Some days the writing comes easy. The words spill onto the page as fast as you can get them down. Ideas drop out of the sky and every direction you turn unearths new inspiration. Those are good days.
Then there are the other days.
Days when you’re pretty sure that your muse hates you, that she’s turned mute, and also possibly homicidal. The blinking cursor on the blank page starts to feel like a dental drill to your head.
Those of us that make a living from our writing, and those who aspire to, don’t have the luxury of writing only when it flows. There are deadlines. Reader expectations. So what can you do to jump start your creativity? Here are ten tips to get you writing when your muse is on vacation.
1. Show Up There are times when showing up is half the battle. You can tell a procrastinating writer because they have a really clean house. No one is better at avoiding writing than a writer. Turn off the internet and sit down in your writing space for a set period of time. If it helps, try setting a timer. Tell yourself when the thirty minutes, or hour is up, you can do anything else you want, but for that time you will write.
2. Permission to Write Badly Often writers get stuck because the shiny wonderful idea in our head bears no resemblance to the misshapen creature that showed up on the page. We’re frustrated and it can be easy to quit. The writing advice of Nora Roberts applies here: you can’t fix a blank page. Get it down. Even if it is not what you wanted you can fix it.
3. Give Ideas Room to Breathe At times you may be stuck because you are trying to force an idea into the world that is not fully formed. Ideas, like people, need space and time to figure out what they really want to be. If an idea isn’t working, consider putting it on a back burner and give yourself permission to work on something else.
4. Surround Yourself with Interesting Stuff Ideas come from a range of places so bring in lots of stimulants into your life. Who knows what may spark an idea or expand one? Read widely, watch movies, have conversations, do crafts, check out magazines, blogs, and newspapers, look at art, or take time to travel.
5. Music Music taps into the emotional center of the brain. Consider creating playlists for different emotions and play these when working on different scenes. Movie soundtracks can be great for this. If the theme from Indiana Jones doesn’t make you want to write action, then I don’t understand you. You can also create playlists for the book you’re writing and when you hear the music it becomes your cue that it’s time to write.
6. Switch it up Jump starting your creativity might be as simple as changing up your normal routine. If you normally write in the mornings, try at night. Write longhand instead of on the computer. Try changing your physical space by writing in a different room, or the beach, library, or coffee shop.
7. Give Yourself Permission to Play Writing is supposed to be fun. It can be easy to get caught into the idea that the only writing that matters is that which moves your book forward by a set number of words per day. Instead try playing with your world. While you may not be writing anything that shows up directly in your project, it may inspire you in a direction you hadn’t considered. Write diary entries from a character’s point of view, take a scene and write it from the point of view of a different character, brainstorm ideas by asking yourself what if? See where it leads you.
8. Writing Groups Sometimes what you need to move forward is a good kick in the rear and a supportive writing group can offer that. Writing groups can inspire you by helping you set, and stick, to deadlines. They can also provide objective feedback which may help you get direction.
9. Take a Class/Go to a Conference/Listen to a Podcast I gain a lot of inspiration by listening to the podcast Writing Excuses on a regular basis. Their way of breaking down various writing issues often gives me ways to look at my book in a new way. Conferences or classes give you inspiration in workshops with practical how-to exercises, as well as helping you connect to a wider group of writers. There is power in knowing you aren’t alone in this crazy desire to make stuff up for others.
10. Move/Exercise There are studies that show physical activity activates different parts of the brain. A healthy body helps create a healthy mind. This doesn’t mean you have to enter a triathlon, but if you’re finding the words aren’t flowing, take a walk, go for a swim, or do a yoga class.
Your muse works for you, but she may require some training. Using some (or all) of the ten tips here will hopefully have you writing on a regular basis, and instead of waiting for inspiration- creating it.