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Stomp writer’s block. Let loose!

“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” — Lao Tzu

I’m working on a novel. I’d always romanticized this type of writing. I imagined that words would flow from my head onto the page with the greatest of ease. Hey, I create other types of work every day. I have a solid, diligent writing practice. So, how hard could writing 80,000 to 110,000 words be? It turns out that, like running a marathon, writing a novel can be exhausting, and worse: I can hit the wall. I can run out of ideas and inspiration, and sometimes get sick of the sound of my own inner voice. I have a deadline to hit with this book, which only makes the stress worse, and mires me even further.

Desperate times called for desperate measures. And thus, my technique to shake off my writer’s block was born.

It may sound goofy, but it’s working like a charm!

Where words fail, music speaks.
–Hans Christian Andersen

I pick a song that resonates with me in the moment. Something upbeat that excites me when I hear it. I’ve chosen everything from “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, to “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” sung by Mama Cass. I may even have dipped my toe into Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and plunged into my bottomless pool of 80’s movie soundtracks.

I play the song LOUD. I sing to it, I dance to it, I imagine that I’m performing live at Carnegie Hall or the Hollywood Bowl. I make it big, and I totally let loose. That’s the important part — not the choice of song, not whether my singing voice is like nails on a chalkboard, or that I dance like an elephant wearing roller skates. The important part is that I allow myself to be unfiltered — unencumbered about what others might think of me — unconcerned about whether my neighbors think I’m nuts.

My writers block gets worse when I try to force the process, when I over-plan, or worry too much about what my readers will think of my choices. Trying too hard is the bane of my creativity. Stepping away from my keyboard (but not too long, or I’ve found I don’t go back) is the big breath of fresh air I need before I jump back into work.

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.
–Bob Marley

When I do sit back down, I let my writing flow…

…sometimes I’m able to pick up where I left off when I hit the wall, other times, I’m inspired to start someplace new, to explore new themes that I hadn’t even considered before. Sometimes I use the writing…and other times, this free writing gets deleted, but it’s broken the dam of my writer’s block and I’m able to pick up my narrative again.

This really works for any type of writing. For example, today when I sat down to write this blog post, I looked at a blank screen. I wanted to write a post about the worst writing advice I’d ever been given. It’s a funny story I’ve wanted to write for a long time, but my mind was a blank. So, I stood up from my desk and turned up the music. I’m not going to lie, my rendition of Heart’s “Barracuda” made my cat hiss at me and hide on top of the refrigerator.

At the end of the song, sweaty, and out of breath, I sat down at my laptop and let my fingers fly. I wrote something that I never even considered. I wrote what I felt, unconcerned about word count, topic, or even the reception this post would receive by readers. I felt joyous. As I typed, my cat warily approached me, and sat on my lap. He’s sleeping soundly now.

Music should be your escape.
–Missy Elliott

I love when writing doesn’t feel like drudgery or obligation. Tonight, when I sit back down to work on my novel, if I get stuck, I know exactly how to free myself. My stereo speakers are ready to blast some inspiration into my ears. Full disclosure: I feel some 70’s tunes in my near future.

Bring on the disco ball.

Surprise yourself: pick a song from your iPod, CD rack, or record collection, and have FUN. Then, sit down at your keyboard and let your fingers fly. Tell us what song you chose, and how it inspired your writing.

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  1. I rarely listen to music. When I do, only the songs that evoke certain memories and remind me of some places or some people make it to my playlist.For the rest, music is noise to me. I can’t imagine listening to it while busy doing something.

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  2. Dear, dear Robyn,
    what a wonderful idea and post which inspires me only by reading.
    I am in Berlin in the moment and tonight I visit the musical “Elvis”. This is the kind of music which brings me to my teenage years and brings me to all the feelings of that time. I am sure that I will return home on wings! Thank you for your high spirits.
    Charlotte

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  3. I do silly things to overcome writers block too. Sometimes I write silly letters to people or imagine conversations I would never have in a million years with someone that’s upset me. It’s fun 🙂

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  4. Great Robyn glad it works for you and good luck with the novel but I think we all have different ways of getting over writers block, I start by writing a play and go from there adding or taking away bits, usually adding.

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  5. One of my favorite things to do is to just be in my room and dance like there is no tomorrow! It really is a strange kind of free feeling. Its what cures my sadness. Maybe I’ll try writing next time

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  6. Great post — good idea plus creatively detailed — must be working for you! I do the same thing whenever I have the time, but more for the movement breaks when I’m weaving, sewing, or doing artwork which has had me sitting too long. Had not really thought about it as also unleashing the mental energies for writing, but will use it as a good reason to get up from the computer more often for that too!

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    1. I am a crafty person, too. I used to pick up one of my projects. But at the moment, it’s helping me to stand up and shake it all out. Who knows…in the winter, I might return to my knitting.

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  7. Enjoyed this. Funnily enough, for my blog which is about music, I don’t listen to it while writing generally. If I am alone sometimes I do, but if I do, it is usually something quieter and good as background noise. Because I research and listen to the songs and artists I write about beforehand (often listening to them exclusively for a few days) I feel the silence helps me write about said artist or song.

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    1. This is so fascinating! What an interesting POV…I hadn’t thought about how I would manage it if I actually wrote about music. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. What I am seeing here, correct me if I am wrong, you take a complete break from what you are doing and do something totally different! That is sound advice for anything anyone works hard on. There comes a time to stop thinking about what it is your task is.

    The dancing and singing has a very significant purpose. Your body needs movement. It needs movement to make the blood flow properly. Dancing and singing are one of the oldest forms of expression, it is no wonder we feel soo good when we do it. Getting all those precious fluids up to your cranium while writing is what your grey matter is craving. So dance like a maniac and try to do it even when you are in a good flow now and then.

    My writing is broken up by juggling, music lessons, movement study and house cleaning. For every 2 hours writing, I will give myself 20 to 30 minutes of “break time.” Keeps me balanced.

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  9. Awesome,Robyn! I am listening to John Chisom’s beauty will save the world,As i was trying to write my post for the week. I totally agree with you on the Impact of music in unlocking the creative juice. Sometimes I let myself loose and sweat a bit,to get into the groove(sounds like good hook line for a song right. All the best with your Novel.

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  10. Sometimes I listen to music while I’m writing. For some reason, it makes the words flow with ease. Of course, this isn’t always the case. There are times when I need utter silence.

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  11. I’ll have to try this when no one else is in the house. Don’t want anyone calling the guys in the white coats to come and get me. Windows will also be closed tightly so as not alarm elderly neighbours. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  12. Wonderful post about writer’s block. Lately I have been feeling blocked myself. Since I write and I love music too, I’m going to try your technique…I’ve not done it in a very long time. It’s hard when others are in the house. By the way, there is nothing wrong with bringing in the Disco Ball 🙂

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    1. How funny. I tend to play background TV a lot. Not with fiction writing for some reason. But I can barely remember how I managed before stream in television :). Thanks for the comment!

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  13. Amazing inspiration! I’ve been getting writer’s block recently too and my novel feels like it’ll never come together! Thanks for the tips. I need to change things up a bit. When it comes to deadlines, my ideas seem to find themselves in someone else’s brain. I think I will write a post about a song. There is one I always listen to when I’m down or just need inspiration. Cheers to all the writers! xx -Yasmin

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  14. Interesting that you mention this now. I just listened to a song and was singing along in the car and now my head is full of words that want to flow through my fingers on the screen… my fingers want to hit that keyboard…

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