Overcoming Songwriter's Block

Posted by  Anthony Miller, on Nov 24, 2021 11:02:02 AM

Finding inspiration can often be harder than finding rain during a Texas summer. Not knowing when or where your next song, essay, or poem will come from, can make completion seem like a far-off dream.  Chris Bolton, musician and songwriter, offers some advice:

Sometimes I wonder how I’ve ever come up with anything at all. What did I do last time? How did I get through it? When I did think of something good, where did I find the time and energy to execute? After beginning a project, how did I deal with less-than-inspiring results? At times like these, I remember a quote by radio host, Ira Glass:

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.”

Whether you’re a beginner or not, I think it’s important to recognize how much our sense of taste influences our art. It’s possibly the most important tool we have. And the frustrating thing about having good taste is struggling to produce work that meets your own standards. Ira goes on to say that having good taste does not mean that we can make great art right off the bat. In fact, to begin with, we fail and make lots of bad art. But it’s our good taste that gets us through. We keep trying. We keep failing. Eventually, we get it right.

Here are six techniques that should inspire you and help you build a better relationship with your own impeccable taste.

Beg, Borrow, and Steal

Someone once said, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Moments after its utterance, this phrase was borrowed and stolen. In fact, it’s been uttered by so many artists and authors that no one knows who is the original source of the quote. Talk about irony. Well, if you’re looking for inspiration, your fellow artists and creators are a great resource. But also don’t forget to listen to the art of everyday people. Observe nature. Observe children. Don’t be afraid to use what you love and are inspired by in your own work.

Pay Attention to What You Like

I experience great art, movies, radio, and music all the time. What I sometimes forget to investigate is why I like it. Why did I love that movie? Why did I love that turn-of-phrase my 3-year-old nephew uttered? Why did I love the way that chord progression turned minor, or the way that actress spun on her heels? Pay attention to what moves you. Write it down. Look for trends in what you are attracted to. These can be great bits of inspiration.

Pay Attention to What You Don’t Like

The negative can inspire you as much as the positive. What disgusts you? What makes you angry? What do you find, ugly, annoying, or amoral? Write these things down. Ask yourself why you feel this way about these things.  Sometimes the answer can be expressed in a work of art.

Spend Some Time Alone

Set aside time to be alone; to sit down with your notebook or take a walk. Live with your thoughts. Sleep on them. Observe the world in a meditative state. Sometimes we simply need to clear the fog in order to see what has been there all along.

Share Your Process

Talk about what you’re working on with your friends and colleagues. We artists like to hide our works-in-progress. We don’t want anyone too see how ugly our work is in its early stages. We also relish the surprise of unveiling a finished work. But talking about your art is often the best way for you to give structure to your ideas. Talking, after all, is composition. The more you talk about your project, the more real it becomes.  Some artists will have a single confidant they share their ideas with. Other artists will tell anyone with ears about what they are working on. Just remember that telling the story of your art is often a painless way to develop your ideas and quicken your process. Heck, you may even get some useful feedback and direction.

Let Your Ideas Breathe

I can stare at a blank sheet for hours. I can get caught up on a single sentence for hours. Sometimes I feel like something I’m working on is totally hopeless. Then I’ll go out for a sandwich and everything falls together. The creative process involves much more than your creative mind. It involves the magical, mystical recesses of your subconscious. Sometimes you need to stop forcing things and let your subconscious take the wheel.

The creative process is often time that, a process.  At Creative Soul School of Music, we offer workshops and classes in everything from voice to guitar to songwriting.  Let us help you find that inspiration!

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