When it comes to your writing do you procrastinate? Do you suffer from writer’s block?
These menaces of creativity happen to me, too. I’ve found something that helps. Music.
Nothing inspires me to write or breaks me out of writers block as much as music.
What Causes Writer’s Block?
The reasons for your block may vary, but some common ones include:
- Timing: It’s simply not the right time to write. Your ideas may need to stew a little longer before writing them down.
- Fear: Many writers struggle with being afraid, with putting their ideas (and themselves) out there for everyone to see and critique. Fear is a major reason some writers never become writers.
- Perfectionism: This is the Biggie! You want everything to be just right before you ever put pen to paper or touch a keyboard. You want every sentence, every word, to come out perfect before you even begin. And so you never begin.
How Music Cures My Writer’s Block
I have my go-to artists. Hendrix, for one. That man didn’t seem to doubt his creativity and it comes through every wild note he plays. Other creative spirits work in pushing away the inner voices that scream at me to doubt everything and procrastinate till the sun comes up. But last night, inspiration and creative energy arrived during a brisk fall walk through my little plastic earbuds. I was on Pearl Street en route to a favorite cafe to face the doubting demons and to write. The song: “Ain’t Wasting Time No More.” The voice: Gregg Allman.
I instantly recognized the rolling old-timey piano intro, and then, of course, the voice. Rough, angelic. His lyrics poured into my brain. As synapses fired like bottle rockets, I suspected this would be one very productive evening.
Sometimes it’s all very simple.
“Last Sunday morning, the sunshine felt like rain
The week before, they all seemed the same
With the help of God and true friends, I’ve come to realize
I still have two strong legs, and even wings to fly.”
I walked and listened. I sang along. People leaving restaurants stared. And then the verses gave way to a sax solo, then a guitar solo. And then Gregg’s voice returned:
“So I, ain’t a-wastin time no more
‘Cause time goes by like hurricanes, and faster things.”
Well, that was it. I wasn’t going to waste a second of time tonight, I thought.
I passed trendy stores and cafes. I sang louder. “I ain’t wasting time no more!” More stares. I smiled inwardly. And then this happened. I noticed fog exiting my mouth. I remembered the season: Early November. Next, I passed the landmark art-deco architecture of the Boulder Courthouse followed by the Boulder Theater. Aha! On an early November evening three years earlier, I’d passed this exact spot with this exact song ringing in my head. I’d just seen a seventy-year-old Gregg Allman put on an inspired show at the Boulder Theater (where I took the above photo from my third-row seat). The performance would be his final in Boulder. A year later, he died.
I know. In the scheme of things, an epiphany like this seems trite and hardly worth a blog post. But maybe you have an artistic temperament, too. Maybe you enjoy the small, the surprising way that life serves up mind-blowing moments. Maybe moments such as these fill your creative cup and get your juices flowing. They do this for me.
Just now, I set my Spotify to “Ain’t Wasting Time No More.” I’m at a different cafe, but Gregg’s voice, which is piping through my earbuds now, is just as sweet and inspiring. No more procrastinating. No more writers block.
“You don’t need no gypsy to tell you why
Ya can’t let one precious day to slip by
Well, look inside yourself, and if you don’t see what you want
Maybe sometimes then ya don’t
But, leave your mind alone and we’ll all get by.”
RIP Gregg Allman
Other Methods for Facing Down Procrastination and Writer’s Block:
- Yoga. Moving the body moves ideas, too. I keep my yoga mat on the floor near my computer. When I feel stuck or tired of staring at the computer, I get up and move through some yoga poses. Specifically, I do four or five Sun Salutations. This flowing sequence of yoga poses works my muscles, calms my mind, and brings me to the present moment. Afterward, I find that whatever worry or obsessive concern that was blocking me before is gone or it seems to be less of a problem. My nervous system calmed, I can return to my computer and write with more power, freedom, and grace.
- Walk. For me, walking works as well as yoga for moving ideas. Again, move the body, and the ideas will flow. Walking also has the added benefit of getting you outside. Nature. Sunshine. Fresh Air. Interacting with people on you meet. All are helpful in getting unstuck. Walking pulls you out of your thinking monkey-mind and brings you back into your body and heart.
- Play music. I’ve played the guitar since childhood. Sometimes, when I feel stuck in my writing, I pick up my guitar and play a song. Playing music works both the right and left side of your brain. It requires both concentration on technique and also being in the moment, in the flow. For me, playing music moves ideas, too.
A former senior editor and contributing writer at Outside magazine, Brad Wetzler is an author, journalist, travel writer, book writing coach, and yoga instructor. His book, Real Mosquitoes Don’t Eat Meat, was published by W.W. Norton. His nonfiction writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, GQ, Wired, Men’s Journal, National Geographic, George, Travel + Leisure, Thrive Global, and Outside. He coaches up-and-coming authors to write and successfully publish their books. For your free 30-minute phone consult, email Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org