The Method Sting Used To Survive From His Eight-Year Long Writer’s Block

As many of you know, the TED Talks allow speakers to present their experiences and ideas in under 18 minutes. They are often well-formed speeches that give different perspectives on various issues, inspire countless people, and provide motivation. They globally appeal to everyone, and there can be talks on a wide range of topics such as science, business, art, culture, and politics.

Many famous artists like Peter Gabriel, Mark Ronson, Jackson Browne, and John Legend have all given brief presentations in TED Talks. They have touched upon many critical social issues and shared their unique experiences. The iconic singer Sting also joined TED Talks for a very personal matter and reflected on how his songwriting process was blocked and how he coped with it.

How Did Sting Survive From His Eight-Year Long Writer’s Block?

Back in March 2014, Sting delivered an impressive speech on TED Talks, in which he touched upon the issue of writer’s block. When we think about that, it may seem surprising to many of us how a unique talent like Sting can’t think of anything to write. He was the primary songwriter of the Police and wrote almost all the lyrics of the songs in his solo albums.

You may tend to think that he must have an endless inspiration that will prevent him from getting stuck at any point. However, it looks like the situation was much different than expected. Sting talked about his difficult process both in TED Talks and in the TED Radio Hour of NPR. The interviewer asked Sting to describe how his creativity suddenly seized to exist at some point in his career.

Sting said that first it was months and then, a couple of years had passed, but he still had no idea what to write about, and he started to ask himself why it was like that. Sting revealed that he went through an eight-year period, during which he didn’t have any inspiration to write anything. He would practice, but he didn’t desire to write anything new. He was just staring at an empty page and trying to understand the psychological reasons behind it.

Sting explained that he thought maybe he had revealed enough of his privacy as his songwriting mainly was based on his innermost thoughts and personal emotions. Thus, he started to consider that perhaps his best works would come out when he tried to see the world through others’ eyes. For Sting, being empathetic to other people’s experiences finally broke his writer’s block. He stopped focusing on himself and found the inspiration he lost over the years.

The successful singer finds it ironic that he needed to return to the community to find his missing inspiration, which he always tried to escape. It was kind of surprising for him to see that he immediately began writing songs again when he decided to tell other people’s stories. All these new ideas and verses began to spring forth as if they were stuck in him for years. Sting initially started to form various characters and then explained their hopes and fears. Thus, he eventually found a method to overcome his eight-year-long writer’s block and had a lot of material to work on.

Here is how Sting reflected on this challenging period and his survival method:

“I thought well, you know, maybe my best work wasn’t about me. Maybe my best work was when I started to brighten the voices of other people or put myself in someone else’s shoes or saw the world through their eyes. And that kind of empathy is eventually what broke this – writer’s block we’ll call it. Just by the sort of stopping thinking about me, my ego, and who I am, and actually saying let’s give my voice to someone else.

Well, they say write what you know. If you can’t write about yourself anymore then who do you write about? So it’s ironic that the landscape I’d worked so hard to escape from – and the community that I had more or less abandoned and exiled myself from – should be the very landscape, the very community I would have to return to find my missing muse. And as soon as I did that, as soon as I decided to honor the community I came from and tell their story, the songs started to come thick and fast.

I’ve described it as a kind of projectile vomiting – a torrent of ideas, of characters, of voices, verses, couplets. Entire songs, almost formed whole, materialized in front of me as if they’d been bottled up inside of me for many, many years. One of the first things I wrote was just a list of names of people I’d known. And they become characters in a kind of three-dimensional drama, where they explain who they are, what they do, their hopes and their fears for the future.”

You can watch Sting’s talk on TED below.