Help! I’m Stuck in a Rut!

Help! Stuck in a rut

Five ways to break through songwriter’s block and start making music

We’ve all been there, staring at the blank page, desperately trying to come up with something new, but all that comes out is the same old, same old. 

Everyone has their comfort zones as writers, chord sequences or lyrical devices we fall back on as an old faithful. This is why collaborating is such a good idea – working with someone else brings a fresh perspective to the table and helps you put a twist on your work you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. 

But what do you do if your co-writer as stuck as you? We’ve got you covered! Whether you’re working on your own or you’re trying to come up with something new with a collaborator, here’s five simple ways to break out of that rut and make beautiful music again.

  1. Change Your Why

If you’re finding it hard to write, take a step back and ask yourself what’s my motivation here? 

It’s almost impossible to go into the studio and know that you’re going to write a hit song. Every single one of our mentors has written hundreds, if not thousands, of songs which disappeared without trace. We’re constantly surprised by which songs become successful and which ones don’t find their audience. 

If you’re writing for a result, whether that be to have a platinum-selling album, earn a certain amount of money, or get your song picked up by a specific artist, you’re burdening yourself with an almost impossible target. Putting that level of pressure on yourself is a sure-fire way to shut down those creative juices. 

Change your why. Write for the good feeling you get when you’ve finished a song you love. Write for the joy. Write to make yourself happy. The music will flow. Not only that, your passion will show in your music and people will connect to your authenticity. 

Your songs will get better. 

  1. Accept that any old rubbish will do

It’s rare that a song emerges fully formed. As we love to say at TSA, the rewrite is the real write. You can’t rewrite if you haven’t something to rewrite in the first place!

Throw out any expectations. Forget about standards. Set aside judgements. Simply write and see what happens. 

Write whatever you want. Write something completely out there. Write something you would never normally write. Write something dreadful. Just write. Any old rubbish will be enough to get you going. 

  1. Change the tools

Sometimes all you need to get out of a rut is to change the tools. If you usually write on a guitar, switch to a keyboard. If you’re a pianist, try strumming a ukulele. Detune your guitar so you don’t know what chords you’re playing. Heck, destring your guitar – play on a one string bass. Mentor Paddy Byrne has written some of his best work on a one string bass!

Parp on a trumpet. Lay down a beat with a triangle. Mix it up and see the difference it makes to your creativity. 

  1. Set a stop time

Set a limit on how long you’re going to write for. It could be ten minutes, half an hour or an hour, but we wouldn’t advise going on any longer than 60 minutes. The stress of creating anything is greatly eased by knowing the pain will end. Plus, when you know you’re definitely going to stop after a certain amount of time, it can be a real motivator to get something done before your alarm goes off. 

  1. Change your [musical] diet

You are what you eat. Put yourself in inspiration’s way by switching up your musical diet. 

Listen to new music. Read. Observe. Walk to the shops instead of driving there. Go to a museum or art gallery. 

Consume a varied diet of culture, art and ideas. The more you expand your range of influences, the larger your pool of inspiration to draw upon. 

Platinum tip – same process, same result. New process, new result! 

If you’re going round and round, struggling to write something original, change what you’re doing. It’s the best way to break free of the habits holding yourself back and view your work with fresh eyes. 

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