In this article I am going to look at solutions to the age-old problem of writer’s block and how to overcome it, to be a consistent and productive writer/producer by stimulating creativity, creating flow and feeding your musical inspiration.
Writer’s Block – solutions to stimulating creativity
- Listen to some music outside of the genre that you are making and try to pick out some inspirational ideas and sounds. Also, try searching through some random radio stations.
- Spend some time with nature – take the dog for a walk! Walking improves your mood and sorts out your thoughts.
- Keep your mind open (mindfulness), let go of your thoughts and accept what you cannot control.
- Try a new ice cream flavour. In other words, explore some variety by attempting a style or genre that
you have not attempted before.
- Load up an unfinished project or idea from months/years ago and attempt to finish it.
- Go to a public place and observe other people. Write down any interesting situations that you see/ things that you hear and use them as the basis for an idea.
- Watch an inspiring music documentary/film.
- Read some books/magazines/newspapers to extract lyrical ideas/song titles etc.
- Look through your sample library, organise it and compile a folder of inspirational sounds.
- Try working in a different musical scale and time signature or investigate microtonal tuning.
- Tidy up your studio; change the lighting or light some incense to create a change of mood.
- Limit your tools. Don’t get bogged down with the unlimited choices of sounds, instruments and plug-ins. For instance, write as much as you can with a nice piano sound before applying these different MIDI parts to different sounds. This forces you to be creative.
- Go to a gig or club night and analyse all that you hear for inspiration.
- Collaborate with a new person, and see if this stimulates fresh new ideas.
- Try starting a song with something different. If you usually start with the drums, try starting with a melody or atmospheric pad sound.
- Swap some gear temporarily with fellow producers for a while.
- Resample some elements of your song and experiment with some sound mangling.
- Record some household implements or field recordings and experiment with sound mangling.
- Try recreating a song by ear, then completely altering it musically and rhythmically.
- Start a new song from MIDI files of a classic hit.
- Analyse a hit song/production or artist and write a song in that style.
- Find a Public Domain song and create a song using this material. You are free to use them without having to obtain permission or pay royalties. Your new version will be recognised as an arrangement, and as a result is protected by copyright and is entitled to all standard royalty payments.
Try and learn which activities work for you personally.
Finding Your Flow
“The mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task”.
“A strong contributor to creativity”.
Flow is the art of zoning in on a task so that your mind and body become one with an almost effortlessly rewarding creative experience. It is a psychological state associated with extreme fulfillment, optimised performance, health and well-being. Many musicians describe it as being a sort of midway point between conscious and unconscious, a place of timelessness, a dream state. It gives them a feeling of awe and reverence, being given a gift, being used as a vessel and at times the feeling of going into a trance. To get to that state many of them say they have to surrender to the power of the creative unconscious.
Nineteenth century philosophers such as Nietzsche believed that music opened up a ‘realm of primordial intuitive knowledge’ unobtainable via other art forms such as writing or painting. There is also an association between flow and conscientiousness. Those who are more dutiful and persevering tend to report higher levels of flow in their daily lives. This association is probably due to the fact that conscientiousness is positively related to other variables that are also associated with flow, such as social problem solving, life satisfaction, subjective happiness, positive affect and intrinsic motivation.
Conscientious individuals are also more likely to spend the time practising to master challenging tasks; conditions which make flow more likely.
When in flow:
- Outside distractions recede from consciousness and one’s mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating.
- There is very little self-awareness or critical self-judgement; just intrinsic joy for the task.
- People typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.
Recent research on jazz musicians and rappers engaging in creative improvisation suggests that when the brain is in a ‘flow state’ we loosen associations, allow the mind to roam free, imagine new possibilities, and silence the inner critic.
In practising and performing music, Flow is achieved through four basic steps: continuous contact with the instrument, developing a sense of resonance produced by the instrument and one’s body, an ease in playing which is enhanced through movement and the use of improvisation to study repertoire.
- FEEL – be aware of your creature comforts
- MOVE – Allow yourself to move, your body is intelligent
- ENGAGE – Be mindful of your energy level
- TOUCH – Enjoy the contact with your instrument
- RESONATE – Search for overtones
- IMPROVISE – Play around with the music
- SLOW DOWN – Enter the sound world of each and every note
Applying Flow To Your Work
How exactly can you apply flow to your work?
- Set realistic and obtainable goals
- Awareness of your skills and abilities
- Awareness of the challenge of the goal
- Trust confidence in your own abilities
- Remove judgement
- Remove external expectations
- Create your own space and time
- Reduce distractions and interruptions
Further useful research
Watch this BBC Writer’s Room video on some book writer’s techniques for dealing with writer’s block.
Also, try using musical charts to stimulate the writing process.