When the lyrics just won’t come

What do you do when the lyrics (or melody) just won’t come?

I believe this is a common problem for songwriters. When the ideas aren’t flowing, that’s when you need some tricks up your sleeve, some way to jumpstart your creativity.

Here’s a trick I use regularly. It may seem like a cop out, but it’s a legitimate, time-honored technique for songwriters: collaborate.

I am very comfortable writing melody and chords. But I sometimes struggle with lyrics. So I found a co-writer who is good with lyrics and weaker on the music side. Together we bang out new songs easily and relatively quickly. Co-writing (also called collaboration) is very common in Nashville, LA, NYC and other music centers. Look at the credits on any Motown record and you’ll see Holland/Dozier/Holland on many of the hits and other co-writers as well. If Motown isn’t your bag, check the writing credits of your favorite artist. You might be surprised.

I believe everyone is born creative, and that we sometimes block our own creativity. Stress can do this. If you are stressed out in any part of your life (work, school, relationships, songwriting), then it will be harder to reach in and access your own innermost creative thoughts.

Learn how to de-stress yourself. For some people that means regular exercise or meditation. Others need to get more sleep or resolve some interpersonal issues. Sometimes all it takes is a short break from the routine, maybe a walk around the block or a few quick stretches.

When I get stuck in the middle of writing a song, I will take a walk, to take my mind off the problem. Usually, unbeknownst to me, my sub-conscious mind is still working on it and partway through the walk, a new idea pops into my head. Voila! I’m unstuck.

Another cause of writer’s block is super high expectations. If you expect to write a masterpiece every time, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you lower your expectations at first, you free yourself to write anything and that leads to risk-taking, ground-breaking creations.

In writing your first draft (or 2nd or 3rd), it helps to turn off the part of your brain that is critical and judging and just let it all flow. Later, you can re-engage the judging part of your brain to edit your draft. This is what that side of your brain is good at: finding typos, checking for rhymes, noticing logical inconsistencies, etc.


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