As artists, we all have periods where we struggle to find good ideas. Sometimes we make great work, and sometimes, we do not: It is the nature of the creative process that ideas come in cycles. Here are five strategies for getting rid of creative blocks:
1. Go old school with pen and paper
Sometimes the idea is in front of us, but we are distracted by those things such as social media, news, videos, and other daily tasks. In order to have a productive music writing session, try leaving your laptop at home and use a notebook and pen. It really helps to see the ideas solidify before you, so write your music on paper. Another important aspect is to find silence and work in a quiet space. Usually the problem is not you, but the environment that prevents you from seeing what’s best for you and your work.
2. Record your practice sessions and re-listen to them
One of the best ways of getting rid of creative blocks is to just start playing your instrument or start writing music without a clear purpose. The stream of consciousness approach will help you release the ideas from your head. Usually you need to blurt out the bad ideas first to get to the good ones later. And usually our initial ideas are the bad ones, and the best ideas are waiting usually in the second, third, or further rows in the back to be picked up.
Moreover, recording your practice sessions and re-listening to them will help you identify new ideas and develop them. If you keep doing this habitually, you will eventually develop a library of ideas that you can use on your future work.
3. Change your instrument
Sometimes the problem is knowing too much, where we end up focusing on the specifics and losing perspective of the big picture. For instance, as a guitar player for many years, sometimes I focus too much on chord voicings and chord progressions, which might lead me to a point where the song does not “go anywhere.” Because of this, when I feel like the song is “stuck,” I prefer to switch to a different instrument, such as a piano. Each instrument is like a different language with a different way of thinking, and therefore changing your instrument can help you answer your creative problem.
Different musicians use this technique in different ways. For instance, you can start a song by playing a drum beat, not only to be more playful with the music creation process, but to build the song with a groove first (This can be seen as a form of toplining). For these reasons, I strongly suggest switching to a new instrument when you hit a creative roadblock.
4. Save your drafts to revisit them later
If you couldn’t come up with any good ideas today, go back to your older ideas and try to finish them first. The premise here is simple: Sometimes when you walk away from your old work, you can see them in a new light later. Sometimes there are songs that are initially left unfinished, but saving the drafts helps so much when you revisit them in the future.
5. Change your location
An idea usually does not simply present itself to you. You have to search and develop it overtime. Chances are that your best work will not come to you as you sit in a room as you look at the walls or your computer screen. For me my best ideas come to me when I am out on the street walking, talking to a friend, running, eating, or doing something else. This is because our brains tend to work more efficiently in the background when it comes to creativity.
As with everything creative, the key to dealing with creative blocks is patience. Overthinking can be a negative factor, so it’s best to get our brains in the background mode where there are no good ideas. The brain constantly thinks and develops new ideas whether we are aware or not, so it is our responsibility to be as aware as possible about potential ideas.
I regularly use these five strategies to get rid of creative roadblocks. You might discover and develop new strategies yourself. Feel free to comment and tell us about some of the methods you use.