7 Reasons You Aren't Being Creative

Sep 04, 2021

Sometimes, as songwriters, we aren’t as creative as we’d like. It’s common to have ebbs and flows in creativity, but we want to address any hindrances to our creativity when they pop up.

Let’s talk about 7 different reasons why you aren’t being creative, and how to get past them.

 

1. Distractions

Sometimes there is just too much metaphorical (and sometimes literal) noise. 

You need some silence to hear the muse when it calls. When inspiration strikes, it’s often when your mind is quiet, not when it’s watching the newest episodes of Stranger Things.

There are more shows and movies coming out every day than we have time to watch. There are endless books and book series to read. You can even watch the weather channel 24/7. 

It’s so easy to be distracted, even by good things!

So, turn off your phone. Put it in another room. Get some quiet time away from the people you live with. 

Yes, significant others, friends, and children are all great things, but they aren’t exactly conducive to creativity. 

So find a place away from all that and quiet your mind. If you’re distracted by writing on a computer, just write on paper. Find a way to distance yourself from the distractions.

 

2. Overthinking and Self Doubt

A huge creativity killer is overthinking while you’re creating. If you overthink each lyric you write down, you might not write down any at all!

Your first draft will probably suck. Embrace it. Write down everything

It’s good to allow yourself the creative freedom to write without being bothered by your inner critic.

Your inner critic is very useful for editing and finishing your song. 

But your inner critic just prohibits you from making any progress at all early on. 

You may have heard the Henry Ford quote “If you believe you can or can’t do it, you’re right”.

It’s so true. You have to silence that inner critic and free yourself to be creative without self-judgement.

You can’t let self doubt get in the way. Believe you can do it. Because overthinking it and doubting yourself is a sure-fire way to kill your creativity. 

 

3. Perfectionism

This is the other side of the overthinking coin.

Your first draft won’t be perfect. It probably won’t even be good.

You can’t let yourself be paralyzed by high expectations before you even start writing.

You have to trust the process.

The process involves writing freely at first, and slowly molding a great song out of it. 

It may take a while. It may not always be fun. But, if you trust the editing process, you can come away with a great song.

My composition teacher in college used to say “Great writing is great editing” and it’s so true. 

Most first drafts are trash. A great writer can take that first draft and have the patience to mold it into something great.

No one cares about your first draft, because no one will ever see it. 

Do you know the first draft of a Harry Potter book? How about the first draft of your favorite song? 

You don’t. Because they were probably bad, just like every other first draft. 

Sometimes the process will take a while. Sometimes the results won’t be perfect, but you have to trust the process.

 

4. Keeping Your Creative Brain Inactive

Another reason you aren’t being creative might be that you keep your creative brain shut off.

A creative brain is one that picks up on inspiration and ideas when they’re presented. 

A creative brain watches a movie and is inspired by the different characters and story arcs. You see an old lady sitting on a park bench and think of a whole backstory for that person.

You hear someone say something and think “Oh, that’s an interesting song title!”

If you train yourself to hear and see creative ideas everywhere, it keeps you in a constant state of ready-for-inspiration.

Think of it like waiting at the starting line for a race. Do you think you’re going to win if you aren’t expecting the gunshot to go off? Will you win if you don’t even know it’s a race?

No. You have to have your mind fixated on waiting for that gunshot. 

Similarly, we need our minds to be waiting on the next wave of inspiration.

 

5. Waiting

You can’t wait for inspiration.

You have to make time for creativity. If you just wait for creative ideas to smack you upside the head, it’s probably not going to happen that often. 

What if you just worked out when you were overcome with the desire to work out?

You’d probably go once a month. At best.

Similarly, you can’t wait for the desire to be creative to overtake you.

You need to train yourself to seek out time to be creative. If you do this enough, it becomes a craving. 

I start to get moody and irritable if I can’t be creative for a couple days in a row, because I’ve trained myself to seek out creativity. You can do the same!

 

6. Hubris

I think every creative person is an odd combination of consumed with self doubt and also at least marginally arrogant. 

Hubris or arrogance can also be a creativity killer. 

If you fancy yourself to be totally original and unlike anything else that’s come before you, you’re probably going to be paralyzed by that impossible pressure.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Accept it. It’s impossible to be truly original. “Originality” comes from your own unique blend of influences and your own mind, which doesn’t work exactly like anyone else’s. 

But there will be influences from some of your favorite artists. You won’t be able to get rid of that, and you shouldn’t try. That’s part of what will make you great.

So don’t let your creativity be frozen by your hubris that you can or should be totally original. 

You won’t be, and you can’t be. And that’s probably a good thing.

 

7. Not Loving the Process

I’ve alluded to this already in this post, and I talk about this a lot.

You have to love the process. 

If ideas are the only part of songwriting that you enjoy, pack up, you’re done. 

You have to love the process. 

You have to love the process of working for 3 hours for one good idea at the end.

You have to love the process of trying to figure out the right piano riff to accompany your verse.

You have to love the process and all its ugliness.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get frustrated or have moments of hating it.

It just means that you have to, at the end of the day, love the process.

Some songs will take months or years to finish.

Some songs will never come together the way you’d hoped. 

But some will come together into something amazing. The many hours and many failures to get the few amazing songs has to be worth it to you.

You have to love the process.

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