When Writing Becomes Stumbling: Relocating Your Muse

All this talk about editing has been great. I’ve tightened up my work, polished it, better than ever. My inner editor’s trilled with pleasure. When I completed editing my work in progress, it was time to move on to new pages. Eager to reconnect with my muse, I hit page break and addessed the blank screen with happiness.

Frustration. Sadness, even.

I was stumbling over sentences, paragraphs, that weren’t perfect. They’d need editing down the road. Why use them? Stop and make it right first time, insisted my inner editor. The words logjammed in my mind.

Our heroine’s inner editor had been bolstered by all the attention. She wasn’t going down without a fight. Her muse was there, whispering through the fog between our heroine and the keyboard.

I resolved to put my inner editor back in her closet to wait until she was called. As you know, dear Reader, this is no easy task. She and her fog had to go so I could relocate my muse.

Sound familiar? Everyone loses muse-voice once in a while. Those are the days when sticking to the writing process makes you who you are: a writer.

Edit your work in progress (WIP). I know this sounds counterintuitive. You’re trying to get away from the editor! Focus on the characters’ voices, the plot arcs, the whole story itself. Feel the story. This time you’re not dissecting it as an editor, you’re feeling it like a reader. What comes next? You’ll get the ball rolling and dive in!

Do silly writing. This is a fun way to get going again. Set a timer for fifteen or thirty minutes. Promise yourself you’ll never show it to anyone. Now, just write. Not about your project, anything but your project. The first minute or so may be difficult. If need be, write about how difficult it is! Let it flow, let it pour out, just *write*. Never to be edited, your joyful product can help you blow away the inner editor and grasp hold of the muse.

Read your WIP out loud. This can be so much fun! Listen to the story, feel the excitement you had writing it. Read it to a friend. Read it to your cat. Feel the pride in your project. Get back to your WIP with that happy energy. (I know this is an editing technique as well. If you find yourself critiquing your work instead of enjoying the storytelling, stop and try something else! )

Get out of your way. Stop being so hard on yourself. You’re a writer, you get inspired. Trust that it will be there. You may want to try going away from it. Think about doing something else that brings you joy. Go bake something. Maybe make a simple bracelet. Call a dear friend. Wash your car. It doesn’t matter what it is. It just has to clear your head, take off the pressure and recharge your batteries.

Get inspired. Take advantage of groups set up to support writers. Twitter has #writegoal, for example, a terrific bunch of people. Re-read a book that you admire or read a new one by a special author. Those remarkable turns of phrase are bound to nudge you toward your own and make you want to tackle your WIP once more. How can you read muse-inspired work without hearing the whisper of your own?

Try creative exercises and writing challenges. You don’t have to take on huge challenges like NaNoWriMo to get back in the saddle! There are any number of good sites and books out there which offer insight and assignments. Try a few creative prompts on for size.

The most important thing is don’t take it personally. This is a temporary thing. You’ve written from the heart before, you’ll get past this and do it again. You will take this stumbling block and turn it into a stepping stone.

Do you have other techniques you use to get over this hurdle? Please share them!


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5 thoughts on “When Writing Becomes Stumbling: Relocating Your Muse

  1. Violet June 21, 2009 at 5:16 pm Reply

    Great article on something I think every write deals with now and then. 🙂

    Personally I find it helps to sometimes do a little visualization too. This is something my NaNoWriMo group does at the beginning of every November. We all imagine we’re putting our Inner Editor away. In a closet. In a cage. In a sound-proof box. In a padded cell. …You can put them anywhere where they won’t bother you for a while! One year I had to go a little farther to get the Inner Editor to buzz off. I sent him on a tropical vacation. 😉

    Watching movies and browsing photos helps kick start my muse sometimes when she’s been chased off by the Inner Editor. Even just a simple little trip to a park or somewhere new can help. That whole “stopping to smell the roses” thing.

    Luckily, it’s never difficult to call the Inner Editor back to you when you actually need him or her!


    • Jessica Rosen June 21, 2009 at 11:34 pm Reply

      Some great ideas there, Violet. Thanks!

      Your last statement about calling the inner editor back made me laugh wryly. All too easy, isn’t it? Too funny.


  2. […] of momentum in writing. An object in motion and all that. Come to a standstill and you have to get the ball rolling all over again. It’s doable, but it’s much easier if you keep some forward motion during your […]


  3. […] taken the opportunity to read over my WIP to date, doing a very light edit. I followed much of my own advice from a previous blog entry. I’ve gotten back in the bobbling saddle, coaxed my muse with creme brulée roast coffee and […]


  4. […] Rosen has a couple of helpful articles on her blog Girl Meets Word about relocating your muse when the Inner Editor starts acting like a bully and how to regain focus when the writing and/or […]


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