If you’ve been writing songs for any length of time you have inevitably fallen victim to the dreaded songwriter’s block. If you are just beginning to write songs and have not had to endure the frustration of writer’s block…. you will. But not to worry, I’m going to give you some suggestions that may just get you through that barricade and on your way to writing your next song.
1) Remove Yourself From the Noise
One of the biggest impediments to concentrating on songwriting is all of the attention grabbers around us. There is the television on in the room constantly bombarding us with its messages. Or the radio playing in the background that has a talk program on or is playing music reminding us of the great songs that we haven’t written!
How about our friends messaging us on our phones or the email notification chimes. Then there are those family members engaging us in conversation or that clothes washer that starts knocking loudly during the spin cycle. It’s important to get away from those distractions as best you can so you’re able to concentrate on your songwriting.
Try and schedule an hour where you make a concerted effort to find solitude. Maybe you are a night person and can find the time when everyone else has gone to bed. Or maybe you’re that early riser and get to see the sunrise before everyone else. Whichever works best for you make that effort.
2) Accept Imperfection
If you wait until you think of that perfect line you will never get over your songwriter’s block. Let yourself write down whatever comes to mind. Nobody ever has to see it. You are your own editor. Get it down on paper and let those words lead you to other words and ideas. What I’m saying is to give yourself permission to not be perfect! Because none of us are. The important thing is to just get going. The refinement process will happen later. But it can’t happen if there’s nothing on the page to work with.
3) Write about Writer’s Block
I know, it sounds a little strange but you’re taking on your opponent head on! What’s better than beating writer’s block by busting through the wall with words? Getting the momentum going with your writing can help it keep moving to the place you want to arrive. Don’t use the words, “Writer’s Block” if you don’t want to. Just refer to it as the antagonist in your song. Develop a metaphor for songwriter’s block.
4) Write in an Unfamiliar Place
Go to a coffee shop or cafe’ that you’ve never been to before. Sit and observe the room around you. What is the vibe? Tune in to it and write down some words that describe what you see or feel. Go to a park and sit on a bench and do the same thing. The point is placing yourself in a new environment to evoke fresh thoughts.
5) Play Scrabble
Another odd suggestion but you will be exposed to words. Words are the main ingredient for your lyric. And a benefit to this strategy is seeing all of those words that your opponents come up with. Those are free ideas just waiting for the taking.
Once the board is filled with words start looking at how you can combine some into a unique or interesting title. If you do get a title out of it, write down the score and put that in your notes!
6) Get With a Co-Writer
If you have someone that you write songs with, contact that person and see what they do to get past writer’s block. Ask them if they have any lines that they haven’t finished and let them see some of yours. Between the two of you that might spark an idea. Let them know some of the ways you try to get past the block too. They may have never thought of some.
7) Ask Siri or Alexa or Google
If you have one of those things in your home start asking it questions. Ask some oddball questions and take note of unusual answers. You won’t even have to give them writing credit for anything you come up with! Be careful not to accidentally order something you weren’t planning to.
8) Listen to Your Favorite Artists
Listen through your playlist of artists you admire and pay attention to the messages that are expressed. Then pretend that you have been tasked to write a song for them to sing. Take on their style and just start free-wheeling your ideas. How do you imagine this artist would think about a certain subject? Write it like they would sing it how you would expect them to.
9) Play a Word Association Game
Get with some friends and have someone start by saying a word. The next person will say a word that they feel is associated with that first word, and on and on. This is a good way to generate some ideas. You can then do that game where the first person whispers a sentence to the next person, then they whisper what they heard to the next person, then the final person says out loud what they heard. It’s amazing how the sentences can completely change from the original by the time it gets around the group.
10) Write the Storyline First
Instead of trying to think of lines to write, begin by writing down the outline of what the song’s story is. Define the characters, scene, and the overall message just like you would a story in a book. Then you can go put your songwriter’s hat back on and start crafting each line.
11) Rewrite an Existing Song
Choose a song you know and rewrite the lyric but keep the existing melody of the song. This can be a song you’ve previously written or someone else’s song. You aren’t going to claim this as your own (if it’s someone else’s) it’s just an exercise to get your creativity flowing. You might even try writing a parody from the original. I’ve written a few parody songs this way.
12) Read a Book
Try reading one of your favorite books. But then start skipping every other word and see what word combinations emerge. You might see some interesting words next to each other that way. Pay attention to the chapter headings as well. Can you add a word or rearrange words to make an interesting subject?
I’ve listed a dozen suggestions that hopefully will cure your current bout with songwriter’s block. Some of them condradict others but they aren’t meant to be an all or nothing endeavor. Try one or two or all if you need to. Songwriters are creative by nature. That means we are unique in how we approach our craft. What works for one person to overcome writer’s block may not be the right fit for someone else. Just press on. You will eventually get past it. Write on!