"Something happens like... 2 weeks prior I had nothing to say, then all of a sudden get into the studio and I have EVERYTHING to say"...
John Corabi - Dead Daisies
John Corabi (Ratt, The Dead Daisies, Motley Crue) has written lyrics for songs that have been huge on the charts, and live in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of adoring fans. I myself am one of those fans. Motley Crue was a part of the soundtrack of my teens, and more recently I was introduced to the Dead Daisies by an old radio buddy and have hung on every note they've produced since. I was even lucky enough to get the chance to intro them at a private gig here in Sydney a few years back. And they rocked the house!!
As the main lyric writing force behind the acts I've mentioned above, John has the unenviable task of putting words to the music that collectively these great minds put together. I say unenviable because the pressure to do just that must be immense. But at the end of the day, we all have to write. Some of us have to write for business, some for personal reasons (Wedding Speeches, Resume's etc) and sometimes we just have to find the right words to say in certain situations. So when the pressure's on, how does John deal with that. Where does he draw his inspiration, and when there is no inspiration, where does he get it?
John's answers are in the audio above, but for many of us, we don't have the luxury of "hearing the drums", or we don't always pass someone in the corridor who drops that perfect line. Especially those of us who work from home. So what do WE do?
Well, there's plenty we can do. Here's just a few examples...
1. Turn to your alter ego. The first thing I would suggest comes back to a previous blog of mine about Alter egos. Turn yours on. Pick one that fits what you want to say, how you want to say it and most importantly, one that the person you want to say it to will relate to.
"Writing is the flip side of sex, it's only good when it's over"
Hunter S Thompson
2. Just write. It sounds fairly simple, but just put your thoughts on the page with no filters, no second thoughts. Remember this is a written document, you can always go back and edit up later, but get the crux of what you want to say on the page and then leave it (if you can) then come back to it with a fresh head and chop it up, change it around, and massage it into the masterpiece you are looking for.
As an example, I just recorded an episode of the Imaging Hangout with the rest of the gang today, and one of our guests was Michael "Sideshow" Andersen (Imaging god of MMM Sydney), and we had this exact conversation. Sidey mentioned that when he's looking for some inspiration, he just opens up the microphone and starts recording himself talking, singing, making the noises that come into his head until something clicks, an idea germinates and he's on his way.
3. Change your view. No, I don't mean write something you don't mean. But change the view from where you're working. Go sit in a coffee shop, take a walk to the local park, or even just go sit by the pool and see what inspiration strikes.
There are many benefits to changing your environment, one of which most recently proven by a study done by the Applied Cognitive Psychology Journal, which demonstrated that a change in environment improves memory retention and creativity.
4. Change your rhythm. Just like the music John is writing to, our bodies have their own rhythm, and changing yours can help you overcome your writer’s block.
In 2013, Psychology Today reported on a study by the University of Michigan that showed many people have counterintuitive circadian rhythms (meaning our daily cycles of creativity via physiological and cognitive activity) and are actually more productive at the times we believe we are least productive.
The study found that morning people, those who “feel more productive in daytime hours,” are actually more adept at creative problem-solving in the evening. The opposite held true for those who claimed they were more focused at night.
Try adjusting your routine to accommodate your most creative working hours or write down your creative ideas before going to bed and then follow up on them the next day.
5. Let go your inner teenager. For those of us who have teenaged children, how many of you spend hours a week telling your kids to "go do their homework" or asking if they've done the research for that assignment that's coming up? Well just like our kids we should be preparing to write at every opportunity. That way when the time comes for us to start putting pen to paper, we have an arsenal of ideas to choose from.
How many times a day do you have a thought, or see something that makes you think "wow, that's great", or "I could use that". When you do, what do you do with that thought? Do you write it down or record it in some way? Or do you just think "yeah I'll remember that", and then proceed to be sitting on the bus ten minutes later trying to remember what that great idea was?
Write it down, store it in your phone, even better use the recorder in your phone to make an electronic copy, but stash it away immediately. According to experts, most of the information kept in short-term memory will be stored for approximately 20 to 30 seconds. Stash it away while you can, and then when its time to sit down and write, all those great thoughts are at your fingertips...
“Once you’ve got that idea, the rest of it will come. It’s like you’ve planted a seed, then you go and water it a bit and suddenly it sticks up out of the ground and goes, hey, look at me.”
Keith Richards - The Rolling Stones
6. Switch tasks. Instead of desperately trying to find the perfect words, switch tasks and work on something completely different for a while. Take the dog for a walk, up a storm for the family, or even just wash the car. Switching tasks can be a quick reset if you’re feeling stuck.
Ultimately, the only thing that will really help you overcome writer’s block is to start writing. So try some of our tips to help get the creative juices flowing again, turn on your alter ego, get some rest, and refocus. And then sit down at your desk or in your favourite cafe and let the words out.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? What helps you to push through it? Leave your own tips in the comments section below.
Darren "Robbo" Robertson is a freelance audio engineer and radio imaging producer. He is available for all types of audio work from podcast conceptualisation and production, to audio post-production, and scriptwriting. To find out more about his services see the Voodoo Sound website.