It happens to everyone at one time or another. Here's how you defeat the biggest challenge in music composition.
Perhaps you've heard the legend of the Dutch boy who put his finger in a cracked dam. By doing so, he prevented the dam from bursting and saved a small town from flooding.
By sacrificing himself, this boy became a town hero and subsequently the subject of American folk lore.
It's no wonder the story of his bravery became legendary.
Think about the courage it must have taken for this child to stand in the path of destruction.
Think about his unbelievable determination. He was somehow able to ignore his natural instinct to preserve his own life. He surely was amazing, wasn't he?
And yet he wasn't... in fact, the Dutch boy was a fictional character. He and the dam never existed.
There is, however, a real but different kind of dam that composers deal with far too often. It's called writer's block.
Literal dams are created to block the flow of water. Writer's block functions much like a real dam in that it blocks the flow of ideas.
And ideas are critical in the life of a composer. With that said, here are 3 things that will help you overcome writer's block.
Set realistic expectations
Every musical work does NOT have to be your magnum opus. Don't expect to compose your best music. That doesn't happen all of the time. But you can always compose good music.
More realistic expectations reduces the amount of pressure you feel when generating ideas as well as when you expand upon those ideas.
Find a source of inspiration and work hard
According to Thomas Edison, genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. For inspiration, take a walk outdoors. Nice scenery can be very inspirational. Call a friend, drink a hot cup of tea, or meditate.
Everyone is inspired differently, so you have to find your unique source of inspiration.
When you find what works for you, it can help with writer's block.
Once you're inspired, don't just jot down those great ideas. Put some time and effort into using those ideas in the most creative way possible. You can't put a value on hard work.
Go back to the fundamentals
Back to basics, right? That's the way you consistently compose music at a high level. If you ask an athlete how he overcomes a slump, any one of them will tell you to go back to the fundamentals.
What does going back to basics mean to a composer? It means different things to different people, but I'll give you a few examples of what anyone can do to that may be helpful.
Sometimes making an outline of your music before you compose is a good way to ensure your music is cohesive. Make notes about the form of your piece. Outline the peaks and valleys, the crescendos and accelerandos.
Think about what you intend to accomplish with the music you are writing. If you're writing music for a wedding, for example, then the music should evoke hope and joy. If you're writing for a funeral, then obviously the mood should be much more melancholy.
Asking the right kinds of questions and making these kinds of notes and outlines will break through the dam of writer's block and keep the musical ideas flowing.
One more thing...
By the way, the best cure for writer's block is to avoid it in the first place. The best way to avoid writer's block in the first place is to establish a structured and mechanical foundation for your writing.
And here is how you do that – write every day whether you are inspired on not. In fact, if you structure your writing schedule in a way that is consistent, you will find that it becomes second nature to compose pretty good music even when the ideas aren't flowing.
What do you think? Do you have your own methods to deal with writer's block? Let me know...