13 things To Do When The Muse is Stubborn

1. Habit, habit, habit. Pick a place, a chair, a desk where you only work. Start the work day the same way every time. Maybe play the same piece of music, a theme song for your book. Don't do anything else in that chair, ever. Not even check email or pay bills. Except sometimes that habit thing doesn't work. So then . . . .

2. Make up a Change of Habit kit (easy. Take these ideas and a bunch of others, put them on notecards. Then you can pick one at random) Remember to include a timer with an alarm in your kit. You'll need it or you might end up having too much fun and missing the whole day.

3. Take a walk or run or swim. Do not bring your MP3 player. Think about your book as you go.

4. Do ten minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise. Yo, do a version of this every few hours even if the muse is on your side.

5. Take a bath/shower. Instead of singing, talk aloud about one of your troublesome
characters. Or talk to them if you can manage that. (I can't)

6. Rewrite that last scene from another character's POV.

7. Go look through a magazine for pictures of someone from your story. If you don't find someone, then close your eyes and see them. Describe him or her in mind then aloud then on paper. Or in any order you wish. Don't forget the details that would pick him or her out of a crowd on a NYC sidewalk.

8. Call or email a writing friend. Complain or ask for advice. Then get back to work.

9. Move away from your work spot and give yourself ten minutes to do exactly whatever you want. Check your email if you want. But ONLY ten minutes. Set the time. When it dings, get back to work.

10. Do you have any candles? Light them. Write with them glowing near you. If you're scared of fire, do something else to change your lighting or the air around you. Incense, open windows.

11. Write the back cover copy for your story.

12. Change those habits for today. If you write at a computer, switch to pen and paper.
If you write sitting on the couch, move to the kitchen table. If you usually work for two hours, break it into half hour chunks. Try just writing dialog or scene-setting.

13. Go sniff something wonderful. Lavender oil. Cinnamon. Pine needles. Ahhhh. Good. Describe it as if you were trying to paint a picture of the scent for someone who's never smelled it before. Aloud, on paper--that part doesn't matter.

Well? What do you do if you stall out?

Good. I'll add it to my list (which is really, really long) You go on and do it and get back to work. I have to go clean my house for visitors.


  1. It's not the brightest thing to do: I start a new project. Which is why all of my current projects are unfinished :(

  2. hey, that's what I do too. (Works better if you limit the number of things you're allowed to have open.)

  3. Drugs. Booze. Wrestle the big dog. Tickle the small dog. Stare at the sun. Shoot a gun.


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