Picture The scene: you're halfway through writing the song that's finally going to take you chartwards, but you can't quite get your fingers around that middle eight. You're stuck. You need guidance. You need a strategy...
From the ancient Chinese I Ching, through Tarot cards, to Luke Reinhart's contemporary novel 'The Diceman' people have consulted inanimate objects in the hope that they might be offered some hint of guidance for the future. In the mid 70s famous forehead Brian Eno embraced this idea with his 'Oblique Strategies' set of cards.
In collaboration with Peter Schmidt, Eno compiled over 100 proverbs, epithets, and maxims, intended to prompt inspiration when the creative juices have temporarily dried up. The cards offer commands from the specifically musical like 'Change instrument roles', to the abstract 'Do something boring', via general rules for life such as 'Honour thy mistake as hidden intention'. In true Eno form, there are also a number of random cards - 'Idiot glee (?)', 'Breathe more deeply', 'Cascades', 'Trust in the you of now', and suchlike.
But you don't necessarily need Eno & Schmidt's (by now) rare cards to compile your own Oblique Strategies: you might have noticed already that there are certain ideas and phrases that keep recurring during rehearsals, things like 'Play the chorus before the verse', 'Double the tempo', 'Leave out each instrument in turn', 'Stop the guitarist from experimenting', 'Sing the bass line'... get the idea? Write them down, and consult them randomly whenever you stumble across a creative block. Everybody does it, from Robert Wyatt to Paul McCartney ("If you can't hear it, turn it up" is one of his). As Eno & Schmidt say, it's 'Simply a matter of work'.