Musical Stretch (Guest Post by Dan Erickson)

Today, I’m honored to present guest blogger, Dan Erickson.  Dan and I recently became friends through the blogging community.  He shares a little bit about himself in the intro to his post.  To connect with Dan, visit is blog (Intentional Rhythms) or follow him on Twitter.  Enjoy!

I’ve been stretched a lot in life.  I was a child victim of a cult.  I dealt with post-traumatic stress in my 20s.  I returned to college in my 30s.  I became a single dad in my 40s.  I have all sorts of sad stories I could tell, but I decided to keep this on the upbeat: music.

I’m a musician and a songwriter.  I’ve written 100s of songs throughout three decades.  No, you’ve never heard any on the radio… yet.  A few years ago, I reached a point that many call “writer’s block” as a songwriter.  I was burnt out.  I felt like I’d explored nearly every style and genre of songwriting.  I currently haven’t written a song in nearly two years.  That’s a record for me.  However, I’ve decided to stretch myself musically.

I’m taking some of my old songs and rewriting them.  I’m guitarist and drummer, but have picked up mandolin and banjo over the past few years.  Laugh, but I’m taking eight of my older songs originally written on the guitar and rewriting them on the banjo.  The songs are part of a project that accompanies my book A Train Called Forgiveness.  But enough about me.  What can you learn by this musical stretch?

  1. Think again.  When you feel like you’re out of ideas, think again.  We often trick ourselves into thinking we have nothing new, nothing fresh.  But it’s the process of continually experimenting that creates new material.  If you keep mulling things around in your mind you’ll be surprised at the results.
  2. Change tools.  If you always go back to the same tool day after day, you’ll only be able to do a limited amount of work.  It takes more than a rake to plant a garden.  As a songwriter, I was able to get some fresh melodies and textures out of my old songs by rewriting them on the banjo.  New tools can inspire and refresh.
  3. Consider the angles.  We often beat ourselves up over not being able to complete a project in the form we’ve convinced ourselves is best.  Rather than considering new angles we tend to kick the project to the curb.  My latest musical project has taken on new life because I was willing to go back and rewrite old songs instead of demanding new material of myself.
  4. Expand on skills.  If you’re a blogger who feels like your posts are getting repetitive, take some time to expand your skills.  Practice creative writing.  Work on the technical side of blogging.  If you’re a writer: take a writing class or read more books.  If you’re a musician: try another instrument or play a different style of music.

Sometimes life can stretch us.  I’ve had plenty of times when it has.  But don’t forget, we can also stretch ourselves by making choices to take our abilities to the next level.

Is there something in your life that you can improve upon?  Are you willing to rethink old ways?  Are you willing to try out new tools?  Do you consider the picture from a variety of angles?  Can you expand on your current skills?  If you answered yes to these questions, then you’re ready to stretch.

Can you describe a time in your life when you had to think outside of the box or use new tools to stretch yourself to the next level?  Please post your comments below: