Kickstarting Your Muse – 11 Practical Tips.

I don’t really believe in writer’s block, however I do believe in ideas block ( there is a difference, at least in my own teeny, feeble mind)  and I also believe in imagined or perceived writer’s bock. I remember one of my own treks to the dark side of Blocksville, and it was the thing that jerked me out of it that made me analyse this so called blockage that writers suffer. I already had thirty odd books             of my own in print, plus several ghosted titles for industry professionals so I wasn’t exactly a novice. However, I’d been trying for seemingly weeks to come up with an idea and I was absolutely running on empty. The more I tried to force my mind to eject something brilliant, the more it tightened up and refused to cooperate. And I was getting desperate; seriously, melodrama-time, desperate. At the peak of my melodrama, I threw my arms in the air and told my husband, ‘That’s it! It’s gone! I’ve dried up! Never expect another written word because I’m finished!! Sigh… Wait for it. My ever pragmatic husband barely looked up from the paper, merely uttering, “Hmmn. I suppose it must happen…” For a full twenty seconds I couldn’t speak as I tried to comprehend those words. What? What idiocy!! Of course it doesn’t happen like that!! What was he talking about! I’m a creative being! I create. Of course I couldn’t ‘just lose’ it! It’d be like a  Scotsman just ‘losing’ his accent! I was so mad with him. But amazingly that night, the blockage burst its banks and the ideas again started to flow. Afterwards I tried to work out what had happened, and then I spoke to a psychologist friend who explained it thus: I hadn’t been blocked per se – I’d probably been tired and stretched (a common occurrence here) and I’d panicked instead of just letting my mind and body catch up. And then I’d exacerbated the problem by stockpiling. Every day I remained ‘blocked’ I panicked more, and worked very hard at convincing myself that I was in trouble, and my mind complied. Basically, I was blocking myself. When The Hub offered his agreement, it shocked me. Hearing him utter what I’d been telling myself was like  suddenly being on the outside looking back in and realising how stupid his words sounded.  Note these were the same words I’d been using for weeks. Once I admitted that, my mindset began to change and the block started to break away. So, what did I learn that I can pass on from this? That we should listen to our husbands? LOL! Not sure on that. But I did learn that we are our own worst enemy and that if we remain calm, it will be okay. Here are 10  Practical Tips:

  • Read. This never fails to help me. It doesn’t matter if read within my own writing genre or not. And don’t stop at one title. Read until you can feel the ideas start to bubble. It might take hours or days, it will depend on how tired and empty you are. And don’t read looking for ideas – just rest your mind and read for fun and relaxation.
  • Visit Other Author Blogs.  I  often find it inspirational and motivational to read other author’s news, especially if I’m struggling.  Some may find it disheartening – I find it fires me. Additionally, I’ll give myself permission not to stress and worry and try to write and just web trawl. Mostly I look for articles on writing, as they help me the most.
  • Distract yourself. Start on another story. Maybe you’re temporarily blocked because another story is pushing to come in. So, get the notes down, and then see if you can return to your original work.
  • Revisit Your Goals. I make goals and try to stick to them as much as I can. Reading those goals, my affirmations and the motivational quotes I always write into my goals really helps me find my way back and open my mind again. (see  Randy Pausche’s quote)
  • Interview Your Character. I haven’t actually had to do this to get kick-started, but I know several authors who swear by it.
  • Make a collage. A collage of your story elements can very often spark new ideas about your story and your character. If you’re struggling for an idea, and don’t yet have a character, then randomly choose an interesting face from a magazine and start creating their life and story. Warning: Collaging can become addictive!
  • Write random stuff. Don’t edit yourself. Don’t think. Just free-write for as long as you can. Most times something useful will start to appear and you’ll find yourself thinking about it and following that line. It may not be your story but  it can help with freeing thought processes.
  • Spend a quiet hour or three in a library just reading the spines of books. I admit this is a huge favourite of mine and some of my best ideas have come this way. I never read the actual story, I just read the titles and nearly every time ideas will start to flutter. Note, I don’t use the titles, just let them gurgle around and then let my mind then play the ‘what if’ game.
  • Focus on your plot/story last thing at night. This involves  giving my blocks up to my subconscious. The last thing I do before going to sleep is focus deeply on my story and the plot problems. Too many times to count has my subconscious taken over and provided an answer.  I do think though that this method takes some practice; some brain training.
  • Find your creative place. What the element or place do you find sparks your creativity? Mine is water. I’m so, so fortunate that I live a whisker from each the ocean and the lake – so water surrounds me, so I walk by each a lot.  That said, I have had plot problem magically reveal themselves to me at 3 in the morning in the shower! Usually after I’ve struggled for hours and hours. The water is soothing and relaxes me – and voila!  I’ve also recently put a water fountain in my study as well.   Something to do with ions and creativity.
  • Maintain contact with other writers because no one understand this problem like they do. If possible form a face to face group. Face to face brainstorming is priceless, but even just the energy at a face to face meeting is bound to relight your fire.

Most of remember to be gentle with yourself. Ideas blocks can means many things. Mostly I believe we’re just tired and our brains need a rest, so try to go with the flow and not push. If you’ve got a deadline looming (my best block breaker of all!) then ask for an extension if you’re really worried. Sometimes though, we must be aware that your subconscious could be telling you that this story isn’t going to work. Of course the best test of that is to try writing something else. If that works, then you know you’re not blocked – it’s the story. And that doesn’t mean ditching it. It could just mean you’re not ready to tell it just now.


2 Responses

  1. Great post, Kerry and very timely for me. I’d forgotten how much I love to stand in a book shop and read blurbs, imaging the stories inside. Putting together the story in my head and making my imagination stretch. I should get back and do that more. My mind always needs a good stretch.

    I also have terrible bouts of lack of confidence that leaves me staring at the screen as the self-doubt demons conduct sword fights in my head,with me on the sidelines waving a limp white flag and letting them win.

    What if what I’m writing is really bad. Maybe I’m wasting my time. Maybe the oven will blow up if I don’t clean it – at times I wish it would.

    Believing in yourself (in this case, myself) and having the courage to put my work out in the big world no matter what the result.

    I do love your idea of a bath. Might go and try that now.


    • h Sandii, what a wonderful and heartfelt post. I’m the self-doubt queen. My crit partners despair of me and actually give me no sympathy any more. This is a good thing, because otherwise I might wallow, I guess. But the truth is, it’s so painful and I wish I knew way to curb that energy and turn it into a positive, Maybe that’s a future blog – hmmn looks like some heavy research in my future…

      If it’s any consolation, despite what I’ve said above, it does get a bit easier. I don’t mean the actual self doubt when we’re creating, but the ‘sending out’ bit. I developed a habit many years ago of disassociating myself from works once they left my hands. I put them out of my mind and work on something else, otherwise I would make myself sick thinking and worrying about the outcome.

      But for now, from one fellow sufferer to another, hugs to you my friend. When I find the magic confidence elixer, you’ll be the first I contact!

      Thank you for dropping by, I really appreciate your interest.

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