When your muse throws a sulky tantrum, try these.

Once I found a puppy with his whole head stuck in a peanut butter jar. He was all tongue, enjoying the heck out of that Jiffy. And then he realized he was stuck and started freaking out. Sometimes writing stories and songs makes me feel like that. My muse and I are dancing. We’re laughing. We’re kissing. Licking up all the peanut butter. And then SHIT! I’m stuck. My muse acts disgusted, throws a sulky tantrum, and gives me the silent treatment.

Here are some things that help extricate my head (and yes, the puppy was fine. We cut some holes for air, and he was safely freed).

Run a search on an object in the song/story. An image, place, type of person… (Some call it research, but I don’t like that word.) Often you’ll find a new angle, or make connections that inspire you. It’s a way to step back and observe the bigger picture.

Talk to your characters. Mostly say, What are you doing here? And if they don’t know, maybe you have to cut them (By cut, I mean delete them – but if knifing them helps the story, then…). Unless they’re just being secretive… In which case, yay!

Change the rhythm and/or tempo and/or time signature. Try it slower. Or with the accent(s) in a different place. Or think in terms of changing genres. Punk up your strumming pattern. Finger pick instead of strum. This works in literature too. Read it aloud and mess with your pacing or POV (yeah-you-know-me).

Change the key. Stick a capo on that thang to experiment with melody higher up. (Try DADGAD or another alternate tuning. OOOOO – get one of those little partial capos! Try a different instrument. Or write without an instrument for once. For goodness sake.)

Go running. Or take a shower. Do something that allows you to ruminate on your project at the same time. Running’s good because of the steady beat. It’s like that toy where you have to jiggle the box to get the shape to land in its corresponding space. Running helps your thoughts do that.

Don’t be afraid to struggle! It’s OK to feel bad and even defeated. Feeling bad doesn’t mean anything. It’s just noxious stimulus. Wrestle that muse to the ground.

Don’t be afraid to take a break. Your muse sucks sometimes. She treats you bad. Set boundaries for the relationship. Too much time with frigid non-corporeal women is toxic.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Nobody else does. What you do is BOTH super important to the world and also utterly lame. It’s good news.

What tricks am I missing?

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