Skip to main content

We’ve all heard about writer’s block.

You feel like banging your head against the keyboard hoping you might experience a breakthrough before you breakdown. In such seasons of silence it seems like no matter what you do to squeeze out some creative juices you don’t even yield so much as a seed. The truth is writers have not cornered the market on blocks in creativity.

Many singers are all too aware of times when they either seem to lose interest or simply can’t move forward. It’s like you get stuck. Sophie Shear, vocal coach at Singing Success, believes strongly in getting to know her students as completely as possible so that she can help them get through the natural breakthroughs and plateaus that are part of the process in fully realizing one’s potential as a singer.

“The breakthroughs are exhilarating, but the plateaus can be discouraging,” Shear said. “It’s important to set goals that can help you maintain a sense of moving forward.”

Breaking Through

But the creative block is something a little different and often requires a little digging to tunnel through. Dr. Susan O’Doherty of Brooklyn, N.Y. is a writer and clinical psychologist. She specializes in helping artists to move beyond blocks in their creative flow.

“There are a number of possible issues behind a performance block,” O’Doherty said. “The first and most obvious questions I ask a blocked singer have to do with the material and environment in which the block began.”

She may ask a singer if there are associations to a particular song or set of music they’ve been working on that makes it feel dangerous or threatening somehow.

“Songs can be extremely emotionally evocative to the singer,” she said. “You could be practicing a song about loneliness, for example, that makes your own isolated state; either within a relationship or outside of one, feel too present.”

Threatening Environments Stunt Creativity

O’Doherty has found that in some cases there may be something threatening about the idea of performing at a certain venue.

“Were you booked into a bar where you were heckled once, or where you had a humiliating experience,” she suggested. “It can be very helpful to look at the point at which you began to avoid your work with the aim of isolating the factors that turned enthusiasm into distaste.”

She has even come across cases where it’s useful to look at the possible negative consequences of successful performance. “Sometimes singers become blocked just as their careers are about to take off,” she said. “In these cases, there is often a jealous spouse, parent or sibling in the background forcing the performer to choose between success and love or acceptance. Or there may be other life decisions the performer has put off to concentrate on making it.”

O’Doherty cites the example that once success has been achieved it may be necessary to follow through on some personal commitment that has been made such as getting married or buying a house. This can cause a reluctance to move forward. There is yet another issue that can cause the same block to recur until the underlying issue is fully addressed.

O’Doherty has found that such blocks are caused by that healthy inner voice telling us we are living out someone else’s dream, not our own. This can involve a case where the singer that’s blocked is being pushed to fulfill the unrealized dream of a parent, sibling or mentor. Or they may be pursuing an image or style that makes them uncomfortable; isn’t right for them, or their motivation is misplaced or false. Addressing these blocks provides opportunities to learn, to grow and to advance your career in the right direction.

For more information visit Dr. Sue O’Doherty at

Randy Moomaw

Author Randy Moomaw

More posts by Randy Moomaw

© 2021 Singing Success. All Rights Reserved