Finding Your Writing Mojo, Part 1: Tickling the Muse

Obviously in an ideal situation both the ideas AND the words will be flowing. These two "approaches" are mostly about kickstarting your mojo to get you to that point.The approach you take depends a lot on you as a writer, though I suspect many people have tried both at one point or another. It's a matter of figuring out what works best for you.

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In this post, I wanted to talk a little more in-depth about Tickling the Muse.

Tickling the Muse

Advantages to this approach: By getting your brain going and your ideas flowing first, you're tackling the problem at it's root before ever sitting down to write. By the time you put your hands on the keyboard, you should be raring to goand many times more than ready to blaze through a solid section of your novel. Plus,all those muse-tickling efforts will hopefully leave you with a greater understanding of your story and it's possibilities.

Disadvantages: Inspiration is never guaranteed. Sometimes, no matter what you try, you just can't get the ideas to come, and if you MUST feel the "muse" before you writewell, you risk there being days where you don't (or won't) write.

That said, here are some ways you might Tickle the Muse:

1. Dive into your favorite writing resources. Some might call it procrastination, but I usually find myself and my writing re-energized after I finish a particularly good book on writing, or after I watch a particularly insightful vlog series on characterization. The trick is, of course, finding those resources that inspire , not those that merely rehash what you already know (that's where the procrastination bug can sneak in and bite you). The best resources leave you with prompts or exercises to keep your brain working even after you're done with the resource itself.

A few of my favorites:

  • The Writing Excuses podcast. If I could only recommend one resource, it would be Writing Excuses. I can't tell you enough how much I love this podcast. They cover a wide range of topicseverything from brainstorming tactics to world-building strategies to tips for conquering various plot structures (and of course they offer solutions to common writing "excuses")but even when they discuss topics I feel like I "know" already, they always seem to find something new and insightful to say. I come out of every episode with ideas spinning in my head. Other pluses? The episodes are only fifteen minutes long and they always include a writing prompt. Some of their best episodes (IMHO) include Authentic Emotion(7.33),The Villain Problem(7.29),Hollywood Formula(6.18), and The Four Principles of Puppetry(3.14).
  • 45 Master Characters by Victoria Schmidt. This book is set up as a tool for creating characters, but I find it incredibly helpful for fleshing out the characters I already have (and, consequently, giving those characters and my story new life). Schmidt outlines a number of character archetypes based on "mythic models" (aka Greek gods and goddesses) and goes into depth about how characters of each archetype behave and think. I find that matching one of my characters with the appropriate archetype and studying that archetype's usual desires and fears gives me lots of new ideas of how I might torture my character (*cue evil laughter*).Other books I've found particularly inspirational include Plot and Structure (Bell) and Save the Cat (Snyder).

2. Try freewriting or journaling. This second strategy is all about embracing "no-pressure" writing ("no-pressure" being the key word hereotherwise you're dipping into Onward, Ho! territory). Basically, the idea behind freewriting or journaling is to allow yourself the freedom to write without directionor at least the freedom to write without the confines of your current novel. You can go about this in a couple of ways:

  • Start with a writing prompt (the internet is full of these! Or ask a friend/coworker/family member for prompt ideas; they tend to be pretty obliging)
  • Write stream-of-consciousness about whatever pops into your head. Check out Julia Cameron's tips on "Morning Pages" for inspiration.

The idea is to just write, no pressure, and let your mind roam free. Once the juices are flowing, it will be easier to slip back into your novel. For more journaling ideas geared specifically toward writers, check out this post from Creative Writing Now and this post from Grammar Girl.

3. Talk it out . This third strategy can be a little trickier, since it involves finding someone willing to hash out your story with you. But even just a few minutes discussing your work with someone elsebe it a writing buddy or supportive friend/spouse/etc.can give you a fresh perspective on your manuscript. Whether it's working on a specific problem or simply brainstorming, things can change drastically when you have the chance to bounce ideas off of another person. Often they see things that you, the writer, don't (or can't), but even just attempting to explain your current issues might she'd light on a solution.

These three strategies are a great starting point for Tickling the Muse, but there are certainly a number of other ways to get the juices flowing as well. What do you guys think? Do you use any of these strategies, or do you have other ways of triggering ideas? I'd love to hear them!

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Posted in Business Post Date 11/21/2019


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