How To Keep Your Muse On Tap

    keep your muse - woman sitting at table

    Feeling stuck? There’s nothing more intimidating than staring at a blank page (or screen) and realizing that you’re up against a solid case of writer’s block. Even a temporary absence of the writer’s muse can leave the most accomplished writer feeling less-than-capable, and suck the joy out of an otherwise fulfilling exercise. But there’s hope for all who have battled writer’s block before – put these five writing productivity tips into practice, and you’ll have your muse on-call and waiting for you, rather than the other way around.

    Tip #1 – Keep A Tangent Journal As You Write

    Just as conversations often branch off into unrelated tangents, whatever you’re writing about now can be the catalyst for many other things you may write about later. However, like shopping list items and people’s phone numbers, you know how easy it is to forget them after even a short time has passed. Don’t risk having your best ideas become nothing more than faded memories – keep a “tangent journal” with you as you write and jot down incoming ideas. Capture just enough detail that you can use them later when you need a great writing prompt, and you’ll give yourself a great resource without breaking your current writing flow.

    Tip #2 – Write, Then Brainstorm

    After you’ve successfully hammered out your quota of words for the day, don’t let all that mental momentum go to waste. Take 5 minutes to brainstorm what you could write about next while the gears in your head are still turning. Since you’re already in a writing state of mind, you may find it easier to generate upcoming ideas than if you pushed yourself from a “cold start” tomorrow. And as a bonus, having tomorrow’s topic in mind today gives your brain time to simmer up great ideas in the background so you’ll start tomorrow off strong.

    Tip #3 – Find Someone To Give You A Jump-Start

    Sometimes you’ll find yourself absolutely brain-locked, unable to even begin thinking about what to write. When you can’t even crank up your creative centers, take a shortcut and let someone else’s way with words get you started. Find a selection of writing you like and copy it down word for word, writing or typing your way through a few paragraphs (or pages, if you’re really stuck). Even though you’re not writing something original, the physical act of putting words down will soon prime your brain to get back in the writing groove.

    Tip #4 – Condition Yourself For Creativity

    Sometimes a simple pre-writing routine can help you get anchored into a creative state of mind – all you have to do is pick a specific action and do it every time your creative juices are flowing. For example, if you brew a pot of your favorite coffee every time you sit down to write, you can condition yourself to link the smell of that coffee to “writing time.” Do this enough, and you may find that performing this little “ritual” helps you get into gear automatically, even when you’re feeling stuck.

    Tip #5 – Show Up On Time, Every Time

    Many an established writer will agree that showing up consistently – whether you have something to write about or not – can be the best writing productivity tip of them all. Making an appointment with yourself to sit in front of your keyboard (or blank page) every day at the same time, no matter what, is bound to help you become a better writer in the long run. Consistently showing up will also make it easier to schedule the rest of your life around your block of writing time, giving you one less thing to distract you when it’s time to get the words out of your head and into your reader’s hands.

    Your Turn: Tell Us Your Top Writing Productivity Tip For Keeping Your Muse On Tap

    If you’ve been writing for a while, you undoubtedly have a few tricks up your sleeve for making it easier to write high-quality stuff without all the hand-wringing. Don’t keep them to yourself – take a moment right now to share your favorite tips in the comments below, and make your muse happy. 🙂

    About the author

      Dave Navarro

      Looking for more tips to make your life easier? Dave Navarro shares it all on the Rock Your Day blog.

    • Tony says:

      I like to walk a while before I write. It gives me a chance to formulate and structure my outline. It also allows my body to get loose. Sorry, but as I get older that is a requirement. There is also that rare chance that something useful happens along the way. Finally, there is that special thing that happens on occassion. I just get the urge to sit, and write whatever pops into my head. That is the good stuff.

    • Eliot says:

      Don’t laugh at me… I’m addicted to dialamuse.com

      If I’m feeling too broke for Dia, my other trick is go through my CD collection, pick one randomly and then write a short story inspired by linking the names of the songs together. It forces you to make connections and gets you thinking outside the box.

    • Lavinia says:

      I have a book coming out in the spring from Traveler’s Tales called “Writing Away, A Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler” and I just finished writing the section on writer’s block! I stumbled on this site and love all your answers. I agree, routine is key. I also find writing lists to be tremendously helpful. When you’re stuck, just write lists–about anything. List all your shoes and how you came to own them, or every waterfall you can remember visiting, or great band names. Your lists will lead to much more.

    • Dave Navarro —
      You asked how I stay in that world of metaphor. It is as natural to me now as any other way of thinking, but it developed more fully in the last 5 years from teaching karate to kids, from realizing the power of metaphor in how the brain works as in NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming), from reading “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay, and from a fondness for the “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu.

    • @Seamus –
      Glad to help – get to it!

      @JD –
      Open ended questions are great for getting some ut-of-the-box thoughts flowing. Thanks for the tip.

      @Zoe –
      Routine is a HUGE asset – it literally conditions you to be mentally prepped to get the job done.

    • Sal says:

      I usually use a spin off of the tangent journal. I sit down and just start writing whatever is in my head. Actually makes for some interesting stories, which will never be published of course, but interesting none the less.

    • Zoe says:

      Tips #1 and #2 are clever! I will have to test them out.

      As many have already said, consistent writing has been my most effective method of creating. Though it’s romantic to think about ‘waiting for the muse,’ it is much more effective and realistic to make writing a habit.

      I wrote a post about the ways a regular writing routine can counter fear and laziness: http://www.zoewesthof.com/http:/www.zoewesthof.com/blog/the-fear-of-writing-rubbish

    • J.D. Meier says:

      I like to start with questions. How do you know when you’re done writing? When you’ve answered the question. Now — what’s the right question …

    • Love that tangent journal idea! Thanks for this post, it has inspired me to go and write. Switching RSS reader off now.

    • @Glen –
      Links all fixed now. Indeed, I’m working on being everywhere … 🙂

      @Writer Dad –
      Glad you liked – hope it helps you. I also use my commute time – I keep a digital voice recorder nearby and it’s a huge help.

      @Blogging Millionaire
      Indeed. There’s a reason they call it the electronic income reducer …

      @Justin –
      Moving is a great way to get that oxygen flowing to your brain … where all that muse-ing takes place. 🙂

      @Suzanne –
      Exactly right. 80% of success is showing up (consistently).

      @Suzanne –
      I’m listening to soundtracks right now. Epic music FTW! I have a few more introspective playlists too … anchoring is a good thing.

      @Doggie –
      “Paper based tag cloud” – I like that. Reminds me of how shifting letters around on a Scrabble rack makes words appear – except this is making ideas appear.

      @Dwayne –
      Can’t argue with that. 🙂

      @Debbie –
      Reminds me of Steve Allen’s “write for the trash can.” Just get started, the juices will eventually flow.

      @Spaceagesage –
      Interesting idea – how do you stay in that world of metaphor?

    • I live in the world of metaphor. When anything from flowers to old cars, from cats purring to firework’s booming, and from cooking to sleeping is seen as a metaphor, the world comes alive with non-linear writing ideas.

    • Debbie says:

      I like ‘stream of consciousness’ writing as a muse invitation. Even if it starts, ‘I can’t believe I’m sitting here writing this. Where is my muse, so I can get started. I really need to call and make that dentist appt. Etc….’ Once you’re in the ‘flow’, the muse miraculously appears.

    • Butt in chair, hands on keyboard

    • Many times I sit down with a piece of paper and pen and diagram my words. I circle a concept that becomes the goal or subject matter then proceed to connect the other subjects with arrows and a number to indicate how relative the other concepts are to the goal. It’s sort of a paper based tag cloud.

      As I do this I imagine the subjects / concepts as movable pieces in my mind that I can connect and rank. In this way I am removed from my deadline of accomplishing something and am focused purely on how concepts relate to one another.

      It’s real low tech, but I find once I’ve completed this exercise I can fill in any gaps and crank something out.

    • Kim says:

      I write screenplays and I’ve found one of the best ways for me to get into and sustain a writing flow is to play movie soundtracks/film scores in the background.

      As I begin working on a new project, I search for music that suits the mood of the film I am writing. I then make a compilation CD – which almost maps out a journey in itself. As I play the CD, I find it is very easy for me to be in the right emotional state for the scenes I am writing, therefore I am inspired for hours.

      After a few listenings, I also find that I am anchored to the music. So as soon as I hear a certain piece I return to the emotional state almost instantly.

    • Suzanne says:

      I think the most important muse is the old ‘butt applied to the chair’ adage. It’s amazing what will happen when you just sit down, open up the file/page you’re working on and sit still…..something will come to mind eventually. The key is to be consistent in showing up, the muse will come.

    • Justin says:

      I find that if I run for a bit before writing, my mind has time to kick on, blood gets flowing and all that. Or even if it’s cleaning my pad before I sit down, that helps. As I’m moving ideas occur to me more often than if I’m just sitting waiting for inspiration.

    • Leaving the tv turned off helps me.

    • writer dad says:

      Ooh, I love the “Write, then brainstorm” tip. Never thought about it, but it makes perfect sense.

      I’ve stopped listening to music in the car. After I drop my daughter to school, I have complete silence. It’s at the same time, every day, so I get juiced up for when I get home.

    • The links to ‘Rock Your Day’ go straight to write to done, I kept thinking I had done something wrong (I deserve some link-love for you guys confusing me ;))

      Excellent post, I’ve noticed you everywhere these days, Dave!


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