Defeat Writer’s Block

huge stone blockI aspire to write songs that can be heard and understood on multiple levels, songs with complex and surprising chord changes, songs that make your feet tap and that get more interesting the more you listen. OK, I’m not saying I’ve achieved this advanced level, only that I aspire to it.

The downside of this lofty goal is that it’s a setup for failure. The truth is, it’s frustrating to attempt a masterpiece every time. It’s puts a huge burden and high expectations on you. That can be too much pressure.

So I get stuck. Frequently. That’s when I take a step back. Rather than give in to writer’s block, I back off from my ultimate goal momentarily and try to write a simpler song, sometimes much simpler. The more stuck I feel, the simpler I get.

In fact, I will step back from the goal of a complex, multi-dimensional work of art, all the way back to singalong music, children’s nursery rhymes. At this point, the burden is lifted. The expectations are minimal. After all, how hard can it be to write a nursery rhyme?

Suddenly, with all the pressure off, ideas start to flow. Bingo, one nursery rhyme written and in the can. But usually something else happens in the process, something more important than finishing a simple children’s song. These ideas that are flowing don’t limit themselves. Usually there are elements in the new simple song that have some promise, that I feel deserve more than a nursery rhyme treatment.

So I take these elements and start to mold them. And automatically I’m back in the flow. What could have been a long dry spell has been averted. As long as ideas are flowing, there is no writer’s block.

So I end up defeating writer’s block and getting back to writing my masterpieces (that’s what I like to call them, anyway), and, as a side benefit, I end up with a lot of nursery rhymes, lullabyes and simple folk and pop songs.

No matter what your ultimate songwriting goals are, you can use this back-to-basics technique to defeat writer’s block.


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