Writer’s block is an inevitable symptom of working in a creative field. Presented in a variety of magnitudes, it’s a condition that affects even the most capable producers. Identifying and understanding your writer’s block is the first step to controlling it.
For producers, the causes of writer’s block vary based on tasks carried out in the creative process. While some producers might struggle with sound design, others might hit a wall while writing melodies and chord progressions. Due to this, there is no blanket remedy to the issue. Overcoming writer’s block requires self-confidence, patience, and an open mind. As someone who’s won—and lost—many battles against writer’s block in the studio, I’m happy to share solutions that I’ve found to be the most effective in fighting this desolating condition.
Work Through It
Working through your block is an “easier said than done” solution, but it’s arguably the most effective and logical remedy. One of the leading causes of writer’s block is radical or harsh self-criticism. It’s a fear associated with your expectations, causing you to become your own worst enemy. Bypassing your self-criticisms and forcing the creative process is a positive exercise for overcoming your fear. Ira Glass best articulates this practice in his interviews about storytelling below.
In the most cliché fashion, there’s no denying that practice makes perfect. You can’t get a hit if you don’t swing the bat, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, you can’t write a good song if you don’t write at all. Lower your expectations and get after it.
Change Your Scenery
Often we don’t recognize which external habits and influences are affecting our ability to create. Many producers become accustomed to a routine that they believe provides the best circumstances for their productivity. Unfortunately, creatives in any field are bound to fall victim to their habits at some point. This circumstance is comparable to a form of cabin fever—where an artist’s environment is associated with their fear of underperformance. Thankfully there are easy and sometimes invigorating methods to combat workspace-induced writer’s block.
Changing your scenery could be implemented to different extremities. It could be as simple as cleaning, reorganizing, or updating your studio. A clean desk might represent a clean slate, or if you like it messy, make it messy in a different way. If you have a budget to work with, purchasing new gear, accessories, and software for your desk/computer is a great way to boost your motivation.
Despite a producer’s connection to their studio, laptops give us the ability to work from any location imaginable. A great way to spur new ideas is to work temporarily in a different environment. You might find that the visual aspect of working at a local cafe, pub, or park will help conduct a refreshed creative process. Some artists will travel to studios worldwide to create their work, constantly absorbing influence from a new environment. Whether you’re working from a different couch in your apartment, down the block at the park, or sitting on a boulder in the Himalayas, switching up your natural production habitat is an effective method of inducing new creative ideas.
Take a Break
In many cases, writer’s block is a result of an overworked producer. Furthermore, burnout is bound to take place when an artist is working through their creative jam. As any working professional should, a break or vacation is necessary to relax your mind and come back to work with a fresh perspective.
Producers in a rut often misinterpret the concept of a break, resulting in more added stress to an artist’s productive dilemma. While some might benefit from a single day’s rest, more time is needed for most producers to feel the advantage of mental rest.
One of the benefits of taking extended breaks is giving yourself the ability to explore other hobbies and passions that might inspire your work. Taking breaks for exercise, cooking, sport, and indulging in supplementary creative activities is proven to optimize your workflow.
Don’t feel guilty for taking time off. Whether you need a few days, weeks, or even months to recuperate your creative energy, exploring your life outside of the DAW can be a consistent method to fighting your writer’s block.
Emulate Your Favorite Music
The typical practice of a rookie producer involves emulating the songs and artists which inspire them. Until an artist formulates an understanding of their strengths, this is the easiest way to learn the basics. By recreating melodies, sounds, drum patterns, etc., from your favorite songs, you could set and achieve short-term goals that boost your confidence in the DAW.
When you’re new to production, writer’s block is less of a factor as years of pent-up ideas fuel your passion in the studio. A new producer might not have such high expectations as a veteran, leaving little room for self-criticism. Sometimes, revisiting these emulative exercises could enable an easy workflow to refresh old creative energy.
This list only touches on a few of the numerous known remedies for writer’s block. As each producer’s circumstances are different from one another, defeating your creative challenges requires trial and error. No writer’s block is incurable. With the right amount of patience and determination, you’ll be back to writing at your full potential and confident that you could overcome any creative challenges in the future.