If we’re going to sit here and chat about music, writing and the creative process as a whole, at some point we’re going to end up on the topic of writer’s block. But before we get on to how, when, where and why I get writer’s block, let’s talk a little bit about how I try to avoid it.
I don’t write at a set time or on a set schedule. I know that some people do and I’m happy for people when that works for them but it’s never worked for me. I like to sit down with the guitar and get started. Whether I’m working on a new track or a cover, it all starts the same way… start playing.
The first step is the hardest. That’s not to say that the middle and ends aren’t hard as well. They are incredibly difficult. But look at it this way. No song has ever been finished without being started. A lot of songs have been started and never finished but no song in the history of the world just sort “happened”. No one ever aid, “I wish there was a song here” and then POOF, there was a song. You need to start. So I sit down with my guitar and start writing.
Once I’ve started, I often have trouble connecting pieces. Sometimes I’ll write “A” and be quite happy and write “C” and be very happy but often “B” or how to connect A and C together is much harder to do. Because I’m only working with a single instrument I feel a need to really work on complex dynamics and atmosphere so that I’m not just rewriting the same thing that I’ve written before. One of the best ways I find to figure out if I’m where I want to be is to sit back with my headphones and just listen. Often, creating that space between me, the listener, and me, the musician, gives me the perspective I need on a piece. I’ve been playing guitar long enough that much of it has become a repetitive habit so often taking the guitar out of my hands is a great way to work on the creative aspects of the track.
If I start on a new song and nothing is coming, I don’t walk away. I usually shift focus and work on a cover. Sometimes this means walking away for an hour, sometimes it means a day, sometimes it’s even longer. Sometimes using someone else’s music can help get you through a rocky patch. There’s a great movie about writing called Finding Forester where an aging writer has an aspiring novelist just copy down his words until he can find his own. Sometimes it feels a lot like that.
When it comes to writing, I’d strongly recommend that you avoid the trap of 9-5. It makes a lot of sense to make sure that you set aside time for writing. I absolutely agree. But that doesn’t have to be a set time. It just means that you have to make sure that you put down the video games or the dirt bike down from time to time and get to work. I love my down time but I love writing music even more. And when I can, I do. And when I can’t, I don’t.
I wish there was a magic solution to getting through writers block. What I have discovered up to this point is that the remedy lies somewhere in experiencing new surroundings, being exposed to new or fresh forms of art and creativity, meeting new people and having meaningful conversations, and enjoying a favourite hobby. I’ve also discovered that instead of focusing on myself and whatever writing challenges I may be facing, that it’s great to be of service to others. To invest completely in helping someone else can generate a positive mindset that can be quite inspiring. Selfish selflessness
How do you deal with obstacles in your day-to-day life? Have a technique I haven’t thought of? I’d love to hear how you do it.