Now let’s say you’ve taken the time to think about what your personal ‘ideal writing environment’ looks like. And you’re there. Sitting at your favorite back table in that tiny diner on the corner, pen in hand, ready to let a creativity bomb explode all over your notebook. You sit for a few moments staring at the blank page anticipating the sensory rush you will feel as the floodgates of your imagination unleash the cornucopia of ideas you have locked in your head. You are excited, filled with inspiration. Not only have you determined the place and time where you feel most comfortable writing, but you have a goal and know exactly what you want to accomplish during this session. You may have just woke up, clocked out of work, it may be your day off or you found a way to squeeze in an hour or two of precious time to dedicate to your writing. You have taken all the steps necessary in order to set yourself up for success.
Finally, you put your pen to the paper and… nothing.
You continue to stare at that same blank page for the next 20 minutes beginning to unconsciously doodle, tricking yourself into thinking you’re accomplishing something, at least a pen mark on the page! Nothing. Your focus begins to slip, the phone comes out, your notebook closes, and two hours later all you have is crappy scribbled nonsense and a completely deflated confidence. The notebook gets stuffed back in your bag and your head hangs low as you walk out. You wrack your brain for the rest of the day…
… Ugh! What happened?? Everything was right. The place. There was a clear goal in mind. A focus. Excitement. And nothing?? This kind of thing happens to me all the time when I try to write a song. I’ll be humming a melody to one of Scott’s guitar riffs all day and even though I know exactly what I want the song to be about sometimes it will take me weeks or even months to come up with the right words or phrasing. Then one day, out of nowhere, it will come to me and I end up writing the whole song in 5 minutes. When this lightening strikes I find it is the ‘exception to the rule’ about my last entry on writing in an ideal environment. Even though I feel comfortable writing most songs under particular circumstances, I will never question an inspirational bolt. However, I don’t get struck all that often and I’ve found that it is extremely important not just sit around waiting for it to hit. When you have poured your heart into becoming a songwriter it can be difficult to swallow the fact that you can’t only write when you are completely inspired; sometimes it’s a grind!
So here are some tips on overcoming that nasty writer’s block:
- Write something down every day. Whether you plan to write for 5 hours or 5 minutes, getting your thoughts down on a surface where you can see them is not only a great mental release, but it can also cause a chain reaction of thoughts that trigger new ideas. Jot down some words, phrases, song title ideas that have been floating around you head, or just let yourself practice unconscious writing. PRACTICE! That is the key. And i know it’s hard, but just as you practice your instrument, making the effort to practice your writing will allow you to crank out great material more consistently.
- Make your writing a priority! This goes hand in hand with practicing your writing. Telling yourself that you don’t have time to write every day is just silly because we all know that you’ve made at least 5 Twitter posts today. And, no, that doesn’t count as writing! If you really do have days that are jam packed and you find that writing slips your mind, set a friendly reminder on your phone at a time when you know you are most likely not to be busy. Or try waking up 15 minutes earlier. Or keep a notebook by your bed so you can jot a few things down before you go to sleep. Giving your writing a higher priority will not only dramatically improve your writing quality and stamina, but it will increase your level of engagement and investment in your craft.
- No thought shaming! When you have taken the time to sit down and write, don’t be so selective about which thoughts should go in your notebook and which thoughts should be thrown away. Every idea, concept, or word that you believe has some potential to grow should be written down. Thinking that your ideas are stupid or have no substance will only enable you to write songs that you don’t believe in. Besides, even if you write down pages and pages of ideas that don’t ever evolve.. who else is ever going to know that? That’s the process! That more you write, the more gems you can uncover. So no more thought shaming!
Writing can be overwhelming and frustrating. You have so many ideas and can visualize the end product, but you don’t know where or how to start in order to get there. My best advice is to just do it over and over and over again because the more consistently you put in the work, the more satisfying the payoff. Huge bouts of glorious inspiration are few and far between, but dealing with writer’s block will always be a constant obstacle so don’t let it get you down. Acknowledge it, accept it, and work through it because you can’t just wait around for that lighting to strike!