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- Make a list. There’s something about making
lists that just flows.
- Just write something. Anything. Even if it’s
garbage. If all you’re getting is dirt, keep digging.
- Come back to an old idea you’ve written and see
it in a new light.
- Get in character, like an actor. Find the “emotional
core” of whatever you are creating.
- Make up a title. For some reason, having the
title of something really helps music come to me.
- For music: write words that describe the
emotional core of the music.
- For prose: imagine what the soundtrack for a particular
scene would sound like if it were a movie.
- Start conducting.
- Start humming or singing randomly.
- “Write out loud”: your book is a movie, and you
are the narrator.
- Improvise on your instrument.
- Look at visual art. Paintings, sculptures,
- Look at visual art and write descriptions of it,
or depict the art musically. Ask, “If this sculpture were a character in my
story, what would he be like?”, or, “If this painting had a soundtrack, what would
it sound like?”
- Come back to an old idea. See it in a new light.
- Read, and then “riff” on something you have
read. A character, a scene, a concept. How would you end this story?
- Listen to music.
- Listen to music, and then “riff” on one melody
or fragment you have heard. How would you have written it differently?
- Imagine you are one of your own students. How would
you tell yourself how to solve this problem?
- Change tasks. If composing isn’t going well,
orchestrate something you’ve already written. If writing isn’t going well,
flesh out an existing character or concept.
- Take a walk outside. Look around. Imagine being
able to change anything at will. The tree in front of you is no longer a tree:
it’s a space elevator. The birds aren’t birds. They’re dragons. Let your
- If nothing is going well, take a break. Do something
fun. When you come back to creativity, you’ll feel refreshed.
- Remind yourself of what one of your teachers has
told you. I recorded some of my trumpet lessons (with my teacher’s permission,
of course); when I had a practice session that wasn’t going well, I listened to
one of the recordings to remind myself of what was truly important. (In many
cases, I was simply overthinking the whole process.)
- Return to an old idea. See it in a new light.
- Give yourself a deadline and be absolutely
inflexible. To get my creativity back after a long period of disuse, I wrote a short
piece every day, beginning to end, having at most only a couple of hours each day.
This helped me to stop being perfectionistic and simply focus on completing
projects. This also provided great material for future projects, since I now had
plenty of ideas to develop later.
- Start with a small, simple idea.
- Listen to music you’ve already written, or read
a story you’ve already written and are proud of. If your creative block lasts a
long enough period of time, it’s good to remind yourself that you can still do