How to Conquer a Creative Block - Guitar World

How to Conquer a Creative Block

Some neat tips to consider if you're facing a particularly bad bout of writer's block.
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Hey, everyone.

It's been a long time since I've written a guitarworld.com column. I was in the midst of something known as writer's block.

Writer's block is defined as "the condition of being unable to write or how to proceed with writing." In thinking about how writer's block affected me, I came to realize it's not only writers who are affected. All creative people have, at some point, encountered this.

As guitarists and musicians, we've all felt unable to write new material, take our playing to the next level, be more creative with our playing, etc. So, in order to conquer writer's block, I decided to write about it.

See what I did there?

For this column, we'll call it a "creative block," and I'll discuss a few things that worked for me in terms of getting my mojo back. I'm confident they'll work for you.

First, I want to make an observation about having a creative block: It's not as if you aren't practicing or playing. I was doing both as per my normal routine. What defined the creative block for me was the feeling that nothing I played or wrote was good enough to see the light of day.

Since we're all unique individuals and players with unique styles, I'd assume everyone experiences a creative block in their own unique way as well. My struggle isn't the same as yours.

BLOCK BUSTER 1: ACCEPT AND UNDERSTAND

We need to grasp the concept that all-creative minded individuals go through this at one time or another. Some of the greatest guitar players, songwriters, musicians and composers have dealt with this. Accept this as part of the creative journey.

The frustration crept in when I didn't accept it and fought against it. That's when I didn't turn on the computer and write. That's when I felt nothing I was writing was good enough. That feeling even crept into my lessons with my students for a while. I felt like I had nothing new to offer them, which certainly is NOT the case.

Have you been there? Have you ever been in a creative block where you didn't want to show a fellow band mate a new song you wrote because you felt it wasn't up to snuff? Have you ever declined an invitation to an open jam or an audition because you felt your guitar ideas just weren't where they should be? Maybe you thought you'd reached a wall with your playing and blew off practicing. It's possible you're fighting the normal part of the creative process as I was.

Welcome to the club, my friend! Remember: Storms don't last forever—and neither do creative blocks. This too shall pass.

BLOCK BUSTER 2: FINISH THE THOUGHT

Even though it might be frustrating, sit down and finish that musical thought you were working on, whether it's a new lead idea, a new song, a new lyric, a new recording, a new practice regimen. Fight through the frustration. If you've ever worked out and lifted weights, you know it's very easy to plateau and not see any progress after a while.

One technique body builders use is the principle of muscle confusion. This is based on the concept of "shocking your system" by an uptake in intensity and/or weight, a new workout regimen, change of workout schedule, etc. Most bodybuilders have a hard time changing their routine for fear of losing the progress they've worked so hard for. In short, they're in a block! The same can be applied to guitarists and musicians. Don't be afraid to finish the thought or musical project you're working on. This is an essential action to conquer a creative block.

BLOCK BUSTER 3: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH INSPIRATION

There's an old saying: "If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room."

The same can be applied to musicians. If you want to grow as a guitarist and musician and conquer a creative block, you need to be around inspiring musicians. This means musicians who possess more knowledge than you. This means being around guitarists who have forgotten more about the guitar than you have yet to learn.

We can do this in a number of ways. We can expand our minds and ears by listening and experiencing different genres of music. When I was going through my block, I'd listen to classical music, symphonies and operas and even take in a ballet for inspiration. It worked! Just being around something creative, new and fresh out of my usual element broadened my musical tastes and eventually inspired me enough to sit down and write.

Maybe listening to a master violinist or pianist instead of your favorite rock band is what you need to break though the rut you are experiencing. Secondly, we can play with creatively inspiring people. Recently, I had the pleasure of playing with some of the most talented individuals I've ever encountered. Their talent level forces me to get my act together—to a whole a new level.

Rehearsals are a breeze. They are easy, with no egos and a very positive, supportive vibe. They also can play and sing anything thrown at them. Just being around such super-talented people in a positive environment inspired me to practice more and gave me the confidence to sit in front of the computer and write. If you need some quick rut busters and maybe some inspiration, check out some of my older columns. I have a few titled "Rut Busters."

P.S: This group of musicians also inspired me to maybe get back into playing in bands again somewhere down the road if my schedule will allow it. Surrounding yourself with such individuals and environments will help you though a creative block.

Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read this column and checking out my space here at guitarworld.com. Comments and feedback are always welcome and encouraged. Now get off this internet thing and pick up that guitar and PLAY, just like yesterday!

Richard Rossicone is a veteran of the New York City and Long Island original and cover band scene. He's been playing since he was 8, when he attended his first concert (Kiss) and saw Pete Townshend smash a guitar. He has studied with various instructors, which led him to a career in music therapy. He began his educational journey at Queensboro Community College, where the faculty introducing him to classical music. He received his associate's degree in fine arts in 1997 and went on to receive his bachelor's in music therapy in 2001 and his master's in music therapy from New York University in 2004. He's been Board Certified as a music therapist since 2002. Richard continued his studies at C.W. Post University, pursuing a second master's degree in classical guitar performance and music history, studying under Harris Becker. He's been teaching guitar, piano and theory since 2002 and in 2006 started his own company, Rossicone Music Studios. Richard is the co-lead guitarist in Bad Habits, NYC's premier Thin Lizzy tribute band. In addition to his busy teaching, working and performing schedule, Richard plays on the Worship Arts Team at the Journey Church in NYC. Visit him at Axgrinder.com