Have you ever sat down to start a new writing project only to find yourself sitting there, hours later, staring idly at the blank page?
Writing inspiration doesn’t always come easily.
In an ideal world, we always look forward to the blank page, a fresh canvas we can color with ideas and texture with language. When our muse is dancing around, we feel motivated and inspired, so the blank page feels like the start of an exciting adventure.
But if our mind isn’t in the right place, if our muse is on vacation, that same page is nothing but a source of frustration.
When I became a professional copywriter, I had to learn how to write whether the muse was present or not. You know how muses are, fleeting little hooligans. I couldn’t rely on mine all the time. So I learned how to get along without her. That meant coming up with my own writing inspiration.
Outsmarting the Missing Muse
Yes, you can get along without your muse. I won’t lie to you and tell you that writing without your muse is the same. It’s less enjoyable; it takes longer; and it can be frustrating. But you can learn to get along without your muse:
First, figure out why your muse failed to show up. Here are some reasons mine runs off and hides:
- I’m not into this particular project and neither is she.
- The muse’s secret entrance is blocked by my stress, fatigue, or hunger.
- She’s put in her time for the day and has clocked out (the well’s run dry).
Once I recognize the problem, it’s a little easier to cope with the muse’s absence. I still miss her, but now that I know why she’s a no-show, I’m ready to forge ahead without her.
Forget the Muse, Discover Willpower
You see, the secret to facing the blank page without the muse is sheer determination. You achieve this by getting into the right frame of mind and using mind tricks to convince your brain that it can, in fact, function without the muse. I do this by telling myself any or all of the following:
- Once I get the first sentence out, the piece will start to flow.
- I don’t have to get it right (this is a rough draft, after all). I just have to get it written.
- If I hurry up and get this done, I can do something else.
- Just write the first sentence. Then go get a glass of water. Come back and write another sentence. Sometimes taking it slow and breaking it up into small chunks is the best way to get a challenging task done.
Sometimes these simple reminders are all it takes to get your word machine in good working order. By forcing yourself to push ahead or promising yourself a little reward, you can actually convince your brain to become productive without its mischievous little friend. That would be your muse, for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention.
Try a New Approach for Coming up with Writing Inspiration
What? You say these tricks don’t work for you? Don’t worry, I have more magic up my sleeve. After all, I’ve been outsmarting the muse for years.
- Take a break and work on a different writing project.
- Take a break and do something fun for a limited time, and then force yourself to spend twenty minutes writing.
- Take a break and get your blood pumping. Exercise for twenty minutes, take a quick shower, and then write for fifteen minutes.
Be careful when it comes to taking breaks. You don’t want to stare at that blank page for five minutes, take a twenty minute break, and then repeat that cycle all the livelong day. That won’t do you any good. Also, when you take breaks, avoid activities that can stretch into hours of procrastination, like surfing YouTube for your favorite cat videos.
Do you ever wake up in the morning and your muscles are all stiff? You yawn and stretch (and try to come alive). Sometimes your brain needs to do that too. Try a writing warm-up, like a freewrite or a short journal entry. Or turn to some other project that you find more inspiring.
When you switch gears and get your wheels turning on a different project, you can build momentum for when you return to the one that’s giving you a hard time.
And then there’s burnout. Your muse’s little vacation might be attributed to burnout. If you’ve gotten a lot of writing done recently, you might need a bonafide break. Pamper yourself by having some fun. Play with the dog or the kids, or turn up the music and dance around in your underwear.
That brings us to getting the old blood pumping. I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, so I can’t give you the biological, physiological diatribe about how blood flow and oxygen getting to your brain can make you more alert and get those creative juices flowing. But take my word for it. A little workout can do wonders for encouraging the word current. (Yes, dancing around in your underwear to really loud obnoxious music counts as a workout. Plus it’s fun, so you get two for the price of one.)
When the Muse Returns
When your muse gets back and discovers all the work you’ve done without her, you might want to gloat. This could discourage her from taking any sabbaticals in the future. Maybe you don’t want to hurt her feelings. If she’s sensitive, then gloating might only encourage her to take off more frequently. All muses are different, and I can only suggest you learn how to deal with yours through trial and error. But be sure to feed her plenty of cream puffs and chocolate éclairs.
You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Of course, because I’m so predictable. I want you to tell us all about your muse. How often does she take a vacation? How do you cope with her absence? Have you found ways to write without your muse, or are you totally dependent on her for writing inspiration? Is your muse a dude?
Do you have any tips for how to outsmart the muse and come up with your own writing inspiration? Leave a comment, but don’t tell the muses we’re talking about them…we wouldn’t want it to go to their heads.