We’ve all been there: sitting down with an instrument waiting for musical inspiration to strike and feeling… nothing. Writer’s block happens to everyone at some point, however talented they may be. The question is: how to get over it? How can you find inspiration where before there was none?
Basically sometimes the muses need a wee tickle to get them going. Below are some simple suggestions to help get those juices flowing…
1. Do exactly what you think is most stupid and unoriginal
Waiting for inspiration is basically waiting for clever, original ideas to appear from nowhere. So stop waiting for clever and original ideas and use stupid, unoriginal ones instead. This may seem counter-intuitive, but actually one person’s boring, obvious, clichéd chord progression / sounds / lyrics are another person’s original, ground-breaking work of genius.
What you consider to be unoriginal is unique to you, and if you spend enough time refining something you consider to be unoriginal, it will actually become original in the process. Don’t worry about being “cheesy” – so many of the songs that are now considered classics are basically “cheesy” and “obvious”. Sweet Home Alabama, anyone?
2. Listen to or watch something really bad
Sometimes us creative types can become cast adrift on our far-out,cutting-edge, uber-imaginative, hipster raft of creativity. Sometimes all we listen to and watch is cool, well-crafted, quality content. It’s time to go back to the real world.
Listen to mainstream radio. Watch TV. Watch The X-Factor or The Only Way Is Essex or something even worse than either of those (if such a thing is possible). The sheer indignation that such inanity is allowed to exist in the world, let alone be broadcast on national television, will drive you into a rage of angry creativity and you will sing a song from deep within you that will banish these forces of darkness back to the nether regions (at least until the omnibus on Sunday).
3. Randomly detune your guitar
…and then quickly retune the strings by ear so they sound good together, but not so they are in tune in the standard sense (EADGBE). Now try to play something. You will have to learn to play your guitar a new way, and this will mean thinking on your feet (or fingers). The sounds you make will not be familiar sounds, so you’ll not end up playing all the normal, boring stuff you like to play but are trying to avoid, you’ll end up playing new stuff.
Then tune the guitar normally again. The relief and joy of actually being able to play the damn thing will result in a world-conquering surge of creativity.
4. Combine opposites
If you ask pretty much anyone what sort of music they like, they’ll say “oh, I like all sorts of music, just as long as it’s good”. In fact, they don’t like all sorts of music; they like a specific subset of all the music available in the world, broadly dictated by their upbringing and their life experiences. What they mean is that they like a range of very different types of music. We all do; we like happy music and sad music, slow music and fast music, cheesy music and weird, abstract music. If you only like one type of music, you’re probably a psychopath.
The thing to do is to make use of this: have a look at your music library and decide on two polar opposites. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, Slayer and Justin Bieber. If you have these two things in your library, there must be something you like in each of them. Isolate those things and make something new out of them. You may just end up creating the future.
5. Be creative in a different place to usual
Sitting in the bath playing the guitar is a bizarrely liberating experience. Just make sure your guitar isn’t plugged in and the bath isn’t full of water, otherwise it can liberate you right out of existence.
Aside from the interesting acoustics, being away from the standard place you (try to) come up with stuff can jolt your mind into releasing special creative chemicals. It’s something to do with using neuro-plasticity to stimulate your dopamine synapse receptors.
(Actually it’s not. I made that up.)
Hopefully you’ve gained something from our suggestions above. The reality is that inspiration is a fickle mistress, but sometimes looking at things from a slightly different perspective can open whole new alleyways of creativity…