Five ways to catch your muse

lightbulbInspiration is one of the most difficult parts of writing. When your muse is present, the words flow like water and editing is a breeze. On the days s/he takes off, composition can feel like a Sisyphean task. For me, these days are frustrating, but they're also an opportunity for organization. Here are five ways to pin down your muse.

  1. Make lists. Itemize everything that you have to do. Include transcription, brainstorming and research. Breaking down each task into manageable portions can make it seem less daunting. Document all due dates, freelance assignments and payments to make collections easier.
  2. Read and research. If you're truly stuck, read articles dealing with the same subject. The poorly written ones can give you an idea of how not to address the topic, while the good ones can lend phrases and lede ideas. However, don't copy them exactly. Plagiarism is as poorly regarded in journalism as it is in college. Don't do it.
  3. Dump out everything in your brain. Seriously. Write it all out as stream of consciousness. Blow out all the insecurities, TV references and lingering misgivings you might have. Getting it all on paper will purge your mind of some of the distractions that are splitting your focus.
  4. Break up your routine. Get outside. Move around. Get your blood flowing -- taking a break for physical activity can give your brain and body the chance to switch gears and relieve stress.
  5. Write at least one crappy first draft. Practicing writing every day makes effective writing much easier. Personally, I've found that writing for 30-45 minutes each day saves me hours of stress and decreased productivity during the weeks I have multiple deadlines.