We have all experienced some form of writer’s block – the dreaded condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing. Whether writing a song, an essay, poem or prose, when you hit that wall, blankly staring off into a void, you have one of two options. Quit, or wait until something comes (I’ve heard Barry Hannah and Larry Brown call this “ass time” as in “put your ass in a chair and don’t get up until you write.”)
writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all
Breaking Writer’s Block – Discover Your Cycle
Over the years, I have discovered that I have a natural cycle of writing. Songs either come, or they don’t. I jot lines, ideas, and experiences down in a journal until the moment comes when I am inspired, begin to see a theme develop, or discover a melody. I don’t push it. When I push it, that’s when I sense that thing called writer’s block.
I wasn’t aware of this cycle as a young songwriter. There were times I was infuriated. I would wonder if I had lost it, or if I never had it in the first place, or if I would ever manage to string a few words together ever again.
I tend to work exhaustively when I see a theme develop. Until then, I constantly record bits of songs on my iPhone. As an artist, you are probably objective of your work, self-aware, and critical at some level. Start looking for cycles of inspiration. I have learned to let the creative well fill with water. Then, I drain it and repeat the process all over again. It could take years to discover your cycle. Continue being aware. Most importantly, stay positive when you aren’t able to work.
Don’t Rush It – Redefine Writer’s Block
I’ve gone as long as four years between albums despite having written hundreds of songs in between those releases. Writer’s block? No. Patience? Yes. But songwriting is different than, say, copywriting a page of SEO-worthy content about liquid crystals. When that happens, and you’re on a deadline, its write or not get paid. If you’re an artist, you’re in luck. You’re not bound to guidelines or deadlines. Write a little every day. It could be one line, it could be one page.
Write, all the time, everyday until it becomes an extension of yourself. These are for your personal use. Nobody will what you’ve written. Don’t censor or self edit through this process. Let the work settle a bit. Come back to it at a later time after you’ve removed yourself and any personal attachment from the work. Look at it from some other perspective. Play with words. Find new ones. Add more detail. You can always erase. That’s why pencils have erasers.