The scariest thing for any writer has to be the prospect of having nothing left to say. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Sometimes our muse goes on vacation without notice and without any indication when or if it will return. Nobody is exempt from this problem. The magnificent Philip Roth announced his retirement from writing five years ago because he had nothing left to say. Scary stuff.
There is some good news. An author’s mind is fertile. The muse will almost certainly return, but it can’t be forced or coerced. That said, there are ways to facilitate its return. Here’s what I do:
Music – Nothing inspires me and refreshes my spirit like music. For me, it’s southern rock, classic rock, and Carolina beach music. Give me thirty minutes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, and the Band of Oz, and I’m ready to tackle the world.
Diet – If you want to send your brain into hibernation I recommend a steady diet of Nachos and chips. A healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat sets me up for a productive writing session.
Snacks – Don’t worry, you’re going to be rewarded for gritting your teeth and eating those vegetables. You know when you want to swallow a quart of ice cream and the nutrition people recommend something like a bowl of strawberries and blueberries instead? Ignore them. If you don’t, you’ll eat the fruit and still polish off the quart of ice cream. Let’s compromise. How about some peanut butter and graham crackers? It’s satisfying, the peanut butter’s good for you, and you won’t be filled with indigestion and remorse when you’re done.
Exercise – Back in the day it would have been a ten mile run. Now it’s more like a fifty minute walk. Either way, it keeps me healthy and gets those endorphins moving. I have some of my best ideas when I’m out walking, particularly if it’s early in the morning when things are quiet.
Sleep – Some people need more than others, but if you’re regularly operating on five or so hours a night, you may be sleep deprived. I have trouble thinking, much less writing anything coherent if I haven’t had enough sleep. I know some writers stay up half the night cranking out eight or ten thousand words. I’m sorry, that sounds crazy to me and I don’t think it’s a sustainable approach to healthy living or writing.
Thanks for listening. I hope your muse never takes a vacation. If it does, don’t despair. It will return.