8 Simple Salami Tactics to Exercise the Routine that Makes the Muse Chase YOU After a Long Layoff

by Ron Hayes (note: YIKES! Forgive that crazy title this month, will you?)

As a high school history teacher, I’m continually surprised at how frequently the seasonality of my work sneaks up on me. I mean, by its very nature, my regular job is seasonal work: three seasons on, one off. With the dawning of each Spring I look forward to that last school bell of the year, giddy with anticipation for what I think will be just countless hours upon countless hours of free time for me to the one and only thing I’ve put aside for too many weeks of school: write. Come April and May I start to envision a succession of uber-productive writing sessions stretching through the balmy, sun-drenched mornings of June, the culmination of which most assuredly will be a workable draft of my first novel or fresh collection of poems. And every summer I inevitably set astounding new procrastination records, each June, July, and August one-upping the previous summer’s disappointing levels of productivity in spectacular fashion. Nonetheless, my intentions are always good – right up until that procrastination sets in. And the golf courses begin their call. And this project crops up. Followed by that project. And then summer conference one and professional development session A and so on and so on until it’s mid-August and I’m staring down the updated pages of our playbook instead of pages of my poetry.

And I have to start all over again. For Pete’s sake, it’s almost like exercise!

Starting up again after such a long layoff is always difficult, be it exercise or Jazzercise, poetry or prose, eating right, sleeping well, or anything that’s good for you, it seems. Of course, the common denominator in all of it is the development of a routine. Sounds easy, I know, but I also know there’s far more to it than just saying, “Oh, getting back to writing? Just make it routine. Problem solved!” So let’s break it down…



I stumbled across this when I was looking for, of all things, tattoo ideas. Resisting my urge to play off the old John Ritter show about dating his daughter, I’ll simply say that these 8 simple rules can be looked at in much the same way Henry Kissinger once described negotiating with the Soviet Union: you attack it like a salami (hence the term, “salami tactics”). When asked to explain, Kissinger pointed out that the easiest, most sensible way of eating a salami was to slice the enormous thing into small, manageable portions. That’s how I like to think of getting back on track when I’ve neglected my writing for too long. One day I’ll sketch out some ideas for a poem – maybe even using an app on my phone as the inspiration strikes. (This makes my wife crazy sometimes, by the way. “Who are you texting NOW?” she’ll say. “We’re about to eat dinner!” But the funny thing about it? It feels GOOD to say, “Actually, I’m working on a poem…”) Then, the next day I’ll take that nugget of an idea and transfer it to my computer and get to work. I may only get 50 words down, but I know I’ve invested time into the next thing. Keeping that in mind makes it so much easier to get back to working toward a routine. And for me, fiction can be even easier. You know you’re doing world-building right when you start thinking in your downtime moments about what might be happening in the world you’ve put down on the page…

Getting re-inspired to work after a long layoff is little more than this: an extra excuse to toss into one’s procrastination quiver. The bottom line is as simple as getting back on track is elusive – like anything worth doing, getting re-inspired almost always requires getting rededicated to the routine of regular work. If I waited for the muse to strike every time I wanted a new poem, I’d never create anything new. By showing up and working at it every day, I’m opening up the possibility that the muse will slip in while I’m least expecting it. See, she’s like a cat, my muse. Just about the time I’ve forgotten about her (from having willfully avoided chasing her), she pounces, demanding practically that I pay her some attention. Did I outsmart her? Maybe. But the greater likelihood is that by showing up to play, I put myself in a position to win. Getting re-inspired is often just that: showing up. And the smart money says your inspiration will then come to you.

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  1. #1 by Sally Tokar on September 19, 2016 - 12:30 pm

    #9 Keep slicing that salami. ♥♥

  2. #2 by wordimprovisor177 on October 11, 2016 - 11:53 am

    My salami will have to be tofu, but same concept! 😉 I love this, Ron!

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