Finding the muse, struggling for new ideas, fighting distraction, inspiration lost, writer’s block. We have all been there, that place where we fear we have lost our mojo. There is much written on this subject and many accomplished writers have prepared lists of what they find most useful for breaking the cycle and boosting their own creativity.
Not everything on these lists appeals to me – this body is not built for yoga, for example – so I was compelled to look at the ways I deal with distraction, to solve a character or plot problem, to even actually getting started some days. My list is in no particular order because I find my emotional and physical energy levels will affect which one/s works for me. (In other words which one I can be bothered doing).
1. Escape to a cafe, a museum, a gallery
One of my favourites. This morning I sat in a cafe to prepare notes for this post. I watched people pass, sit and move on. The red haired man covered in tattoos scratching his leg ferociously; a recent tat gone wrong? The shabbily dressed, proud elderly man with a slow limping gait. He may have survived a POW camp. The 2 young mums chatting over coffee. One dressed simply and expensively with immaculate hair and makeup, her child quiet and happy; the other frazzled but trying to hide it, her clothes thrown on at the last minute, hair falling out of it’s clip, child throwing his cake at her. Sisters? Old school friends? What choices led to their different journeys?
I might visit an art gallery, an exhibition, even weekend markets. Somewhere I am exposed to different areas of creativity which help get me into the mood and to feel at my most inspired and creative.
2. Take a walk
Walking has solved many a problem for me, I’m just not that great at it. While I know that walking is good for mind and body, I often have a pretty good argument against it. I am also one of those people who gets bored on a walk around the neighbourhood, so my smart phone is my best companion. Music, radio or a podcast and by the time I am home again I have solved the issue of whether Miranda should meet Jean Louis in Paris or Sebastion in London. It is also a great way to smell the roses from time to time. Or the seaweed and salt if a beach walk is more the thing.
3. Morning Shower (or whenever)
This might sound odd but for some reason my mind unleashes when I am in the shower. It’s a bit like being in an enclosure with the outside world shut out for a while. When I found these waterproof notebooks I was in seventh heaven. Because I lose ideas quickly if I don’t write them down. The downside is I can emerge a lot more wrinkled than when I started.
4. Enjoy Nature
Winding down, relaxing, getting my thoughts together is easier, and all the more enjoyable, if I can sit under the shade of a big tree and listen to the birds chat and the leaves mingle. Watching the canopy move against the sky can mesmerise and clear my mind, giving me room to start again and fill it with ideas on how to begin the next part of my story, or just start.
5. Write everyday – even if it is junk.
“Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour. (I admit I had to look him up.) but he is right. I just pick up the pen and write. Anything. What I am seeing through the window, what scents waft in. I can hear the sound of a lawn mower fighting the cries of the galahs in the trees. How does the pen feel on the paper. Why does the buttery croissant taste so good right now?
6. Read – Anything
As writers we are encouraged to read widely, especially in the genre we hope to be published. I need no excuse to do this, usually with two books on the go at once. This is therapy, enabling me to travel to different places, inhabit other minds and often inspires me to put the book down and put my imagination to use on my own project. I also love to read what other writers have to say. McSweeneys.net is a good place to get lost in.
7. Mind Mapping
I keep a scrap book and markers handy. This is a fun activity and I am often surprised at where I end up. Basically, start with a question or an idea in the middle of the page and branch out from there with associated thoughts and ideas. A bit like a tree or a spider. Let your mind go and write whatever comes to mind. Try this website, Mindmapping, for help if you haven’t tried it.
8. Try just one thing from this list or a different list.
Then share it. I would love to know what works for you.
Oh, and 9. TURN OFF THE INTERNET FOR AN HOUR.