I was chatting with Tanja Cilia about other ways she gets her muse jump started. One of the ideas she uses is "lateral thinking." (See Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateral_thinking). According to Tanja "It was invented by a Maltese person. . . There are things like CAF (Consider all Factors) PMI (Plus Minus Interesting), Six Hats, and so on..."
On the Wikipedia site, they talk about:
1. "Random Entry Idea Generating Tool" With this tool, you randomly choose an object or noun and associate that with what you're thinking about. As a writer, you may be considering a book about witches. If you think of the word "witch," follow through with other words associated with witches such as broomsticks, cauldrons, black cats, etc.
2. "Provocation Idea Generating Tool." With this method you choose to use techniques such as wishful thinking or exaggeration. Then you create a list of motivations and use the most outrageous ones to find new ideas. For example, you may have your main character living in a three-story, cold water, walk-up flat, but she dreams of marrying a prince.
3. "Challenge Idea Generating Tool." This tool is designed to ask the question "Why?" The goal is to be able to question everything, not just problems. This is a good tool for generating ideas for non-fiction articles. Ask the questions, "Why do Chinese restaurants serve fortune cookies?" or "Why do parents prefer to home school their children?"
4. "Concept Fan Idea Generating Tool." With this tool, you would generate one idea, then "fan" out into other areas, much like brainstorming an issue. Go back to our idea of witches. You have a general idea for a story about a witch, but if you fan out your ideas, you realize there are lots of different types of witches, from wise women who helped deliver babies and grew herbs to cure illnesses, to black witches who are willing to sacrifice a life to gain power.
With these lateral thinking tools, you can get your writing started even if you have no ideas at hand.