When Your Writing Muse Goes AWOL

©Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved


As writers we all have those times when it seems as if our idea well has gone dry, our creative muscle has atrophied, and our muse has gone AWOL. And those times can be frustrating. We live in an increasingly busy world, our lives filled with stresses of one kind or another. Many of us have multiple demands on our time, so it’s no wonder that we hit these walls every now and again.   


But if/when it does happen it’s no good throwing up our hands and accepting that our muse is a fickle wench and is in control of the situation. On the contrary, there are many ways that you can entice her to return to duty. 


That being said, priming the creative pump will be different for everyone. What works for me, will not necessarily work for you. You need to try a variety of approaches and find that magic formula that returns you to full writing force. 


Music can be a powerful stimulator of the imagination. A writing colleague of mine is a big advocate of blending music with her writing. She creates playlists for each WIP, and often has specific songs attached to specific characters. She plays this music while writing and the music helps keep her in the world she’s creating. She has specific genres of music that energize her, so will sometimes just crank up the tunes and dance. The burst of adrenalin will often bring on a spurt of writing. 


If you have been working hard on a specific project, you may need to step away for a little while and focus on an entirely different activity. For example, spend an afternoon baking or cooking. It can be very creative, and it frees the mind for a while. You can go back to your manuscript refreshed, and the bonus is your house likely smells really yummy! 


Do something else that taps directly into that creative side of yourself. Paint or draw or sculpt. Get out your sewing machine. Dabble in making some jewelry. Muck about with your craft supplies. Play the piano or guitar. You are exercising the same muscles used for your writing, but are not under pressure for the moment to be producing on the page. 


Throughout our week, there will be times where we are in waiting mode: in the waiting room at the dentist’s office, in line at the mall, stuck in traffic on the freeway, riding on the commuter train, taking the bus across town... This is all time that could be put to use for your writing. Make a habit of carrying a notebook and pen, or a small recording device, in your bag at all times. Use this waiting time to brainstorm story premises, or draft character sketches, play with character names, or title ideas, draft your back cover blurb, or list some marketing ideas. 


Rediscover the joy of just daydreaming like you did as a child. If the weather permits, sit out in the back yard and listen to the birds or watch the clouds. If it’s too cold outside, light a fire in your fireplace and watch the flames, listening to the crackle and snap of the wood. It even works with the artificial fireplace you can have on TV (Where I live, there’s a fireplace channel on my cable network). Free your mind and allow it to open up to possibilities. You can feel your blood pressure going down. And chances are you will find that the proverbial lightbulb blinks on over your head and you’re ready to head back to your computer. 


Some of my best story ideas have come from dreams. I’ve learned to keep a notebook and pen in my bedside table for jotting down these wonderful gifts that arrive in my sleep. It means forcing yourself awake and turning on a light in the middle of the night, but the end result is often worth it. 


I keep a file of story ideas that I collect throughout the year. The file is full of scribbled-on napkins, torn bits from envelopes, little notebook pages, a couple of notebooks of story outlines, post its—an assortment of paper I’ve sketched ideas on.  This is my writing well, and I turn to it when I need an idea, or am searching for some inspiration. I suggest taking a day every now and again, and doing some concentrated brainstorming of story premises, character descriptions, world building, “what ifs”.  


Using whatever means works for you, if you can keep that idea well full, you’ll never have a problem priming the writing pump and keeping your muse content and on the job. 


Other articles you might find useful are: 


Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes by Alicia Rasley



Develop a Kick-Ass Plot! By Lynette Rees



When Life Hands you Lemons… by Judy Bagshaw






About the Author:  Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include several novels, a collection of short stories, and short stories in multiple anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website www.judybagshaw.com



Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell