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 Writing slump 
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Post Writing slump
I'm in a bit of a writing slump right now. You know the type, where every note you play is just the worst possible note you could have played, except for the one immediately following it.

Help a guy break out of this stuff and throw your favorite composition techniques my way.

Thanks!

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Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:16 pm
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Post Re: Writing slump
Sorry to hear you're in a slump at the moment.

Personally, I find listening to as much as possible and learning to play it both verbatim and with my own spin naturally generates more musical ideas. I know a lot of jazz musos are big on transcribing pieces and solos to increase discipline as well as musical vocabulary for this same reason. I trust that if I'm constantly taking in new musical information and HAVING to regurgitate with feeling every day, it will find it's way into my own creative expression and writing without too much effort... it's a drip-feeding, nervous system type approach.

I'm fortunate that my day job means my clients are bringing in different songs every day that I have to play (on piano, sometimes guitar) to accompany them. I'll also have to transpose on the fly to suit their voice. This makes it a lot easier for my own natural workflow for my job to improve my creativity both personally and in a work context.

A more intentional thing I like to do is to take a song I like, and another completely different genre, and see if I can shoehorn that song into that genre. E.g. take a rock song, and turn it into RnB; take a happy song (e.g. Walking on Sunshine) and make it a melancholic piece in minor chords. But this requires you to innately understand the idiosyncrasies of each genre, which requires immersing yourself in as many genres as possible. I've got other things as well, but these are two things I do off the top of my head.

Not saying you don't already do a lot of this, just throwing my 2p in! Hope it helps.


Wed Jan 17, 2018 4:22 am
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Post Re: Writing slump
Bro Josh!

Go for some long walks and get rid of the clutter. The new music will then start to froth to the top of your mind, coming from a place of relative silence.

The best melodies I've ever had came from long walks . Trilok Gurtu said the same thing...

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 4:49 am
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Post Re: Writing slump
Disclaimer: I am not a prolific writer.

For me, writing comes from really two places. The first one is from a technique exploration: Try some specific exercise and then see what happens. The second one is more about mindset. After practicing several pieces that I enjoy, I get in a space where I just want to keep playing without the backing of a known song. From here something valuable may or may not arise.

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:17 am
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Post Re: Writing slump
The_Afro_Circus wrote:
I'm in a bit of a writing slump right now. You know the type, where every note you play is just the worst possible note you could have played, except for the one immediately following it.

Help a guy break out of this stuff and throw your favorite composition techniques my way.

Thanks!


I find working quickly without judgement works for me. I typically find a groove and improv on it... record EVERYTHING. Take the best nuggets of ideas, and see what arrangements come out of it.

Also, most importantly, when in any creative rut, keep working. the more you write, the better you get, and the more output you create, the more likely something good will emerge.

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:00 am
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Post Re: Writing slump
Don’t play Stick for a week. Instead, try to learn something completely new and give yourself a break. Everything will sound new again!

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:06 am
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Post Re: Writing slump
You guys rock, gonna give these a whirl and see what happens.

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Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:15 am
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Post Re: Writing slump
Dear Josh,

...long walks are a good idea...
...but as long you're not in a race or competition for learning the stick,
take your time...
...and last but not least, listen to good music carefully and actively...

have a good time...


Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:39 am
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Post Re: Writing slump
The_Afro_Circus wrote:
I'm in a bit of a writing slump right now. You know the type, where every note you play is just the worst possible note you could have played, except for the one immediately following it.

Help a guy break out of this stuff and throw your favorite composition techniques my way.

Thanks!


Josh, I have several, all of which work well for me, and may or may not work for you. I've never articulated these before, so my apologies if it's not polished prose. As my disclaimer and also voice of authority upfront: I am personally one of the most prolific people I know in terms of creative output--which says nothing about quality, merely quantity. So whatever I'm doing, it works well for me, to get the creative juices flowing.

The Universal Struggle for Creative Output Against Slack and the Forces of Non-Inspiration (for me anyway) are amplified and triggered and mitigated by the following:

1) Deliverables, 2) Distraction and 3) Diversion. Another one is Disgust/Anger and the non-D one is Boredom. I'll go through all of them.

In order of importance:
1) Deliverables. Nothing energizes me more and gets me to produce creative output like having a deliverable. I can point to almost every major thing I've ever done that I really, really liked, and can see that each one started as an assignment for a class, for a teacher, for a customer, or for an occasion. I'll come back to Occasions.

Scott Kerr and the Annual All Stickist Collab meant that I had to produce a 140 BPM song in C melodic minor. And constraints are our creative friend by the way. The symphony is one of the most constrained forms of creative expression in music, yet has produced many a Great Work of Art. A sonnet in iambic pentameter is heavily bound by rules and conventions, yet many a poet has found a way to shine. Not my main point, but Sink's Law #7 is "Deliverables and Deadlines are our friends. Without them, nothing gets done."

My composition teachers would assign me stuff and I would over-achieve to rock it out because of the assignment. Without the assignment, I would veg out and play Super Mario Brothers. That also used to bother me about myself--why can't I self-motivate?--until I formulated the next, better Sink's Law #4: "Know Thy Limitations and Plan Ye Around Them."

I know I work better with an assignment, so I assign myself deliverables all the time! I'll come back to that one.

2) Distraction. You know what the best thing about having a Deliverable is? IGNORING IT! I just said that a deliverable prompts action and creativity but often by me procrastinating and ignoring whatever I was SUPPOSED to be working on.

Example: I was supposed to make my Stickist Collab song and had a firm deadline. Instead of doing it, I put out 3 other songs in 140 BPM and in C Melodic Minor. And it was only the last thing that I ended up actually sending to Scott, and done literally on New Year's Day, the deadline (which are our friends!)

Nothing produces creativity like having to do a big paper and noodling on the guitar instead. I wrote many a piece during my English Grad School finals, when I should have been studying for my Holocaust Film & Literature Seminar (and talk about a class you need to get a break from!)

3) Diversion. Which leads me nicely into Diversion: when a deliverable fails to motivate or inspire you (Motivation and Inspiration are closer related than you might think!), and slacking off on a different creative project doesn't work, then I Divert: I switch from Stick to piano, or I switch from music to writing prose and/or fiction, or I work on fractals and art stuff. If you have many creative irons in the fire, you always have something hot to pull out when the Stick you're holding gets cold.

And if you can Divert to say, lyric writing, when the notes aren't happening, that gives you a Deliverable as well: now I need to write a song to match these awesome lyrics!

The other lesser motivators and creative drivers are Disgust/Anger and then Boredom. I listen to a few minutes of pop music and I'm angered and disgusted at what I hear. I think "Shit, I can do that!" and that gives me my motivation, to make better music than the crap I'm hearing.

Our little troll the other day might have been a Motivator to some: "I'll show you some tone, mf'er!" and that might have got the Muse going.

Boredom is a huge motivator sometimes, and then there is the "easy" one: Inspiration.

I went through a personal non-music creative slump because of a whole slew of reasons (having cancer, frankly, and then recovery from surgery, and all that kind of sucked, if I might overshare. More than a few of us can relate, I'm sure.)

One day I watched Walk of The Earth playing on a big guitar doing "Somebody That I Used to Know," right in the midst of my longest creative slump of my life. And it some way that I cannot articulate but felt in every fiber of my now-non-cancerous bones, I said to myself--with angels singing and hosannas and sunbeams from heaven shining down on my silly-crying face:

"I wanna rock!"

And a slump was killed finally and I'm the hugest WotE fan. God, I love them and their work. But yeah, inspiration can do it, but how to you find that?

So back to deliverables and occasions: I'm a Federal worker bee to pay the bills, and there are 10 Federal Holidays every year. I have a long-running tradition of assigning myself the "Holiday Deliverable." Every Federal Day off, I have to produce a new tune. That guarantees me an output of at least 10 things a year.

It can sound like a Christmas tune or merely me the thing I do on Memorial Day, but I have many, many tunes I like done on Federal Holidays. My most recent was the MLK Jr. tune "Breaking of Nations."

So, that was a lot of prose about what works for me. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

Write me a pop song on Stick. (And maybe sing! And write the lyrics.) Your constraints are: Pop radio! It can be deep and even a tiny bit proggy if it rocks, or makes people cry, or touches people. Queen is Pop music. Bowie is Pop music. Hell, Metallica is pop music. That's really opens up the constraints, but also limits you to what might have a chance of getting played on pop radio (I'd accept YYZ as a pop rock instrumental, although an 80s example of such).

I can't help you think that this or that note is the right one, and all my literature and music composition teachers always say "Don't get too attached to notes/words."

Deliverables, Distractions, and Diversions make Steve put stuff out into the world. Works for me, and hopefully you can get something out of this!

Best of luck on the pop song assignment! I'm gonna give you until Valentines Day (which is not a Federal Holiday, so no homework for me!)

--Steve Sink, Fellow Wrestler with the Muses

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Last edited by paigan0 on Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:07 am
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Post Re: Writing slump
Try a drum machine or something that gives a different beat. I always find inspiration from rhythm. Something usually comes up. Try to find poetry you like. Sometimes the rhythm of the words is enough to get the ball rolling. Don’t sleep...... most ideas come when you are so tired you know you should go to bed then as you are about to give up inspiration strikes. I don’t recommend this often. Play music back wards or up side down. This might inspire you. Music is like a snow ball. Sometimes all it takes is a little push to get the ball rolling into a big idea. Try effects on your stick you normally don’t use. This gets you outside your normal mind set. Pick a scale or chord you don’t use often and see if you can come up with something. Again we get stuck in a rut doing the same thing over and over. Different approaches might yield different results. Keep a verbal journal. Ie use your phones voice capture software and archive ideas as you go. I’ve got about 70 different 1bar or more ideas I can go to most are not worthy but sometimes a Jem comes out. Use this software and keep your phone handy for when you wake up in the middle of the night with this killer idea on your head otherwise you wake up in the morning kicking yourself for not remembering.

That’s enough for now

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Last edited by Jzzb8ovn on Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:19 am
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