Priming the Creative Pump

Priming the Creative Pump

I can’t count the number of times that I put off writing because I wasn’t feeling inspired when I first began my career. Back then I believed that all writers waited around for a visit from the muses to tell them when to put pen to paper and what to say.

That was before I started receiving assignments and working under deadline. At first I was afraid that my output on the days when I couldn’t feel the creative juices flowing wouldn’t be very good. I soon discovered that most of the time what I’d written was perfectly acceptable.

Acceptable wasn’t good enough for me. As a result, over the years I’ve found two strategies to improve my writing when I don’t get a little help from my friends, the muses.

The first is to consistently maintain a daily writing practice. That means writing something every single day, even if it’s a letter or a journal entry. When we stop the flow of words completely, we have a more difficult time when we eventually sit down to write again.

The second tactic is to keep priming the creative pump. According to psychologists, the creative process is not a passive one. That process has four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination and implementation. If we take steps to ready ourselves to create, we can more easily write well on demand.

Some ways to do this are to:


  • Shake up your routine by changing your schedule or taking a new route to work.
  • Fearlessly ask dumb questions.
  • Learn a new skill, such as web site development, acting or sculpting.
  • Read something that you normally wouldn’t.
  • Rent a video you wouldn’t normally watch.
  • Play music and either dance or sing to it.
  • Take a walk or get some other form of exercises.
  • Change the environment where you write.
  • Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes.
  • Read the article, Writing With Intuition, in the creativity section at 

    Creative Writes:

    Can’t think of anything to write? Try this.

    Visit a shopping mall or a park (if it’s warm enough outside). With notebook in hand, sit there for at least 15 minutes. Make a list of everything you observe: a little girl with a torn red jacket, caramel corn spilled on the marble floor, an old man pushing a silver oxygen tank as he shuffles along never looking up from the floor. When your time is up, go have a cup of coffee and write a poem or the opening of a short story from the elements on your list.

    Market Research:

    If you’re researching magazines where you can market your work, try going to This site indexes hundreds of magazines by topic and by country. Unlike many other magazine index sites, this one provides a direct link to the magazines’ websites, where writers’ guidelines are often posted. (Warning: the pages are slow to load, but the information is well worth the wait.)

    Newspapers are often easier places for writers to break into print than magazines. Besides buying the obvious op-ed pieces, newspaper editors frequently rely on freelancers to fill their travel sections. Links to the websites of over 1,500 U.S. newspapers are featured at . These are listed by state.

    Remember, it’s often possible to sell travel pieces to non-competing papers whose circulation areas don’t overlap. Another possibility is to write about your local area as a travel destination and market it to an out of state newspaper. Start planning now and you just might earn gas money for your own summer travels.