Musing on Muses by Jan Edwards

Muses are tricksy creatures.

They come and go at the slightest hint of change and occasionally desert you entirely for no apparent reason. People refer to those arid spells as writer's block, but would probably be more precise to call it writer’s mind-is-elsewhere.

There are many causes for a haitus in the force, and asking around brought me as many suggestions for bringing it to an end.

Here are just ten of the most popular suggestions:

1.      Take some exercise. Yoga and tai chi seem to be favourites for this one, though a walk can be as good or better. As a meditational healer I can't stress the benefits that walking meditation can bring whether you are a writer or not.
2.      Free writing. Sit at your keyboard or notebook and write whatever comes into your head, however trite or non-sensical and keep writing for a set period, at which time you down tools and turn to something else. Some people find this incredibly useful though it has never worked for yours truly.
3.      Create a writing routine. Start at your desk at the same time every day in the same place so that familiarity allows the creativity to flow without distraction.
4.      Change of place. A direct opposite of #3 which might seem counter intuitive but it works for a lot of people for much the same reasons. It can be as simple as moving to another room, or taking your preferred writing tools to a different location. Several writers of my acquaintance have rented office space so that 'going to work' has a more structured feel. Of course this won't do much for writer’s block if the block it begins at the office. Other writers like to take their laptop or notebook to a cafe or even park bench when they feel the need for a change of scene. Not one I have tried as yet but I’ve been tempted. If nothing else it would bring in another recommended cure...
5.      Turn off your internet. Not something that would seem logical given that I am writing this for an online blog, but there is no getting away from the fact that social media can be a huge distraction to the creative mind. Insatiable curiosity is a given in any writer and social media feeds our innate nosey-parker tendencies like nothing else!
6.      Do something else. Writers frequently have multiple creative interests: music, painting, sewing, crafts etc. Taking time out for an hour of something equally stimulating as writing can sometimes jog you into action.
7.      Writing at a different time of day.  Specifically I have been advised to write in the early morning. I tried it and as a card-carrying night owl I can tell you that five or even six a.m. simply does not exist in my world; theta waves not withstanding.
8.      Cleaning. There is a theory that mundane activity will free the brain up for creative juices. It may bear some similarity to walking meditation and could work well for some. But if you really, really, dislike housework it runs the risk of becoming classic displacement activity - that old 'cleaning behind the toilet' thing.
9.      Brainstorming. Call a fellow writer and meet up for a brainstorming session. This can and does work well provided you have someone with the time to spare and an understanding of what you want to achieve.
10.  Play music. Useful but many will say that lyrics can be distracting, and it needs to be something very familiar for similar reasons to #8.

And the causes of writer's block?

Again I asked a collection of scribblers and their reasons given were many and various.
Since April of this year I have been writing at the pace of an arthritic millipede after a family issues drove my muse into hiding. I kept it hopping for a while by editing several novels for other people and editing and rewriting two of my own, but new words have been scarce; in some weeks non-existent.

In the past adversity has always spurred me on and I came to regard writing as both a refuge and a source of strength in a times of need, but not this time around. This time the muse took flight completely and I have missed it.

Then, last night, I wrote 3,000 words!

Not exactly an opus but it is a start. Okay, the issues that prompted the hiatus still have a way to go, but after being side tracked by the more pressing (and frankly more important) aspects of life I am truly hoping my muse is making a tentative return.

Onward and upward! I only have a novella, two short stories and a follow-up novel to write before new year...

Jan Edwards can be found on:
Twitter: @jancoledwards

Titles in print – all available in print and dig formats
As author: Fables and Fabrications;  Sussex Tales;  Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties


Wendy H. Jones said…
Great tips. I shall certainly be giving them a go should my muse storm off in a huff
Bill Kirton said…
Excellent post Jan but I wish you'd written it 3 years ago. My latest has taken 4 years to write. I've no idea why and, while it didn't feel like writer's block at any time over that period, something must have been going on because that's 4 times longer than any of the others has taken. I'll keep your suggestions handy, just in case.
julia jones said…
Thanks Jan - and your pic makes me happy simply to look at. Let's believe that one day all our muses will be skipping in a delighted circle having quintupled all daily word counts.
Glad the words have started flowing for you again, Jan!

I always take a block as a sign something is wrong, rather like physical pain. You can carry on with the pain for a surprisingly long time, but it only really goes away when you take steps to heal yourself.
janedwards said…
The Muse does what the Muse does :-)
Debbie Bennett said…
Nooooooo! My muse is AWOL. I need to track her down and either pay her more or shoot her!
misha said…
I find the cleaning tip the most useful. Very often, if I get up from my desk to do some mundane household chore the words start flowing before I've completed my task.
Unknown said…
Great post, Jan and I will be taking some of these ideas on board. I see the light at the end of book 2 and will be taking a week "off" (although I already feel guilty about that) in the hope my muse will have fresh eyes when editing. Good luck with your writing.
Umberto Tosi said…
Thanks, Jan. This comes at a good time for me.

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