Let’s face it, everyone has bad days at work; days when no matter how hard you try you can’t seem to motivate yourself. It doesn’t matter what your profession is, there will be times when your mind is on other things, your focus is lacking, or you just can’t pull that necessary bit of information out of the air.
It’s is something perhaps most commonly recognized in the writing profession, where we give it the term ‘Writers Block’. It’s something every writer suffers from at times, and if any tell you otherwise they are lying.
But with writers it is often something a little bit more than a lack of motivation and focus (although of course we have days like that too). Writing is both a creative profession and a solitary one. Writers spend many hours a day alone with their thoughts, trying to contrast something beautiful, entertaining, and worthy.
When doubts begin to creep into a writer’s mind about their project, or indeed their overall ability, these can fester and quickly lead to a total breakdown in the writing process. Sometimes this might last a few hours or a few days, but for some writers it can drag on for months, or even years.
The phrase I like to use to illustrate it is ‘losing my muse’. I have been fortunate in that I have only suffered it for relatively short periods, but during those times my productivity has dropped to zero, and I have found myself wasting many-an-hour on either sub-standard work or procrastination.
During a particularly bad episode about four years ago, I decided to try and grab the bull by the horns. I needed to find a way to find that lost muse and get back to my project (the deadline was drawing near).
So, I did a little research and gave a few different things a try to see what worked for me. There were some very positive results, so let me talk you through a few things that worked for me, and hopefully this can also help you to answer the question, how to find your lost muse?
Listen to Music:
Music has always inspired me and I like to have music playing in the house most of the time when I am going about domestic work or playing with the kids. But personally, I cannot have music playing when I am writing.
Writing for me has always required total focus and the ability to submerge myself in the world I am creating. But when that isn’t possible, I have tried turning to music, and it has worked.
The best music for me to find that spark again is loud rock music (Muse is a favorite – ironically). It’s not something I would usually put on, but the volume seems have a cleansing effect on my mind. Sometimes I jump around the room a little bit, or do some desk-moshing, but before long, the rock music has become a background noise and my mind has returned to my writing project, usually with a new wave of inspiration.
A Clean Break:
Sometimes the best cure for a problem is rest. When the muse has disappeared, rather than spend hours staring at a blank page, I have also had success in making a clean break.
By a clean break I mean changing my focus entirely. For me, this needs to be done for a longer period of time; perhaps a few days, if it is going to work. Sometimes I move onto another project (as I write articles and short stories as well as longer projects), sometimes a big domestic job presents itself (spring-cleaning and so on).
Box-sets have also worked for me. I subscribe to the US Netflix which has the best shows from here in the USA, but also like to tune into the BBC iPlayer to enjoy all the best costume dramas and comedies (they do both much better over there) I have spent two days sat on the sofa watching TV (and feeling guilt as hell) but on returning to my study, I have fresh momentum and new ideas.
This approach doesn’t always work for me, but I know it has helped other writers too, so is well worth giving a go to.
I also decided a few years back that writing in the same place doesn’t work for me. Even though my desk at home overlooks the garden and the open countryside beyond, sometimes even this most beautiful of settings can seem stale.
Travel has helped me to overcome this feeling. Sometimes it might just be a trip into New York, or a visit to a museum. But on extreme occasions, I will not hesitate to hop on a plane and venture further afield.
One time I flew to Oregon on a whim (a beautiful, tranquil state) and another time I found myself in Iceland of all places (just exquisite). Both times I traveled light, with just a laptop and a change of clothes; both times I walked in nature and soaked up the natural world; and both times the muse returned and I ended up writing all night in my hotel room.
This is what works for me. Your muse might need something totally different to be found. But don’t just sit there waiting for it to happen. Get up and experiment. It will make you a much more productive writer as a result.