We all know that it’s important to exercise our bodies. But it’s also as important to exercise the muse.
Without exercise, the body can waste away, get used to inactivity to the point where it doesn’t want to do anything, or even stop working all together.
As with physical exercise, you want to start slow and build up. With a sudden burst of I’m-getting-in-shape-once-and-for-all, you can head off to the gym and lift weights and get an hour of cardio in and feel fabulous, and then be so sore you can barely move the next few days.
Likewise, if writing inspiration hits and 7,000 words pour onto a page in a day, you can feel quite energized, maybe even imagine your worldwide book tour and see your novel become a blockbuster movie. And the dreams are great, but the day after that 7,000 word burst, you might get to your desk and no words come at all.
When you’re stuck, stymied, or just don’t know what to write, exercises or prompts can get the muse moving.
As with any exercise, select a good starting point. You can start out simple: 1 sentence; 1 paragraph; 1 page; 200 words; 5 minutes; 20 minutes. Pick a point that feels super comfortable — maybe even too easy.
For me, my daily physical exercise goal is simple: At least 30 minutes of exercise a day. It can be (2) 15-minute chunks or (1) 30-minute chunk. But that’s the goal. It wasn’t super easy when I started, but it was comfortable – it pushed me just a little. And even though I far surpass that goal daily now, I keep the goal and give myself a star on the calendar for each day I achieve it.
I need to kick-start my writing muse again, and I think 1 paragraph a day will be my goal, or 50-100 words, or, probably easiest for me, is set a timer for 5 minutes. I can keep writing after the timer goes off, but at least I will exercise my muse for at least 5 minutes a day.
Where do you find writing exercises or prompts? Here are some ideas:
- Digging out our idea notebook(s) (we all have those, right? Right?) and flipping through pages to find a gem to play with
- Flipping through the dictionary, selecting a random word and writing about that
- Old photographs (I particularly like b&w photos) that might jog a memory you can write down; or spark a story idea
- Random pictures from the Internet (Bing and Google have random photos on their main pages; and think of all the pictures on Facebook!) can entice the muse to play
- Writer’s Digest Magazine (or other writing-related magazines). This article is a 12-Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises by Brian Klems, but can be used however you like
- Books of writing exercises
- Books of writing prompts
How do you exercise your muse?
Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, technology, and realty businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.