Like many artists, I often go through periods where I feel totally uncreative - as if I'll never ever be able to write anything again! It can become a crippling self-fulfilling prophecy and each time it happens (although I tell myself that it's happened before and I've managed to work through it) I truly believe that "this time" there'll be no way out of it.
I've just come through another one of those phases and thought that it might be a good idea to write down a checklist of the things that really help me. Hopefully it means that I won't panic the next time I'm hit by a "creative block". :-) Perhaps there's something here that can help you too...
1. Dream about it
My debut album, Aphrodite's Child, included several tracks that were almost entirely written after waking from a dream and immediately writing down the music and/or lyrics floating around in my head. I dream every single night. I don't often dream music but for when I do, I have my phone nearby and can quickly use the voice recorder to capture my ideas. Perhaps you're more of a pen and paper person and could keep a notebook by your bed. And if you don't dream, I still think that "sleeping on it" can sometimes help you solve a problem, so it's worth a shot!
2. Take a walk
Many songs have come to me while I've been out walking. I might be strolling through a lovely park enjoying the sights and sounds of nature or I could be walking along a busy London road being hypnotised by the rattle and hum of traffic. Again I will have my trusty voice recorder to record anything that comes to mind. Sometimes, just getting out of your usual environment can cause a shift in your thoughts and allow ideas to break through.
3. Watch a film
I love watching films and there's so much great television available online these days from services like Netflix and Amazon. One of my current favourites is Black Mirror. Highly recommended! Watching films and TV, whether fiction or documentaries, can expose you to ideas that wouldn't come up in your normal life. For me, it's a great way to relax and give my creative thoughts time to marinate and develop, in the same way that sleeping/dreaming can.
4. Visit a gallery
This is not something I do much but I think visiting an art gallery or museum is a great way to stimulate the senses. One of my favourite exhibitions is the annual "Sensational Butterflies" at the Natural History Museum. Just magical!
5. See the sea
Whenever I really need to unblock my creativity, a visit to the sea is top of my list. There's something about listening to the sound of waves whilst looking out on an endless horizon that really calms me. After a recording gap of around 4 years, I started writing my most recent album whilst walking by the sea at a tiny resort on the coast near Athens, Greece. I remember that the song "Forbidden Fruit" came to me in its entirety in about 20 mins. It was such a beautiful experience.
6. Write it out
Brainstorming or stream of consciousness writing is another way I sometimes work to get the ideas out. The trick is to make sure you do absolutely no censoring of yourself. Just let the words flow. There could well be a gem or two in there...
7. Meditate on it
I'm not going to lie - I find it extremely difficult to meditate. My mind is always going at 1,000mph. What I've found really helpful is using the guided meditation tracks that you can find on YouTube. Even 10 minutes is hard for me but it's something I'm working on. A great way to clear the mind to allow those creative ideas through.
8. Take a break
Just stop. Forbid yourself to write music, or whatever it is that you're struggling with, for a short period of time. Sometimes just knowing that you can't do something makes you want to do it all the more! It also takes the pressure off and allows you to forget about your block for a while without the guilt of feeling unproductive. When the time period is up, just go with the flow and see if anything comes to you.
9. Sweat it out
Exercise is another thing that I know I should do much more. It always takes me so much effort to start but then it feels so good once I've finished that I wonder why I resisted! Physical exercise releases endorphins that makes you feel good. Apparently this triggers a similar feeling to taking morphine - who knew?!
10. Read a book
My latest album "Spellbound Stories" is a set of songs inspired by my favourite novels. I don't read as much as I used to but there's something about the written word that allows your free reign to your imagination like nothing else. The video above is a song I wrote after reading Paulo Coelho's "Veronika Decides to Die".
I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you have any suggestions about ways to break through those pesky blocks or any other feedback, comments are very welcome!