Sometimes the ideas just stop. Where once there were multiple bursts of inspiration that you couldn't wait to scrawl on the back of a paper napkin, there's now a strange and eerie silence. At first, you don't stress. Could just be your GST return needs dealing to or one of the kids is sick. But then on it goes, and song-less days turn into weeks, maybe months. Never mind, you say. Summer will fix it - a good dose of beach/beers/bbqs and the tunes will start bubbling over again. But what if they don't?
A special case of writer's block is the difficult second album syndrome. Your first release turned out to be a great debut - critically acclaimed, you are heralded as a worthy new voice and things really start to happen for you, but when the expectation of 'what's next' arrives, your pen stammers and your sessions are a little same old, same old.
No matter what stage of your songwriting career you're at, at some stage you will experience some kind of stall in your creative process. What's worse than labouring at songwriting? Not songwriting at all. While songwriters are certainly not alone in this experience, there are more than enough one hit wonders out there to plead a special case.
Here's a list of the things that many songwriters hit by writer's block have experienced.
This list comes from author Gary Ewer who has written an entire book on beating songwriter's block and I've included it because I took considerable heart from this list's specificity. It plots a multi-level landscape that many folks I know have encountered. While I'm not sure one ever actually avoids the block or stalls at some point, it sure helps to know what may be on the horizon and prepare to mitigate it. Forewarned, being forearmed.
Exploring how to deal with songwriter's block - trying to start or to finish a song in this context – requires an understanding of the concept of creativity and this comes weirdly from a professor of business administration at Harvard University, Teresa Amabile, a researcher in creativity which she depicts as 3 intersecting circles - creative thinking, expertise and motivation.
The theory is each of these circles needs regular attendance and input to keep the wellspring of creativity full to the brim. Learning new chords or a new instrument, reading up on favourite artists, going to and playing live shows all up your expertise and capability as does a decent diet, enough sleep or just jamming with your mates. Feelings of positive self worth, resilience and just the joy and personal challenge (intrinsic motivation) of songwriting all contribute, but the least understood area is that of creative thinking - something that luckily, artists have in abundance - the ability to present novel, different and alternative solutions to problems or opportunities. It seems there's really is never one way to write a good song. And upskilling won't kill your muse - it will foster it.
ps If you'd like to up your expertise in songwriting, there are still places available on the Wanaka Songwriting Clinic this coming Labour Weekend ( Oct 19-21). See you there!
Hi, I'm Charlotte Yates and I can help you get better at writing songs.