Creativity and Songwriting
Q: Hey Joel, I had a question about songwriting. If you’re a writer you pretty much have to face writer’s block sooner or later; I took theory and music lessons for a very long time so I know theory, how to put a song together, how different forms work and what not and I’ve read bundles of articles on creativity, so I guess I was just wondering what some of your ways to be creative and avoid writer’s block. Thanks, Matt
A: Matt, creativity and avoiding writer’s block come with practice believe it or not. The more songs you write, and more you force yourself to be creative, the easier it is to knock out tracks in a fairly reasonable amount of time. In my own situation, I often spend 10-12 hours a day locked up in the studio with bands. I am being paid as a producer to be super creative every day. It can be hard to bring your A game every single time. I think a very important part of this is taking care of your body and getting enough sleep every night. When you are burned out, it is hard to be creative. The only way to keep yourself going in a high stress environment is to treat your body well. Keep yourself energized with healthy food and always go to bed when the sun goes down so that you can make the most of your body’s natural sleep cycle. It is also important to take one day off a week from trying to be creative and do things that relax you. At all costs, avoid thinking about work/music/etc. Applying this to song writing, if you are in top physical shape and feel good everyday, you will find yourself with much less writer’s block.
Another trick I use is deadlines. I’m always amazed at how creative I can become when there is time limit on the table. For example, I license a lot of sports music. I may not really write anything for months, but when the company calls and says “we need a track tomorrow for _____,” I get all pumped up and am always able to produce. Another example in my life is when I have to write orchestrations for bands. If I’m screwing around on my own with the computer trying to write a symphony, usually I don’t get anything good. However, when I’m looking at my watch and it says that I have 15 minutes to write a killer part over this breakdown and there are 5 guys staring at me, waiting for me to produce something, it always flows very easily. There is something in your subconscious mind that turns on that kicks your brain into overdrive when events like this take place. So, experiment with setting deadlines for yourself. For example, have no songs written, but book time in a few weeks to record a demo. Watch what happens when your money is on the line. Find ways to pressure yourself into producing. Deadlines often give amazing results!
My final tip is to not over think it. When you think about writing too much, usually the music turns out not as good. Just pick up the guitar, jam, and let it flow. Usually the best songs are written in really short periods of time when you aren’t thinking about it or don’t care. It is weird how it works, but it does. hopefully some of these ideas help you!