Many writers are not full-time writers. They have "real" jobs (you know, the ones that pay consistently) and follow their passion on the side. Until recently I was in the very same boat. One of the major complaints for these on-the-side writers is that it is hard to maintain a writing schedule. Sometimes you are in-between projects and just take a break... and four months later realize that you have not written anything creative. Creativity is sort of like riding a bike; and for those of you who haven't done that in a while, go try it. It is not as easy as the old adage makes it seem. When you hop back on a bike the motions are awkward, remembering to adjust everything to your height is difficult and when you are done you are sore. Going long spurts without writing can cause the very same thing. Writing doesn't just flow from the pen (or computer keys), adjusting your writing style to the new you is awkward and when you read back over what you have done... sometimes it is intensely painful! But this does not mean that you have lost your muse and that you need to throw in the writing hat. It does not mean that you are no good and you should give up this silly fantasy.
No, it means that you have not used your creative "muscle" in a while and just like any muscle, if you do not use it, it begins to break down. And just like any other muscle, you can build up your creative "muscle" by working it regularly. I have always been a proponent of spending at least an hour writing most days. Now, that doesn't always work for some people. But the longer you don't use it, the harder it is to get it back. You should write like you should work out, at least three times a week.
But what should you do while you are in-between projects? Poetry is a good way to keep you fresh with words. Writing short stories keeps you on a similar format as your novels and could lead you to inspiration that may become your next project. Orson Scott Card, a famous Sci-fi writer, came up with the concept of The Ender Series based on one little short story he did in school, called Battle School. Years later Ender's Game was published. You would be amazed where inspiration comes from!
Join a writing club. Even if you are not working on a particular project, helping others with their projects and playing word games or writing challenges will keep that creative juice flowing! Read. I know that seems to be pretty common sense, but it amazes me how many writers I am meeting who do not read! It is more than a little terrifying actually, but that is a topic for another day. Point is, if you write sci-fi, you should read sci-fi. If you write paranormal stories then you should read paranormal fiction. If you write blogs, you should read blogs! This keeps you fresh on the material that is being produced, it will be a surprisingly big help when you decide to pitch your book to an agent and you may find inspiration in those pages for a different story on the same topic! How would you feel if a doctor didn't keep up on the latest medical advances? Right?
So, keep those creative juices flowing. If anyone has any other great tips on how you keep your creative juices flowing, please feel free to share in comments! We all would love to hear your suggestions!