If you are into writing songs you will at one time or another...HIT A WALL!! No ideas, no lyrics, no music, nothing comes to mind. You end up strumming chords and staring at a blank sheet of paper (or blank computer screen) and the harder you try...the worse it is to get a new idea.
How do you break "writer's block"?? How do you fight your way through that wall or even knock it down??? Here are a few ideas of things that I do to try and re-fuel the idea tank...get started from a small base and start to build a new song.
1. Name exercise: One of the ideas that I use is to "make up a name". Make the name interesting sounding. I've written songs called "Lucius Gray", "Zebediah Jones", "Levi Birmingham", "Lizzy Hill" and several others. Once you get a kewl name...go ahead and give that person a personality. What is their story? What is interesting about the person? Brain storm about the person's life and write it all down. Now, start telling the person's story in the song.
2. Put yourself in an imaginary situation: Put yourself is an imaginary place and time and start thinking of what might be around you. Think of why you are there and what is happening around you. Example: Put yourself on a park bench...you are maybe waiting for someone that never shows up...maybe you've just been "done wrong" and are sharing the thoughts while sitting on that park bench. Tell the story. I used this technique in writing my song "With Love From Normandy" where I had no idea of anything to write. I decided to put myself in my grandma's attic and started to imagine what would be up in the attic. I led me to thinking there was old cigar boxes, and old army uniform, etc and once I started seeing that I wrote the song about a letter in the attic that I found that was from my grandpa dated the day before he died at Normandy.
3. Look around and observe…read signs…what is around you!???? BE OBSERVANT!! Look at the things around you. Read signs! Listen to what people say. I actually combined 1 & 3 one time where I was driving down a country road and saw a large piece of plywood and painted on the plywood was written "Horton Stubbs Road". First I got a laugh and then started thinking that "Horton Stubbs was a kewl name!! I took the name from the road sign and gave Horton Stubbs a story and a personality and wrote "The Ballad of Horton Stubbs". If you see a city limit sign that reads "A great place to live"...maybe change one word..."A great place to love" and write a song with that idea. :)
4. Change the groove…change the chords….change time…change the melody! Get out of your musical comfort zone! If you usually pick up your guitar and write in the key of G, C, A or other. Put the capo on and play chords in Eb, C#, just change it up to a key you don't use. Experiment with different chords. Change the timing up. If you usually write in 4/4 time...write in 3/4 or maybe 6/8 and get that celtic feel. Just noodle chords and melody and see if something will sound "AHA"...I like that :)
5. Write a lyric over a hit song: Listen to a song that you love...a hit song and lay out the meter and phrasing...sing the song with new words (you can change the melody later). Just write a brand new lyric over and old song that you really love. Hopefully once you start getting a new lyric going the juices will flow :)
6: Write everyday! Even if it only 15 minutes!!! Take these ideas and write everyday!!! Brain storm...write down new titles as fast as you can in one minute. Write down words that come to your mind as fast as you can for one minute. Look at your brain storm ideas and see if something "hits you".
Bottom line..KEEP AT IT!!! Don't give up. Put yourself in a creative place...go for a walk or drive in the country...The wall WILL come down but sometimes it is frustrating and wonder if you will ever write another song again. But you will...the key is persistence and the love of songwriting. It will see you through...it is a fight but you will win!!! :)
Remember: Write more...Whine less!!!