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Writer’s block is something every artist has been hit with at some stage whether it’s music, production, art or writing. No matter how hard you try, the ideas just don’t seem to flow when you want them to.

Admittedly writer’s block has never been my main issue, which is good news for you as I’m happy to share my approach to writing – it might help get your ideas flowing!

If you haven’t seen my previous post on Finishing More Music – I recommend you check that one out first!

#1 – There Is No Writer’s Block

What the hell? Bare with me.

Most people describe writer’s block as this evil barrier in their mind just refusing to let ideas through, when the problem is really caused by other issues.

It’s usually resistance caused by fear and/or overwhelm. You might find yourself focusing too much on the end result and all of the steps required to get there. That’s a lot to worry about! This is a big cause of procrastination and even self-sabotage that you label ‘writer’s block’ to justify watching Netflix instead.

The answer? Stop worrying about the end result or any step other than the ONE directly in front of you. Break it right down, and put yourself in the position to write music.

Step 1 – set aside 1 hour for writing
Step 2 – turn computer on, phone off
Step 3 – open DAW
Step 4 – open a MIDI track, or drag a sample in, or grab a reference track (more on those below)

Writer’s block is usually just overthinking. Focus on the one step in front of you and do it now!

#2 – Improve Your Music Skills

Not exactly an instant hack sorry, but it might be necessary.

Experienced musicians can jam on the spot, improvising with prior knowledge. The more they do it, the easier it gets for them.

I started my music journey as a guitarist and wrote hundreds of songs growing up, a process that allows me to write my music by ear today. I’m not an amazing musician and my retained knowledge of music theory would disappoint my high school music teacher (sorry Hughesy), but I have no trouble writing chord progressions, melodies or drums.

The only way to sharpen your skills is through practice so you need to write as much as you can. It’s ok to write shitty music, just aim for gradual improvement. Don’t be a perfectionist!

If you find you’re struggling with one element in particular ie. melodies – you might want to set aside some sessions where you simply write as many melodies as you can. No songs, no sound design, just a stock synth or piano. Just practice!

One issue with electronic production is that the ‘practice’ and ‘performance’ elements are blurred. We don’t want to practice, we just want to make songs every session. This does lead to improvement but deliberate practice on a skill like melody writing can boost your experience in that area exponentially.

#3 – Go Outside

This is a common recommendation, that’s because it works!

Go get some exercise, run, walk, ride, read a book in the sun. Doing anything other than sitting there overthinking things will give you a subconscious reset, take the pressure off, and let you come back refreshed.

You might even get an idea listening to Spotify on the drive home from the gym!

A LOT of successful people (not just artists) start their days with meditation and/or exercise for this reason. They don’t wake up and hit their emails to stress over what they need to get done today, they start the day with a clear head and primed body.

#4 – Start With a Reference Track

This is probably the most instant and the most effective tip I’ve got on this subject. We all know how daunting it is to open a blank project and stare at your DAW *cue crickets*.

What BPM? Which key? What vibe? Do I start with a drop or an intro? What instruments do I use?

There are so many decisions, which is the single biggest cause of overwhelm when it comes to writing music – which is literally the act of making thousands of decisions one after the other.

It’s too overwhelming to focus on them all at once, you need to look at one at a time. A reference track makes the first few decisions for you and gives you a starting point. We’re not copying the song, but building on top of it.

Drag one in and write a melody over the intro, or a beat over the breakdown. Something very small, 4-8 bars long. Remove the reference track and you’ve got your own song started!

#5 – Have a Sound Design Day

This is the last resort, a way to make a bad writing day productive. We all have bad days but they don’t have to be seen as a failure.

Take the pressure off yourself and mess around with Serum or your favourite soft synth. Go through those dusty sample folders you downloaded but never opened. Move your 10 favourite kicks into a new folder and start building your own small library of samples to use next time you write.

Do some sound design tutorials. This is actually very productive in terms of future gratification and will make those writing sessions quicker and easier, eliminating writer’s block from your vocabulary. It’s also good for finding your own sound as you’ll be making a collection of sounds to reuse through your tunes.

Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint!

I’ve got a bunch more of these videos to drop, so make sure you drop a sub on my Youtube channel and hit that notification bell to if you’d like to stay updated 🙂