What to write when you don’t know what to write

It’s time. You open up your laptop or get out your notebook and prepare to write. And yet… no words come. The muses have gone on strike and you are stuck staring at an empty page. Not great when you’re trying to be consistent with your writing practice. So what do you do?

If you’ve already commited the time, you’ve taken the first hard step. Once a day, or once a week, or once a month, whenever suits you best. You have made the decision to write, to scrape something together and then, maybe, press ‘publish’ or share it with the world. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be finished enough to make sense to a reader. Surely that is a feasible goal? 

Yet here you are, still unsure what to write about, so you Google ideas and end up here. Fun! Let me help.

Foto de KoolShooters en Pexels

To improve your writing, you have to write

There are no shortcuts. To be a good writer you have to put in the hours, get the words down on paper or typed up on screen. The more you write, the better you get at it and the easier it becomes.

Now that I am writing more, both for work and in my free time, I am noticing the change. Nothing radical, but ideas flow faster, I take less time to finish a piece and I’m definitely less perfectionistic and scared to put my words out there. 

That said, it’s not always easy to know what to write about. The good news is any sort of writing helps. Get the sentences flowing and you’ll soon break through writer’s block and start turning ideas into something worth reading. Shall we try?

10 things to write about when you are lacking inspiration

Not everything you write has to be a masterpiece, but all the writing you do helps you improve your craft and ‘hone your voice’, as Jeff Goins would say. 

So here is a list of ten things you can write about right now, even if you’re not feeling very inspired. 

  1. What you did today (or yesterday, if you’re writing in the morning). Even the most boring day can be described beautifully if you set your mind to it.
  2. Pick an object nearby. Write about it as if you were explaining it to an alien visiting Earth. Alternatively, imagine you are the alien. If you knew nothing about this object what would you think it was for?
  3. Describe a TV show you loved and why everyone should watch. What makes it so worthwhile?
  4. A place you used to go that you miss or, alternatively, a place you would never go again. 
  5. Describe your commute to work. What places do you see on a daily basis that you never stop to appreciate? What do you see that others tend not to notice?
  6. Who do you admire most in the world? Why? It could be someone famous, someone close to you… 
  7. What made you want to write? Go back to the beginning, remember why you started.
  8. A list of things stopping you from writing. It could be something you can’t stop worrying about, the builders next door making a din or the fact that it’s a very sunny day and you’d rather be outdoors. What could you do to change some of the items on your list?
  9. The first thing you will do when you get published is…
  10. Stream of consciousness. Write the first thing that pops into your head, literally anything you are thinking. It doesn’t have to make sense. Just jot it all down and get the words flowing. After a while you might find you have more ideas about what to write or you may find something interesting in what you scribble down that you can work on later.

These ten things should help get you writing again. They can also help with your storytelling skills.

1 and 2 help you use experience and your immediate surroundings as a source of inspiration, as well as helping you add a new or different perspective, which makes things interesting.

3 can help you think about plot.

4 and 5 will help you think about how you write the setting into a story.

6 can help you discover character traits you might want to give your protagonists.

7-10 are designed to help you explore what motivates you to write or what is getting in the way of your writing. 

As you can see, writing of any kind, even if not directly related to your current work in progress, can help get your creative juices flowing again. All you have to do is pick up a pen or head to your keyboard and start. Alternatively, if you really can’t bring yourself to write, read.

I will end with this much used and over quoted, yet nevertheless true, thought:

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Pablo Picasso

Still here? Just pick one and start writing.


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