Once you hit your creative flow, working on your manuscript can be a blast. But sometimes, the muse just doesn’t want to come. Well, forget the muse–you can get the creative juices flowing all on your own.
I’ve spent five years in the creative industry, and when a client deadline hits, you need something to show them whether your muse visits or not. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to keep myself inspired.
And fortunately, I’ve learned how to adapt those tricks to keep my manuscript on track, too. The best part? Anyone can learn to apply these tricks to keep inspired . . . here’s how to do it:
This one’s a classic, and with good reason. Write down what you’re stuck on in the form of a question (“What would my hero do next?”). Set a timer for five minutes, and write down as many answers to that question as you can think of before time runs out. No judgement here–write down everything, the great, the stupid, the crazy–it’s all about quantity.
When the timer dings, you’ll have a page or more chock full of options. A few are bound to be good ones.
Usually, I type my content right into Word. But when I’m stuck, I often find my fingers are itching for a pencil. When I give in and switch to paper, it never takes long for me to be caught in the flow of creation again. If you already write by hand, try switching to a computer, or writing with your non-dominant hand for a while. Something about changing your physical motion triggers different things in your brain.
Talk it out
Grab an understanding friend, or even just pretend there’s one in the room with you. Explain your problem to him or her out loud. Listen to their response (yes, even if they’re not really there). If you watched this year’s Golden Globes, you know Quentin Tarantino uses this method.
When you share your ideas with someone else, your mind has a way of filling in the gaps in response. How can you argue with a process that brought us Kill Bill?
Try on a new perspective
My first magazine job, when I couldn’t come up with a lede I was happy with for an article, I tried to think of what my editor would write. This resulted in some of my very best intros. It works for fiction, too. Need a fresh start on a scene? How would your villain see things? A side character? Your mother? Your favorite author?
What’s the craziest thing that could happen in your novel? Or the worst? These two questions give me a whole new spin on plot development, compared to the usual question, “What happens next?” It’s an excellent way to bring your characters fresh, high-stakes challenges.
Many of us squeeze in our writing time in between a lot of other demands in our lives. So when we do get to sit down and write, that time is precious. Don’t waste it waiting for your muse to come around. Next time you get stuck, experiment with these tricks and you should hit a creative flow in no time.
By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.