Unblocking the muse: a few writing tricks for NaNoWriMo

It’s National November Writing Month – the month when writers around the world join in a quick-fire effort to complete a story of 50,000 words in just 30 days. I’m marking it this month by re-posting some of the material I’ve published in past years to help writers get to that goal.


It’s mid-November, and there you are, half way through National November Writing Month. You’ve got fingers limbered up, laptop ready – maybe a structure spreadsheet in the wings.

“Hmmn…books. New fangled rubbish. They’ll never replace scrolls, you know”.

And – nothing. But waiting isn’t the answer. You have four weeks to write 50,000 words.NaNo entrants aren’t the only ones to hit the problem – it’s an issue for any writer with a deadline. Truth be told, writing is only five percent inspiration. The rest involves brute force. Words-to-time. And quantity alone isn’t the answer, either. They have to be good words. (Actually it’s ‘quality-to-time’, but more on that later).

That blank page or screen doesn’t fill itself. I thought I’d share a few tricks that work for me to un-stick the muse. Probably the key point is not to let the inspirational move distract you too long – you’ll lose the mind-set of writing thinking and get caught instead in the mind set of whatever you’re doing. It has to be short. So:

1. Do some housework for about 20 minutes (let’s say this is “politically” useful, too…certainly in my household…).
2. Go for a brisk walk. Not too long – about 20 minutes again. It’s good exercise, and you can let your mind wander. There’s a pretty good chance that the answer will drift in.
3. Start – anywhere. That’s the beauty of word processors. You can back-fill.
4. Write anything – if you have a word processor, deleting’s easy. So’s re-jigging.  A bad first draft is infinitely better than no first draft.

And finally, if all that fails – and it sometimes does – I’ll do something totally different. But I’ll make a time to return to the writing – a specific time.

Do these work for you? Do you have a favourite way of un-sticking yourself when you’re writing? I’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012 and 2018

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