Ok, you have this awesome song you are trying to finish so you can record it. It only took a half an hour to come up with the chords, and the melody seemed to pop out of thin air. Just a bridge and a few more lyrics to go and you’re done! The problem is, that was a year ago and you still can’t finish the song no matter how hard you try. This is an all too familiar scenario for a lot of songwriters.
Why Does This Happen?
1) Sometimes songwriting is like surfing. When it all starts to fall together quickly it feels like you’ve caught the perfect wave. Read our blog post on Songwriting Inspiration to understand why. Songs written this way are notoriously hard to finish if they weren’t written in one go. This is because your particular state of mind has changed since, and it’s hard to get back to the original feeling that inspired the song. We tend to start overthinking it which only leads to frustration.
2) When you first write a song, it starts out like a malleable dough in your hands. It is only a pure expression of you at that moment. As you form it into what it will become, it already begins to harden in your mind making it more difficult to shape as time goes on. It begins to take on a life of its own, and after a while your song feels like it has been etched in stone. Could you imagine if Bob Dylan announced tomorrow that he came up with a better chorus for The Times They Are A-Changin’? Even if he did, it seems unthinkable to alter it, yet it is the same song the day he started working on it.
How To Fix It
1) The easiest solution is to try and finish your song while it is fresh. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall partway through, take breaks and come back to it in short bursts. You will be surprised at how much farther you get or may even finish it in the same writing session.
2) Try not to take your song too seriously until it’s done. The more emotionally attached you get to the parts, the harder they are to change or improve. Don’t fall in love with it unless you know it’s final.
3) Get yourself back into an inspired state of mind. There are a few time honored tricks to get you there. They say “There is a song in every guitar” and it is truly amazing how novel your music sounds on a different sounding instrument. Borrow a friend’s guitar and keep writing. Better yet transpose the song to a completely different instrument like piano. You will hear it in a completely different way and ideas will start popping into your head.
4) Lastly, try Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies. A proven way to get you thinking outside the box. He and a friend invented these suggestion cards as a way of getting past a creative block. In the right circumstances they work wonders.