Writer’s Block

I’m sort of dealing with writer’s block right now on two fronts, but really songwriting is where I have a worse time.

Let’s be real- not every post here is a keeper and some of the posts that I think are keepers turn out not to be.  But for the most part, I write something, put it out there.  If some people comment, that’s great.  If not, then the post sort of disappears.  Sometimes I’ll go back to it if it’s about someone or something I care to expand on, or if it’s part of a series.

On the other hand, if I write a song, I have to look forward to hearing several times at the very least.  I write it, practice it enough times that I can show it to the band without fumbling.  Then I teach it to the band.  If it’s a terrible song, then it ends right there.  On the other hand, if everyone likes it, the band learns it, tries to perfect it and then play it at shows.  If the audience likes it, we keep playing it at shows.  There’s one song in our set that I think I’ve played at every show since at least 2009.  Maybe earlier.  That’s 5 YEARS.  So if I write  a song, I have to put some extra effort into it.

And most of the time, since we’re a for-fun band we aren’t expected to play something we don’t want to play.  So we’re not going to have angry fans demanding to know why we didn’t play that signature hit that the band got sick of or the early hits that the band grew out of.  If we don’t like it we stop playing it.  That being said, there are at any given time a handful of my songs in the set that I’m not that big on, but I’m playing them because other people like them or they came up with interesting parts they like to play.  I shouldn’t say “a handful”, usually it’s more like one or two.

My process for writing songs is pretty simple- I get an idea, usually while walking around or driving, and I write it down.  Most of the time I’m like Eminem in 8 Mile carrying a piece of paper full of scrawled notes in my pocket.  I eventually transfer that to a notebook.  If it’s a good idea I try to add music.  Then I put it away and come back in a week or so.  When I get time I’ll sit down with my guitar and try to build the rest of the song around it.  Then I usually put it down again and come back a week or so later and fill in lyrics.  Or a month.  I band out the occasional song in an afternoon (almost always a terrible one) but for the most part it takes me a few months to finish one.  Just so I don’t get too behind I have multiple ones I’m working on simultaneously- something I also do with books.

Right now I’m feeling some pressure because we’re planning on recording this summer.  I have a couple of songs I want to record, but just to be sure I want to finish some others just so I have options.  I also am planning on playing keyboards (since we fired our keyboard player) and I need to have my parts planned well in advance so I can practice.  It’s kind of stressing me out a bit.

Writing blog posts is usually a process of having an idea in the morning, rolling it around in my head all day, trying to hold onto it until I have a block of time to write, then writing.  I edit a bit, then hit publish.  Sometimes I don’t edit much.  Every now and then I’ll have a big idea and I’ll spend days thinking about it and even a day or two writing.  But not much.  A lot of the time, this being one of those times, I am just trying to keep the rhythm of writing.  It can be tough.

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3 comments

  1. I am not a composer, though I studied music. I once thought I’d composed something, but my piano teacher said it was a Chopin nocturne, just transposed and given a change of rhythm. I love music, but I have always perceived it as difficult. I’m good with plain words, the plainer the better … but to compose and make words fit music seems infinitely more difficult. I envy your ability to do it at all. Even if you are having a temporary issue, you’ve still got something special. It won’t leave you. It’ll be back.

    1. Thanks! Though my music is pretty simple and I’m really limited in my ability to arrange. Right now I’m trying to work on that because we may record some new stuff during the summer. It’ll come back, I just need to work through it

    2. Also, I’ve totally written something and then later realized it was written by someone else. The Keith Richards autobiography I just read said Mick Jagger used to do it all the time, so we’re in good company!

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