On Writer’s Block

Happy February! I can’t believe it’s already the end of February. I mean, I know it’s a short month, but still!

I wanted to talk about writer’s block and how I (attempt) to get myself out of it. As you may know, I moved to Canada a year (!!) ago. And while I am waiting for all of my immigration paperwork to be sorted out, I am unable to work. Which is fine. I find ways to keep myself busy. I sing in two choirs in the area and I spend a lot of time with new friends and family. So it is kind of a blessing and a curse because it is up to me (and only me) to motivate myself into writing.

Sometimes the music flows like a river and I can get two or three pages of notes down in an hour or so. And that’s great! Other days the river runs dry as a bone and I hate everything I put on the page. And that’s okay too. It’s all part of the process. What I’m finding, however, is that it becomes so easy to tie in my self-worth as a composer to my weekly productivity. And that’s not good. That is a recipe for disaster.

So this month, I have been experimenting with new ways of starting my own creative flow. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I have to be nice to myself. I need to cut myself some slack on days when I feel like a musical failure. Because I’m not. I have to constantly remind myself that I have a degree in music composition and I have a personality that makes it easy to connect with other musicians. And even though I’m still learning, I have a voice and talent to offer to the musical community around me.
  • Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing my scenery. When I’m sitting in front of my piano and nothing is happening, I get up. I move. Sometimes it’s a walk to the closest shopping center. Sometimes, it’s as easy as moving to a different room in my house.
  • I can edit other scores. It is no secret that my least favorite part of composing is page layouts and score editing. It is the bane of my existence. But it is a necessary evil. And few things bother me more than a poorly edited score. So when a new piece isn’t coming together the way I want it to, sometimes I will take a break and edit the layout of other pieces to get them ready for publication. This was a suggestion from my composition teacher at Campbell. And it does work for me. It’s a sort of productive procrastination.
  • Always, always, always listen. I listen to music while I do almost everything. Cleaning my house, knitting, reading. I always have music going. And when I’m not listening (or sleeping) I work on choir music. As I said, I am a member of two choirs in Ottawa and I work on choral music particularly when I feel I can’t write.

I am not saying this is a foolproof method of curing writer’s block. But these are things I have found work for me (7/10 times).

In other news, my newest choral piece, A Lullaby, will be available for purchase soon!


Author: lizzielou0320

Composer, performer, teacher, and arranger in the Ottawa area.

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