Copyright © 2020 Patrick Avard. All Rights Reserved.
When Music Producers Hit a Creative Block
We’ve all gone through it, numerous times. Whether you’re drafting an email, writing a term paper, or even jotting down a message to a friend or loved one, a sudden stop hits your mind, and you freeze. You know exactly what you want to say, but the words just aren’t coming to you. You may try to put some sentences down just to “get it out,” but even if you get something down, it doesn’t truly communicate what you want to say and you quickly erase.
You’ve hit a mental block. “Mental block,” “writer’s block,” “creative block” – it has different names, but the point is that now you’re stuck second-guessing every word you say or you’re just too uninspired to put pen to paper. The good news is that there are some proven ways to maneuver out of these blocks and snap your brain back into the swing of things.
As a music producer with around 5,000+ songs under my belt, I have encountered this type of creative block countless times over the last twenty years of producing custom mix tracks for cheerleading programs. And while incredibly frustrating at times, let me tell you – creative blocks or slumps are very much a part of the whole creative process itself.
So, to help all of my fellow creatives and readers out there plow their way through this situation the next time it happens, allow me to share the techniques I use to jump-start my brain.
Technique #1 – Go for a Change of Scenery
Many times, the best answer is to simply get up from your desk (or wherever you may be) and walk away. Change locations and put your focus on other items. Take a walk down the street, call your friend (or mom), grab a coffee, play with your dog. If the words aren’t there, or if you can’t come up with the perfect beat to synch to a cheer routine – then fine, don’t worry about it at that moment. In fact, the more you try to force it, the longer it can take your perspective to snap back into focus and the less effective your end result will be overall.
Walking away, changing focus, and coming back at a later time allows you to re-engage the task with a clear head, refreshed and rejuvenated. This technique enables me to return to my work with a different perspective and a renewed sense of dedication, so I can put together the best possible beats.
Technique #2 – Draw Inspiration from Others
A lot of times, a creative block can occur when you are trying to “reinvent the wheel.” You may be trying to focus too hard on any given task and then hyper analyzing or doubting yourself as a response. Ultimately, this type of process just leads to a negative feedback loop and can end in frustration or exhaustion. Whenever I catch myself in this cycle, I find it helpful for looking to others for inspiration.
Taking in the works of other creative people can bring a world of new ideas and possibilities to mind that previously were not there. And inspiration can come from a wide range of sources – classical painters, modern artists, architects, poetry, and of course, other music producers or songwriters of any genre. Similar to the earlier technique, when you observe the interesting works that other talented individuals have brought to a creative space, it helps divert your mind from the negative feedback loop you were previously engaged in. This will help you come back to the task with a renewed sense of passion, and direction.
This technique is incredibly easy to work-in through online platforms like Instagram, SoundCloud, or YouTube. Viewing other creative works can help you realize how other people are contributing to a space and can show you what else is out there that you didn’t know about previously. It also can show you what isn’t out there and provide new ideas and motivation to move forward.
Technique #3 – Experiment with Trial and Error
Another technique that can be used to break out of a creative funk is to go through a process of experimenting and trial and error. Say you are a music producer, and you are putting the finishing touches on a track, but you just don’t feel the beat, or you may not like the vocals that are coming into a chorus. You can spend hours and hours searching for the one perfect format and toil away until you convince yourself that “enough is enough” or just give up.
Or, instead, you can try letting go. Let go of the idea of needing it to be perfect right then and there. Let go of your current idea for what the project needs in that moment. Instead of trying to force a creative project to take the shape you originally thought of, try going against the grain and try an entirely different direction. Feel free to make mistakes, and if you dare, try unconventional approaches that defy your conception of “the right way to do things.”
By using this sort of “mental jujitsu,” you are no longer trying to force something that isn’t readily available to you. It creates an opportunity to actually enjoy the creative process instead of it being a stressful chore. This technique will not only draw you deeper into the task in front of you – it allows you to see the process objectively and introduces a world of fun. What’s more, by allowing yourself to experiment and make mistakes at will, you will find a wealth of creativity suddenly at your disposal. Some of my biggest breakthroughs in music production have been through experimentation and throwing preconceived notions to the wind – it is a part of the pioneering process.
Now you know some of my secrets to overcoming a creative block. For music producers reading this article, or for anyone finding themselves struggling with a similar situation – please feel free to use these techniques the next time you just can’t seem to push forward on a project. You may find that these types of slumps are a lot easier to manage.
And even if you still struggle, remember that a block is just temporary. These unwelcomed and unexpected visitors can come at the worst times, but they also can give us the space we need between brainstorms, enabling us to create our next masterpiece.
Until next time,
~ Patrick Avard