10 Quick Ways to Break Songwriter's Block

If you are songwriter, you know what it's like to get stuck.  

If you are songwriter, you know what it's like to get stuck.

You've got this killer verse melody, but no chorus, or maybe every lyric just feels a little off.  Maybe you're just having trouble coming up with anything at all.  It's easy to get bogged down, but don't give up!  Here are 10 easy things you can do to break out of the funk.

1.  Stop writing and start listening.  One of the first things I do when I get stuck is put my guitar down and go listen to somebody else's music.   My problem is I get so deep into what I'm trying to do that I forget what music is supposed to sound like.  A good song sounds unique but familiar.  Filling my ears with the familiar helps me get grounded again.  Often, I get inspired by a drum groove or a melodic interval and I'm back on my guitar and writing in no time.

2.  Get some new ears on it.  If you have musicians in your life that you trust, it's not a bad idea to pass your ideas onto them and see what they hear.  Just make sure you're willing to share royalties when your song goes multi-platinum.

3.  Throw out your main idea.  What if the thing that's going to make your song work is that phrase you wrote in the bridge?  What if that's what your whole song is really about?  What if you let go of what you're trying to write about and grab onto what you're actually writing?  What if I keep asking questions instead of giving answers?  Who knows?  You won't know until you try it.

4.  Switch it up.  I can't tell you how many times I started swapping the order of my lyrics and found a song fall into place.  Sometimes verse 2 is really a verse 1 and a chorus is actually a bridge.  Start playing Fridge Poetry with your lyrics and see what's there.  You don't even have to stick the song you are working on.  I've successfully grafted a good verse from one song onto the chorus of another.  You never know.

5.  Change the scenery.  I have about 7 different places in my house where I sit and play guitar.  If I'm stuck while I'm working in my office, perhaps the staircase will get the job done.  Still not happening?  The porch is a completely different asthetic.  Different environments inspire different ideas.  Your family might think you're a little crazy watching you fidget around the house, but they'll love it when you finally put the finishing touches on that bridge.

6.  Eat.  Maybe it's just me but one of the turning points in my marriage was when I was irritated and my sweet wife asked me around 5pm when the last time was I ate.  "I didn't", I growled.  *Lightbulb*  You're not yourself when you're hungry which means you're not a good songwriter either.  It's simple chemistry, folks.

7.  Throw a capo on.  It's amazing how different chords can sound in a different register.  What was once a deep and dark song is suddenly bright and sunny.  Maybe that's just what your tune needs.

8.  Change instruments. I play a banjo very differently than I play a guitar.  I play a guitar differently than I play piano (mainly because I'm much better at guitar).  Taking the same chords to a different instrument and letting your fingers do what they do naturally can bring a song to life.

9. Drop the tempo.  Or speed it up.  Maybe it doesn't feel right because it's dragging instead of jumping.

10.  Go for a run.  Okay maybe you're not a runner, but you have to do something that relaxes you and gets your mind off the work.  Maybe it's reading a good book.  Maybe it's just a leisurely walk.  Maybe it's BASE jumping.  I don't know, but you have to have something that keeps you mentally healthy.  Whatever that is, do that.


Bashing your head against a wall will get you nowhere.  When it comes to breaking songwriters block, you have to break your thought pattern. These are just 10 ways to help you do that.  What other ways do you find helpful?

Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

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