Whether you’re writing a song or an article, there comes that dreaded moment when your brain feels completely empty. You have officially hit a wall, you’re running on nothing and it sucks. Well fret not: Here are some ways to get your creative juices flowing.
KEEP A NOTEPAD/RECORDER WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES
Whether it’s a physical journal and a voice recorder or the Notes and Voice Memos apps in your phone, always have these accessible. Every time you think of a topic, lyric or musical reference, document it immediately. Sometimes the best ideas formulate when you’re in the shower or when you wake up in the middle of the night. When you check them out the next day you’ll either have a good laugh or get inspiration to string your ideas together to make a complete thought. The best part of this is having the ability to scroll through pages and pages of information that could span years. I have no shame—I’ll awkwardly hum a song idea into my phone while I’m driving or getting gas so I don’t forget it. Consider these methods an external hard drive for your brain.
SKIM SOCIAL MEDIA
This may be the most dangerous and easily addictive option. When I’m working on music or articles I need to spark some kind of interest into writing. I open Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and start scrolling. I’m not scrolling for the mind-numbing content to kill time—I’m looking for something interesting enough to grab my attention. Stop on news articles about something terrible in the world that makes you clench your fists or a picture of a happy puppy on a skateboard, because both of these options evoke some kind of emotion. Now it’s up to you to elaborate on them. What chords or words resonate with the way you’re currently feeling?
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA
Just like the social media option, there is potential to get lost in the black hole of entertainment and give up completely on being productive. Believe me, I’ve done this many times. Pick up a book, listen to a song, watch television or a film and give yourself a time limit to enjoy said medium. Relax, let your brain start working and see if a new idea pops into your head. It’s okay to base the foundation of an idea off of something else. People have been doing it for years, and it doesn’t make you any less original. Find the corresponding mood you want to express and dive in. This is a great time to check out novels, films and music that you’ve heard your friends or critics rave about. I’ve watched episodes of LOST that somehow inspired me to write lyrics. Challenge your brain and see what happens.
All hail our lord and savior, Dave Grohl, for inspiring me to drink coffee while writing music. Now, I’m not condoning the use of drugs, but coffee is one controlled stimulant that definitely helps me focus. If I’m awake enough to pay attention, I’ll have more mental clarity to come up with ideas. It’s also a nice ritual for me. I make a pot of coffee, light a scented candle (yeah, so what, shut up) at my desk, pick up a guitar and get ready to work. If I’m jamming with my friends we each get a mug and drink as we’re trying out new riffs. This definitely helps with drumming as I want to play faster and smash harder, but I stop drinking coffee when I can tell I’m getting sore from dehydration. When controlled, this is one hell of a motivator.
GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND EXPERIENCE LIFE
Are you feeling stagnant and claustrophobic? Whether you’ve been sitting in an office, practice space or your room, get out for a bit. See the sunlight, breathe the fresh air and move around town. I used to ride my bike to get some exercise and get rid of all of the screens and distractions in my life. I’d sit on a park bench in a public place and people watch, trying to make up a story for each of them. I’d have conversations with strangers in line at the post office or witness the driving patterns of people in parking lots. There are a lot of very interesting and thought-provoking things that we would normally consider minutia, but when you look at it through the eyes of an artist everything suddenly has meaning and potential.
[photo credit: Alexandra Snow]