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How to lose your muse in 10 days

Did your muse go on vacation?

Did your muse go on vacation?

1. Don’t write regularly.

2. See #1.

Seriously, that’s it. In my experience, your muse doesn’t show up for work unless you do.

All the other stuff about setting aside the time, figuring out your goals, avoiding distractions…those are just tactics for getting your body in front of the keyboard. To write regularly.

Only you can decide what “regularly” means. For me, it's almost every day. I try to write every weekday and at least review or do something with my story on one day over the weekend.

When I’m struggling with my manuscript, a bit of time away from it can be good, but if I spend days thinking and plotting and agonizing over it, I usually get zip. If I’m writing almost every day, I get into that zone where everything I do brings me ideas. Driving, sleeping, running, walking the dog, watching a movie.

If I’m stuck, I make a note of what’s bothering me and keep writing. I have to stay immersed in the world of those characters if I want them to talk to me.

Something about my current manuscript wasn’t working for me this week, so I revisited the characters’ GMC, did a quick pass of early revisions to align the story with my new understanding of the characters, and started toying with the next scene.

I still felt blocked, but I have (finally) learned to trust that staying in it—keeping my momentum—is the only way I’ll ever get the book written.

And this morning—unfortunately at 4 a.m., but I’ll take it—I was rewarded. I woke with not just one, but four ideas for how to strengthen the story. And I understand why I was blocked: I wasn’t being true to the characters and how they’d react in the situation I have them. (Which, I’ve found, is almost always the problem.)

Your muse wants to work on your story, but if she senses that you’re not committed, she’ll take a vacay to warmer climes.

The only way to get her back is to write.

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    Morgan: Glad to hear you agree. I’m sure there are people who can do whatever they want and it works, but I think for most of us, consistency is key. Happy writing! 🙂

  2. Reply

    I agree! I’ve had this problem, like most writers. When my parents-in-law came to visit us from Spain over the summer. I didn’t write for almost three months. And getting back into it after that was torture.

    But usually, my writing stoppage usually has to do with not knowing where to go next in the story. If I know what’s going to happen in the next few scenes, I can usually write them pretty fast. For my next manuscript, I am going to try to do a loose outline of the entire story before I start. I think it is going to help me tremendously.

    My other issue is going back and reading past chapters and editing them, even though I haven’t finished the manuscript. Stop that!! Okay, yelling at myself has not helped. But I am getting better and learning from my mistakes.

    If I am completely blocked up, I will sit and read for four to six hours straight. That usually will do the trick.

    • Reply

      Rich, I’ve had some of those long writing breaks too, and it’s hard to recover. I’m going to have to be very diligent when we move this summer. I do find a very loose outline helpful, but for me, a block almost always means I’m headed in the wrong direction (outline or no). And reading is my favorite way to handle pretty much anything. 😉 Good luck!

  3. Reply

    You summed it up perfectly. I have exactly the same experience with writing. It has gotten to the point that when I know I’ll be pulled away from it for a few days, I get angry because I know I will have lost my momentum. I wish I was one of those people who could write through all of the distractions, but I simply can’t. Every time someone interrupts me I have to start over with what I was thinking and trying to write, and each interruption pulls me further and further out of the zone.
    Perhaps I should try ear plugs!

    • Reply

      Distractions are the worst, Sheridan! I’m not one of those people who works best in a coffee shop. That’s one of the reasons I’m loving my new office so much. 😉 I definitely find wearing headphones helps. I often listen to music, but sometimes I sit there in silence and it still helps block out the world around me. It also sends a message to those around me that I’m otherwise engaged, and kind of serves to put me in the writing state of mind. Like a trigger. Good luck avoiding those interruptions!

  4. Reply

    Lately, I’ve been dragging my Muse to the keyboard while I slog through the final 2 chapters of my novel. I know how it ends, I know what’s got to happen, but I’m struggling with every single sentence. Instead of giving up, I show up and spend time staring at the screen until words bubble up and form sentences. I type, edit, type some more. Some days, there’s only 100 words but at least they’re on the page and they’re not bad and I mull over scenarios and return the next day. This is the first time I’ve seen a novel through to the end and I’m pushing myself to keep going. I imagine this feeling is like the proverbial runner’s wall in a marathon – you don’t think you have another ounce of strength to go that last stretch but, damn if it doesn’t feel good when you get there.

    • Reply

      Penquility: Good job pushing through! There’s not better feeling than finishing that first book (or any book). 🙂 The thing that keeps me going when it feels like a slog is to remember that it can all be fixed in revisions. Like Nora Roberts says, “You can fix a bad page. You can’t fix a blank one.” Good luck with those last two chapters!

  5. Reply

    Sit down and do it, even if it’s crap. Because crap can be fixed, a blank page cannot. It’s funny, the answers always come eventually ~ even at 4 A.M. Great post.

    • Reply

      Thanks, Gwen! Yes, the answers always come if we stay immersed in our story. We have to trust that. I pretty much have to engrave it on my forehead… 😉

  6. Clive Harffy


    Thanks Gwen,

    I always find your thoughts stimulating and helpful. Now all I have to do is write the novel!

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