September 24, 2006

Solutions to writer's block?

by Chris Randall

What do you guys do when you have writer's block? I'm in the depths of one of the worst phases I've ever had. (Although it's only two weeks old, so it's not that bad, relative to some people I know.) I know that everyone has a different method for getting out of it. What's yours?


Page 4 of 5

Sep.25.2006 @ 8:21 AM
For me, it's doing a whole lot of busy work in the studio. One of the great things with music production is it is both the creative and the mechanical and there is seldom a shortage of the later. If you're a prose writer with a block there's little you can do but suffer through it; what, you're going to clean your typewriter or back up your Word documents? - that ought to take five minutes. But as others point out, there are always synths to sample, patches to organize, drum loops; remix those tracks that you put aside for later. Fortunately, I have folders full of bits and pieces of ideas that never went anywhere. I can always go through these and see if there are any possible gems.

Of course, it helps that most of my stuff is half finished.


Sep.25.2006 @ 8:36 AM
I used to use writer's block as an excuse to buy more gear. But I've found that the more gear I have, the harder it is for me to write.

I keep a notebook of compositional "recipes" - concepts that I want to try. I keep it with me whenever I know I'll have some time to kill and listen to music (espec. commuting, traveling).

When I have writer's block, I open the notebook and leaf through the "recipes" until I find one that grabs me.

Chick Corea's book on composing describes music as playing games. Getting out of writers block is simply a matter of changing the rules of the game to a set that intrigues you. Challenging yourself with severe restrictions is one approach. E.g. is it possible to write a listenable tune chord-melody tune on my ukelele which is missing a string? What would Autumn Leaves sounds like if I played the bass part on an accordian? etc.


Sep.25.2006 @ 9:15 AM
slightly off-topic but related to something you mentioned earlier chris: if you're playing games on your new plasma, just be careful of how long you play them - screen burn is a big issue; especially with racing games and the like where you'd have a speedo/rev counter permanently in the right hand corner, for example...

just thought i'd warn in case you weren't aware :-)

on topic - i usually just buy a load of cds and listen to them as many times as possible over a week or two and not pick up any instruments or attempt to make any music of my own. you'll often find that you will have 'absorbed' some of the new music and it may make it's way into a new tune - particularly any interesting rhythms that you may have heard.


Sep.25.2006 @ 9:26 AM
Unplug, grab a shitty harmonica and head out to the mountains and enjoy a nice day ... that OR sit back and watch some Pink Floyd - Live at Pompeii. There's some inspiration.

Sep.25.2006 @ 9:28 AM
two things:
1 just write something and keep pounding away till it sucks less
2 play with my cat. I know I'll end up dancing him and that leads to beat making &&|| music.

Sep.25.2006 @ 10:59 AM
The Beatles got ideas to new songs by playing instruments they never played before or were unfamiliar with.

And of course my favorite way and one of the easiest- alternate tunings on guitar.


Sep.25.2006 @ 12:49 PM
You've got to let the writer's block get to you. I mean really eat away at your soul. Let it affect your work habits, eating habits, sexual appetite, everything. Agonize over your lack of creativity until people don't even like to be around you. If possible, let it get to the pont where you start to experience some major loss. For example: your car, your house, your wife,or an appendage. If you can, let it lead to some sort of chemical dependency - alcohol and opiates are perennial favorites, but don't discount the effectiveness of inhalants. You need to let the writers block consume you until you're little more than the transparent husk of what used to resemble a man.

Then, right when it gets to the point where you feel that you don't even deserve the bittersweet release of death, immediately start composing! It's important that you promptly detect when you reach this point, if you wait even a heartbeat too long you could fall into a bottomless pit of dispair from which you may never return. Provided that doesn't happen: bam. Instant magnum opus, guaranteed.

At least, I'm pretty sure that's how it works. It's one of those things where it's easy to forget to carry a zero and then you're off by an order of magnitude. But double-checking the work would be a pain in the ass (it's really technical and science-y), so I say just go for it and see how it turns out.


Sep.25.2006 @ 2:39 PM
Adam Schabtach
play Tetris.
be crabby.
listen to CDs and bemoan my total lack of musicianship.
stare out the window.
play Moon Patrol.
stare at my gear and consider selling all of it since there's simply no point in having it around.
slip towards depression.
go for a walk.
play HL2.
make some new synth patches.
sulk more.
write code instead.
try again another day.

Actually, compared to your productivity, I exist in a permanent state of writer's block.



Sep.25.2006 @ 4:04 PM
You might want to try pickup up a book about fiction writing. I have read a lot of writers advice recently and found that writers tackle many issues that are relevant to musicians -- where do ideas come from, how to edit and revise, how to know when you're finished, how to get perspective on your work, how to create a regular working routine for yourself, etc.

For obvious reasons there has been a ton written on the topic of writing compared to similar self-help for musicians. I think of all the arts, writing is the area where craft and process has been the most thouroughly analyzed and then communicated to others in a useful way. Musicians have their own thoughts and theories about what we do but I think for the most part we're terrible at explaining our ideas to each other.


Sep.26.2006 @ 9:25 AM
...or maybe your just becoming too corporate and domesticated. hehehe. Remember the tour bus days!! Woohoo!!! Perhaps a new brand of tequila and fresh hookers are in order...

Page 4 of 5



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.