Songwriter U: Techniques, Tricks, Tactics & Triggers for Starting New Songs, Part One

Face your fears. And stop empowering
phony ‘writer’s block’

Sometimes trying to write a new song by going through the front door isn’t the best way. It’s the most obvious and logical method. But obvious logic, which is constructed usually by use of regular, linear thinking, is too limited to apply to songwriting. Always there is the risk of scaring away a nascent song spark by too direct of an approach. At this precarious moment in its development, that spark – that tiny flame — is a “living spirit,” as Rickie Lee Jones said, which requires gentle, loving guidance to nurture into a fullblown song. But if that unformed, unrealized song glimmer is questioned, criticized or intimidated, “you will destroy it,” said Rickie Lee. You’ll kill is before it is even born.

A song spark – not unlike a baby newly delivered into this world – needs nourishment, comfort and calm. Love helps too. Authentic love for its strengths and singularities. If you don’t feel that, or if there are aspects of the song which you feel are unlovable, work on those, and revise them. Trust your instincts.

Remember a song in formation is extremely sensitive to everything, yet unknowing of most things beyond the fundamental urge to survive. A construct of the songwriter’s psychology, it’s extremely delicate, not unlike a tiny flame one tries to bolster into a big campfire, while a winter wind keeps whipping . Your own negative ideas, such as doubting, questioning or mistrusting this spark, are like that wind, capable of snuffing out that little flame before it has a chance to grow up.

In this way, songwriting becomes a process of negotiating with one’s own interior psychology. To do that well over years -decades even- requires learning the impact of your attitudes about creativity, and specifically, songwriting. Only by becoming conscious of that which works for you and that which doesn’t, and actively avoid that which always stalls or ends the process, you won’t get past that stage.

But how do you do that? Not scaring off that glimmer of song is only the start. How do you engage with it? How do you make it feel safe? Songs, unlike baby birds, don’t learn to fly by being pushed out of the tree.

So how then? This series which will explore this phenomenon and its psychological foundation. Starting with Part II we will provide a host of creatively practival ideas, tricks, techniques and more to become expert with this delicate dynamic of bringing song spirits into the world.

On believing “Writer’s Block” is real.
(It isn’t).


It begins with first removing all hindrances. Like ensuring one can get out of a house easily in case of fire by having no obstructions, a songwriter must also create a clear pathway. This means removing psychological obstructions created by your own ideas.

The main culprit here is the concept of “writer’s block.” It’s an unfortunately common, even rampant, concept, yet is not only erroneous, it’s dangerous. In truth, creativity and your personal success at harnessing it is entirely dependent on your ability to clear the way. This means clearing out all fear, or worry, or any negativity which can get in the way. If there are any psychological assumptions obstructing you, they need to be removed. And none of those is worse than this idea of writer’s block.

So prevalent is this concept that most people regard it as a reality, not unlike a broken arm, or Chicken Pox. It’s something unpleasant, and simply needs to be endured. It’s something which will heal in time, but can take months , depending on the fracture or fever.

By accepting this thinking , you are actively promoting the false notion that your creativity gets stopped in its tracks like blood to the heart. But it isn’t true at all. It isn’t physical. So it is important to never think in those terms. Simply using the phrase “writer’s block” empowers its reality in your life. You are telling your creative core that it is obstructed, and believing it. It’s the power of negative thinking. It’s common to all artists, as the world suppoorts this thinking.

If the reason you want to tell yourself and the world that you have caught this disease which renders you creatively powerless is as an excuse for not having to work, that’s not good for you. If that’s even partially true, then it’s time to seriously scrutinize the actual cause. Often the real cause is fear of completion; that sense that the song will never be perfect, or even close, so better to never finish it.

There can be a whole host of other reasons why your writing isn’t flowing. To expect an easy condition in which you can turn the handle and songs will flow always is unrealistic. Rather than curse the darkness for your failure to make magic every time you pick up your guitar, you should celebrate and give thanks for all the times you did connect. Don’t take that for granted by believing writer’s block has cut you off.

As the legendary Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier said, not only must you never consider writer’s block, you should take it even farther: “I never say that I had a good day or a bad day writing. Instead, I have good days and learning days.”







By accepting this thinkling , you are actively promoting the false notion that your creativity gets stopped in its tracks like blood to the heart. But it isn’t true at all. It isn’t physical. So it is important to never think in those terms. Simply using the phrase “writer’s block” empowers its reality in your life. You are telling your creative core that it is obstructed, and believing it. It’s the power of negative thinking. It’s common to all artists, as the world suppoorts this thinking.

So understand that we have good days and bad days as artists. But they are not completely random. It takes a lot of energy to do this well. If you are exhausted, you don’t have writer’s block. You need sleep.

But it also requires a lot of energy to do this and not let it go until the song is well-formed enough not to fall apart, even when incomplete. If you are simply exhausted and in need of rest, it can get really hard to write anything. If other life problems are burdening you and if you feel depressed, or anxious, that will obstruct.

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  1. A timely article for me as I am presently working on or “nursing” a song exploring “writer’s block” over the past little while. I call it “Thin as a Dime” and it attempts to explain or describe those lean lyrical periods when one struggles to fan the often fleeting sparks of creativity. A melody for the muses so as to speak?

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