I know I had a pretty hardy upbringing, – often arranging through the night with coffee and cigarettes (I don’t smoke any more) – sometimes arriving at the 10am session with the score only just finished, in time for 3 copyists to tear it into three chunks and copy a chunk each, – back in the days when it was all done in pencil – so the orchestra had their own separate parts, copied from the score. Meanwhile I would start recording the other two pieces that I would have written before midnight, and the last of the three songs to be recorded would be the one I had stayed up all night doing, after the copyists had copied it during the first two hours of the session. Quick decisions became a way of life – perhaps even spilling into other parts of life. But that’s mostly to do with ARRANGING rather than writing. However – the same applies to other writing IF YOU BELIEVE IT. It’s a bit like if you believe in Santa or Fairies, they exist. I just don’t BELIEVE in writer’s block. Therefore it ISN’T.
My advice to songwriters who can’t write anything that day, is write something. Some shit. A crap verse. It might lead to an interesting chorus that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t written the crap verse. The skill is – either then or later – (maybe by listening to your mates or your girlfriend, but ideally by yourself) to identify the crap and discern it from the good bit, throw away the bad bit and build on the good bit. Your girlfriend might have great taste in men but she might make the wrong call about your song verse. (Or genders vice versa).
Deadlines are great. Ask a journalist if he or she has ever had writer’s block. I bet eight out of ten will tell you they write their best stuff with an hour to go before they have to file their copy.
The best incentive for me to write is to book a 70 piece orchestra for, say 8 weeks away, (for an album) – or next week, depending on the size of the job. It concentrates the mind. Are you going to turn up without anything written? No. The phone goes. Do I want to go out to dinner? Love to, but got a session in a week’s time, sorry. If it’s in SIX WEEKS’ time, it’s “yeah, sod it let’s go out to dinner”. If it’s TOMORROW (the session) even I’m not quite stupid enough to build up that kind of adrenalin by wasting the pre-midnight hours and relying on myself to come up with some genius piece at 4am, then arrange it before 10am.
I HAVE been in that situation, where I have a 10am session with rhythm and strings and everything and the SONG isn’t even written yet at 4am. Trust me, you write quickly then.
Main point. Just put SOMETHING on that blank paper to stop it from being blank. Blank paper (or software) is exciting but it can also be intimidating. I was once working with George Harrison. He had done a guitar solo on my HUNTING OF THE SNARK album. He rang me one night, – as we had decided to do some writing together. I said, “So when shall we write this masterpiece then, George?”. His reply was worth bottling. He said “Well, actually something crap would do to start with”.