You’ve finally found some alone time. You’ve got your hot cup of coffee in your favorite mug, your instrument of choice is all ready to go, you grab your notebook and pencil. Put the pencil to the paper, but then… nothing.
For some reason your brain is drawing a complete blank. Ugh! Writer’s block! It sucks.
We’ve been there too. Which is why we’re going to cover a few things that work like magic if you’re currently experiencing musician writer’s block. Or maybe, you experience musician writer’s block more than you’d like to admit. Either way, there’s some pretty simple things that you can do to help yourself move past what’s blocking you and crank out more hits.
What is writer’s block and why does it happen?
If you’re ever going to overcome writer’s block, you first have to understand it. The Oxford dictionary defines it as, “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.”
So it stands to reason that we should do a deep dive into what things cause us to be unable to think or make us unsure of how to do something.
Writer’s Block: The Reasons Why Us Humans Sometimes Can’t Think
Writer and psychologist Susan Reynolds explains that, “The very nature of the art of writing incorporates uncertainty, experimentation, and a willingness to create art from the depths of who we are. Writing is a mentally challenging occupation which requires more hard-core, cognitive expenditure than many other lines of work.”
So if your brain is preoccupied with other things, it’s probably thinking that it doesn’t want to expend the calories on yet another thing. Even if we typically find creating a new song as a pleasurable experience, we also have to understand that it is hard work.
Additionally, if we’re worried about other things in our lives or hyper-focused on something else (particularly if we view the thing as urgent in our subconscious), it can be a bit of a challenge to switch gears. Our internal world really has a big impact on our ability to think, as well as on our creativity.
There’s 5 pretty common things that might be why you can’t seem to think and are experiencing writer’s block:
- Fear & Self-Criticism
- Burn Out
- External Pressure
- Lack of Fulfillment
Let’s dive into each of these.
Fear & Self-Criticism
Let’s be honest here: It’s scary putting yourself out there. That’s true for anything that you do. And it can feel extra scary putting something out there that we identify so strongly with.
We’re sure we don’t have to tell you how personal music feels to the artist. It feels like a literal piece of you.
So it’s scary to think that a piece of you is going to be judged and potentially criticized by others. This is normal. The fear of rejection is a common human experience. As is the fear of failure.
To make matters worse, we’re often running a narrative in our minds where we compare ourselves, our talents, and/or our work to others.
If we struggle with our own feelings of unworthiness, then this can be really hard. Immobilizing, actually. If we aren’t paying attention to how we’re talking to ourselves, we can actually start to have a skewed perception of our music, talents, and abilities — where nothing we do (or are) ever seems to be good enough.
It’s normal to want to do a good job and put something out into the world that we feel proud of. The unhealthy side of this is when we have too high of expectations for ourselves.
Truth be told, perfectionism is usually a coping mechanism to that fear of rejection (or even the fear of failure) we just discussed. And for some people, this coping mechanism was learned in childhood.
The thing about the human body is that it always prioritizes safety and survival.
So when you put more and more pressure on yourself, your anxiety rises and signals danger (the body’s way of saying, “Hey! There’s something to pay attention to here!”). When you receive that signal in your brain, the flight-or-fight response is activated, and the limbic system stops forwarding messages to the cortex (which is where conscious thought, imagination, and creativity are generated).
Instead, your amygdala releases stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), and soon, your heart is racing. Your ability to feel emotionally safe enough to write is eroded, and your ability to concentrate vanishes. Bottom line: you literally cannot access the thinking part of your brain any longer when you are in a heightened state.
Hopefully, you can already see what an impact our thoughts can have on our state-of-being. And when we’re exhausted (whether that be from our emotional state-of-being, or even our physical state) our brain is going to resist & insist on downtime.
Rest is so important! If you never really give your brain a break, or you haven’t really been taking care of your body (perhaps the way you should), then you probably aren’t getting the “repair” that you need. Thus, you might not actually be blocked, you’re just exhausted!
None of us have lives that are free from distraction. We all have obligations, seemingly urgent interruptions (from our phones, the news, or even people), and things that are constantly vying for our time, attention, and energy. Even a cluttered desk is a signal to your brain about all the things that you still need to do.
So, again, when our brains are full of too many other things it becomes increasingly hard for it to focus.
Additionally, we could be facing pressure from outside of ourselves to sit down and write out that next song. The pressure could be coming from a partner, a family member, a friend, or whoever, but sometimes that pressure can just make you freeze, instead of helping you move forward.
Lack of Fulfillment
While it’s true that pretty much everything has ebbs and flows, sometimes however, we loose passion & motivation when we haven’t been filling up our buckets.
Every human has 6 primary human needs (Love/Connection, Variety, Significance, Certainty, Growth, and Contribution). When we were younger we learned strategies to get these basic needs met, which essentially translate into our personality needs. Those are the things that usually light you up, and that you enjoying doing.
Because of this, we typically have a few needs that we tend to focus on (sometimes at expense to the other needs, aka “buckets”, in our lives). And while it’s perfectly normal & natural to prioritize specific needs over the rest, it’s really about creating balance.
So much of the human experience is about balance. When we’re out of balance, life can feel hard, bleak, depressing, lack-luster, and uninspiring.
Writer’s Block: When We’re Unsure Of How To Do Something
We’ve already went over some of the common reasons as to why we sometimes can’t think, but if you recall from the definition of writer’s block there is a second piece that could also stand in our way.
Which is: we’re unsure of how to do something.
Whether you’re just starting out, or there’s some new thing that you’re finding a bit challenging, this can cause the feeling of resistance. When things don’t seem like they are going right, or you can’t get something to sound the way that you want it to, it can feel very frustrating.
This uncertainty essentially arises from a lack of:
- Knowledge or know-how
- Tools or resources
How to Overcome Writer’s Block & Crank Out More Hits
Since you now know what writer’s block is, and why it happens, you now can take the specific actions to course correct! Of course, this is going to be different for every individual. For some people, it may be as simple as cleaning their desk off and doing something that inspires them. And for others, it may require a deeper dive into more self-love, compassion, and internal work.
Let’s, however, address the simple steps that can be taken.
Do The Internal Work
As you might’ve picked up on, there are a lot of things in our emotional & mental worlds that impact how we’re able to show up in the present moment.
Sometimes there’s quick fixes like cleaning off your desk, turning your phone off, meditating, or going for a walk. Sometimes talking with a friend about something you are passionate about reignites your fire. You may even take a class or spend some time learning about whatever knowledge you make be lacking. Or even doing something else you enjoy for a short time, in a different domain, lifts your spirit — allowing you to be able to create music again.
At other times, there is truly deep work that needs to be done.
In those times we may need to dig into those feelings of fear, learn about our needs, set boundaries for ourselves, and take a good look at the wounds that keep us stuck. As we work towards reparenting ourselves, reprogramming, and living a more balanced life we will start to find that the fog is lifted and the sun is able to shine once again — lighting us up from within.
No matter your personal journey, the first step is always conscious awareness. You may ask yourself: What does my internal world look and feel like right now?
Do The External Work
Just as our emotional and mental health is important, so is our physical health. Things like exercise, eating healthy, getting adequate & quality sleep, and maintaining systemic health (aka disease control, oral hygiene, etc.) also impact our output levels.
The mind and body are interconnected, so you’ve got to ensure that you are taking care of both sides. The good news is: you don’t have to make it complicated!
Find simple ways to implement new daily habits, make small daily promises, or get an accountability partner.
Additionally, sometimes (even when we do take good physical care of ourselves) we are simply lacking the tools & the resources that we need. In those times, you may need to simply find creative solutions or take the brave step to just invest in yourself.
Do The Creative Work
Sometimes we simply get into a creative rut. And while there’s probably something internal going on, you could just try to simply inspire yourself.
Have you ever had this experience: you have a problem that you just can’t seem to figure out. But then, you go to sleep and you dream about the answer! Or maybe you’re just talking with a friend and ‘Eureka!’ you think of the answer.
When your conscious mind can’t solve a problem, your subconscious mind might be able to. The trick is not to think about it.
Take a break from song writing & music making. Go do something else creative! This could be things like:
- Painting / Drawing / Sketching
- Wood carving / Wood burning
- Gardening / Flower arranging
- Jewelry making
- Sewing / Knitting / Crocheting
Once you get those creative juices flowing, you may be surprised by how easily the music flows.
Another thing about inspiration is: the energy between people who are passionate is transferrable. So, have you ever been around someone who was just super excited about what they were doing? You probably felt excited too! The reason for this is empathy. We can feel what other’s are feeling and internalize the experience as our own.
So maybe you simply need to talk to that friend who always has some sort of passion project going. Or maybe you need to go be around a group of people who are also crazy about music (or crazy about anything else really). And just by engaging with & being surrounded by that energy of passion/enthusiasm, you may find your internal spark again.
Just Do It
Often times we find ourselves stuck, and sometimes the best remedy is just to do it. Give yourself permission to just jam. Enjoy the experience. If something comes it comes. If it doesn’t it doesn’t. It’s ok if it’s just a bunch of nonsense that comes out.
‘Starting’ is often the hardest part. So, do yourself a favor and give yourself permission to just play and have fun.
The more that you do this, the more inspired you’ll feel, and often, the easier it gets to produce music.
Of course, once you’ve gotten the production done we’d love to help you level-up your sound — after all, we know how much you really put into it.
Now, we’d love to hear from you! How do you over come your musician writer’s block? Tell us in the comments below.