5 Signs Of Creative Stagnation To Watch Out For In Music

There comes a point in every serious musician’s career when creativity, fun, and inspiration are hard to come by. The causes of creative stagnation are different for each of us, but all music-makers experience it eventually. Some musicians are able to spot a lack of ambition or inspiration in their creative lives. Others slowly sink into ruts without realizing it. If you can easily spot one of these red flags in your music career, it’s likely you’re creatively stuck and need a change. 

Writing the same songs over and over again

If you can’t help hitting repeat when it comes to your creative process, stagnation is probably to blame. Some of us get into the habit of writing the same music for months or even years because it feels predictable and safe to do so. But as we all know, predictability and safety aren’t helpful when it comes to making meaningful music. Making the conscious effort to let curiosity and risk shape your creative process will help you if you’re unable to write something truly new or different. 

Not invested in getting better, feeling unchallenged 

One hopeful, beautiful thing about making music is that we are always capable of writing a better song. It’s a challenge that fuels my work and motivates me to write whether I’m feeling creatively inspired or musically bored. If you’re constantly feeling unchallenged and lack the desire to get better, you’re at a serious point of creative stagnation and need to make big changes to stay in the game. Make music long enough, and you’re bound to experience heartbreak and disappointment. But instead of letting this fact beat you down, focus on what moves you in the process of making music. Rather than settling for OK, strive to create music that got you interested in doing this in the first place. 

Feeling disconnected from joy and curiosity 

Without a strong emotional pull towards creating and performing, musicians will find it hard to make progress in their careers. To put it a simpler way, if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Writing, playing shows, releasing music, and touring should all be fun, emotionally rewarding activities in your career. Yes, there’s a massive amount of work that goes into maintaining a music career. But if there’s nothing fun or instantly gratifying about it, you’ll need to change things around to get back to the point where you love what you do again.

Viewing music-making as an obligation and not as something rewarding and energizing 

Most non-musicians would be shocked to learn how much tedious administrative work goes into sustaining a music career and that the vast majority of unestablished and small artists take on duties like booking shows, planning tours, and promoting music themselves. It’s natural to view these things as chores but if the thought of writing songs or playing shows fills you with obligatory dread, something big needs to be addressed in your music career. Whether the project you’re playing in just doesn’t do it for you anymore or you need to take a break from making music and performing your own work, serious changes need to happen if you want to keep making music. 

Not having access to new opportunities after years of work 

Have you been hard at work for years and are faced with the same opportunities and limitations you found when you first started? There’s a good chance creative stagnation is to blame. Music is a brutal industry to compete in. Yet, if your music is solid and you’re working hard, you should access to more shows and fans over time. A lack of music opportunities could be because you’re creatively stuck and unable to make work that resonates with people. This can be a hard pill to swallow. However, committing to dropping everything in your music career to focus on creating the best work you can may help.

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Feeling creatively stagnant isn’t something you should feel bad about. We’ve all been there before as musicians, and those who haven’t will at some point. Rather than accepting defeat and waiting for inspiration, you can diagnose the problem and work towards a solution. 

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

Tyler5 Signs Of Creative Stagnation To Watch Out For In Music


Join the conversation
  • Erockalipse - July 1, 2020 reply

    Very true!
    I decided to try doing other things like learning to play an instrument and listening to other kinds of music for create inspiration!
    Thanks! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • UMB - July 1, 2020 reply

    My music coming thru the air. By dreams or playing. Only when I am getting involved into an important theme. Love, unlucky love, the planet.

  • Aaron Ainbinder - July 1, 2020 reply

    Several years ago, I came upon a book called “Move Into Life” by Anat Baniel. I won’t go into a long dissertation about her writing, but suffice it to say that we can consciously wake up our brains. I found myself stuck in a rut – several ruts of familiarity, really – and by creatively utilizing Anat’s teachings, my bass playing entered a new world. I took the thinking behind her teachings, and applied it specifically to the fingers of both of my hands. I trained my brain to allow my fingers off-leash, so to speak, and learned how to tech my fingers and my brain to creatively work together. The first night I tried this, I came home and plugged in my bass guitar. I played in ways that I had never even imagined before.

    I have no vested interest in this book. I initially bought it to help me figure out how to be a better caregiver for my Mother. But that is another story altogether.


  • DONNA L WALTON - July 5, 2020 reply

    Hi my problem is I hear sounds in my head but have no way of recording those sounds so I have to harmonize to give the listeners a way to relate without hearing music. I also have a hearing problem pledged me all my life then I found Echo app I love it because for me it’s instant feed back ( I call it echo location some animals use this method also)where as w/out it my voice gets lost as soon as I start to sing .I purchased a program from presonus I’ve had it for two years and I still have never been able to use it my dad used to have a saying keep it simple stupid is there a program out there I can actually use also I would love to combine some orchestra sounds with my beats is there a program out there with this feature…help

  • Tetiana - July 27, 2020 reply

    “Writing songs can sometimes come as a most natural thing to do, but that doesn’t happen all the time. Sometimes we find ourselves in a creational rut and the feeling that we will never be able to write anything again. Or even worse, we are coming up with new stuff, but it sounds similar/identical to something that we’ve done before. This is more likely to be expected, as we subconsciously draw inspiration from the music that we are listening to regularly. Of course, songwriting is just like playing an instrument. The more you practice, the better you will become.

    I have recently music where I teach writing songs based around chords progressions.

    Let me know if you find it useful and if there is anything you think I should add/change.”

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