Creative block is the kryptonite of creatives. It’s something every artist encounters, often over and over again as they keep learning and growing.
Too often artists blame themselves and their skill set (which can be a factor in the quality of your production) but many times skill is not the issue.
Creative block occurs for a number of reasons, including lack of motivation, lack of self-confidence, or setting unrealistic goals for yourself.
So don’t worry! Hope is not lost.
In fact, there are many techniques and tactics for overcoming creative block.
Which is why we’ve compiled a list of our favorite ways to combat creative block to help you become a happier and more productive producer.
1. Take Time Away From Production:
Although this may seem like an obvious technique, it is usually overlooked by producers.
If you can’t seem to find ideas in the studio, the ideas may lie outside of your computer.
Think of creativity as a fuel tank. If you try pulling too much from it without stopping to refuel, you’ll hit an empty tank pretty quickly.
It’s important to allow yourself to replenish the creative fuel tank and develop new ideas.
2. Change Your Mindset:
Creative block sometimes comes as a result of the immense pressure that you put on yourself.
If you walk into a studio session with the mindset that your next track has to be a big hit, more often than not you end up being overly critical of track.
The result? An unhappy and unproductive session.
Instead, set realistic goals to relieve yourself from the pressure of making something perfect.
Ultimately, this will help you in the long run as a producer.
3. Rediscover Why You Love Producing:
It’s easy to forget the experiences that drove us to become producers.
When you’re in a rut, making an effort to rediscover what it was that drove you to want to make music for a living can help.
For example, if it was a particular artist or show that ignited your love of music, try going to another concert to help reignite that fire.
Whatever it was, use that as a motivator to keep yourself focused and driven.
4. Change Your Surroundings:
Do you normally produce in your bedroom?
Try working in a coffee shop.
Do you normally produce in studio monitors?
Try headphones instead.
Do you normally click in your melodies manually in the piano roll?
Try playing them in with a midi keyboard, even if it takes a long time.
The main goal here is to alternate your surroundings to find new and exciting ways to approach production.
5. Limit Your Options:
As a modern producer, the amount of options you have as far as plugins, presets, and sounds can be overwhelming.
We see it all the time.
With so many options, producers are unsure of every decision. Could there be a better solution? A better sample, plugin, or patch?
Too many options can be paralyzing.
A great way to combat this is to limit your options.
Try making a song with only stock plugins.
Alternatively, start your song by picking 20 samples and limit yourself to only using those samples in your song. How creative can you get to turn those samples into new sounds?
The point here is to spark creativity and experimentation through self-imposed limitations.
6. Find New Songs & Sounds That Excite You:
A great way to find inspiration is to find new music or new sounds to excite you.
Ask your friends what they’ve been listening to. Or, search through your favorite artists’ likes on soundcloud.
Finding new music often gives you a fresh perspective on producing and writing.
Similarly, finding new sample packs and soundsets are a fast and easy way to jumpstart your productions.
7. Unplug From Your Phone and Internet:
As terrifying as this is, turning off your phone and disconnecting from your wifi is a great (and sometimes essential) way to stay creative while producing.
Your best ideas won’t come while messaging your friends on facebook. They’ll come when you have time to yourself to think and develop original and creative ideas.
Unplugging also helps you avoid procrastination. Attempting to produce with your phone and internet on creates an easy distraction any time you feel stuck.
It happens to the best of us.
Rather than experimenting to break through creative barriers, you mindlessly browse facebook for the newest memes… fun, but not necessarily the best move for your music.
8. Look for Musical Inspiration in Photos or Videos:
A great way to keep focused while producing is to look for inspiration from a photo or video.
Having a visually inspiring piece to write music behind often helps generate new ideas.
It also sets the emotional tone for the piece, helping to guide your arrangement and development.
9. Set Short Term Goals:
If you find yourself quitting early during production sessions, set short term goals, such as committing to one hour of producing.
This helps reduce the pressure of producing something amazing and gives a time period in which you’re forced to work.
Another technique to stay focused is to set short term production goals. For example, focusing on creating a lead melody or adding percussion in the next thirty minutes, instead of tackling the track as a whole.
Limiting yourself to a specific time frame for each task ensures that you don’t waste time while producing, and your mind stays focused on completing each section before moving on to the next.
10. Write Your Ideas Down On Paper:
Writing your ideas down on paper is a great way to help internalize your musical ideas.
If you define the artistic direction of your track ahead of time, it helps keep you aligned and focused while producing.
For example, try to write down things other producers are doing that you’d like to try, or write down an emotion or mood that you’d like to set with your song.
11. Work Smarter, Not Harder:
Putting in the hours is important. But not all hard work is created equal.
You might spend 100 hours trying to stop your master from redlining, but if you don’t understand how to properly mix a track, you won’t get very far.
It’s why new producers wonder why their track sounds squished when they put a brick wall compressor on the master.
So instead of throwing more hours at a track and getting frustrated that it doesn’t sound the way you want it to, try spending time learning more music theory.
Or, listen to your favorite tracks from big artists and analyze them. Try to break down the tracks to understand why they sound so good.
You can also make it a point to take away one learning from every hour of production, and implement it going forward.
There are dozens of ways to overcome creative block.
Some will work for you and some won’t.
The important thing is that you define and test out specific techniques to see if they work.
Using techniques to attack creative block puts structure behind your efforts to eliminate frustration.
Ultimately, it is up to you to identify when creative block happens and to do everything in your power to push through it.
So as you look to tackle creative block next time it hits you, try the above techniques. You’ll quickly figure out what works best for you.
And the beauty of it is that you’ll be able to continue to utilize those techniques to help fight through future creative blocks.
Good luck to all you creatives out there, and happy producing.