Can’t Get Started?

Do you find it easier to finish a song than to start one? This happens to me all the time. Songwriters often get stuck before writing even one note.

From the questions we get at our forum, it seems most people can finish a song once they get started. It’s the ‘getting started’ that poses a problem.

We procrastinate. We can’t find the time. There are a million reasons why we don’t write, but somehow, once we get started, it gets easier. The momentum created by writing one verse or even one line can have the power to inspire or at least generate the rest of the song

Four solutions

The following four methods can be used to break out of writer’s block. One of these will always get me “unstuck” and back into a creative space and over the hump of getting started.

Method number one to break out of writer’s block and also to prevent it from coming back in the future: keep a journal. You can find books on journaling in your public library or at any bookstore, online or otherwise.

The idea in a nutshell is to discipline yourself to write in the journal every day. It might start out as a commitment to write for 15 minutes every day. I think you’ll find that it gets easier if you go on for longer. The important thing is that you do it every day.

Another important element to journaling is that you write whatever comes into your head, without censoring it, editing it or worrying about grammar, spelling, what your friends might think. It’s amazing how freeing this is. And it always amazes me how this opens up the creative flow.

Method number two. It takes practice to improve songwriting skills, just like anything else. But how do you practice writing songs? I think of every song I write as a practice session. It takes the pressure off. And stress or pressure is one cause of writer’s block.

Method number three. As an exercise, try another art form. Any art form will do, especially if you have no experience with it. If you never did sculpture, try that. Make a collage, get out the watercolors. Work with children’s modeling clay or crayons. Pick one, it doesn’t matter.

The idea is to give over your attention to this endeavor 100 per cent and with no expectations. You don’t have to finish it, because this is just an exercise. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece because this isn’t your medium. I don’t know why it works, but it frequently does.

Method number four. Play. Take off your adult hat and become a child again. Play any childrens games you like, including physical games like hop scotch, jump rope and catch. Play a board game.

Do not watch TV. You need interactive play by yourself or better yet, with children. At its best, children’s play is always creative. Don’t worry or even think about songwriting or creativity. Just play and have fun.

These exercises get you out of your rational ‘head’ and into the more playful, creative side of your brain.


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One Response to “Can’t Get Started?”

  1. Corinne C. Says:

    It’s oh so important not to censor anything that comes into your head as your writing – and also not to judge it. That’s deadly. You have to be ready to write crap and accept it, knowing that you can improve upon it at a later date. You never know when you’ll find that gem hiding in the dirt!

    There’s one thing I have a minor disagreement about and that is watching TV. Of course, the ideal setting is to be alone with your thoughts and with your instrument of choice (guitar, piano or voice). But I’ve come up with some interesting riffs and progressions while watching TV – and I remember reading John Lennon would often write with the TV on as well.

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