When your Muse is MIA

This week has been a rough one for me. I got some difficult news and some conflicts need to be addressed that I don’t feel like dealing with. For me, this equates to a lack of will to write. My motivation has crapped out and I have no ideas even if hadn’t. Normally this would mean I just took a week off (or however long it took), but I’m trying to clean up and launch a book. I also have a big problem with keeping momentum going and I know that if I let myself slack off too much, it will turn into a cycle of slacking.

So, to keep the ball rolling, I’m presenting you with my list. These things work for me. They work for other creators (artists, musicians, writers) and they might work for you if your muse has packed their bags and gone on vacation.

1. Make a playlist.
You know what music moves you. You know what songs get you right in the feels. Make a playlist of these songs and keep it running. When I’m in a mood like the one I’m in this week, it’s Nina Simone. At first I just brood to it, but then I start thinking of the piano rifts. Then I start to imagine it as a soundtrack to my life. Then I start to imagine it as a soundtrack to someone else’s life. Then I start to figure out just exactly why that life would be interesting.
Maybe your process won’t be the same as mine, but it’s likely it will provoke some sort of process.

2. Busy Work

There’s something that you are putting off doing. Spell checking. Rereading. Outlining. Something that doesn’t require a whole lotta imagination. Now is the time to do it. It’s possible this will get your brain gears spinning again as you revisit parts of your story for minor corrections, but even if it doesn’t, well, it had to be done anyway. At least you’re not wasting time.

3. Set your mind on the problem and take a walk

This works best for me with short term writing block issues. I wrote myself into a corner with “The Silent Apocalypse” a few months back. I didn’t know where to go. It sat and sat even though I really wanted to get on it with. I finally reread my last scene and asked myself where the hell is this going? Why am I having a problem moving on from here? Then I took a walk and mulled it over. By the time I got home, I knew exactly what the problems was and how to fix it. From that point on if I even had the slightest hang up, I would go outside and wander around my yard for a few minutes, thinking about it. The answer always presented itself and the first draft was finished in a matter of weeks.

4. Create something related

It doesn’t have to be something helpful, it doesn’t have to be something anyone else will ever see (or hear) but making something related to your project will help your mind recharge on the task at hand, without losing focus on the goal. Sometimes I map out imaginary countries. Sometimes I draw sketches of the characters or the costumes or scenes from the story. Once I wrote a song about a character and I’ve also written poetry about it. Even if you suck at everything but writing, it flexes the creative muscles and helps tide you over until the muse comes back.

5. Read. Read. Read

You’ve heard it before. Writers read. It’s given as advice because in order to write well you need to see what good writing looks like. What reading also does it refill depleted resources in a writers mind. Read in your genre. Read out of your genre. Just read something good. It will recharge you.

6. Talk it out.

You need a special kinda friend to pull this one off. Someone who doesn’t think you’re crazy for wanting to discuss imaginary people. Someone who has an active imagination of their own, or at least is an excellent problem solver. Some one discrete and supportive. Someone who isn’t going to get frustrated when they give you all their best ideas and you don’t take any of them.

No one will know how to fix your novel but you, however other people can give you snippets of ideas that you can use. When I was having a hard time figuring out how the vague clues I had sprinkled through a story were going to come together, my husband casually mentioned it reminded him a surfing. Bam! Everything came together. I’m not sure if he said anything else. I stopped listening then.

7. Watch a bad movie

Slightly less orthodox than reading a good novel, this one seems to work for me about 50% of the time when I am looking for a subject that excites me. I’m a fixer. There’s nothing more infuriating to me than a really decent premise that is ruined by really awful execution. So find that little nugget of raw gold in the heaping pile of poop, shine it up and make it yours.

8. Clean your space, clean you mind

This may not work for everybody. It doesn’t always work for me, but cleaning your house, your workspace, your files, whatever can help create a better environment, more conducive for good work. Some people find that a cluttered workspace distracts them from their work.

9. Fake it til you make it

If you have to absolutely keep writing (or you just really want to) just keep writing. There is a whole chapter in my novel “The Singing Cat” that is boring as hell. This is because I forced my way through it. When editing is completed it will probably be totally cut out. But, by pushing through I got to the next chapter, which is, in my humble opinion, the very best in the book. Rowing against the tide is hard, boring, depleting work, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to get you to the point where the the current takes your boat and leads you exactly where you want to be going.

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