Posts Tagged ‘writers block’

You know how sometimes you fail to reply to an email, or a letter, and then time passes, with you meaning to respond, and then more time, and more time, until suddenly you realise that it’ll now be weird when you reply, and you’ve left it way too long and don’t even know where to start?


I didn’t mean for four months to fly by with nary a post from me to let you all know I still had a pulse, I really didn’t. But one thing led to another and as the days crept guiltily by I just couldn’t think of what to write.

So what has kept me from you all this time?

My writer’s block hasn’t extended to music, not one bit. I completed FAWM comfortably with 14 solid songs, many of which are keepers. I’ve continued writing since the end of February, and even have a crazy plan to attempt 50/90 – another songwriting challenge. Where FAWM is a sprint, this one is a marathon. 50 songs in 90 days, or an ambitious 16.333333333 (recurring ad nauseum) songs per month (ish). It starts on the 4th July, and promises to be an interesting diversion. Or obsession. Tomato, tomato.

You know, I’ve only just realised this: “Tomato, tomato.” That’s one of the few phrases that simply doesn’t work in text. Crazy. Anyway, I digress.

What else have I been up to?

Well, amongst the writing, I created a brand new song in an afternoon, along with a video. The demo was basically recorded while I filmed, which was interesting, and the most complex thing I’ve attempted so far.

Videos have always seemed to me to be a dark art, and the one aspect of musical creativity I really don’t understand how to do. I go on Youtube, and I see these amazing videos, done by up and coming artists, who all seem to have tame camera operators and film editors to call on. They are also invariably gorgeous, own long flowing dresses and at least one grand piano, and live near a mystical forest, or a scenic beach, or an empty church… I try to do the same thing, and it looks like the cat got hold of the video camera, dragged it around a bit and accidentally turned it on. Given that an untrained chimp could produce a better video than me without really trying, I was actually pretty thrilled with this attempt:

It was both harder and easier than I expected. I’d like to try the picture in picture thing again, this time for something like Scarlet Casanova, because the harmonies kick in from the beginning. At this rate of video creation, I expect to be halfway competent before I’m sixty!

Anyway, sarcasm aside, if anyone out there feels like it would be fun to make a video for any of my songs, shout out. I have zero budget, but I do a good line in cake and gratitude, and perhaps worldwide fame one day! I’d love to collaborate!

What else? Well, I’ve been working part time at the University in a continued, misguided attempt to make my millions (aka pay the rent). It’s been hard this year, work seems to be thin on the ground, but I do have a good number of singing students, which is helping, and also I enjoy teaching. It’s hard to have a bad time singing duets or showing people how to stretch range and build power in their voices, it’s a learning process I’m immensely proud to be part of.

Musically, I have a few other bits and bats in the pipeline. I’ve started the process of editing and mixing the tracks for the new album. I don’t yet have a title, but I do know that it’s being released in September, and I also have an artist lined up who I’m thrilled to have on board for the artwork. I am so lucky to have the friends I do – I am surrounded by a very multitalented and generous group of individuals and I’m grateful every day for them.

York has a new radio station starting, 2 Rivers Radio, and I’m pleased to say that Vinnie Whitehead is going to be interviewing me and playing some songs from the new album for it. We’re doing a live In Session recording next Tuesday and I’m very excited about it.

To my abject astonishment and without any bribery on my part (either financial or in the form of baked goods) I have also been nominated, for the second year running, for a Yorkshire Gig Guide Grassroots Award, in the category of Outstanding Band/Artist. This is amazing and I’m thrilled to bits! This is where some audience participation can occur, if you feel so inclined, you can vote for me to reach the next stage.

So, I could say at this stage that I promise not to leave it so long before writing again. But you know, and I know, that that is simply a challenge to my subconscious to really fall off the wagon and not write another word until 2016, so let’s not, eh?

Until next time.


Read Full Post »

As I write this, it’s actually a Wednesday. I have a busy day tomorrow crewing for Mr Jools Holland, and I’m worried that unless I write and schedule my blog post today, I will miss my self imposed timetable of blogging on a Monday and a Thursday….but here’s the thing, I spent all day today trying to think of what to write about. Ah yes, it’s that old friend, writer’s block.

This is a doubly relevant post at the moment, as a number of people will be about 3/4 of the way through NaNoWriMo as you read this. National Novel Writing Month – the longstanding challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November – is now in its 14th year. I have attempted the challenge myself twice, and my longest attempt reached about 20,000 words, but ultimately I’m more suited to songwriting challenges. In any case, writer’s block was almost certainly instrumental in my failure both times.

Anyway, I digress. What I decided to share with you, dear reader, is 7 tips for beating writer’s block, so without any further ado:

1) Write rubbish

This is possibly my favourite of all of the tips and hints that I have tried over the years, but it requires an ability to stop being afraid of being ridiculous. The idea, at it’s most basic level, is to just write ANYTHING. Any old thing at all. Just let it out. The nonsense, the cheese, the cliched claptrap that you’re embarassed to let anyone else read/hear/experience… just write it, all of it. If you are stuck in a 4 chord pop progression and can only construct tacky rhyming couplets about having fun in the sun, just let it happen. You can actually have a lot of fun challenging yourself to write something worse than Justin Beiber, just for the hell of it. Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter. The very worst that will happen is you’ve written something you hate that no-one else ever has to hear/read. What is more likely to happen is that you will clear the pathway for new, better writing, and you may surprise yourself by secretly enjoying the monster you created.

2) Listen to the urge

Creativity is not a linear, controlled path most of the time – certainly not for me anyway. I have a terrible habit though of forcing myself into a box, when really I’m feeling like trapezium today. In other words, I set myself the task of writing a cool piece of electronica, but when I sit down at the piano, all that wants to come out is some sad, piano-led ballad. So I fight it, and force myself to program some drums, or generate a bass-line. It turns out awful, because what my psyche really wants to create is a sad, piano-led ballad. If your creativity is leading you down a path, don’t fight it, let it happen. Don’t force the square peg into the round hole, you’ll only end up with a knackered peg.

3) Brainstorm

Word association games, spider diagrams and word clouds are all really good ways to come up with ideas. Starting from a mundane concept can often lead to some very interesting ideas coming together, or you may end up somewhere so utterly different from where you started that it’s truly inspiring.

4) Consume instead of create

If you are seriously stuck, take a complete break and read, watch something or listen to something. Let your brain take a total holiday from any sort of pressure to produce, instead become a consumer and allow yourself to feel excited by something someone else has made. Then, when you return to your own creative process, you will increase your chances of having something exciting waiting in the wings of your subconscious, created by your hindbrain when you were looking the other way.

5) Change your location

Part of the problem with writer’s block is the feeling of being in a rut. Shaking this up a bit can make a world of difference, so get moving. Go for a walk in your favourite neighbourhood, or go somewhere completely new, get out into nature, or find somewhere fast-paced and exciting – in short be somewhere that makes you feel alive and interested. Notice how it makes you feel, or any words or concepts that come into your mind.

6) Change your tools

One memorable occasion for me was when I was taking part in February Album Writing Month, and I was running seriously dry. So, instead of sitting in front of the keyboard feeling stuck, I removed the keyboard from the equation completely and wrote an entire vocal piece using my voice as the only instrument. Something as simple as a change of approach can really help you get things moving again.

7) Always carry a notebook…

…And keep one by your bed. Jot down ideas as soon as you have them. Then, when writer’s block strikes, you can have a browse through some ideas and see if something grabs you. I have piles of notebooks dating back years with single lines or words throughout, and many of my lyric ideas have been born that way.

Those are some of my tricks for keeping writer’s block at bay. What are yours? Leave a comment, say hi, and share your tips and tricks!

Lyric sheet

Read Full Post »