged by doing something else for a while. Reading, watching a movie or TV series, going for a run, or hitting the gym are all great ways to recharge your batteries. Do whatever it takes to take your mind off writing music for a while.
If you're in a place that's too familiar, it can also be hard to find inspiration. So, if you've been in your home studio, go for a walk outside or to a coffee shop. Socializing with friends and family is a great way to unwind and restore your energy.
You could also try journaling in different places. Perhaps record some thoughts while walking around the neighborhood. Or jot down what’s on your mind while sitting by the ocean or a lake. The point is to change things up, find inspiration again, and move past songwriter's block.
10. Keep a Record of Your Ideas
A great way to overcome songwriter’s block is to have a notebook or folder full of ideas to flip through. And to create one of these, you’ll need to make notes, take photos, or capture voice recordings whenever inspiration hits.
You could carry a physical notebook and pen with you at all times. And when you need to take pictures or record a voice note, you could just use the existing apps on your phone. There’s also the option of using the notes app on your phone instead of a physical notebook.
But, if you’d like to easily keep everything organized and in one place, you should consider using a suitable app. Evernote is one example of an app that lets you store and organize images, the information you find online, voice memos, and more.
This way, when you hit that songwriter’s block wall, you can refer to your book or folder of inspiration. Flipping or scrolling through all the ideas you’ve had and amazing things you’ve seen will hopefully light a creative spark. And you’ll soon be on your way to creating your next masterpiece.
11. Listen to Music
This is likely the most apparent remedy. But it's also the most tried and tested of those on this list. Let's face it, the reason you are a musician is because someone else's music inspired you. So, make sure that you keep your favorite music close to you when you head into the studio to write.
Let the music and lyrics that inspired you in the past reignite the flame. And while your most loved artists will probably garner the best results, you could also listen to music you haven't heard before. The truth is that, as a musician, you're likely to appreciate and feel inspired by any good music you hear.
Deriving inspiration from other people's work is a sure-fire way to overcome writer’s block. And, at worst, you’ll have spent some time doing something you love. Even if the music doesn’t lead to a eureka moment, the break might do the trick.
Tip: Don’t Be Too Critical
It’s important not to discard any ideas that come to you during the initial songwriting process. Especially when you have songwriter’s block and are using one of the techniques on our list to overcome it.
Learn to let go and try not to stand in the way of your creativity. A lyric, melody, or beat might sound terrible or crazy to you at first. But you don’t yet know where that line of thinking could lead to.
This is not a time to judge any ideas that might crop up. And it’s certainly no place for perfectionism. Break off the shackles and allow your heart and mind to take you on a journey. You’ll know when you’ve reached your destination.
Songwriter's block can be frustrating and debilitating, but it doesn't have to stop you from writing great songs. By exploring different sources of inspiration, collaborating with others, and keeping the creativity flowing, you can overcome any obstacle in your way.
Say goodbye to songwriter's block forever by using the strategies and tips detailed above. The songs you write today might be the ones that touch someone's heart tomorrow. So don't give up and keep on writing.
Do you have a single or album ready to be released but need a seasoned distributor to help get your music out there? Sugo Music Group can help. Their team has a wealth of experience in the music industry. And they’re ready to provide you with all the guidance you need from publishing to distribution and more.