What To Write About When Your Brain Suddenly Dries Up

What To Write About

It hits every writer. What should I write about?

It’s late in the day, and you run out of ideas. You could be writing a book or trying to draft a blog post or a content marketing article. No matter what form you are writing, you are suddenly bereft of good ideas.

It happens to every writer. So don’t worry and feel like you are alone in struggling for topics to write about. Writing ideas are all around us. But sometimes we are just looking in the wrong places.

The one thing I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as writer’s block. It’s only a matter of changing your thinking, looking elsewhere, and you’ll be able to start writing again.

How to find what to write about

I love to write. Perhaps I should say that I love writing. But the difference between the infinitive and the gerund is a different story altogether.

What matters most is that writing is something I do every day of the year. I’m getting on a bit, but I can usually churn out 1,000 words a day, at least.

I adore all the new technology that is available now to make writing a pleasure and so easy.

Yes, I occasionally still use a pen and paper, like I did when I was in high school. But it’s becoming a rare event.

Yet my habits haven’t changed since then.

I have always noted down little ideas. Ideas might come when I am walking my dog.

Or when I’m looking down at the world, go about its business from my balcony. I also love watching people walk by while I sit in a café.

The only difference now is that I mostly use my phone to take notes or make a journal entry.

You can hunt the Internet for writing prompts lists. However, I find that my list of short notes works just as well. It’s a long little list of real-life events and observations.


You can find inspiration all the time

Just this morning, I was waiting second in line behind a couple at a medical center reception. Four or five people were waiting patiently and silently behind me.

The man in front of me had a big white cast on what was obviously a badly broken left leg. He handed his crutches to his wife and rested both his elbows on the reception desk to take his weight.

His wife leaned his crutches up against the front of the reception desk without looking. She was more interested in what her husband was saying to the receptionist.

They were not quite at 90 degrees. Within a couple of seconds, the pair of crutches crashed to the floor, with a loud clatter and bang.

Her husband glanced across from his conversation with the receptionist as his wife picked up the crutches.

She peeped around at the people in the queue behind her.

She smiled an embarrassed smile at no one as her eyes flitted from the ceiling to the people. But mostly, they were aimed at the ceiling.

As she did, she placed the crutches back in the same position from which they had fallen.

Of course, they crashed loudly to the floor again.

This time, the husband hobbled from his position and picked up the crutches.

He deposited them firmly in an umbrella stand a few feet away. He grunted as he limped back to continue his conversation with the receptionist.

His wife looked around at no one again and smiled at the ceiling.

I made a note on my phone. “When things go wrong, smile, and survey the ceiling.”

It was nothing. But it might come in handy one day. Perhaps for a short story or a scene in a book when I want to describe an embarrassing situation.

That was a very long way of saying this. Making notes about what you see every day is a fantastic resource for writing ideas.


When I blog, I sometimes steal

I love to read news articles and blog posts. They are a rich source of topics.

I don’t steal content, that’s for sure. But I sometimes take ideas.

There are millions of blog posts published every day of the year. So there are a lot of new topic ideas out there to discover.

Now, I certainly don’t read all of them. I have a bookmarked list of blogs in my subject area and often check what new content they have added.

Another tool I use is Semrush. It gives me access to new and improved keywords that sites in my subject area gain from Google. It’s a vast resource.

I narrow down my search to medium volume and low, competitive keywords. Then I get a great list of tremendous writing ideas.

I found “what to write about” was a solid ranking keyword phrase. I thought, hey, I enjoy writing, so I think I know something about the topic.

So, I’m writing about it now.

I don’t steal all the time. Honestly, I can come up with my own ideas.

Looking at what others are writing about is a great way to stimulate your mind. But then you need to modify those ideas into your own.

You can look back at your previous posts for ideas to extend or expand upon. Adding a lot more content or making an old blog post clear and easy to read is still productive writing.


Ideas are all around you

Forget about all the old hat writing prompts like a time you failed, or a family member, are best left well behind you.

Look at what is happening around you now. Take notice of how people behave and react in all types of situations. Think about what you think they are thinking.

Take note of the questions people ask. Social media and your blog comments are full of fantastic clues for blog article ideas.

Here’s another method I use for blog topics. I always jot down a note when I learn how to do something new.

I found out how to easily create CSS code for a blog quite recently. And yes, of course, I wrote a how-to article about it.

For fiction, take notice of what you see, feel, and imagine.

Lie on your back and look up at the stars and the moon on a clear night. What would you imagine if you saw a shooting star?

Your local newspaper is another tremendous source of ideas. If you are writing crime and detective, local court reports often have some bizarre cases that are ripe pickings for fiction.

Celebrity stories can be wild and wacky stuff. Who dreams up these crazy stories?

If you are writing romance, perhaps you could use some of them as ideas to get your imagination working in overdrive.


Stop, look, listen and make a note

If you are wondering what things to write about right now, stop thinking and take a look around you.

Take it one step at a time. What can you see? Can you hear something? What can you smell? How do you feel? Make a few notes.

Where’s your note list?

Check your notebook or your notes app on your phone. Oh no, you don’t have a list?

Well, it’s time to get to work on starting one then.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

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