Songwriting7 Min. Reading time

Creative blockade? With these tips you will find back into the creative flow

Written by Magdalena Freese

Passionate saxophonist at a concert

For many people, creativity is something fragile, almost mystical. Like a ghost, it seems to invade individual outstanding musicians who, with its help, achieve virtuoso masterpieces and strokes of genius. Yet creativity is not something that is reserved only for the great artists. Instead, it is a natural resource that is in all of us and without which we would not be able to live. In this article, you'll learn how to unblock your creativity and get started with inspiration. Translated with (free version)

A creativity block comes from misconceptions

Surely you know the following situation: You sit expectantly in front of a white sheet of paper, want to get started with your project - and suddenly you just can't think of anything anymore. All the good ideas are gone and the few that still come to you feel trivial and inferior. But you're not the cause of the problem, it's just your idea of what the creative process should look like. So rest assured. Creativity doesn't fall from the sky, but can be reawakened and tapped into in very different ways.

Create a suitable setting for yourself

Very fundamental for creative work is the creation of suitable settings. This may sound a bit abstract at first. What is actually meant are self-drawn boundaries within which the creative process can proceed. Because creativity needs concrete points of reference so that it can relate to something. It has a hard time in a vacuum - and in the worst case it becomes a blockade of creativity.

Settings can, for example, be of a methodological or thematic nature. Methodical settings can be created on the basis of a wide variety of criteria. A very simple example of this is working under time pressure, which can sometimes provide a real boost to creativity. Creativity techniques - certain methodical formats that can be used to find new ideas - are also part of this.

Thematic settings, on the other hand, refer to a concrete problem or topic that is to be solved or worked on (musically). Both types of settings are interwoven and complement each other.

The thematic setting

In this article we will mainly deal with the thematic setting (you can find more about the methodological setting and creativity techniques in this article). Basically, you focus on a specific topic (problems or feelings are also meant here), which you want to work on musically. In the choice of your content you are completely free. Particularly well suited, however, are topics that you are currently emotionally engaged. This can be political content such as empowerment, justice or the hope for a better world. However, personal experiences, wishes or feelings are just as suitable. For example, longed-for, happy or failed (love) relationships.

Once you've chosen a topic that you personally think is exciting, moving, and important - break it down to a central word or phrase - and start your creative journey out of creative block.

Step 1: Content preparation

Let's assume for the sake of illustration that you have chosen the topic of empowerment. In the preparation phase, you collect all the interesting information you can find on your topic. The idea is to gather as much diversity as possible so that the information can later be linked together in an unusual way. For example, you could start by asking yourself what empowerment means to you. What is your own experience with the topic? What is it about it that interests or moves you so much?

You can also research how this topic has already been taken up and implemented musically. Which musicians have already dealt with the topic and implemented it artistically? What has been said about your topic in terms of content?

Step 2: Stylistic preparation

You can also look at the stylistic level to see what creative possibilities you can come up with for your topic - in relation to your musical skills such as singing, instrument and co. What do you already bring to the table and where are your strengths? Maybe you like belting as a singing technique, or you love to create experimental sounds on your instrument? Maybe you are interested in trying or learning something new? (You can learn how to learn new things in a playful way in this article).

As in the first step, you can of course also look around outside and gather information. In which genres is your topic dealt with and in what way? For example, the theme of empowerment can be found in feminist rap as well as in African-American spirituals. If you sing, you can listen to what vocal tools have already been used to express the theme. Perhaps there are specific stylistic tools that appear over and over again in connection with your theme? The same can be applied, of course, to a wide variety of instruments, music production, and songwriting.

Just follow your interest in your research and see what you like. Let yourself be positively inspired, and feel free to make written notes as you go. If at some point you don't find anything exciting, stop searching for information and move on to the next step.

Step 3: Incubation phase

While you actively gathered information and questioned yourself in the first two steps, this third step is characterized by passivity. Here you do nothing about your topic, but leave it to itself. In this way, your subconscious has time to digest the various information and ideas, to sleep on them and to re-link them.

When you are in this phase, you can do anything that does not require special attention. For example, walking, swimming, bathing, showering, listening to music, doing some simple cooking or drinking tea. Sports, gardening or lying on the sofa and relaxing are also great. The point is to daydream and get away from the previous, intense research phases.

Step 4: Initiation phase

The initiation phase can merge seamlessly into the incubation phase. You can recognize this by the fact that you may suddenly - "as if out of nowhere" - come up with ideas that feel really good and coherent to you. Make sure you write these ideas down and put them into practice as soon as possible. Because no matter how brilliant an idea may be, it is initially nothing more than a fleeting thought. Only through the creative act and the implementation of the idea(s) do they become alive and real. Good ideas want to be realized! (If a motivation problem arises here, you will find a remedy in this article).

Notes in finale

It is quite possible that you will jump from phase to phase during this process of brainstorming. You may have ideas that you want to jot down while you are preparing. It's best to keep a written record of any good ideas that you want to keep from being forgotten. That way, you can refer back to them if you face another creative blockade.

It can also happen that some ideas want to develop for a longer time in the subconscious - while you already have ideas elsewhere that you would like to implement. If that's the case, you don't need to wait, but can get started right away. Many great ideas also surprise you in the creative act itself.

Maybe it also suits you to join forces with other musicians from your area. Implementing new ideas and projects together can be a lot of fun and avoid a creative block. You can network here with us at mukken.

May you have a good success!

Originally published on August 15, 2021, updated on August 15, 2021

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