The writer's block/lack of motivation thing...

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Hi all, nice to be back here with many familiar names (and I'm sure there will be unfamiliar & new folks surfacing here as well) .

By way of introduction, I've been participating in this 50/90 thing for something like eleven years now (!) and with February Album Writing Month, even longer (I started participating in FAWM in 2006, doing the math means I've done 16 fawms, nine or ten 5090's (some years I did more then others).. that's a huge amount of songs! (Tho to be fair while I always got to at least 14 in fawm, my 50/90 average is usually somewhere between 20 and 50)

So now, after all this time, and particularly after what I thought was a very productive FAWM this past Feb., (and lots of songwriting earlier in the pandemic in 2020 as well) ... I'm not particularly feeling hugely motivated to play, write, or record all that much. I'm sure I'll do something... but this may be a 'recharging the batteries' season, or maybe more properly, take the batteries out of the house and start to do some 'normal' things again here and there' season. Part of the lack of motivation is perhaps that I did so much songwriting for the past two or three years, in particular, that I'm a little 'burned out' with it all. Those of you who know my stuff know that I sometimes (not always but certainly more then many) have found inspiration in the news of the day, political and social developments, etc etc. While there's certainly no shortage of current events, etc, to write about should I want to use that, I feel that I've said about as much as I can say on a variety of those topics. (For those who want to hear me sing about the pandemic, vaccines, the US politics over the last few years, etc., I'd say check out the last few albums of mine on bandcamp (links in my bio). And with respect to more personal concerns, health of family, etc., I did a few songs on that back in February and March (my last album 'All the ways we can shine' in addition to having material from FAWM 2021, has a song written in March about my late mother-in-law who died in March of this year (2021) (and the link to that album, which I feel is one of my stronger ones, is at )

So, where does that leave me? I'm not sure, and yeah, its always a powerful motivator when I see other folks jumping in on July 4 and 5 and 6 and writing/recording up a storm. I'm guessing I'll do 'something' (tho i have some plans on the 4th so i may not get to anything till later in the week) but I'm not sure if it'll be all that much. Sadly, since lately I haven't been playing alot, my guitar and instrumental skills may also be suffering a little bit. Playing a bit now and .. eh, everything sounds so ''meh, I'd done this alot before". Still on a fairly ancient computer, and never really was interested in the latest software, when I hear about 'daw' and plug ins it usually is of little interest to me- I'm more about the song itself.

Anyway, hell of a way to say hello, right? but just had to share that... who else is 'not feeling it (much) this time 'round, so far?

i know i will hear something good from you when you are ready. The album you released a few of months back was excellent.

I've felt that these past few years. Between FAWM and 50/90, I've ended up with hundreds of songs that have no particular reason to exist. A few of them were only made to meet a deadline, and not even I listen to them. But after years of playing in bands and backing up other people's visions, I want to start getting back to my own ideas.

For the first time in years I have intentionally not written songs between challenges since 50/90 of 2020, which some may remember was the cap end of 100/180. I feel like last 50/90 was the first time in many years where I reached the bottom of my creative well and needed to refill. In my case I feel like it is pandemic fatigue from all the changes and stressors of the last 18 months. I had taken several months off before FAWM and still felt like I was slogging more than having fun in February. Since then, from March until now, I have not written any songs or even explored any ideas and have restricted myself to listing ideas and free writing. I certainly have not played as much guitar as I imagined that I would staying home. I have lots to write about, and the stressors will provide some of that material. However, I am still not sure if my motivational drive is there to write 50 or more. Especially 50 solo songs (plus collaborations and chain writing games) which has been my past goal. I do hope to play the 50/90 songwriting games, hopefully do some collaborations, and approach this 50/90 one song at a time. I also intend to pace myself and take time off as I need to.

Trigger warning: this is not an OH GOD I'M ABOUT TO DIE post. I can expect possibly another 20 years barring accidents. Ten anyway. BUT:

I'm older than most here and starting to feel it. e.g. long term plans are now not being made...and increasingly I'm turning back to sifting through what I've done and working out what deserves to survive (a bit) longer than I do. And working accordingly. But...THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT...there's a huge amount of stuff sitting there to sift through. A lot is dross and rubbish, okay, but the point is there's a huge amount.

Why? because I kept writing, motivation or not. It's a professional thing, actually. You just keep doing. So, while i sympathise with Mike Skliar (who was hugely influential and supportive in getting ME writing with his encouragement, lo these umpteen years ago) I must say, loudly: keep writing music you young pups. Don't stop! Make SURE you have a mountain of stuff available to riffle through when you hit 70 and things slow down (which they will, sorry 'bout that).

First, thanks to everyone who posted on this thread with their comments and thoughts. Thanks @coolparadiso for your warm words on my latest album, thanks @Tim Fatchen re-that shout out (I seem to remember you inspiring me and so many others more then the other way around, of course) and yeah, tim is right- it is important to keep doing it, and one day there will be a big body of work each of us will be looking at. (and not to be morbid, but will tombstones of the future be 'here lies x and his/her four trillion terabites of data'? Smile ) As we all get older, of course, there are some ups and downs on the way, but its always inspiring to have this group of folks 'round here Smile I guess stay tuned, everyone!

A FAWM veteran, I just signed up for my first 50/90. I've thought about it so many times but for various reasons it has never happened. So despite all the FAWMs I've done, this still feels kind of fresh. With fifty songs to aim for, I don't know how that's going to affect quality or approach. Or how long I'm going to last. Anyway, it's good to see so many familiar names from FAWM here - including you, Mike - and I'm happy to finally join.

One of my all-time favorite songs is Kate Wolf’s “Across the Great Divide,” which includes the line “I’ve been sifting through the layers of dusty books and faded papers” @Tim Fatchen , I’m only a few years younger than you, and I too have been going back through my existing work. I’m trying to decide which of my little folk songs I should keep, which I should re-write, and which I should consign to the abyss. And then, of course, I’ll have to decide which recordings are good enough (very few) and which need to be redone (almost all of them). Meanwhile, I find that reviewing my old stuff is dampening my enthusiasm for creating new material.

@mike skliar, I’m also feeling a little unmotivated and burned out right now. In addition to the side effects of “sifting through the layers,” I’m exhausted from years of coping with public and private calamities. I almost didn’t come back this year, but two things changed my mind:

(1) I agree with Tim about the importance of continuing to write. And you never know what might happen: I only wrote a handful of songs during last year’s 50/90, but among those is one of the best songs I’ve written in several years.

(2) I really enjoy this community.

I hope everyone has a great 50/90 - however you define “great.”

Definitely feeling this right now. I'm not looking to write a lot of usable songs this year. Instead, I would like to write a lot of one hour songs. I want to start getting better at improvised songs (like Who's Line and Freestyle Love Supreme) and quick songs that I can write inspired by immediate trigger and sing to people right away. I'm not explaining it well, but I know what I mean.

There are a couple of specific things that I would like to write if I get around to it, but this is definitely a summer where my priorities are elsewhere. And that's okay!

@katpiercemusic I saw some freestyle rap recently at an open mic and was in awe! Had a brief phase after discovering Hamilton a few years ago, trying it out myself- there are apps that lay down a beat and throw out random words for you to freestyle on. I was crap at it but I imagine it just takes practice.

IA's picture

Here are some of my personal views. I don't expect anyone to agree with these, and I mean no disrespect to anyone. It's just me.

I don't think there's point to anything.
I don't think it's important to keep writing.
I don't feel that we need to have a large body of work for any reason.

The only reason to keep on writing is that you can't not write.

If for whatever reason you feel that you could go on without writing new music, then that's valid. Change is scary, but even if you stop writing, you'll survive. The scary part for me was that I thought that I won't know who I am if I don't do this or that I don't get to express myself without writing. But do I express myself? Why is the expression so important. I keep shouting "I'm here and this is who I am" but nobody really cares, and that's the correct reaction. I keep trying new things, making this style and that style and this is what interests me now and next week it'll be something else. Nothing brought me salvation so far.

Writing is a distraction. You try to create because humans are creative by nature. But everything we create is ephemeral noise. If it ever made any ripples at all, it'll fade at some point. Well but we're all writing for ourselves, right?

What does that mean? Some people read, some people drink, some people watch TV, some people sit on Facebook, some people collect figurines. We write. It's what takes our focus away. It's a distraction. It keeps us from looking within ourselves. Gimme something, whatever to do, so I don't have to be left alone with myself, right? That's what's called "boredom". That gnawing feeling you get when you're left alone with yourself and there's nothing to do but listen to the echoes of the big bang resonating within yourself.

For the record, I've felt this same thing for a long time.

I have hundreds of songs that are more or less in "garbage" state. Nothing polished or published... or the things that are, I hate them because they're so rushed. I often think that I could start producing better versions of my music. And sometimes I try. But what's the point? I don't like doing it. And I don't like marketing. I'd have to do so much crap that I don't like to get to a point where somebody might listen to and appreciate my music that I just don't care.

I have an increasing amount of stuff that I've made on my hard drive. Occasionally, I shift through it. Organizing, sorting, making plans. The plans never go anywhere and the organization is more of a distraction than anything. Once I kick the bucket, the hard drive will go to some recycling center and that's all it amounted to. I tried to build up my ego and that's how far it got me. The key is not to think that we're doing something valuable, but rather take the activity as what it is. It's just something we have to do... for whatever reason.

@IA, that's existential angst. We all face it. No, that's wrong, sorry, most DON'T face it, though not facing it becomes harder as you get older and mortality leers at you through those blue-tinted skeletal eyesockets. And you're right, and in many respects I actually agree with you (surprise! Biggrin )

But there is more. As evidenced by:

I STILL have superb stuff YOU wrote and created what, seven? years ago on my player and it's STILL on rotation. And it STILL gives me pleasure, reassurance, whatever you wish to call it, to listen to it. Okay, we all know I'm slightly strange, but my life would be a little the poorer for not having heard and held what YOU created! In the scheme of things, or the life of the Galaxy, or the Big Bang, that's an infinitesimally small and wholly valueless less-than-speck. To me, it's significant. Enjoy! (and writing is obsession, I grant. Even were no-one anywhere to be listening now or forevermore, I'd still be doing it)

IA's picture

@Tim Fatchen It wasn't meant as angst. But I get it. People mostly understand me wrong.

I'm looking towards something else. I've seen what the world has to offer and I'm not impressed. I'm glad that you found joy in what I made, but even as I read that, you'd think that it was exactly what I was looking for, but it's not. All I feel is emptiness. I can't imagine it being any different if millions of people loved my music. You can make a baby out of papermache, but it will have no soul. There's no salvation in worldly fads. I'm not angry, sad or frustrated as I write this. I'm just disillusioned. Like if your friend offers you a chip and tells you that it's the best thing anyone's ever made; you eat it and it tastes like nothing. There's no anger... perhaps you'd be a bit surprised, but you just shrug and move on.

Here's a great quote from course in miracles 4.ii.4.

Think of the love of animals for their offspring, and the need they feel to protect them. ²That is because they regard them as part of themselves. ³No one dismisses something he considers part of himself. ⁴You react to your ego much as God does to His creations,–with love, protection and charity. ⁵Your reactions to the self you made are not surprising. ⁶In fact, they resemble in many ways how you will one day react to your real creations, which are as timeless as you are. (#4:1-6"></a> | T-4.II.4:1-6)

I know that I love creating songs and creating in general but I haven't written much of anything since 2016. Maybe four songs and most of them (maybe all?) collaborations. So, I feel this. But, I think that for me, it was a loss of faith in my own process. That's why I signed up for 50/90; to push myself. But it's been hard. My block is a darkness or a depression that hits me while I'm working on lyrics or right when I need to come up with a tune. I know that if I can work through it, that I'll feel great but it doesn't always happen so I allow myself to get into a distraction (with the exception of my hard core addictions - social media or streaming) then come back to the page or the mic, telling myself that it doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done. That works for me, but it's a massive struggle and I have not won that battle for a couple of days now.

thanks, everyone, for commenting. So just to bring my tale up to date, 50/90 started, and i wrote something and posted, and then another, and then.. more! truthfully, the skirmishes have helped, (just did my third one since 50/90 started this year, but have a few other things too..). Also helps to 'keep the expectations low' about both subject matter (some of my songs are just kind of distillations of something interesting i did that day) and execution (as always, some are better then others, and most of my stuff this year has been quick iPhone recordings..... ) not sure how long this streak will continue, but for now,I guess to some extent i was back in the groove, at least for a bit!.......................................... hang in there, everyone! Smile

At the end of FAWM this year I was pumped, I could've gone on churning out songs forever, but I thought I might as well try and save the energy for later and focus on mixing, mastering and releasing an EP I was working on. Then the everyday life caught up to me and it felt like I had approximately 30 minutes free time per day after work and on weekends I was so burnt out by the week that I'd just lounge around and procrastinate. I think I managed like 1 or 2 songs between FAWM and 50/90. But I was still a bit pumped for 50/90 after 5 years of not participating, I'd booked my summer vacation so it would coincide with 50/90 and then some personal stuff happened that I'd rather not get into, but let's just say it threw me off whack and now I've wasted a week doing nothing much. I sort of broke out of it a couple days ago and finished laying down the instrumentation to my first song this 50/90, but now I'm once again stuck when trying to come up with lyrics.

Dunno if I had a point anywhere in there, just wanted to say I'm glad to be here and good to see you all.

When I see people jogging or doing excercise I say to myself, nah, go better write a song

@IA said "The only reason to keep on writing is that you can't not write."

SO MUCH THIS. I didn't stop after Fifty/Ninety last year because I realised that being able to make music was pretty much the only thing that was keeping me sane and giving me a reason to get out of bed in the mornings. So (after the studio refit) I just kept going. And I'm still going.

My process every day now is to sit down at my DAW and start making music. Every day. I don't worry about being inspired or not. I just sit down and start doing the work and hope that the spark will catch and the guy who makes a decent job of things shows up. If he doesn't, that's okay. But I write every day, pretty much. Sometimes I'll get something I'm really proud of. Sometimes I end up with a track that will end up in the digital equivalent of Tim's dusty boxes.

And here's the thing: I never know which of those two categories the next song I write will end up in. That's a strong argument for working on quantity, as far as I'm concerned. I let quality happen in its own time and the ones that go pear-shaped probably contribute more to me improving my craft than the good ones, because I learn so much from them. Principally I learn "don't do that again," but that's still a really important thing! Mike's point about expectations is spot-on; I don't worry about whether today's track is going to be good or not, or even if it'll resonate with me, let alone anyone else. Selfishly, I'm doing all this for me because I want to develop as a musician and as a producer. The learning is the key. If other folks like the occasional song, that's a lovely bonus that is much appreciated.

@headfirstonly One should add it worked for Beethoven. Mozart too. Too old? Howard Shore then. And all the successful media composers I know of (well, they're not that many but a few! of which I'm NOT one...)

I think I've just been insulted, but it's very difficult to tell.

@headfirstonly thats how many pros do it! Nick Cave said. I get up everyday put on my suit And go into my studio and make music whether i want to or not, inspiration is for amateurs perspiration is for professionals. Works for me as well.

As they say in the writing world - “BICHOK” - “Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.”

@Coolparadiso - that Nick Cave quote is cool. It reminds me of something the author Terry Pratchett once said that has always stuck with me.

To paraphrase he said that 'Writers block doesn't exist'. And he went on to talk about how he had started out as a journalist with a local paper, and what his boss would have said if he'd sat there saying 'I'm waiting for inspiration to hit'.