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Curse of the Missing Muse


(SNN) - All writers experience it; that troubling trance-like state that creeps over you as you stare at a blank page, waiting for the ideas to flow; then, nothing.  Or, if ideas come through, they fall flat at each attempt to get them down on paper.  You can’t pull the words together; you delete and start over with a different idea; you delete once again.  And there it is, you’re right back to that damn blank page.

Some of us write in coffee shops, a great place to create.  For me, most of the time that venue moves me forward.   Yesterday, it didn’t.  Some wordsmiths put headphones on and listen to their favorite music.  But nothing happens.  We seek inspiration by reading our favorite author’s words or an interesting article by a skilled writer.  Many times, it helps.  But sometimes there’s nothing.

I love my craft.  I love playing with ideas and words.  When the words start to flow and come together, what comes out on the page surprises me.  Where in the world did those ideas come from?  Someone asked me that question once and I really couldn’t give a definitive answer other than to shrug, point to my head and say, “in here.”  

But when those words won’t come out, or just won’t form into something you can recognize as a viable story or article, the curse of the missing muse kicks into high gear.  When you start working against the clock, you realize that if you don’t get something written soon, you’re not going to make your goal of turning out a decent piece by Sunday night. Then, Monday looms, you have to go to work or go out of town and you know you can’t write again until that night. Maybe.  But by then, your deadline (whether self-imposed or determined by your editor), has passed. You are still no closer to putting something together; the frustration keeps building.  It’s a vicious circle; or should I say, an imposing block!

So, what can be done?  I have had many good suggestions from talented, creative writers on how to break writer’s block.  Here are a few:

  • Just start typing (or writing). Write anything. Just get the words down.  A seasoned journalist friend had an idea to write a piece that required coming up with a twist on names that worked with the theme of his article idea. To get started, he just began listing any silly name that came to mind.  That did it.  He was then able to start crafting his piece.
  • An experienced blogger and e-book writer, reading up on writer’s block, mentioned physical exercise, like moderate walking, to increase blood flow to the brain.  Apparently, it worked for Beethoven.  Maybe I should go to Walmart on a people watching mission and walk around the store, notebook in hand.  That could provide some interesting fodder for a Sage article or two!
  • This blogger’s husband, a musician and co-author of their e-books, suggested going outside of my genre: listen to new music; read something that is not on the usual “to-read” list. That’s a different approach, one that didn’t enter my mind.
  • I have recently started taking random shots with my cell phone camera when I find something interesting. A photography loving family member casually mentioned I should use the pics for inspiration.  That’s so obvious, but my over-analytical brain doesn’t always recognize the obvious.
  • Another smart suggestion: Refer back to earlier, unfinished drafts. Mine are more like sheets of doodles, random ideas, phrases that come out of nowhere, subsequently abandoned.  I also carry a purple, Moleskine notebook around at all times, jotting ideas and describing some obscure event I observed along the way. I like the way the pen flows smoothly over the paper, hopefully providing a platform for a smooth flow of ideas for future pieces.
  • And here is a very unique suggestion that just came through from a Facebook friend. Jigsaw puzzles! I’ve heard puzzles are good for keeping the brain agile and just may possibly stall off such mind destroyer’s as Alzheimers. But for writer’s block?  I’m keeping this one.

Writer’s block is a normal part of the writing process. But when the will to fill a page is strong and the muse is weak, it can be terribly frustrating. I was blocked for two days before I cranked out this piece. My muse went missing. It didn’t matter how badly I wanted to write; the muse just left. But typing out those wise suggestions for breaking writer’s block helped me do just that.  I broke through the block! This time.


Author’s note: Thank you to my wise, helpful friends and family for being the catalyst for the creation of this piece. You helped me over the hump by sharing your comments and suggestions, giving me the idea to craft an article about the very thing we were discussing. Little did you know your wise words would be part of my next piece!


Photo by: Some rights reserved by alexkerhead flickr photostream, The Sage nor this article endorsed.

DISCLAIMER: The above article is OPINION.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors of The Sage Opinion and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the The Sage News Network or the official policies of the The Sage News.
 
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