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 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