Everyone gets stuck. The most tragic thing about getting stuck is that when it happens you forget that it's happened before, and more than likely its happened more than once.
The reason you forget this salient point at this salient moment?
... Because you are up to your ears in quicksand and you are sinking... sinking really fast. When your creative brain is mired in the swamp of a problem it can't solve the natural reaction is to panic a little bit. And then panic some more until basically you're an enormous pulsing ball of panicky panic and you begin to struggle.
We've all seen the movies, we've read the survival guides. If you panic and start thrashing around in the quicksand, the only thing you are going to achieve is a more efficient route to your own murky demise. What do the smart people advise you to do when you are sinking in the swamp? Don't panic, calm down, deep breath, think logically and above all... don't panic. Easy for them to say.
I get stuck fairly regularly in the creative swamp. And when I'm stuck, I think "That's it. I've written my last song. I simply have nothing more that is interesting to say. And even if I did I wouldn't know how to say it!" Then I go on facebook and twitter and read about all of the brilliant non-stuck things that other songwriters are doing. Which of course is immensely helpful. It's only when I'm lucid and not-stuck that I can look at my time in the swamp and think logically about the reasons I got in there in the first place and how I might be able to get myself out should I wander back in at any time.
The good thing is, the more often you get stuck, the better you get at being stuck and the more practice you have at not panicking and getting yourself out of it.
Here are some small strategies that have helped me out at one time or another when I've been stuck on a song, or simply have had no song to write at all...
1. Go for a bicycle ride. This is the equivalent of Einstein working as a patent clerk. Cycling requires you to concentrate a certain part of your brain on something very practical, leaving your creative brain with less energy to spend on worry. Hence it concentrates its available energies on solving your deepest problems. Revelations may occur to you on your bicycle that your brain has been bubbling away on for months. There's nothing magic about it, it's just science. And it works. If cycling isn't your thing, try running or another physical excercise. Something that gets the blood going and gets your brain to the point where you can't consciously be thinking of anything other than the fact that "that frickin hill is really way too steep for an unfit fool."
2. Don't panic, remind yourself that this has happened before and that it will happen again. Try not to struggle against it. Inevitably its a depressing feeling when it happens, but studies have shown that these creative depressions are actually essential to the brain's creative processes. They will occur, again and again throughout your career and they will always make you feel a bit sad, but let your brain do what it needs to. They are often a period of deep thought where the brain is putting together disparate elements to make a whole. What your brain is trying its best to do is solve your problem... it is thinking "I'm in quicksand. There is a tree over there which might have some roots underneath the sand. There is a big stick over there which might be grasped. There maybe a stone near my feet. There is a village nearby. If I shout maybe someone will come." Your brain is trying to do all of these very sensible things. But it can't do them if it's thrashing its primitive instincts about like a chicken waiting for the KFC truck to arrive.
3. Ring up a friend (maybe a fellow composer/lyricist) and bitch to them about it. You'll not only do yourself a favour in having a good old vent and a rant, but you'll do them a favour too. They'll inevitably have felt exactly the same way as you at some point. Its nice to know we're all stuck in that quicksand together sometimes.
Those are just a few little suggestions that I hope you find helpful. If you have any other ones that work for you please post in the comments beneath! I'm sure we'd all be interested in hearing them!