If you let it be.
There are some huge misunderstandings about music theory. The two that go hand in hand at the top of the list are 1) music theory is a set of rules that we need to follow and, as a result, 2) music theory kills creativity. If you ever believed either of these two ideas, thenyou need to radically change your relationship with music theory. The truth is that music theory can be one of your greatest tools as a musician, but first, you need to understand what it really is.
It’s called music theory. Not laws, not rules, but theory. The purpose of music theory has historically been to document what composers have done. This is why music theory is not necessarily solid and has changed dramatically over the years – as composers stretch beyond what has been done, the scope of music theory also grows, and many times, old ideas are discarded.
Music theory should serve you and not the other way around. As I mentioned above, theory could be one of the best tools a musician has – it can help us to understand what we’re paying more fully, and, as songwriters, help us to understand what’s been written before, what’s worked and not worked in the past to help us avoid continually reinventing the wheel!
Is music theory your prison? Try thinking of music theory as guidelines of ideas that have worked in the past. If the guidelines don’t fit what you have in mind, try something new and maybe someday someone will write a theory book about it!
SPOT ON. I shudder to think how many people this applies to; IMO it’s a classic sign of an amateur (at least in terms of songwriting), regardless of how good they are or how much music theory they know or even if in practice they are a “professional.” Sadly myopic to not get this or get trapped by it. Bravo