Damn, it was so good to wake up every morning with clear ideas about our next song, to sit in front of our computer, open our DAW and let things flow naturally. This would be perfect wouldn’t it? But it seems that often this is not the reality. In fact, we open our DAW and nothing comes out.
But what is worse is that these creative blocks seem to appear more often after we’ve already found our path, our passion and after we’ve already made and released some tracks. We’ve reached a point where ideas no longer flow as much as they flowed in the beginning. We begin to doubt our abilities. We begin to wonder if this is really the kind of music we want to produce. We even start thinking if making a living with music is really what we want.
Fortunately, I’m here to tell you – YOU ARE NOT ALONE! All the great artists in this world have gone through this. I still have my creative blocks but there are a few ways to overcome this and so today I share with you 5 tips to overcome creative blocks.
1. Just work through it
As Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” The choice is yours! If you prefer to sit around waiting for the inspiration to arise so you can create something, then good luck with that. When the fear of being in a routine is keeping you from even getting started in the first place, STAND UP AND DO YOUR BEST! If you don’t do that you just end up staring at a blank DAW project screen wondering what to do next, where to start, how to get back “that feeling” you get when the ideas are flowing fast and freely.
I tell you, the great artists are in the studio whether it be rain or shine, whether they have inspiration or not. Because even if you are not inspired, if you are with your DAW opened ready to play with your instruments and plugins, eventually something will come out. And in these moments, we often create our best masterpieces, speaking from my personal experience. After that, you will feel so motivated that it seems like inspiration comes naturally. And that my friends, it’s a fantastic feeling. (See Done is better than perfect – The power to get things done)
2. Change your workflow
If something is not working, then it might be a good idea to change your workflow. You don’t have to change your instruments or your plugins, you just need to look at the instruments and plugins you have differently. But if you want to completely change your library, then do it! If you primarily work in software, try working in hardware. Learn an instrument. Do what your mind believes that can help you gain some inspiration.
Personally, one thing that helped me a lot was to start my songs differently. I used to start out writing my songs with the kick and bass. Now I start my tracks with the melody. I usually have an idea of a melody I heard in a song, in a TV series or in a movie, and I interpret it in my own way. This allows me to get an idea about the “story” of the track which makes it much easier for me to build the song. (See Electronic music production – 9 working methods and techniques)
Even if it doesn’t help you necessarily come up with an idea for a new song, you’ll have gained a greater insight into the tools you have at your disposal, and that’s never a bad thing.
3. Clean your workspace & limit your tools
As some people say, “A clear workspace is a clear mind.” Many producers will tell you to keep everything you’ve been producing, your projects, all the instruments and loops you’ve taken from the internet, all your presets… because you may need it someday. But this “maybe” never comes and you end up huddling a bunch of shit that you don’t need and that only disturbs your workflow.
You end up feeling guilty that you haven’t used some of this stuff you’ve been saving, or you spend too much time trying to use all this stuff, instead of moving on and trying new ideas and new sounds. Discard everything you don’t use and start fresh. Limit your tools so that you don’t fall into the temptation of finding that you need more and more. This approach may not be for everyone, but it can be quite liberating having to start over.
Your work environment is also important. It doesn’t matter if it’s a home studio or if it’s your bedroom. It’s the space where you spend most of your time, or at least it’s the place that you should love because one day the songs that you have produced in this space will take you to every corner of the world. Treat it with respect!
4. Forget the final product
There’s always a great excitement when we take the first steps in electronic music and when we have the first contact with a production software. We had a lot of fun producing music without thinking too much about the end result. And it seems that over time we lose this excitement of producing just for the joy of playing. The problem is that we start to think too much, that this song needs to be perfect. Damn! All this spinning around, always chasing for perfection… Fuck that!
Don’t worry about making a song, don’t worry about how useful something is or how you might use it for your next album. Take a week and just have fun playing the presets on your synth or making goofy rhythms on your drum machine. Sit at a keyboard and just aimlessly come up with fun little melodies.
You need breaks like this to remind yourself of why you got into making music in the first place, and to remember that music is more than just the result. Certainly, we all take pride in a song or album that’s well done after a lot of work, but you have to enjoy all the moments that come before that too, or else what’s the point?
5. Do nothing
Go outside. Watch a movie. Take your dog for a walk. Sometimes it’s in these little moments of pleasure that great inspirations arise. I know this seems to go against what I said in tip number 1 where I said that you need to work and spend hours in the studio for the inspiration to come and things get done. But the day has 24 hours, there’s time for everything. Enjoy life! Spend time with your friends, family, boyfriend or girlfriend.
No matter what you do or how hard you try, there’s going to be times when the magic is just not happening. So, don’t stress over the times when it’s not working for you, get on with other areas of your life and trust that the muse will return when the time is right.
I hope these tips help you in the worst moments. More than anything you should remember that you’re not alone in what you’re going through. Maybe our brains just need time to recharge and recover from the prolonged periods of intense concentration that come with the artistic thought process. I don’t know, but I do know that staying positive and truly believing that you can get through the creative down times makes all the difference. Until next time!