7 Ways to Get Inspired to Compose When You're Not Feeling It

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The consensus around here (I live in Minnesota) is that we've had enough winter. Too bad it's still early February, and the malaise has already set in, which might be making it hard to create. If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you know I love this quote from Chuck Close:

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You also probably know that I’m a big believer in forming daily habits instead of just waiting around for inspiration (which may never come), but the fact remains: some days we’re just not feeling it. Hopefully you have some kind of daily habit that you’re committed to, so you work through the resistance on those days, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Here are some quick tricks for getting started, even when you’re not in the mood to create:

1) Try a change of scenery

Although we pianists can’t take our instruments with us (but maybe you can), that doesn’t really matter. Taking a walk or a short jaunt to the coffee shop can get your mind in a different place so you have new ideas when you return.

2) Play music that feels good

On Monday I was in a tired/anxious mood and I fully turned it around by chugging a little Natural Calm and heading to the piano (away from a screen!) to play some deeply-grooving samba while standing and kind of dancing around (full disclosure: I’m glad no one was watching). It totally changed my mindset and got me excited to write!

3) Do something else that feels good (then get back to writing) 

Figure out a small action that would feel good - maybe it’s eating a square of chocolate, taking a minute to stretch, or petting your dog or cat. Anything to get you in a more positive vibe can only help.

4) Give yourself permission to write whatever

If you’re freaking out about not having any good ideas, just gently try to let that idea go, and remember that we always have to create lots of less-good stuff in order to get to the good stuff. Ira Glass sums this problem up pretty well: 

So that means creating anything, regardless of its quality, is still a critical part of your creative process and evolution as a creative person. In other words, tell your inner judge to pipe down (at least temporarily), and just write.

5) Write something bad on purpose

You can take that idea one step further, and just decide to write something "bad". Odds are, it won’t be that bad, and it’ll help you release any pressure you might be putting on yourself to create something great.

6) Close your eyes and listen to whatever pops into your head

What you hear in your head might be a sound, a few notes, or it might be an existing song of someone else’s, but no matter, it’s a starting point. That familiar song could be something that you create variations on, or the sound might evoke an interval or rhythmic motive, enough to get you started!

7) Get random!

Sometimes you just need an unexpected idea to get you started. Here are a bunch of random generators:

I hope these ideas can help you get started when you’re feeling stuck or resistant - it happens to all of us!

What’s your favorite way to get yourself going when inspiration is lacking? Feel free to share in the comments!

Rebecca Hass

Pianist and composer