Writer’s block can be one of the more frustrating realities of life for a songwriter. You can’t continue to sell your music if you aren’t writing any new tunes. For songwriters stuck staring at a blank screen or page, here are some tips to help get your mojo working again, no little blue pills needed.
1. Try co-writing
Take a look at the songwriting credits for many iconic songs, from The Beatles to country music standards, and you’ll likely see more than one person’s name listed. If you’re blocked, bounce ideas off another songwriter. This is the norm in Nashville, and it may get those creative juices flowing again.
2. Pick a city
“Location, location, location” is a mantra for opening any new brick and mortar business. It can help with songwriting, too. Pick any city that rolls off the tongue well and work it into a song. Heck, pick a few cities. This is what Bob Dylan did for his song “Wanted Man,” later recorded by Johnny Cash.
3. Start with a title
Many songs start not with a great idea, but a simple title. Garth Brook’s breakout hit, “Friends in Low Places,” is a good example of a song that began as a title. Keep a small notepad with you at all times just for jotting down song title ideas.
4. Get offline and off the computer
We live in a time of digital overload, where people seem to do everything, even write songs, on the computer. If you’re the type of person who is constantly staring at illuminated screens, and still complaining about writer’s block, put the device down. Spend time with your craft in a notebook, not a computer screen.
5. There’s an app for that
The converse of getting off the computer is to dive headlong into the digital realm and download an app designed to help cure writer’s block. Writer’s Block Buster and Storyteller are just two of many to choose from.
6. Change your work location
Writer’s tend to write in the same work space each day. Becoming unblocked could be as simple as moving your work area to a different room. If you normally write songs in your home studio, try a desk in a different room, or the front porch.
7. Play a different instrument
If you normally write songs with a guitar, try sitting down at a piano instead. If you’re part of a band that can’t seem to get kick started, switch instruments for a day or two. The results could be cathartic.
8. Experiment with alternate tunings
If a guitar is your main instrument, try an alternate tuning. Playing in more complex tuning, or a simple drop D tuning, can be the equivalent of gaining a new world view when it comes to songwriting.
9. Take a break
If you’re stuck halfway through a song and can’t find a way through the bridge, do what Archimedes did. The ancient Greek mathematician simply took a bath while trying to figure out a problem, and then his Aha! moment came. Take a walk, a jog, a drive, anything to get your mind off the song for a while. Soon you may be running through the streets like Archimedes shouting “Eureka!”
10. Free Writing
Free writing is a common practice used to help unblock writers. Put your pen to the paper and begin writing whatever pops into your mind. Don’t lift the pen up and don’t stop until the page is full, even if it’s all gibberish. Try it for five minutes without worrying about making sense. This stream-of-conscious style of writing can eventually lead to a flow of ideas and, possibly, your next great song.