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Writers Block - Getting Over That Wall

Any songwriter will tell you every now and then you will find yourself stuck in a rut, up against the wall, in the dark or, as in my case regularly, totally clueless… Some call it the artistic pause or creative slump. I prefer the direct and ‘In Your Face’ descriptive of Writers Block.

That’s exactly how it feels. You are sitting there with the keyboard or guitar at your fingertips, your notebook open, your pen uncapped and all you can see is a blank page, all you can hear is silence and there is nothing whirring through the brain in any way, shape or form. It’s like the traffic cops have popped up and erected a huge barrier right in front of you, and you’re not going anywhere.

There have been numerous studies into what causes this and how to get around it. There isn’t really one definitive answer but there are some common remedies that might just get you through this most painful of creative lapses.

Don't Panic

The big one, and the one that causes most of the problems, but it is vital that you keep calm and carry on. Look on it as a passing phase, a speed bump, a knot in the wood and any other wild and wacky comparisons. They all have the same message though and that is to remain calm, don’t smash up your instrument or cut your hands off. Once you can get a calm aura around you the repair can start by doing this……

Shut The Book, Cap The Pen

This technique nearly always works and it’s so simple. Put away your writing materials, be it a notebook, a tape recorder anything else you use to create your masterpiece. The more these items are in view, the less you will benefit from them. Accept the block and stow away these things that are reminding you of it…..then….

Break Out

You may be in a studio, a rehearsal room or most probably at home or with the band hanging out at one of the band members’ houses. Where ever you are there is a very good chance that the environment on that day at that time is having an effect on your creativity.

I remember a story about my all-time favorite band The Jam who decided to retire to a house in the country to write and record their second album. Sounds idyllic, but the house and location just didn’t do it for them. In the end they had to get out of there for sanity’s sake. Where you physically are affects everything so don’t be afraid to change your surroundings. It may only take a few minutes but a new perspective really does clear the mind. And then….

Boogie On Down

Grab your favorite LP and whack it on full blast. Immerse yourself in the music and remind yourself why you continue to love this music, remind yourself how it makes you feel and slowly but surely you will feel yourself starting to smile (note, this is a reminder to ALWAYS have your favorite music with you where ever you go)…….and finally……..

Allow Yourself Some Time

So many talented musicians and songwriters drop their creative spark because they are impatient to get themselves back on track. Writers block is really frustrating, but it happens, and anyone with a creative mind will experience it. The trick is not to rush back into it because it can only make things worse. Just accept the situation and take all the time you need to build up your confidence to tackle the problem. Giving yourself time is probably the most important cure you can use, it lets you reset and see things so much more clearly.

Like I said there is no definitive answer, just like the nature of creativity we as musicians are also unique. Embrace that, take it easy and in time your masterpiece will flow through you. Just keep at it!!



-Mark Hill - MU Columnist

Mark's Website





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