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Saturday, April 06, 2013

When Your Muse Takes a Spring Break

See if you can track with the following situation…

Your week is slammed—chock full of appointments and meetings and pulling together tax documents that you don’t want to pull together in the first place. But, dutiful writer that you are, you realize you must take time to write or it’s not going to happen. So you whip out a crowbar and pry open a block of precious hours to work on your bestseller. It’s hopeful. It’s a handhold on your rockslide of a schedule and you’re looking forward to it.

Fast forward. The blessed time has arrived for you to lose yourself in the muse and surge ahead in your WIP. Java in one hand, laptop in the other, you cozy up in your favorite chair, ready to write and…

Nothing flows. Not one word. Apparently your muse didn’t get the memo. Your mind is blank and you are exhausted. Panic sets in. This is your only chance to write for the week and you don’t want to blow it. So you sit there with a crazed look on your face, whimpering.

Any of this sounding familiar? It happens to me. Frequently. Take a few deep breaths and read on, because after all my experience, I’ve got a few tricks in my bag that are often helpful.

Shut Up & Listen
Close your eyes for a moment and listen to your characters. Just listen. Then open your eyes and write down what they’re saying. That’s right…I’m giving you permission to simply write dialogue. Don’t worry about the attributes or setting. You can go back and do that later. Simply start typing in a conversation between two of your characters (any two) and something cool will happen. You’ll get lost in the dialogue and pretty soon your word count will sky rocket.

Show & Tell
Open up to your collection of pictures that inspire your particular story. And if you don’t have any, then use this time to get some. What am I talking about? HERE’s a sample of one of mine on Pinterest. If you want to go old school, then cut out some magazine pictures and slap them on some cardboard. Sometimes all it takes to get you writing is to physically look into your hero or heroine’s eyes.

Slash & Burn
Go back to a previous chapter and edit. Even if your muse doesn’t happen to show up during your entire block of scheduled time, at least you’ll be making some kind of headway on your WIP, and you’ll feel a lot better about it.

Bend & Stretch
Release the pressure by telling yourself it’s quality not quantity that matters. Focus on writing a single paragraph of description, either describing a character, a setting, and object, whatever. Make it a game by throwing out convention and using prose that’s crazy. One of two things will happen. This exercise will either spur you into a creative new bent for the scene and you’ll move on in your story…or you’ll wonder what kind of drugs you’re on and snap out of it.

Chocolate & Chocolate
Honestly, is there any situation that chocolate doesn’t make better? Go for the biggest brownie in the batch and see if that doesn’t put you in a different frame of mind.

There you have it. Try one. Try them all. Or go ahead and share in the comment section other surefire ways you’ve pled with your muse to pack up the suntan lotion and get home.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas…professionally, however, for the past 10 years. Her latest release, UNDERCURRENT, is available by Risen Books. You can find her at: Writer Off the or on TwitterFacebook, or 


  1. That's exactly what I'm going to do this afternoon ... just as soon as I clean up after Oliver, who discovered that the newspaper makes a great toy when his people are at church.

    Thanks, Michelle!

  2. Oddly, it seems the more time I have, the less my muse is present. When I'm rushed during the week and only have an hour to devote, the words flow. Crappy words. But words nonetheless. They get de-crappified when I have more time.


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