Have you been writing songs for awhile but are finding yourself stuck lately, lacking inspiration? Are you good at starting songs but struggle to finish them? Maybe you come up with great sounding chord progressions, but your lyrics are lacking in substance and rhythm. Or maybe the converse is true; you can come up with lyrics easily but your chord progressions all sound the same. If this sounds like you, read on for some tips to overcome writer’s block and get creative again!
Change Your Mindset
First of all, as someone who wrote her first song at the age of 12, I want to say – I get it. I have struggled with writer’s block myself, including very recently. Writer’s block happens to every writer at some point or another, and it isn’t exclusive to musicians. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are two famous novelists who struggled with writer’s block. It doesn’t mean you aren’t any good, and it doesn’t mean you should give up. In fact, that’s the first tip I have for you!
We are very often our own worst critic, and letting that negative inner voice dominate your thoughts is sure to kill your creative energy. Allow yourself to write freely and work on editing or changing things later. If you have an idea, go with it and see how it pans out. You can always change or throw it out later.
So that would be my primary piece of advice- change your mindset. Relax. Meditate or pray to help get into the right mood. Eliminate distractions as much as possible. (I have four children at home, believe me, I know this is easier said than done, but I promise it is well worth the effort.)
Finding The Words
Are you struggling to come up with lyrics? Here are a few tips. First: establish a routine! I know, it sounds counterintuitive; who can be creative on a schedule? However, your brain is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised. Just like other parts of your body need exercise to work at peak performance, your brain needs exercise and practice to get better. There are word association exercises you can do to help spark ideas.
For example, start by choosing a topic. It should be broad enough that you can come up with lots of different words to describe it. Put the word puddles in the middle of the page and then, branching out from the word, think of everything you can that the word makes you think of. Time yourself for one minute. Don’t judge what you write down and don’t erase or delete anything. You are only brainstorming at this point, and any slowing down to question what you wrote can interfere with the brainstorming process.
Now, take a look at the words or phrases on the page. For another minute, think of all the words you can that rhyme with what you wrote down. Again, don’t pause to question, just write. Remember to include both perfect and “near” rhymes. The final step of this exercise is to take those rhymes and come up with phrases for one minute. Same rules apply. After you have completed this exercise, you will hopefully have some ideas that you can use in a song. Repeat this process every day and jot down the rhymes you like the best in a notebook, music journal, or the songwriting app of your choice.
You can also do some stream of consciousness exercises where you write for a few minutes about anything that comes to mind without regards to grammar, spelling, staying on topic, or anything of the sort. This can bring some ideas to the surface as well.
Okay, but what if you already have some ideas, and even part or most of a song but you are struggling with how to finish the lyrics? This is where I love to brainstorm with other people. Maybe there are some rhymes I forgot. Maybe the musical line needs to change a little bit.
Share your song with a friend. If you have friends that are musicians, bouncing ideas off of them will be great for your creative process. However, you can get ideas from people who aren’t musical. I find sharing my songs with others, even my children, can help me get some ideas to finish up the song. The other day, my eight year old started listing off rhyming words to go with my song and it helped me find the lyrics for the last line of my chorus. Don’t think you have to go it alone!
What About the Music?
Okay, but what about the chords, you ask? The first thing I would suggest, if you have a melody in your head, is to sing it and try and match what you are singing with chords. You can do this by searching for the note you are singing on your instrument you are playing and building a chord around the note. Be flexible with the melody line you have and let it adapt to the music that comes from that.
Chord progression generators are another fantastic choice for helping come up with an accompaniment. You choose the key you would like, and the chord progression generator gives you all the chords that will work in that key. My final tip for working out the music is to listen to lots of music and learn lots of songs. Many popular songs use the same chord progressions, so you may find some inspiration listening to your favorite artists.
Sometimes, playing chords on a different instrument than you usually write on can also help you to come up with some ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. You can also try different chord voicings to change things up! Finally, just like with writing lyrics, collaborating with others can really help bring new ideas to the surface.
What are some ways you overcome writer’s block? Leave your comments below!