About three years ago, I hit a creative wall that left me virtually songless for a solid two and a half years. I don't know exactly what caused it; I think it was a mix of life changes from getting married, starting a new job, having a kid, etc. It was soul-crushing. Writing is how I process the world, so a season like this caused my brain to pressurize incessantly with no release to the point of me almost accepting the lie that I couldn't write. That is the ultimate death of a writer and I'm sure it happens to far too many of us. The continual feedback loop of self-doubt and criticism mixed with the desire to say something profound in every line almost made the writing stop.
Here's the thing...it didn't.
I picked myself up off the floor along with all the scraps of semi-good material from the garbage I wrote for two years and realized that I can do this. I realized that not only could I do this but I now had two and a half years worth of ideas and experiences to work with.
Writers: don't let writer's block stop you. We need your songs, poems, stories, pictures, and paintings. You need them for yourself just as much.
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Here is what changed it all for me...
About nine months ago, I was in the middle of a year-long obsession with Bon Iver (along with all of Justin Vernon's other stuff). I nerded out hard core for a solid twelve months, watching every video, listening to all of his albums over and over and over, learning how to play all of his songs. I've never stepped into someone else's mind that intensely before but it changed me.
I was learning his song Blindsided and came across the lyric "Taut line, down to the shoreline, the end of a blood line". For whatever reason, in that moment I thought about the words blood line, along with the concept. I thought, "there's a song I could write hiding in there. Two words, so many places I could go with them." I challenged myself to write a song called Blood Line. And I did.
The song I ended up writing was mediocre at best (I'm not going to play it or post it for you...sorry!) The experience got my mind spinning though - what if I started with some object, concept, phrase, entity, anything outside of my own mind and experience and started writing about it? Since I had spent the last two and a half years struggling to write out my thoughts indirectly (which was my goal because direct thoughts in lyrics are boring), how about I start with something else and then bring my thoughts and life experiences in along the way?
This is the art of showing instead of telling, which is imperative for writers and artists of any kind. I always knew about this concept but I never knew how to actually implement it in my writing in an efficient manner. There is a famous quote by the author Anton Chekhov that says, "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass".