Songwriter’s Block is an Myth
How to Stop Making Excuses and Finish Your Songs!
Writer’s Block is every songwriter’s secret fear… you sit down to write and nothing comes out.
You’ve probably had a mild form of it, where:
- You have no idea what to write about
- You are working on the same song endlessly without finishing it
- You feel everything you write is weak, bad or even terrible
- You can’t even start writing
Here’s some good news…
Songwriting Block is a Myth
It’s an excuse! If you believe you suffer from the terrible condition of songwriter’s block… it’s not your fault. This lets you avoid responsibility and you get to avoid writing. The language we use to describe it is excuse based… you have writer’s block or you suffer from songwriter’s block. It’s not a mystic disease so let’s stop making excuses.
Yes, you can suffer from a block in your songwriting, but it’s usually very specific and often it’s something you’ve created… not the mythical state called songwriter’s block.
Creativity Is Hard… It Takes Effort
Writing is scary, unpredictable… sometimes you write horrible terrible songs. It’s impossible to “control”. The sooner you acknowledge these unpleasant truths, the faster you can get back to the fun of writing.
The label of songwriter’s block is an excuse so you don’t have to fix the true problem.
If Songwriter’s Block doesn’t exist… WTF I am doing wrong?
The fundamental issue is usually a result of your unrealistic expectations…
This can range from expecting:
- Instant results
- Consistent results every time
- Brilliance from every single songwriting session
- To believing that it should be easy to create something as complex as a popular song.
Adjusting Your Songwriting Expectations
Is the first step is overcoming this disappointment. When you expect results that you don’t get, you increase the pressure on yourself. Usually this tension is counter productive and makes it even harder to write. Instead of doubling down and forcing harder, you have to release these expectations and relax.
Songwriting should be play. Remember that songwriting (and all forms of creativity) is meant to be fun. Find the joy in exploring the many possibilities. Instead of being results oriented and expecting to finish a song a day or a week, expect to have fun and explore songwriting.
Once you have released your expectations (or at least put them to the side for the moment)…
You Have to Diagnose the True Problem
There are several different scenarios and solutions that are sometimes mislabeled as songwriter’s block. Notice repeating patterns… an occasional issue could be an off day or a brief slump in your writing. When you notice consistent patterns or problems it’s time to address them.
I Can’t Find Inspiration
You don’t know what to write about, there’s no spark to start the fire. You sit staring at a blank page…
Spend time brainstorming titles, song themes, song ideas and lyric hooks. I keep a Titles Folder, with pages of potential titles. Choose a system that works with your songwriting practice:
- Start a list of title ideas in your notebook,
- A folder for titles or
- A computer document
Check it whenever you want to start a new song or get stuck and add to it regularly.
I use brainstorming to create title ideas and to write lyrics… Brainstorming: How to Create More Songwriting Ideas Than You Need
I Don’t Have Time to Write
Brutal truth… if you really want to write songs, you need to make the time. You don’t find extra time lying around, you have to make it a priority to get the work done. Everyone is busy, it can be difficult to make the time… but I have a solution called Daily Songwriting, that will help you create a dependable songwriting habit, starting with five minutes a day.
I Don’t Know What to Do Next
Especially when you are first learning to write songs, it’s sometimes a guessing game trying to figure out what to do next. Almost every songwriter that I’ve spoken to taught themselves how to write, and discovered their own songwriting process through trial and error. This was one reason I created the Ultimate Songwriting Jumpstart, a self-paced online course where you can learn a systematic and repeatable songwriting process which takes you from a blank page to finished songs.
I Don’t Have A Songwriting Routine
If you sit down to write… write some stuff and then walk away until next time, you need to create a songwriting practice routine! You’re dabbling instead of taking yourself seriously as a songwriter. How you approach your writing is almost as important as what you write. If you act like an amateur, you will stay one. To begin acting like a professional writer and develop into a writer that creates excellent songs… learn to Create Your Own Songwriting Practice Routine.
I Get Distracted When I Write
First there are the obvious solutions, create a safe, comfortable, quiet writing space to write. Turn off distractions, like social media. Block off uninterrupted time to write.
But you need to create a habit of working while ignoring distractions. I use a timer and set it for 5 minutes, I’m not allowed to do anything except write until it runs out. I can keep going if I’m in a flow or work on something else when it runs out. It’s a simple game that taught me how to focus for long periods of time. For complete details read: Focus Your Songwriting Superpowers.
I Get Stuck Partway Through a Song
You started strong with a brilliant idea, but you’ve lost the momentum. You go through several emotional stages when you’re working on any large, complex project like writing a song. When you hit a songwriting slow down, it’s normal to feel discouraged. Learn to deal with the emotional ups and downs of songwriting in How to Finish Your Songs.
I Get Stuck at the Same Place in Many Songs
When there’s a pattern, and you get stuck in the same place in the songwriting process… it is usually because of a weakness in your songwriting abilities that you need to improve.
For example, if you have
Difficulty creating guitar parts for your chord progressions = learn to play more cover songs, so you can borrow good ideas from songs you love
Trouble creating chord progressions = learn more about chord theory so you understand how chords are connected
Run out of lyric ideas = Brainstorm more phrases for lyrics.
Trouble writing the second and third verse because you feel like you’ve run out of things to say = develop your ideas by planning the story of the song and create a story arc for the song before you write the verses. You can also learn to plan your song and your goals for the song: Deliberate Songwriting.
I Hate Everything I Write
Years ago, I went for a few months where I could barely rhyme two lines. I hated everything I wrote. I finally snapped out of it when I realized that I hesitated to even write down ideas because I was judging them before I finished writing them.
I was blocking my own songwriting by mixing up two different writing processes… writing and editing. Instead I learned to write ideas without judging their quality. Later, I return to it and edit, deciding what to keep, what to cut and the best order for the fragments and lines I’ve written. Learning how to Handling Your Inner Editor is easier than you expect.
Another mistake I made was trying to write a verse in order from first to last line. Creativity isn’t linear. I learned to write a page of ideas, then edit it… crossing out half or more, then putting the rest into the best order to create a verse or chorus.
Learn more about writing, editing and the three other phases of songwriting in: Songwriting Cycles: Solutions.
I Can’t Finish Any Songs
Usually this is a result of Perfectionism… trying to create a perfect song. Tragically, a perfect song does not exist. You justify it by trying to write the best song you possibly can, but it turns into never finishing the song.
Instead, finish the song. It’s okay if it doesn’t measure up to the song you first imagined… it rarely does because it’s easier to imagine a song than to actually write it!
You need to:
- Start another song
- Finish more songs
- Study and transcribe great songs
- Work with and learn from other songwriters
- Learn more about songwriting
- Listen to great songs
- Write more songs
If you don’t like particular lyrics you’ve written, learn how to find and fix them in Avoid Lyric Fail.
In some cases, the problem is in part because you start songs that you don’t finish because you distract yourself by starting new songs (that you don’t finish). It’s a good songwriting practice to have a few songs in progress at any given time, you can switch to another song if you need a break or change. However, this becomes a trap if you aren’t finishing any songs. If you have too many songs that you aren’t finishing there’s a simple solution in Finish More Songs.
Believing in yourself is the beginning of any creative success. The catch is… until you do something, it’s hard to believe you can do it. If you’ve done it but had a negative experience, like someone trash talking you song, you can lose your self confidence. Fortunately you can learn to Manage Your Self-Doubt to Write Better Songs.
Negative Self Talk
The way you talk to yourself, in your own head or in conversation with others, affects how you perceive yourself and your abilities. When you talk or think about yourself negatively you are making it harder to write great songs. Belittling yourself isn’t humble, it’s destructive!
Learn to solve your negative self talk in Make Songwriting Easier.
There Is No Such Thing As Songwriter’s Block
It’s not a state of being or a disease… it’s an excuse to avoid responsibility for your own songwriting. Blocks to your writing are either self inflicted or because of a lack of knowledge. Step up and figure out what the real problem is and start working to solve it… or be honest and admit you like the idea of writing songs more than making the effort to write and finish songs.
This isn’t a complete list of songwriting troubles… but it’s enough to dispel the myth of songwriter’s block and get you back to the fun of songwriting!