Music Writer’s Block: 21 Tips to Overcome Writer’s Block in Songwriting
Struggling to overcome writer’s block in music? It’s likely to happen to all songwriters at some point throughout their career, and for those new to writing songs. While there is no magic pill to fix writer’s block, there are plenty of methods that you can use to overcome it.
Knowing the basics of songwriting is one thing, but knowing how to overcome writer’s block is essential if you want to have a good songwriting experience. We have the 21 best tips on beating writer’s block.
Songwriter’s block: If you don’t know how to overcome it effectively, you’re going to struggle to write a song that you’ll be truly proud of. Below are 21 of the best ideas for how you can go about overcoming writer’s block. Here’s what you can do when you have writer’s block in music.
Tips for overcoming writer’s block in songwriting
Is writer’s block real? Absolutely. Creating original music is often hard because of this, but there are some tips on how to write your songs fluently below.
Following these tips will assist you in knowing how to reduce writer’s block:
- Let your mind do what it wants
- Read some inspiring quotes
- Create a regular songwriting routine
- Change the time that you write regularly
- Start writing a different part of the song
- Write from experience
- Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes
- Take a break and call it ‘work’
- Do some exercise
- Listen to music
- Read a book
- Try writing for yourself
- Change the environment
- Visit a close friend
- Get rid of distractions
- Take a shower
- Use a different way of writing
- Use a pen and paper
- Set up a songwriting challenge
What causes writer’s block?
There is a huge range of things that can cause writer’s block including fear, procrastination, distractions, perfectionism, and waiting too long for the right time.
Ways to get around writer’s block
#1 Let your mind do what it wants
It may seem frustrating when writer’s block hits for the first time, but the first thing to do initially is to not resist it.
Give your mind the time to wander and do what it wants for a while. Be serendipitous for a short period of time and you’ll probably be in a better place when you come back to writing.
How long does writer’s block last?
The creative process is unpredictable, as is the lack of it. Writer’s block can strike for short periods – a few seconds in some cases, but longer spells can often feel like they’re lasting forever. Letting your mind do what it wants can often be the solution to this.
#2 Read some inspiring quotes
As we’ll discuss in this article, a great place to get started is by basing your songs off ideas that already exist.
A great example of how this can work is by using quotes to help re-ignite your thoughts. The quotes don’t necessarily have to be famous, but here are some potentially inspirational examples below:
“Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does” – Jane Austen
“I have a dream” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved” – George Sand
How do you beat writer’s block?
#3 Create a regular songwriting routine
Make a point of sitting down to write every day. Set yourself goals, like writing one to two songs daily.
This may seem like a lot, but it will focus your mind and simply get you into the habit of writing. In this case, quantity beats quality.
Worrying about quality or content, at a stage where you haven’t gathered much songwriting experience, is an unnecessary stress that will hinder you from truly learning what kind of songwriter you are.
Try this: Choose a recent activity, like working out in the gym or reading a book. Whatever it is, describe it with as much detail as you can, with the aim to turn it into a 3-minute song.
Don’t worry too much about the structure, or whether or not it rhymes. Instead, concentrate on how creative you can get with your words.
Songwriting tips from the pros
Ed Sheeran describes the process of songwriting as being like an old tap: “At first, you’re going to get sh** water for a substantial amount of time, but then clean water is going to start flowing.”
#4 Change the time that you write regularly
Leading on from the previous point, until you find a schedule that works for you, you’re going to need to experiment finding what does work for you.
Songwriting is probably not your full-time job, so you may not be able to choose exactly when and where you can write.
There will be periods during your day, however, such as early mornings, lunch breaks, or late at night where you will probably have some free time. Experiment writing at different times (and of course, any other free moments you may have) and see what works with you the best.
Finding the right regular time will subconsciously help you be more productive when you do write because you won’t be believing that you’re writing at a ‘bad’ time.
A great exercise to do when writer’s block hits is called ‘brainstorming.’ Think of one simple idea that you like – write single words and lists to identify key themes or topics around that main topic. Outlining your song like this will help you organise it so that if writer’s block hits again, you’ll have some subheadings to work from.
Fiction authors use these to spark ideas for children’s books, thrillers and more, and it’s no different with songwriters.
#6 Start writing a different part of the song
If you’ve been stuck on writing the chorus for what feels like a long time, try branching out and starting on other sections of your song.
There are no rules to songwriting – you don’t have to write chronologically and you certainly don’t have to completely finish the chorus before moving onto the verses, pre-choruses, bridge, intro, and outro.
Starting work on another section of your song might set off a new spark in your mind. In the verses, for example, you don’t have to stick to the main point of your song – you can branch out a little. Once you’ve written some of these other sections, you may have more of an idea about your song’s main themes, making finishing the chorus easier.
If you’re looking for how to write a good chorus, check out this article:
Songwriting tips for beginners
#7 Write from experience
When you’re stuck in a songwriting rut, think about your life experiences that are significant to you.
Think about the people you’ve met, the places you’ve been, the sounds you’ve heard and the sights you’ve seen. It’s inevitable that you’ll be able to think of something that you can apply to your song.
Types of language
Writing about bad, funny, or ironic life experiences are the type of songs fans can relate to. Many popular songs are about heartbreak and failed relationships like Adele. Think of relating your lyrics to what’s happening in your life or how you’re feeling about a certain situation.
Some of history’s greatest songs are about personal experiences when artists draw on real-life events and traumas to spark their creativity.
Whether you’ve been through hard times or great times, you can put those feelings into your song to help you re-ignite your songwriting spark.
If you’re looking for how to get starting writing lyrics, check out this article:
#8 Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes
If you can’t think of any experiences that you’ve had personally, a great way to get some inspiration is by putting yourself in someone’s shoes.
Think about how someone else might feel in a situation of hardship, joy, or any other strong emotion.
For example, you may have never been homeless, but if you’ve met homeless people you could draw from their experiences and write a song about it.
The great thing about this songwriting technique is that you’ll really connect with listeners who have experienced these situations, and they’ll appreciate you for it.
Songwriters’ block and depression
#9 Take a break and call it ‘work’
Sometimes, you can push all you want but it’s useless if your mind is full, stressed and distracted. Take a break that will allow your mind to empty itself, with an activity like going for a walk or a run.
Watching TV does not count as a break, as that will only fill your mind with more fluff. To make way for insights, your brain needs space.
So take a breath, remind yourself that this is a completely normal part of the songwriting process, and don’t let it get the better of you.
#10 Do some exercise
Doing exercise is not only great for your health and depression, but it’s also scientifically proven to encourage creative thinking.
“Thinking, behaviour and emotion control, planning and creativity are all functions regulated by the frontal lobe of your brain. These functions are activated and can be strengthened when you do exercises like ballet, tae kwon do, ping pong and Zumba which are exercises that use the frontal lobe.”– Livestrong.com
Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain, which can heighten your alertness and energy. After a good workout session, you will get those creative juices flowing much faster.
#11 Listen to music
It’s easy to become intimidated by the countless songs that are out there and feel pressured to bring something ‘fresh’ and ‘new’ to the table. Don’t get bogged down by this idea.
No songs are purely original – inspiration always comes from somewhere. Your personal experiences and perspectives on the world are what is going to make the song unique.
Try this: Try to re-imagine your favourite song through your own perspective. Select snippets of the lyrics and try to rewrite these in your own words.
While you do so, ask yourself:
- What story is the artist telling?
- Can you identify with the story?
Capture any personal experiences that come to mind and try to build these into your new lyrics.
Stuck writing lyrics on your own? Consider a co-writing session:
Writer’s block ideas
#12 Read a book
If you get hit with writer’s block, head over to your local library, make yourself comfortable, find the shelf with books about absolutely anything, and open up your notepad.
Look through the table of contents of your chosen book and find a chapter that sounds interesting to you. Have a read of some passages and write down anything that jumps out at you – this could be phrases, single words, or even ideas that come into your mind after reading entire paragraphs.
Don’t leave the library until you’ve written down at least 10 core ideas or phrases for your song. If you’re really enjoying this process, take advantage – start expanding on some of those ideas and start thinking about how they could relate to your song.
#13 Try writing for yourself
An important thing to ask when writer’s block hits is “why has it hit?” There could be a multitude of answers to this, but if it’s because you’re trying to make something that ‘sounds good’ to other people, it’s time to take a step back.
Sometimes you just have to write something you want to write. It doesn’t matter whether it will sound good to other people or not. Ideally, you probably do want it to sound good to others, but if you can write something interesting that you like, chances are at least someone will like it down the line.
How to get rid of writer’s block for songwriters
#14 Change the environment
Get out of your comfort zone: Your routine and what you consume externally will impact your artistic output. So, if you’re listening to the same music, watching the same TV shows, or even eating the same foods, it isn’t a surprise that you’re not generating new creative ideas.
Stimulate your brain with new experiences.
Try this: To fix writer’s block through new experiences, try listening to a new genre of music and write down any insights that you have.
Perhaps you will find aspects of the music that you appreciate, and if not, doing this will simply remind you what parts you miss.
#15 Visit a close friend
As well as being inspired by going to different places, you may find that a particular person inspires you too.
Visit someone who you genuinely have a good time with and do something fun with them (or potentially something that creates a mood similar to that in your song).
Human connection always sparks emotion – use it to your advantage.
Don’t worry, we’re not going to ask you to go out into a field and say ‘OM’ for an hour. Instead, simply sit on a large cushion or chair, close your eyes and concentrate on your breath for five to ten minutes.
It has been proven that if you meditate for a short period every day, it can help your creativity and it can also help you stay productive
Film director and screenwriter David Lynch recommends meditation to anyone engaged in the creative process. It will allow you to realise when you aren’t being creatively productive, i.e. when you get hit by writer’s block, and it will train you to deal with it the right way.
Guided meditation apps are a great place to start if you’re new to meditation.
How do I get back into writing music?
#17 Get rid of distractions
In 2019, it’s easier than ever to let a distraction get in the way of the writing process.
Notifications, messages, phone calls, laundry, to mention just a few are the sort of things that can cause major distractions when writer’s block hits. They’ll make you completely lose focus and any hope of getting some productive songwriting done.
Train yourself to remove these distractions from your workspace. Put your phone on silent and plan out your songwriting schedule in advance so that you know when you should be working and when you can check your smartphone.
Without self-discipline, distractions will be your worst enemy and won’t help overcome writer’s block at all.
Check out some more advanced songwriting tips here:
#18 Take a shower
Do you get your best ideas in the shower?
Your brain needs to relax before coming up with an insight. Staring at your computer screen might actually be counterproductive after long periods of time. Trying to force out ideas might actually prevent them from appearing altogether.
Go for a shower and let your mind wander for a bit. If you don’t want to waste water by showering three times a day, try other routine tasks such as vacuuming your room, folding the laundry, or wash the dishes. If you do choose to do other tasks, make sure they aren’t too strenuous and mind-engaging.
How to get over writer’s block in songwriting?
#19 Use a different way of writing
If you’ve been hit with writer’s block when writing a song on Microsoft Word, try a different computer program completely.
Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)
They always have a built-in guitar, drum, and keyboard sounds that you can input into a track and playback whilst you write to help form the song. Simply hearing these sounds can help you form ideas and spark your imagination.
They have so many options for editing your song ideas together that they will keep your ideas flowing for hours.
#20 Use a pen and paper
Nowadays lots of songwriters will use apps or programs like the aforementioned Microsoft Word, which are great for writing lyrics, but they don’t quite hold the authenticity of the traditional methods of songwriting and writing in general.
You might find that the visceral experience of physically writing some of your ideas down on a sheet of paper will help you overcome writer’s block.
How do I get rid of writer’s block?
#21 Set up a songwriting challenge
A fun way to overcome writer’s block is by setting yourself a writing challenge.
Some examples of this could include:
- Trying to sum up an idea or an abstract concept in 3 words or less.
- Create an entire verse entirely out of metaphors.
- Don’t rhyme anything for an entire pre-chorus.
Remember, songwriting shouldn’t be stressful, it should be a fun experience where you create something you can be proud of!
Bonus: Be critical — not cynical
Have you ever written down an idea, only to look at it moments later and lose interest entirely?
This is a completely normal response. As humans, we are attracted to novelty. So, once the idea is written down on paper, it can quickly lose its magic and we forget how inspired we originally were.
The key is to resist this initial instinct and push yourself to unpack the idea and, instead, understand the journey that led you there in the first place.
“Writer’s block is probably the most frustrating thing for a musician. The best way for me is to focus my mind on a different task or activity that makes me happy and excited for an hour or two, then I revisit the song.”— Ella M, pop singer-songwriter Facebook & Instagram: @itsellamusic
Try this: Approach your idea head-on and write down what you dislike about it at this moment; ideally, in full sentences.
Then, answer these questions:
- Why did I come up with the idea in the first place?
- Was it a personal experience?
- What did I like about the idea at the time?
- Was it an observation?
- Was it a sudden realisation?
Spend at least 10 minutes answering these questions and see if this re-ignites the initial spark you had.
Based on an original article written by Annika Hagemann.
Have you suffered from writer’s block? What methods do you use to fix writer’s block? We would love to hear about them in the comments below!