Searching for My Muse on the Cheap

Organizing, brainstorming, publishing, freelancing, communicating, collaborating, marketing, networking…there’s a lot more to writing than just writing, isn’t there? But, we have to do it, especially if we ever hope to make any money doing what we love to do.

If we are doing all that, how do we still find time to actually write? It’s the perfect storm leading to a bad case of writer’s block! Don’t despair; here are some great, little or no-cost, go-to places to get ideas and inspiration:

Creativity Portal

 The Creativity Portal is the home of the Imagination Prompt Generator . My last two prompts were, “Can you accept yourself as you are?” and “Right now you should be ________, instead of on the computer.” Both were very thought-provoking. But, if you don’t like those, keep clicking until you strike your personal gold. The website also has picture prompts, to provide visual energy. Another great section provides information on all forms of creativity including pottery, basketry, metal working, scrapbooking and painting. So, if writing isn’t happening, express yourself in a different medium. Who knows? You might get the perfect writing idea while sculpting a work of art!

Mind mapping

Discover mind mapping. It’s amazing how fast ideas can be discovered hidden in the subconscious. There are many applications available including those that can be downloaded on your mobile device. Some mind mapping software ranges from $25 to $350, but I am currently using a free version of Thinking Space that works just fine. Mindmeister, xmind, and freemind all have free versions that are popular as well. The trick is to create a diagram that represents your ideas around a central key word or phrase. You can then generate more words and ideas that connect to those already created. For example, you might have the following sections in your mind map: purpose, assumptions, processes, notes, tools, introduction, body, conclusion, summary, references. Or, you might have a map for a character sketch: Jane, Jane’s brother, Jane’s boyfriend, Jane’s employer, Jane’s best friend, etc. You can flesh out the characters, show how they connect to one another, assign attributes and reference the map later to ensure your characters are still in character. It’s unbelievable how this exercise can also help recall old ideas and make them fresh again.


A writer who doesn’t read is like a chef who doesn’t eat. Like food is fuel to our bodies, books are the fuel for our minds. Thinking of fuel, the Classics are the premium grade. The Classics remind us of timeless ideas, increases and strengthens our vocabulary, improves our writing, and gives us historical perspective. Who hasn’t learned something when they’ve read Emma, Hamlet, Jane Eyre, Paradise Lost or Peter Pan? If we read only contemporary literature, how we will ever develop an edge over our competitors? Check out Read Print and fuel up! This useful website also includes quotes by incredible wordsmiths. While you’re there, sign up for The Bookworm. It’s a free newsletter that features quotes, books they’ve added and recommendations. 


Writing is more fluid when our minds are not in a state of chaos. A great tool to un-clutter the mind is Evernote.  I use it a lot jotting down ideas and writing notes, but it’s so much more than that. You can actually save web clippings in the application, and it’s wildly convenient that it doesn’t matter if you are researching in Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome. For every note or idea you jot down, you can tag/label it, so that it’s easy to find later. If you want to collaborate with another writer, all your notes can be shared with them if they are next-door or across the pond, because Evernote automatically synchronizes your information so that it’s the same there as it is here. This is also true for whatever device you are using, phone or PC. I use the free version of Evernote, but if you want the application solely for collaboration purposes and want someone else to be able to edit your writing, you might want to invest the $5/month premium upgrade.


We have so many great gifts outside…sunsets, sunrises, streams, oceans, lakes and waterfalls. Writers have a nasty tendency to be indoors too often. Get out there and let nature inspire you. Fresh air and our friends that live outdoors never fail to give me fresh perspective. Take your notebook and head out to the woods. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t get a story idea, but just imagine all the descriptive scenes you can write for later use. There are so many colors out there that don’t have names yet. Describe the breeze on your face, using words you’ve not used before. Close your eyes and listen, shutting down one sense can definitely heighten the experience of another.  If you are someone who spends a lot of time outside already, go back inside, literally as well as figuratively. Get some introspection. Try writing about a feeling you’ve had recently, an event that is still in your thoughts, a behavior that irks you, or an emotion that you display often that you are not pleased with and write about those thoughts. Defend your thoughts or emotions about that topic and then argue against it. Self-reflective writing increases our awareness of ourselves and improves our objective analysis of our own writing. I find it’s also an ingenious tool in freeing up idea-generating brain cells.

These are only five cost-effective ways to find inspiration, but if you’ve tried these, and you are still not feeling the writing groove, don’t give up. Keep hunting for that special muse to get you going again. Like Benjamin Franklin said, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.”

What is your favorite muse-generating technique? Please share!

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