MADD: A Writing Disorder That
Stifles Your Creativity


Do you:

  • Make careless spelling and grammatical mistakes?
  • Forget the point of your post?
  • Find yourself checking your feed reader, instead of writing?
  • Struggle with organizing your ideas?
  • Start a blog and then quit after a few weeks?

If you do, then you may be suffering from a writing disorder that affects millions of bloggers worldwide. You might’ve thought you were undisciplined, easily distracted, or a poor writer, but that’s not necessarily true. It might not even be your fault at all.

You could be experiencing MADD: Muse Attention Deficit Disorder.

Does Your Muse Have MADD?

Okay, I’m going to let you off the hook. If you sit down at the keyboard and find you’ve lost your talent, there’s probably nothing wrong with you — your muse is just experiencing a little MADD.

Where ADD affects humans, MADD affects muses. You can be as focused as a Doberman on a hambone, but if your muse has MADD, you won’t even be able to curse with any creativity. You’ll just sit there, flitting from idea to idea, wondering why you can’t come up with a coherent post.

The fact is, MADD is rampant among the blogging muse population. Just look at the millions of forgotten blogs, bloggers who can’t stay on topic, and rambling posts that don’t say anything of value at all.

Fortunately, there’s hope. Professional writers have been dealing with MADD for centuries, and we’ve developed a host of solutions, guaranteed to get the little pixie back on your shoulder and sprinkling its magic writing dust. Here are 5 of them:

1. Find a Better Topic

You might’ve decided to strike it rich by writing about the intricacies of mesothelioma, but your muse keeps walking around the room, pretending to be a British aristocrat and regaling you with its tales. What should you do?

You might think you need to teach your muse some discipline, but really, it’s you who needs better listening skills. If you try to force your muse to be creative with a topic it disdains, it will develop a swift and vicious case of MADD.

Tip: Write about topics that consistently excite you.

2. Stop Arguing

Are you trying to write a post about why everyone should pay attention to on-page SEO, but your muse just sits on your shoulder, pelting you with reasons why social media is more important?

If you are, stop. Arguing with your muse is a sure route to MADD. You’ll forget your point, use questionable logic, and spend hours trying to finish it, all because your muse is only halfheartedly helping you. You’re better off writing something that your creative self really believes.

Tip: Strive for authenticity with your writing.

3. Feed Your Muse

Malnutrition is another common cause for MADD. Like writers, muses need a healthy diet to stay productive. You need to feed them a steady supply of “Food for Thought” — insightful blog posts, books, music, conversation, and other stimulating experiences.

How do you know what type of content to feed your muse?

Usually, you can tell by how smart and creative you feel after experiencing it. For instance, if you notice that you’re more alert and ready to write after reading Copyblogger, then you should read it every day. It’ll keep your muse fat and happy.

Tip: Surround yourself with sources of inspiration.

4. Create a Challenge

The moment I jot down another list or “how-to” headline, my muse just rolls its eyes. I’ve done so many of those that it’s no longer any fun. To get my muse to pay attention, I have to create a challenge, like coming up with a bizarre writing disorder.

If you’ve been blogging a while, you might have to do the same thing. Sure, the tried-and-true formulas work, but it ceases to matter when it’s just another humdrum post. Blogging is a creative endeavor, and creativity involves doing something new.

So create a challenge for yourself. Your muse will perk up.

Tip: Keep your writing fun by playing with the format and structure.

5. Rest

Lots of bloggers think that they have to write 2-3 content rich posts everyday, and they work their poor muse to death doing it. Then they wonder why it starts nodding off.

If you want to keep your muse alert and focused, you have to give it some time off. Hang out with your friends, watch a movie, or take a nap. Do nothing that requires creativity for a few hours.

As my muse likes to say, “What do you think this is? A sweatshop?”

Tip: Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself.

Take Care of Your Muse

Lots of rookie bloggers think that building a popular blog is all about cranking out content. To some extent, that’s true, but the only way that’s going to happen is if you take care of your muse.

What do I mean?

Professional athletes don’t just master their sport. They hone their bodies until they’re in peak condition, so when they show up to compete, their body is ready.

Similarly, professional writers don’t just master the writing process. They hone their creative powers until they’re in peak condition, so when they sit down to write, they know they’ll have something to say.

So ask yourself: Is your muse a poster child for MADD, or is it a lean, mean creativity machine?

If you want to be in the Technorati 100 with tens of thousands of loyal fans, it had better be the latter. Otherwise, you’ll never make it.

So take care of your muse. It will return the favor a thousandfold.

If you hate get rich quick schemes, penny pinching, and advice without substance, you might just love Jon’s blog, On Moneymaking. Subscribe here.

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Reader Comments (40)

  1. says

    My muse gets mean and cranky when I don’t get her out to walk.

    Teaching a creativity course helped me adhere to the rules you have outlined…and made me take a day off to play each week.

    Since my career started as something I loved to do, it is often hard to separate the blog job and the blog hobby.

    However, she is a mean, lean, idea machine!

  2. says

    Producing quality content on a consistent basis is no easy task. I agree with Jon, everyone could benefit from incorporating more breaks into his or her writing time. The longer I work the less productive I become. Sometimes you need to step away to gain a fresh perspective.

  3. says

    Nothing changes. You vow to take care of your muse, but you can’t concentrate on it long enough to see any effect.

    In severe cases, writers have reported that it irks them, but they forget 30 seconds later. So it’s not so bad . :-)

  4. says

    LOL, great stuff, Jon. Although when I first read the symptoms, I thought you were talking about your average pot smoker.

    Seriously, though, it’s no joke that throughout the ages, good writers have always talked about being conduits or vessels for writing, as though it were coming through them from someplace else–their muse.

  5. Coach Anne says

    Great comments about taking care of our muse.

    However, MADD will always mean only one thing to me —

    Mothers Against Drunk Driving

    — a worthy, life-saving organization whose name deserves to not be usurped.

  6. says

    I agree with GG, getting off the computer and onto the treadmill helps free up my mind, and my muse. If I don’t move my body my mind starts to wander and my muse leaves the room… probably to get some exercise! (LOL)

  7. says

    My muse is currently asleep in the corner of the room, drunk out of her mind. Or should that be my mind?

    Whatever the case, thank you for the passing mention, and your sage, sound advice.

    I doff my hat to you, sir!

  8. says

    I love this post. I hadn’t really thought about my Muse having ADD, but you know, it explains a lot. And it was a great way to get your point across, too. I think your own Muse wanted a little bit of attention and rewarded you for it! (grin)

  9. says

    I am one of those who suffered from difficulties to focus when writing but not after reading the free e-book, Time Management for Creative People.

    The tools and guide in it is so helpful to me. Of course, some productivity blogs like Zen Habits, Life Hack and Hacker helped me out as well.

    Although I am still not 100% on every work of mine, at least I will not clicking around in my iTunes when I am producing a blog post.

  10. says

    Great, great post! As I’ve just ended my own on productivity this really struck a chord – especially the part about taking a break. That’s soooo critical to keeping your muse happy and productive. As you say, blogging is a creative endeavor and like other creative endeavors – you cannot force and obsess about creating. You have to let the ideas unfold and reveal themselves when the time is right – even if your ambition for great blog rankings keep nudging at you to try harder. Thanks again for the inspiration and for being my muse tonight :-)

  11. says

    My muse ran away with my girlfriend.

    It’s all good though, don’t feel sorry for me, I have genius characteristics without that bastard. And now I get to focus – since the two people who kept blabbing in my ears are long gone.

    Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious article Jon, thanks for sharing. :o)

  12. says

    to my mind this is amongst the best posts at copyblogger.. and considering the general high quality of the stuff here this would rate amongst the best posts on any blog..

    was good and helpful read.. thanks…

  13. says

    Love your blog posts. Always informative and inspirational. Just what the doctor ordered for us bloggers. Thanks for helping us to feed our muse and keep (her or him) inspired!

  14. says

    Some lose their muse; but, of writers’ ailments, we prefer it over the alternative.

    Many ‘bloggers’ do not restrain their muse: it runs wild, saturating the blogosphere with stale, content-barren, time-wasting sludge.

    Those ‘bloggers’ are our muse. And they are never in short supply.

    We pray for the day we lose our muse.

  15. says

    Wonderful article. And your right about feeding the muse, I have been subscribed to you for almost a year now and yours is the top on my list of feeds I read daily!

    Thanks for all the inspiration!

  16. says

    Anne and Sean: Yes, I should be flogged for using the Mothers against Drunk Driving acronym. I didn’t even realize it until you brought it up. Still…

    Lord Likely: *bows low at the waist, flourishing his cloak behind him*

    Everyone else: Thanks to you guys, my muse perks up every time I mention writing for Copyblogger. It’s always nice to find an audience that enjoys your work. Thanks for the support!

  17. says

    6. Revise – no, really – if, several days after posting, you find that your words are less inspired or clear than you thought – for heaven’s sake, CHANGE them. The joy of the Web is never having to settle for so-so.

    7. DO write offline – and DO print and edit in hardcopy. An MIT Media Lab study found that people make 40 percent more proofreading errors onscreen than on paper. Twenty-five years of writing onscreen have only reinforced this truth: you will ALWAYS write better when you do a draft off-screen.

  18. says

    9. On the other hand, you shouldn’t spoil your muse by taking all its “choose another topic” or “talk to me later” for granted. Otherwise you may lose its respect. So, be the master of your muse.

  19. says

    Your Muse-infused insight in right on spot!

    Managing the muse is definitely the name of the game in keeping content fresh, vibrant, and enticing.

    Thanks for your sharing

  20. says

    I find quite the opposite. The more I keep calling the Muse, the more she keeps running. Maybe it’s fear, but it’s like she’s anxious that my every word be perfect.

    And she hasn’t flopped me yet. Sure, sometimes the odd spelling mistake or gamma meltdown crops up, but then booze-swindling roach traps don’t always steal the honey either. Besides, cranberries are usually a good substitute.



  21. says

    This made me laugh. Thanks. Much enjoyed your perspective. I’ve found more than a few trails to nowhere across blogland. I’ve also found much that is excellent, informative, visual, and fun. Blogging is a great invention.

  22. says

    Wonderful article. And your right about feeding the muse, I have been subscribed to you for almost a year now and yours is the top on my list of feeds I read daily!

    Thanks for all the inspiration!

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