It’s time to knuckle down and create that blog post, freelance article or the early drafts of that book. You have made the commitment – to others and to yourself – but the inspiration (and motivation) is just not there. The ideas are far and few between and time is slipping away.
This makes you feel anxious, and you know all too well from experience that your muse doesn’t dance hand-in-hand with apprehension. She’d rather move at her own pace, frolicking and twirling on an open ballroom all of her own.
This doesn’t change the fact that there is a deadline looming and white space where your story should be taking form (‘Should’ being used very loosely here).
Firstly, it’s important to understand and accept that it’s normal.
It’s normal to be lost for ideas, frazzled and not sure where to go next. Wipe the shame and the judgement. The most prolific of writers experience times when the inspiration is at an all time low. That doesn’t stop them though. There are times when there is ease and flow, and others when whatever is happening in your life (or in your day for that matter), there just isn’t.
Some days the words and messages just arrive, delivered from your brain to your fingertips in a thoughtfully packaged parcel (why thank you!), and other times, there is nada. Zilch. Zippo. I’m the first to raise my hand to this experience.
Here are some tools to help awaken your silent muse, as shy as she may be.
I’ve mentioned Alexandra Franzen before and am referencing her again because she is the expert on this. She has developed this sensational yet simple exercise to remind you of who you are, what you do and why you do it because let’s admit it, we all get a little confused sometimes.
My name is ________________.
I’m a ________________, ________________ and ________________.
Ultimately, all of my work is about helping people …
… be less ________________
… be more ________________
… become amazing at ________________
… become more confident at ________________
… experience ________________
… feel ________________
… have less ________________
… have more ________________
… learn how to ________________
… (un)learn how to ________________
… reframe the way they ________________
… simplify the way they ________________
… start doing ________________
… stop doing ________________
… take action towards ________________
… understand ________________
And I am not confused.
Now read out loud the passage and sit with your responses. Take a few minutes to remember what it is you do and observe your body. Is there excitement? A fire burning in your belly? A soft pull at your heart centre, reminding you how much you believe in what you do?
Tap into those feelings. Here you are essentially knocking on the muse’s door, asking her to come out and play.
My name is Leah.
I’m a writer, human rights activist and yoga teacher.
Ultimately, all of my work is about helping people take action towards compassionately changing the world for the better.
(Because compassionate action leads to change in your own life, and ultimately, has a positive, equitable and sustainable impact on the lives of others too.
That is what I do.
And I am not confused.
I’m going to have a guess and say that you struggle most to find inspiration when the to-do list has grown out of feasible proportions. Yeah? The muse definitely doesn’t want to play when this is the case. It’s far too crowded and while she doesn’t want you to know, she’s actually a tad claustrophobic.
Clear the mental clutter and make time in your calendar to do nothing but focus on your writing task. No emails, no social media, no other jobs. Just you and your writing.
Feeling a little uncomfortable at the thought? That’s good! Let’s bust through that fear.
Some days for me this means blocking out the morning for fours hours or so, while on other days, I might be feeling more energised and in the mood to write in the afternoon. Other times, I need complete and utter immersion in the writing task and will block several days purely to write with no distraction.
Before you invite the muse to dinner, make space for her just as you would if a friend was coming around to feast. You want her to feel comfortable and you want her to stay. Clear any mess on the table and perhaps set the mood by lighting a candle, adding some colour with a vase of flowers, and play some soft tunes.
This might all sound a bit trivial, but simple changes to your atmosphere set the tone for the writing to come. Just as an artist sits down to paint at their easel, you need to sit down to write somewhere you feel content.
Alternatively, shake it up and pack a bag with your notebook, laptop and pens and set yourself up at a park, in a café or at the beach. Wherever you think the muse will be most happy, go there.
[Side note: You want to go somewhere where distractions will be a minimum]
Most days this mean clearing my desk, burning a stick of nag champa incense, opening the patio doors wide and lighting a candle side by side my intention for the day. One word scribbled on a post-it note to encapsulate how I want to feel.
Other days, this means walking to my favourite café and sitting in the sun-lit corner with my headphones in, sipping on one of their many herbal tea concoctions.
And on others, I perch myself under the branches of a big oak tree, towel spread out and the green grass tickling my bare feet.
The best way to start is to start. Word by word.
Those ideas that aren’t necessarily sending fireworks off in your head are still ideas, so jot them down. Create sentences and find key words to express your message. They may stay or they may go. The most important thing is that the writing is in motion and you are warming up the connection between your brain and fingertips. Start by doing the legwork.
Then if that’s enough, let it rest for the evening and the next morning with fresh eyes, return to your words. You’ll be surprised to find your muse has been hard at work while you have been fast asleep. She now peers over your shoulder and guides you to the gold that you seek.
I was recently a little stuck when I was asked to write about my opinion on globalisation. I thought, ‘where do I even start?’
I wrote GLOBALISATION in big letters at the top of the page, and below, everything else that came to mind:
Time + space
If you would like to learn more, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you wanting to write with impact? See this post for tools and tips to set you on your way.
Question: Have you noticed that inspiration comes in ebbs and flows? Is there some reasoning to the madness?
Also – let me know how these tips and tools work for you!