Writer’s block.  Most of us have hit it at some point.  When creativity is siphoned away, one knows it and it seems like an insurmountable impasse.  I have struggled with it at the worst of times–at the ends of pieces, in the middle of hectic semesters, and when project deadlines loom ever closer.  So, the main goal of combating writer’s block is obviously to defeat it quickly, but also to defeat it for a while (unless one is taking a break from composing after getting past the block).  Here are some strategies to accomplish both ends:

  • If you invest time, you’ll get time.  If you’re burnt out or otherwise creatively spent, then this is extremely applicable.  The more time you spend resting, up to a certain saturation point, the more time you’ll be able to enjoy going full speed again.  The more you rest, the more you’ll be able to create again.
  • Take breaks, but don’t give up.  This is my most commonly used strategy.  Instead of taking myself completely away from composition and then returning, or trying to get past it in futility until I go insane, I take a break, and then come back to it afterwards.  I find that most often through repeating rest followed by action I’m able to get back in the swing of things quicker than pure rest or pure working through the block.  Balance is key in this process of finding a path through the wall.
  • Do something completely unrelated to writing music, and don’t think about writing music during that time.  From cooking to cleaning to filing papers to organizing your living space, something mindless and mathematical can usually take expressivity off the brain and rejuvenate that side of you.
  • Ease back into things.  I have heard from others that looking at other music, or re-orchestrating a tune by a composer whose music you enjoy, or creating a non-musical artistic creation (eg. poetry, drawing, writing) helps get the brain back into shape.
  • Talk with someone–sometimes more input or a different perspective are key to finding that creative edge again.  Have someone look at your work and provide feedback (if you don’t mind them looking at it).
  • Exercise!  Endorphins and a sense of accomplishment can do wonders for motivation, confidence, and a willingness to try new things in order to get past the block.
  • Make sure you are eating, drinking, and sleeping enough.  I know this sounds stupid, but you might realize that you are missing vital requirements for a healthy body and brain.
  • Examine your workload.  If it can be lessened, try to do so.  Whether it’s getting a few small, boring tasks out of the way, or asking for help on an assignment, lessening the burden on your mind can free up brain CPU power for creating music.
  • Don’t let frustration overcome you–writer’s block is a very frustrating experience, so let out the frustration but don’t let it make you do things you normally wouldn’t, such as lose sleep or become judgmental of yourself.  It’s a normal process that just about all of us experience, and the most creative people in any medium suffer from it, too.

Feel free to post your own strategies as a  response to this, or Tweet or Facebook me them.

Thanks for reading!

Dan