Creativity is like a river. Generally, it flows naturally bending and winding with the shore. But every now and then out of nowhere our creativity comes to an abrupt halt…it stops, and we are clueless as to why. Today’s article is a real-life story of how you can get off track without realizing it – and some techniques to help you free up that songwriter’s block and get your creativity flowing again.
The truth is, sometimes we don’t realize we have our own finger in the dam.
Here’s a story about how pop star, India Arie, reclaimed her vision and got back on her path after some major detours she says she unknowingly took instead of following her truth. It’s what happens to the best of us at some juncture — especially when we get caught up and give our power away to an agenda other than our own.
She says that in her quest for ‘success’ — to make a hit — she went so far off the path of her own vision that she didn’t know what that was anymore. She says that while she thought the ‘music business’ had taken away her power, she gave her power away to other people. She had finally reached the fork in the road and consciously chose the path of authenticity. When she started making the music she loved again, “following the guidance of spirit” as she puts it — and speaking her truth, the songs just “FLOWED.”
Truth is, she stopped giving away her power, took her finger out of the dam, and overcame her songwriter’s block.
Two things to try to Keep Your Ideas Flowing and Unplug the Dam:
1. Don’t edit yourself.
I once had the honor of a famous author read my writing and she said to me (to my complete surprise) “Cari, you are an excellent writer. The one thing I want to say to you is, don’t ever edit your writing. Let it flow, unfiltered, and then – go back and edit. But do not edit WHILE you are writing.” That one piece of advice is the single reason I do not get songwriter’s block anymore. That and this…
2. Write the words you REALLY want to say.
Writing what you really want to say involves tuning out what you think other people want to hear (like India’s story above) or being worried about what other people will think. Your job is to tune into your internal river and get the ideas flowing – so don’t try to say what you think you should say – try to tap into what you REALLY want to say. Here’s what I suggest:
- Write when you are emotionally charged with a good idea and have at least 30 minutes to write.
- Turn off your phone – do not allow yourself to get distracted by anything.
- Imagine you are turning on a light switch that is sending electrical energy to you and your job is to receive that energy (I know it’s a little woo woo — but it helps to see yourself tapping into this flow).
- Open up Masterwriter on your computer (if you are at your laptop),open a Word doc, and GO. Write as much as you can. The important thing is to get down what it is you want to say exactly, now. So DO NOT allow yourself to get stuck trying to rhyme or editing your writing. If you want to rhyme from the get-go, Masterwriter is a great way to keep your writing flowing (right brain) and avoiding songwriter’s block while quickly looking up a rhyme (left brain). I use it regularly in my writing sessions – works like a charm.
- Then once you’ve got a basic sketch of your idea — go back and rewrite those lines with poetry and rhyme. The most important thing is that you stay determined to get out what you REALLY want to say. Sometimes focusing on rhyme BEFORE you’ve gotten out what you really want to say sabotages your lyrics.
- Tell the truth. Really dig in and tune out everyone you are worried about. You have to have total freedom to write anything you think or feel. Anything! Just FEEL and BE REAL. Sometimes it’s YOU holding yourself back. Take your finger out of the dam.
If you’re having really bad songwriter’s block – don’t panic – it takes a while to get good at writing. Find a co-writer to help you. Someone with a lot of experience can help you take your raw ideas and work them into lyric form – just be open and don’t be attached – be willing to grow and learn. I work with newbie writers all the time and they learn more each time (and we have a great time in the process! Two heads are better than one!).
Happy Songwriting – the more you do it – the sooner you’ll be good at it!