What to do for “writers block.”

Filed under:Advice and Tips — posted by admin on May 13, 2008 @ 11:31 am

Sometimes composers, authors and artists have dry spells when they can’t produce work. They lack inspiration and struggle to get started on projects. This desert experience is frustrating for the composer and unfortunately can cause periods where the writer stops working for a while.

When these periods happen for me, I can become disinterested in writing and if I allow that to last too long and give up trying, it can be really hard to get back to work. The solution? Keep working!

“Huh? What do you mean keep working? I don’t have any ideas.”

It sounds like I’m saying you need to bang your head against a wall. That’s not at all what I’m saying. Allow me to explain.

When you run across a dry spell where the ideas just aren’t flowing or if you are losing interest in your work, try some of the following ideas:

1. Organize your workspace so it is a place you want to go. Place pictures, plants or anything that is pleasant for you in the space to make it comfortable. Keep it free of clutter and keep it clean and orderly. Have things you need easily accessible like staff paper, pens, a tape recorder or keyboard.

2. Put yourself on a schedule. Try to work daily during the same hours as possible. Remember that inspiration is only part of the composing process. It takes time and it takes work. Set aside time so that you do it everyday.

3. Have balance in your life. Don’t overburden yourself with your work. Work for a couple hours each day. Take time off. Do other things. Don’t live in your workspace. Don’t become bored or frustrated with work. Do enough each day to get your writing done, but don’t try to complete it all at one time. Keep yourself coming back for more.

4. Do some of the non-creative work. Use work-time for promotion of your composing. Use work time for the more mindless tasks like copying parts.

5. Revisit older works. Take some of your older pieces and re-work them. Take the time to improve upon your past work.

6. “Lift” music from recordings. The skills developed from taking a recording and transcribing the music are necessary and invaluable. The ear training alone makes “lifting” music worth the time and energy. After practicing this skill, you will discover that it will be easier and easier to write down the music in your head.

7. Develop long-term goals. Plan for your success. Think about what type of composer or song writer you want to be in a year, or 5 years or 10 years.

8. Develop relationships with ensembles or individual performers. Write for these groups so that you can have your pieces performed.

9. Have specific writing goals and create deadlines for yourself. Deadlines encourage you to complete what you start.

10. Enter contests and write for scheduled concerts. Specific events for which to write also encourage you to “get to work.”

11. Study scores and recordings. Learn from the work of others. Take advantage of the opportunity during your writing time to expand your music writing “vocabulary.” Become more fluent at composing by having more sources upon which to draw. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Rather, learn what’s already been done and then invent a new form of transportation.

10. Read about composers. Take the time to read about the lives and, specifically, the work of composers. Find out how they went about their own writing. Learn about their struggles and triumphs. Learn about their work habits.

11. Study books on orchestration. Get to know the established practices of orchestration. Learn how timbres can be combined to create interesting and unusual sound colors.

12. Learn to play a new instrument and write for it. Get to know an instrument really well. Learn what it is capable of and write something for it.

13. DO NOT plant yourself in front of a piano or computer when you are stuck. Go for a walk. Some of the greatest composers of all time became inspired and came up with new ideas while walking. Something physiologically, psychologically and musically beneficial occurs when walking . . . don’t ask me to explain it, but it works.

I could go on . . .

The point is, when you have writers block, do something that relates to songwriting or composing. I am willing to bet that by continuing to work each day, you will work through the block. Also, remember that “beating a dead horse” gets you nowhere. If you are getting nothing done and just getting angry or frustrated, get up, get away from your work for a little bit. Get some fresh air and come back later. You’ll be more productive and less frustrated.

Now go out there write some music. 🙂



image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace