There are several experiences that all songwriters face. Every songwriter has had writer’s block at some point. You either become bored, frustrated, or just plain blocked. Writer’s block is a terrible experience but have you ever hit “that wall”. I know that the wall is considered synonymous with writer’s block most of the time but my definition deviates. Writer’s block is a temporary condition in which you can’t seem to write a song - music and lyrics just don’t flow. It sucks, its painful, its a lot like constipation but it is a cakewalk compared to the wall.
When you hit the wall you feel as if you will never be able to write a song again. Nothing you’ve ever written is good when you hit the wall and you can never come up with anything better or more original than what you’ve already written. You think about it obsessively, you go out and do all the things you would do to halt writer’s block but it won’t work. I recently worked through a year long block where I wrote absolutely nothing and thought my days of songwriting were over. The feeling of hitting the wall is much like a deep depression. I can’t tell you what will work for you but I can give you some ideas as to how to overcome your blockage.
* You can follow all of these or none of these in order or out - there is no exact system for overcoming a creative block. Try using more than one of these tips in different combinations each day for best results.
- Do what you normally do to overcome writer’s block - sometimes this is enough to pull you out of your rut. Try it for a couple days and see what happens.
- Walk away from the guitar - go out and have fun. Watch TV. Relax. Sometimes no amount of working through it will help you overcome your blockage.
- Work through it - I know it contradicts what I’ve already said but everyone must find their own way. Working through it means starting and finishing a song no matter how terrible the words and music are. No matter how unoriginal or cliche the song is, just write it and then either quit for a while or write another song right after the first.
- Indulge in nostalgia - I know it sounds weird but when I get blocked I think of past events in my life and go places that remind me of “the good old days”.
- Create new experiences - go skydiving, meet a girl, go vandalize something, whatever. Even the most mundane things like buying milk from the store can become an experience to remember. The trick is to be aware of your surroundings. Often times people go through a routine and aren’t really aware of whats going on around them. If you were to take the time to purposefully explore your five senses you will notice things you didn’t before. Taking that same experience back to your instrument can be a huge help.
- Try alternate tunings - (I’m a guitarist so most of my advice is centered on that instrument) Alternate tunings open a whole new world of musical exploration. You’d be amazed at how creative you can be using the same chord fingerings you already know on a fretboard that is unfamiliar.
- Use a capo - I recently started using a capo that I bought years ago. Its not as drastic as tuning differently but playing open chords farther down the fretboard and hearing familiar songs in different keys can have a positive effect on your writing.
- Use a different guitar (or instrument) - For some reason using someone else’s guitar always opens up a creative gateway for me. Going to a music shop and trying out their stuff is always helpful too. Setting your amp and guitar differently goes along with this. Use a pickup combination (if using an electric) you haven’t used before. Change the settings on your amp and effects pedals to something you don’t normally do is a great idea too. Get out of your comfort zone.
That’s all I can think of for now. Just remember that you will be able to write again. Your songs don’t suck and once you’re back writing like you used to you’ll look back on your last experience hitting the wall and laugh.