How To Beat Writer’s Block & Deal With Rough Patches In Your Writing

by Bobby Gilles

in Church Communications,Songwriting/Hymn Workshop

"Writer's Block" photo art for blog post on how to beat writer's blockSometimes even the most prolific writers have trouble finding the words. Sovereign Grace’s Stephen Altrogge knows this. As the writer of many worship songs, author of several books (including an eBook about productivity, Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff) and as a pastor and blogger, Stephen knows about staying productive and beating writer’s block. In this My Song In The Night interview, he said,

“Just write! It doesn’t have to be great. Once you have it down on paper you can fix it. But if you don’t get anything on paper you can’t even work with it. So I always encourage people to just get started and not to worry about the quality. The more you write, the more the quality will improve.”

Allie Lapointe, who has taught songwriters at many seminars and conferences such as the national Write About Jesus conference, agrees. In her own My Song In The Night interview, Allie said:

“Don’t wait for inspiration to fall. Discipline often produces inspiration, and quantity often begets quality. Set songwriting goals, like one, two, or five songs per month. They don’t have to be perfect songs.”

But what do you do when you are writing a song – perhaps a promising one – and you get stuck on one line? I’ve fallen into this trap often, wasting time, energy and paper searching for just the right words, scouring the thesaurus or rhyming dictionary, and closing my eyes in a vain attempt at focused concentration.

When I interviewed Integrity recording artist John Mark McMillan he offered this pointer:

“Lots of times when you’re writing songs and you get stuck on a word or phrase, what you need to do is just put in whatever words occur to you, then finish the first draft of the song, rather than just stopping because you’re hung up on that one lyric. It’s like if you were building something. At first you want the ‘1000 foot view’ of something and then you go back to the details later.

“So very often I’ll have lyrics that I’ll plan to rewrite later.”

Finally, if you find it difficult to begin, you may want to consider how you typically end your writing sessions. The famous American book editor Max Perkins often quoted this advice from one of his prolific authors, Ernest Hemingway:

“Always stop while you are going good. Then when you resume you have the impetus of feeling that what you last did was good. Don’t wait until you are baffled and stumped.”

Writer’s Block photo, top, by Drew Coffman. Used via creative commons license.


Jeremy Taylor September 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Great ideas! However, I can think of a lot of lyrics John Mark forgot to go back and rewrite. 🙂

Scott Burdett March 7, 2013 at 7:56 am

Just like anything else, just do it! I do appreciate the Hemingway quote. I also have found if my creativity batteries are low, my output will be low. How do I recharge? My spiritual disciplines (prayer, devotions, etc) are being practiced, read up on my topics of interest, exercise, rest, etc. Basically, writing flows from your passions, so how are we feeding those passions?

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