How to Jump Start the Muse

Do you wait for inspiration before writing? Some writers do. Most of the people who sign up for my writing classes are looking for a shortcut to igniting the inner flames of inspiration. Though I offer some tips, I'm basically against it.

Why? Think back to the last job you had (or even your current one). Did you go to work only when inspiration hit? I doubt it. You went to work because you had to, because you wouldn't get paid if you didn't go. It's true for writing, too. Jack London advised writers to go after the muse with a club, not to sit around waiting for it to knock on your mental door. I wouldn't be that violent about it, but I think old Jack was on the right track.

My experience has been this: Start writing and the muse will come to you. Somehow the princess of creativity gets a whiff of your work, follows the scent, and ends up on your shoulder.

But she appears only after you take the first step. Here are five suggestions to help you take the first step, and to keep going once you've started the process.

1. Just begin. Put your pen to the paper and move! Write anything. Anything! Minister Eric Butterworth used to say he was able to write so many books, columns, sermons, and radio shows because he began each day writing gibberish. Sci-Fi master Ray Bradbury free-associates on paper each morning until an idea clicks. Write whatever comes to mind. Sooner or later you'll stumble across a rich vein and you're off and running. Gibberish will turn into wisdom, free association into a mesmerizing story. Who knows?

2. Don't edit! Turn off your computer screen so you can't see the words you type, close your eyes, or write blindfolded. But don't edit! The muse wants a receptive mind, not an editor. If you edit while you write, you won't write. Be raw. Be courageous. Just say what you want to say. "Write it down first, later get it right" is a good slogan.

3. Write a letter. You probably find it easier to write a letter to a friend than an article for a magazine. Why? Because a letter is warm, personal, and focused. A lot of Hypnotic Writing shows up in personal letters. We become self-conscious when we write for the public. The trick is to write everything as a personal letter. Begin it with "Dear Mom," say your piece, and end it with "Love and hugs." Later on, edit out the mush. Ta-dah! There's your article!

4. Use a prompt. This is a major secret to creating Hypnotic Writing. Create a list of prompt words that you can draw on. Use these words to lead you into your next sentence. Examples of prompts are because, and, and or. Whenever you write and feel stuck for the next thought, take on a prompt word. The word will nudge you, or prompt you, into your next thought. For example, say you are writing the following line: "Hypnotic Writing caused the reader to stay glued . . ." and you can't think of what else to say. Just add a prompt word to your sentence and write down whatever comes to your mind. Example: "Hypnotic Writing causes the reader to stay glued because the sentences are so artfully done no one can resist them." Get the idea? The prompt word prompts you into another thought. Try it!

5. Relax. Put your pen down. Stretch. Close your eyes and take a deep, long breath. Let it out with a big sigh. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Feels good, doesn't it? The muse likes to visit relaxed writers, not uptight ones. As Charlie Parker said, "Don't play the saxophone. Let it play you."

Don't write. Let the writing write. Think about it.

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