This is the perfect topic for today because right now I don’t feel like writing. I’m in the school library sipping a La Croix, trying to get some work done, and no topic is calling out to me. It’s not that I don’t want to write; it’s that I don’t have anything to say. I’m uninspired. This happens in music too. I’ll be trying to write and nothing seems to flow, my progressions feel as bland and stale as every song I’ve ever heard. It’s like I’m writing the same tune over again, repeating myself. It’s all very deflating.
A common misconception is that creativity occurs only when you’re inspired. If you’re not feeling it you have writer’s block or something and shouldn’t even try. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King writes, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” There’s a lot of great quotes on the topic, but rather than just share what others have said, let me offer my own experience.
What we call “writer’s block” isn’t the failure to create; it’s the failure to create something you like. Under that definition, you can always write. There’s no reason not to. You don’t need to share everything you try, and you don’t need to like everything you finish, but you always need to be trying.
If you’re in a rut listen to some great music, try something you’ve never done (new synth sound or chord progression), or approach the song in a new way (starting with melody instead of chords or vice versa). There’s a lot of techniques you can do to shake things up, and pretty soon you’ll be inspiring yourself.
That being said, every song you finish isn’t going to be great.
Earlier this year, I was attempting to write three songs a month. I put my best effort into them: writing, mixing, and mastering. I wanted a solid product. I was hoping to release an EP every month, focusing on different genres. What I found is that for every three songs or so, I only really liked one. You don’t realize that at the time, of course. You don’t think, “Man, this song I’m writing sucks,” but looking back it’s easier to be critical. What I’m getting at is you need to keep writing so you have songs to pick from. Otherwise you release an EP of two songs you like and three others that are there just because it’s all you have.
I’m not advocating you write songs you don’t like. Just write the best songs you can and when it comes time to share them, be picky.
KING, STEPHEN. ON WRITING. SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2000.