dirty tricks for writers

When what you want to write resists the birthing process, I recommend cheating. Not copying someone else’s work and calling it your own, but outsmarting the muse through subterfuge and underhanded tactics.

Paradoxically, the muse enjoys being bamboozled. Confounding with intrigue is like saying “Come closer, my pretty.” Enigmas, conundrums, mysteries, puzzles, and stupidity lure creativity to lounge in the vicinity and even to lend a hand.

When it comes to out-tricking the trickster, rules and fair play need not apply. Be a wily writer.

Try out the tactics below. You may find that different dirty tricks work on different days for different projects.

1. State the obvious.

Don’t try to be cute or fresh or original or excellent. Instead, state the facts and ignore quality. This is a rake. I use it to rake leaves. Leaves fall in the fall. (Zzzzzzz.)

Why it works: The muse doesn’t like to be bored. She’ll step in to save you from your obviously tedious self.

2. Use mirrors.

How much more of yourself can you inject into what you’re writing? I’m conflicted about what I want. I’m embarrassed that I want the money. Whatever type of writing you’re doing, there’s room for you within the words somehow.

Why it works: The muse is attracted to honest confessions. She’ll goad you to reveal what’s most meaningful, not caring if you’re embarrassed.

3. Open wider.

Bare your soul. Dig deeper. Excavate until you squirm in your seat with discomfort at exposing that for all to see. That lie I told poisoned our home. Dare to bring even more vulnerabilities to the surface.

Why it works: The muse can’t resist an exposed neck. She’ll want you to writhe with flair.

4. Roll yourself up in a rug.

Huh? Surrealism in any form is a siren call for creativity. The left brain wants to correct things, set things right, figure things out. Freakiness short-circuits normal to make room for new creations. The mayor took a ride on a rose.

Why it works: The muse loves to see the left brain squirm. She’ll help you take bizarre creative leaps in order to vex it.

5. Put on a different hat.

Which alter ego is in charge? If you’re writing a poem, it’s The Poet. If you’re writing a business plan, it’s The Entrepreneur. Or … not. What if The Poet wrote your business plan?

Why it works: The muse approves of mistaken identity. She’ll join in the fun of mixing things up and messing with expectations.

6. Play dumb.

Dwell on what you don’t know, on what intimidates and mystifies you. How is love sustained? Love and indifference cancel each other out. So who wins? Engage to the point of floundering uncertainty.

Why it works: The muse dotes on idiots, especially self-aware idiots. She’ll take pity, pushing your efforts toward brilliance.

7. Brag.

Write pompously, with emphasis on knowing it all and single-handedly mastering the topic. Love is everywhere! Only dumb people don’t see that. As a love guru, I know it for a fact. Blow things all out of proportion in your favour.

Why it works: The muse knows we’re only cogs in the machinery of creation. She’ll find a way to capture more of the limelight you’re hogging.

8. Gather crumbs.

Include whatever is interesting, even if the resulting pile-up looks like a flea market. Hmm … kids playing chemistry lab and a rude German postman? Proceed with trust that the weaving threads will appear.

Why it works: The muse loves to connect the dots, however far apart or unrelated they seem at first.

9. Look the other way.

Behave as though you’re no longer interested. Stifle a yawn. Lean back and daydream. Feign indifference. This article isn’t worth writing. So … what do I need to get at the grocery store today?

Why it works: The muse needs to be wanted. Being ignored will trigger a bout of insistence that you pay attention to her brilliance.

10. Use blatant bribery.

Pick a number; make it big. Pick a timeline; make it short. 100 journal pages in 7 days. A draft of the business plan by midnight. An article a day for 30 days.

Why it works: Quantity profoundly impresses the muse. Earnest devotion in excess deserves rich rewards.

11. Bring in a bomb.

Add elements so surprising they make your own jaw drop. Go way, way over the top. Our gourmet cookies are gluten-free, fair trade, organic, insanely delectable, and full of magic flying dust. Introduce explosive, dangerous, rebellious aspects.

Why it works: The muse is a gifted troublemaker. She’ll rub her hands with glee at the prospect of mayhem.

12. Herd some dust bunnies.

Bring on the fluffy and ridiculous! Be foolish, irreverent, and inappropriate. Eat our cookies to grow wings. We guarantee supersonic flight after only 10 cookies. Make lighthearted fun of your topic. Consider silliness non-optional.

Why it works: The muse loves being loopy for no reason. If you agree to what she suggests, she’ll suggest more, rewarding you for your willingness to play along.


Do you know any other dirty tricks for writers? If so, I’d love to hear about them. You can share them in a comment below.

Related reading: devious creativity prompts, how to fall in love with yourself (includes writing prompts)

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