• jpignatomusic

5 Tips to Avoid Creative Blocks

From Stephen King to Tchaikovsky, many artistic people battle some form of creative block during their careers. Loosing your muse from time to time is perfectly natural and can be caused by many different factors. None the less, it is extremely frustrating especially when you’re working on a deadline.

So here are 5 tips that you can use to break or even avoid creative blocks regardless of your creative discipline.

5. Expand Your Horizons

One great way to get out of a rut and break familiar patterns is to expose yourself to new ideas. I was once having a hard time writing an action cue for a scene and decided to take a short break and listen to Indian classical music. The music was filled with a mixture of different odd time rhythms. I locked on to a groove in an 9/8 time signature and made that the foundation to build my action cue.

Anytime you find yourself stuck for ideas just try to expose yourself to new artist or styles. Really dig deep into whatever it is. Reverse engineer it through transcription, analyze it, add it to your creative palette and then try and implement it into what you’re working on.

4. Let’s Get Physical

Our creative endeavors often keep us bound to our studios sitting for hours on end which can lead to creative burnouts. Sometimes we must give the brain a rest and get the blood flowing.

Take a break and get up to do something physical. Its doesn’t have to be much. Simple stretching, jumping jacks, or body weight exercises are great. Physical activities build your body and improve your overall health which can correlate to better metal and creative health and endurance. Studies have shown that mood and creativity improve following brief exercise sessions.

Exercising outdoors may have some additional benefits so if you have the option, get out of the studio, and get moving!

3. Give Yourself a Hand

A very interesting theory you can try to boost your creativity is to use your nondominant hand to preform various tasks. The theory suggests that using your opposite hand to brush your teeth, use scissors or writing can trigger the other half of your brain that is less active, thus boosting creativity.

Next time you find yourself battling a creative block, take a time-out and grab pen and paper. Use your opposite hand to write down the lyrics to your favorite song. After a few minutes put it away and get back to work and see what happens.

A Detailed Sketch by John Williams from his War of the Worlds score

2. Road Maps

When you are struggling with creative blocks it almost feels like being lost. When you find yourself staring at a blank slate feeling lost the best thing to do is start creating road maps to get to your destination.

When I start a new music cue, I first write out some markers or time indicators, so I have a visual representation of the dramatic arc of the scene. Maybe I feel that I want to start my cue with some dark ominous harmony, I’ll just scribble on my sketch paper “bars 1-8;write dark ominous harmony here”.

At this stage don’t worry about the details, just focus on creating a road map. A lot of creative anxiety is alleviated once you have a clear path to follow. With a road map in place, you can allow yourself to confidently experiment with ideas instead of aimlessly noodling around.

1. Push it to the Limit

Sometimes we may feel like we are out of ideas, but what may be going on is that we have too many ideas and too many options. The brain needs a chance to slow down and compartmentalize. One of the best ways to do that is set clear limitations.

Once device I use is to limit myself to only two notes. The challenge is to take two notes and write a melody. I can play fast, slow, hard, soft, inverted, in different octaves, it doesn’t matter but I only have two notes to work with. Once I have the melody, I then explore various harmonic and orchestration options to expand the melody into a full composition.

Here is an example of a simple rhythmic melody I improvised with just two notes [D and F]

Now have a listen to the composition that spurred from that melody