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Unblocking The Songwriting Channel – A Lesson From Carole King

Another thing I do is I might play someone else’s material that I really like and that sometimes unblocks a channel.” – Carole King

I don’t know that I’ve ever had full-on ‘writer’s block’. Sometimes writing comes easy, sometimes hard… but I’ve never been completely at a loss.

Obviously some writers have been there (or are there) and it’s hellish. Probably my day will come.

But sometimes I do feel stuck, and one thing that helps me is, as Carole King suggests above, playing someone else’s song, or a part of it, that I really like. (I’ve done this a lot for these blogposts.)

Actually, not just playing it, but figuring the song out myself – the melody, chords, words – and then playing it. I find it enlightening and inspiring to get inside the mechanics of what’s going on in a song I love, especially the part of the song that most moves me.

And I’ve frequently found that this process leads to a new song for me. I’ve found it interesting (although to some it might be obvious) that there’s almost always something specific, something technical in the craft, that is creating the emotional effect that I’m feeling.

Something about this melody note against that chord… or the method of storytelling a song might have… or how certain patterns of words or notes get repeated, or varied… Sometimes the effect is created by the excitement of a performance. But, from a songwriting perspective, there’s almost always specific craft elements in play

That’s one reason to learn and play someone else’s song as a way to get the juices flowing. Another reason is this: Fun.

Sometimes songwriting does come slowly, can seem more like a slog than a joyful though sometimes challenging process. And that’s not helpful.

But learning and playing (and sometimes ‘borrowing from’) someone else’s song that I’m fond of can bring back the excitement of songwriting and is a great reminder that songs and songwriting, listening to them and writing them, is ultimately about joy for me.

Few things bring me more uncomplicated joy than a song I love. And then I often feel the motivation and belief returning that I can be one of those people who make the joyful noise.

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts, additions, disagreements in the Comments section below:

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2 responses to “Unblocking The Songwriting Channel – A Lesson From Carole King”

  • I don’t think of writer’s block as a mystery. We write to express emotion. When were afraid to express because it’s so intense, or forbidden, or we’re afraid of consequences, we shut down. We’re avoiding this same expression in conversation, too, and in personal thoughts. So we need to dig down, and get in touch with our own feelings. We need to have the courage to face our own feelings and express them. Believe in the power of our skill and taste and technique, the tools which will make our emotions palatable to listeners. These,tools,will also give us a little emotional distance while we’re writing. Get it off your chest and you’ll probably wrote some very cool and powerful songs.

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