The Same Songs and the Same Results

Creative blocks are a pain in the ass.  They can interfere with anything, not just art.  Have you ever had to come up with a unique idea, at work or at home, and just felt stuck?  Before, clever approaches may have popped in your head like epiphanies, but when you can’t do it and there’s no clear reason why (hangovers are generally good at blocking creativity I find) it sucks.

I’ve had a creative block for about four years now.  Rather, a creative ‘songwriting’ block: I’ve been able to write blogs, come up with fun ideas, do marketing projects, develop and expand on fun and unique themes for camp and so forth.  But when it comes to the one thing I ‘want’ to do (besides camp of course, love camp, camp camp camp) I’m screwed.  And it’s not a matter of what I come up with being ass…I’d love to write some ass music right about now.  It’s that nothing comes at all.

Before you virtually backhand me, please note I know it’s temporary.  A person doesn’t spend their life writing songs to just *poof* have it vanish.  I may get exasperated but I know it’s coming back…it’s just hard waiting!

Creative blocks are, in my humble and wholly uninformed opinion, a form of insanity…artistic insanity I guess?  They self-perpetuate, they feed on your inability to create, and the more you try the tighter it’s grip.  I know some people argue that point – that if you just work at it and keep trying the wall will come down – but in my experience it’s kind of like I’m going crazy…and there’s one element that really cements the ‘insanity’ idea for me: I keep playing the same songs…over and over again.

I knew I was in trouble when I realized I was only playing about five or six songs: when I sit down at a piano it’s one of two songs I play…when I pick up a guitar…it’s one of about four or five.  And I’m not improving my technique, or coming up with new arrangements. It’s the same song, in the same style, over and over again…for about two years now.

There’s a quote/concept attributed to Einstein: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I keep playing these songs over and over again…and I keep expecting that after I finish them I’ll have warmed up, shifted my brain to music mode, and I’ll start writing a new song.  But normally I play the song again, or do the dishes.  The results are the same: no new song.

I used to hear music everywhere. I described the phenomenon to someone back in University: I feel music as movement, like a physical wave in my body.  When I’m writing a song or developing one it’s a multi-layered physical and mental sensation which I separate and work through.  The song isn’t a song like you’d hear on the radio…it’s a concept that I’ve fully realized.  Then I sit down and make it tangible by writing and recording it.

When I stop playing one of those same songs that I play over and over…I don’t hear any music, and I don’t feel any movement.

There are two ways I’ve overcome creative blocks in the past.  One is the suck it up and do it approach, where I sit down and just do it.  I found this easy with story writing.  I could just stream something onto the page and eventually I’d realize “Hey…something is coming out of this!”  I have successfully done this with music before. Some of my favourite songs have come out of sitting down and doing it, ignoring how horrible it sounds at first. This time the block is still there

The other way is inspiration.  The ‘muse.’  Being inspired to write!  Something just smacks me in the face and I can’t help but write a song.  I used to drown in inspiration…you can probably hear it in my old music (I’ll link to my music available free online to stream or download at the bottom of this page). I found inspiration in dead raccoons, in fights with my boss, in television sets, in cookie jars…in chocolate milk bubbles.  Anything and everything became a song.

For the last two years I felt inspired but unable to draw from it.  For the last six months…I haven’t even been feeling inspired anymore.

This isn’t an emo post…there’s a silver lining.  How am I dealing with all of this?

Well…I like to think that, like karma, there’s a bank somewhere in the sky, and that bank is holding all the pent up, built up, unused, blocked creativity that I’ve been lacking for the last four years.  And that the increase in frustration over the last six months is sending a message to the banker in charge of my account.  And that someday, someday soon, I’m going to open my door and step outside, or take a drink of especially tasty hot chocolate, or hear say just the right thing…and I’ll make a massive withdrawal.

Until then, I guess I’ll keep playing my songs.

For old music by Roo go to any of these sites…you can stream the music or download anything for free:

http://roogoyle.bandcamp.com is Roo’s solo music, mostly under the name LHR.

http://brillohead.bandcamp.com is Roo’s high school band.  There are remixed and remastered versions of the songs that will be up shortly and will be announced on this blog when it happens.

http://overgrownspatulas.bandcamp.com is Roo’s first high school music collaboration with Ryan McLarnon, his friend and co-songwriter.  These are the birthplace of creative songwriting, with no worries about whether people will like the songs and no attempts to make anything commercial.  It’s just two guys, enjoying the opportunity to write and record songs.  They are also undergoing the remixing treatment and will be online soon.

Curious what songs Roo keeps playing?  Here they are:

  • Tori Amos – Pretty Good Year (on piano)
  • Tom Waits – Grapefruit Moon (on piano)
  • Josh Pyke – New Years Song
  • theeverpresentmelancholy – Crooked Design
  • Billy Talent – River Below
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket – Is It For Me?
  • Sparta – Cut Your Ribbon
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3 Responses to “The Same Songs and the Same Results”

  1. Kurrel the Raven Says:

    My advice would be to get a ukulele if you haven’t got one already.

  2. MRW Says:

    Gah! I keep coming up with all kinds of things to say, and then they just get wordy and blather blather blather.

    Basically, you need to do something new, random, unexpected. You need the musical equivalent of this map:

    to get your brain going in a different direction.

  3. HCoy Says:

    Unfortunately, you’ve got doing it, whether with or without inspiration, more or less ruled out. I know that’s not the intent, but it still reads that way. I have no direct suggestions other than my own annual forcing-out-of-songs: http://fawm.org/

    I frequently have little snippets of inspiration, but they don’t come out unless I, well, go after them with a club. And even then, they rarely turn into what I thought the inspiration was about.

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