While stepping back from a work is good practice in order to come back to it with fresh eyes, when you're not finished with a piece and it's not time to edit, stepping away for a break creates a block in the flow of energy. The muse goes missing. They say for every day your take off writing, your muse will take off three!
Some of the ways in which I fight back against my missing muse are to:
Read. I've devoured books this summer, most of which to honor my muse as they are his favorites.
Color. The monotony of coloring busies the right and left brains just enough to let the mind wander. You can get some problem solving done as you enter your subconscious and sort of daydream your worries into submission. This also works with cross stitch. I have a huge lion I've been stitching for 14 years. I just do a little when I feel the need to get into this subconscious flow. I used to do it on particularly bad period days when the cramps were completely unbearable and all I could do was sit, but after my ablation, I don't have those anymore.
Write microfiction. Just getting a small idea out, writing to a prompt or challenge on ficlatte.com, can ease the desire for writing something when there seems to be no direction for such creative outlet.
Brainstorm. I have been following my muse so closely that I have forgotten how to brainstorm for myself. That's why writing Xar felt so good. I wanted to do something awesome. I had it critiqued and it got great reviews and I tweaked it. It is set to go into our short story anthology. Yet I need to keep writing my own things as Elsha Hawk, too. Get out a blank sheet of paper and just write everything that comes to your mind. When you begin to focus on one, expand it and write a few paragraphs or a character sketch.
Review old writings. Looking back into writer's notebooks, into old online microfiction, I search for one liners, or single lines, that are really good and really inspiring. Then I take them in a new direction. I've changed entire stories that way. Once I started with a cultist community that lived in the clouds who met a rival cloud community, but it changed to an island community where a stranger washed ashore and challenged their beliefs.
Doodle. Speaking of character sketches, perhaps you can draw people better than I can and you prefer to wake up your muse by drawing a character from your brainstorming session. You could also just pick up a pencil and doodle, entering that subconscious space until you've worked out where you need to be.
I don't listen to music and get inspired very often because I'm partially an auditory learner and so I pay too much attention to the music to enter that subconscious space. Some people, however, are able to do this.
Paint. Notice a trend? Creative pursuits that allow you to space out and enter that subconscious zone.
Puzzles. I get crazy when I put together a jigsaw puzzle. I sing out loud to myself, get rather loopy and silly, and say some crazy things. There's something about the quiet and concentration and failure and determination during a puzzle build that puts me in a mood of restlessness. I am determined to finish it, to not let it best me, but I want to get out of it so much that I escape into humor.
I'm sure you have other ways. Why don't you share them with the class? Leave a comment!