By Cassandra Popescu
As a musician, writer’s block is probably the worst thing that could ever happen to you. It can be frustrating and discouraging, especially if it lingers around for a while. You could be itching to get your new hit single out into the world …but when you sit down to compose, your brain won’t cooperate.
It may seem like those blank pages or noteless scores are taunting you, but pulling yourself out of writer’s block is possible with a little push. Here are some tips to get your brain back up to speed and get that new single out in time for the summer. Hopefully by the end of the week, you’ll have no problem whipping out those tunes.
Day 1: Just play something, anything!
How many times have you sat down to write a new melody, only to get too “in your head” about how it should sound? I’m here to tell you to forget that nonsense. Just play and trust yourself. You’d be surprised what the power of improvisation can do. Challenge yourself to play your instrument for 10-20 minutes nonstop and see where the music goes. Record yourself while you do this. Maybe the tune to your next song will come out in this session.
Day 2: Face the music.
What album makes you feel all your emotions at once? Put that album on and listen to it in its entirety with no distractions. While listening, try to write down any specific memories, feelings, or thoughts that come to mind. Listening to the music that inspires you most is a great way to get your creativity flowing. Maybe one of those jotted down notes will be the theme of your next song.
Day 3: Write down the lyrics to your songs in creative ways.
Take a day to revisit and celebrate your past lyrics. This can include writing your lyrics down in creative ways. Whether that’s posting them on a Pinterest-worthy vision board or writing your favorite verse around some doodles in a sketchbook, appreciating your past work is a great way to remember what you’re capable of and will motivate you to create your next masterpiece. Bonus points: add a picture of your creation to Instagram to increase your following while fans wait for new music.
Day 4: Read your favorite poem or book and compose a theme around it.
Pick up your favorite book or anthology of poems and write a theme for it, whether it’s a set of lyrics or a melody, just turn whatever you love about the book into a new song. Maybe you can write some verses about a character’s path or a tune that musically conveys the emotion of a poem. This doesn’t need to be long or take up too much time. Just a short verse or a 30 second melody will do to beat the writer’s block.
Day 5: Write something in a weird key or time signature just for the sake of it.
If you usually write folk rock tunes in 4/4, give into your inner music nerd and compose something in whatever key signature your heart desires. Give 5/4 or 7/8 a spin and see what happens. If anything, you’ll improve your skills as a musician even if you compose the weirdest sounding music ever.
Day 6: Just write something, anything!
I once had a professor who told my class that the secret to writing is “ass in chair,” meaning that you just have to sit down and start writing. Now that you’ve taken some time to play your music and indulge in all your feelings, start writing and don’t stop for one minute. If that feels too short, see if you can go for two minutes. Don’t let anything stop you, just free write for as long as you can. There could be some gold hiding in there when you don’t let your doubts get in the way.
Day 7: Reflect on the week and begin writing your next album.
By now, you should have loads of material to help pull you out of your writer’s block. Go back to the recording of your improv session and see if you want to explore anything further, or maybe you want to continue the melody you started about your favorite book. Reflect on all the mini melodies and lyrics you wrote and see what sticks, then let the ideas start flowing!
Cassandra is a photographer/writer based in Toronto, Ontario. Her focus lies in concert photography, music journalism, and publicity. She’s currently studying Communications at York University, shooting for Canadian Beats, and programming a local indie music festival. Her passion for the arts has led her along a number of paths including songwriting, musicals, event planning, and of course photography. Follow her work at cassandrapopescu.com.