Hi, I’m Nick and I’m a Pro Tools columnist at Audio Times. I started out producing music when I was 15, and now work under the pseudonym ‘Veranova’. Having released various records, produced for up and coming artists such as Lewis Mokler, and composed for companies such as Morphsuits; I took an interest in teaching. So I started Production Bytes, a source of video tutorials and products for music production; now my main business. Thanks to the success of this I also took an interest in writing and have settled into a columnist role with Audio Times. Which brings us to now. Enjoy!
Tips for Breaking Writers Block
We all have days where creativity just isn’t coming to us, and yet in today’s world we usually have to schedule in times to work on our hobbies or dream careers, instead of just working when we feel like it.
So what can you do to break through and be creative?
1. Take a walk.
Don’t listen to the track one last time, just leave the room, go out somewhere and think about something else. Your subconscious is still chewing through the problem and will be with you shortly.
The key is not to create a new information overload. Do whatever you want so long as it doesn’t take a lot of thought, and gets you out of the room you work in. If you don’t like walking, go do your washing up and have a shower, you’ve been at this 3 days and your computer is the only thing which doesn’t smell bad!
2. Start a new track.
Just pick a style out of the air that you don’t usually work on and start wherever you like. Drums is always a fast way to start.
You might even end up scrapping the original track, and finishing this track. Although scrapping the original track at this point, probably sounds like a worse evil than that 3 day old pizza for dinner.
3. Do some sound design.
There’s always something you can be doing. Just sit down with a blank project and a synth, and create some original sounds. Worst case: you add some sounds to your patches library, and maybe learn something about programming. Best case: you create something which inspires you, and you finish the track in an hour.
4. Go online and find a new toy.
Sometimes playing with a new synth or piece of software is just what you need to unlock your creativity. We all fall in to creatively limiting habits with software we’re familiar with. Just like being objective with our composition and mixing, we need to be detached from logic and just throw ideas at the wall to be creative. I’ve even written an article with a number of free sound design applications in it.
5. Rummage through your samples library.
We all build a fairly extensive sample library over time, and in here are some gems that you wouldn’t want to use in a track normally, but may inspire you to write something around them. You can then remove the base elements from the track once you have some original ideas flowing.
If you’re yet to build this library, there are plenty of free libraries on the web, and magazines such as Computer Music distribute thousands of samples every month. Freesound.org is also a great resource for community sourced samples.
Remember, that screaming goat sample you’ve got, could just give you your biggest hit yet.
6. Switch to your favourite instrument for a while.
Just sit and jam, play some music you know, or even teach yourself the track you’re working on. This can help clear your mind at least, and at best you’ll hit some random notes and something will click.
If you don’t play an instrument, then there’s even more reason to pick up an acoustic guitar for £30. But for creativities sake, don’t learn Wonderwall as your first song.
7. Go work on a different section.
I can’t count the number of times i’ve gone to work on a breakdown and suddenly found what I needed for the drop pop out at me. Just switch to a section you can write more (or less) formulaically, or is inspiring you more at the time. The answer is probably already embedded in the track for you to figure out.
8. Get on a sugar high.
But when our brains have a lot of sugar buzzing around them they go into overdrive, we become hyper and random, and skip logical steps. Logical steps get in the way of fresh ideas though, so you can do without those.
More importantly just keep yourself fueled with food and water. When our brains have all the nutrition they need, they function a lot better; and you should be doing it if you’re going to be creative!
9. Focus on the mix.
If you’re stuck for creativity, at least make it easier for yourself to finish the track. A great idea may click as the mix changes. Or maybe you’ll see a little used effect plugin while mixing, and slap it on “just to see”, which turns out to be exactly what you want.
10. Don’t keep listening to the track over and over.
This isn’t exactly a constructive point, but neither is looping what you have in the hope something will click.
If it doesn’t click after a few play throughs, then whatever you do manage to come up with, won’t be as good as that moment of inspiration you need. Go away and follow any of the tips listed here, or anything you can cook up yourself!
11. Lastly: Creativity isn’t about rules.
It’s the opposite of that. Rules just help you tie it all together. So try to forget everything you think you know, about writing music, until you have to fit all your ideas in to the track.
Come to think of it just ignore this list, and don’t get wrapped up in technicalities and rules.
I’ll leave you with that paradox for this month.