Sometimes songwriting inspiration really does come out of thin air. The other 90% of the time, we’re stuck somewhere between wanting to make music, and actually making music. If you want to spend more time actually making music and steering clear of dreaded writer’s block, the following are some helpful ways to stay active in your music-making endeavors.
Listen to Music You’d Like to Emulate
In so many situations, listening to music you enjoy is a great way to get your songwriting inspiration back! When you hear something you really love, it’s easy to begin imagining how you’d do your own interpretation of the idea. Don’t worry about being “unoriginal,” so long as you aren’t blatantly stealing melodies or otherwise.
All art is derivative, and allowing your inspirations to flow through you is what lends itself to your individual voice.
Pick Up a New Instrument
Dabbling in something outside your norm can be creatively freeing. No doubt it’s a way to stir up a different sort of inspiration than you’re used to.
A lot of us end up feeling uninspired somewhere along the line, regardless of what instrument we play. Sometimes our hands seem like they just can’t make anything sound right, at which point writing on another instrument can unclog the artistic pipes.
If you mainly write on guitar, try a keyboard, whether physical or virtual. Similarly, any songwriter can experiment with drum programming in the DAW of their choice. With the quality of virtual instruments, it’s never been a better time to try out different sounds we wouldn’t normally use.
Restrict Your Creativity
Many guitarists have talked about forcing themselves to write a melody or riff on a single string. The idea is that, by restricting your resources, it forces you to be more creative. At the very least, you’ll get your mojo back if you can pull off a great lick on one string.
Options paralysis–too many plugins, too many virtual instruments, too many pedals, etc.–can bring your workflow to a halt. If you’re experiencing a bout of writer’s block, try limiting the tools at your disposal.
Find Songwriting Inspiration in Other Mediums
As musicians, we have a tendency to find all or most of our inspiration in other music. This isn’t a bad thing until we hit a wall.
When everything we hear “starts to sound the same,” stepping away from music and consuming other forms of art can be helpful. Watch a movie, play a video game, or check out other forms of visual art.
Take a Break
As much as we might hate to admit it, sometimes the most obvious tactics are the ones we forget the most. Writing a song can be an exhausting process, both mentally and physically. Long periods of sitting in front of the computer are taxing, especially if things aren’t going as well as we’d like.
Today’s “grind” culture glorifies the idea of being at constant work. Realistically, we need to take time to rest and refuel—your creativity will thank you for it.
Don’t Let Perfectionism Take Over Too Early
As artists, of course we want to share the best possible version of our music with people. Really, though, nothing throttles songwriting inspiration more than trying to make everything perfect.
Particularly in the early stages of songwriting, most of the time just getting it out is the best strategy. If you’re frequently stopping to nitpick or perfect a chord passage, melodic line, or lyric, you’re actively hindering the creative process and increasing the odds you’ll hit a wall.
It’s good to let the initial spark flow and sort out the details later!
Schedule Writing Time When Possible
Sit down to write music as often as possible. As weird as this might sound, don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Instead, be proactive and start the process on your own. You don’t have to write a masterpiece every time you work, so don’t let fear and perfectionism hold you back.
Songwriting is like a muscle that develops over time with consistent usage. You wouldn’t want it to atrophy; make a schedule that suits you, and hold yourself accountable for working on music as often as you can manage.
You’ll learn more about yourself and your process the more often you practice the craft, which can prevent future cases of writer’s block. If your skills are sharp, you’ll likely be more prepared to combat it in the future.