What To Write About When Your Brain Dries Up

What Should I Write About

It hits every writer

It’s late in the day and you have no idea what to write about.

You could be writing a book or trying to draft a blog post.

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 writing topics.

Writing ideas are all around us. But sometimes we are just looking in the wrong places.

The one thing I’ve learned as a writer 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.


I love to write

Perhaps I should have said 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.

And 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 love watching people walk by while I sit in a café.

The only big difference now is that I mostly use my phone to take notes.

You can hunt the Internet for writing prompts. 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.


It happens all the time

Just this morning, I was waiting second in line behind a couple at a medical centre reception. There were four or five people 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 leant 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. So 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 fleeted 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 in 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 write about 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 don’t steal content. That’s for sure. But I do steal 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 area gain from Google. It’s a huge 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 think I know something about that 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 modify those ideas into your own.


Ideas are all around you

Forget about all the old hat writing prompts. Write about a time you failed, or write about 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, write about 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 write about 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 and listen

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

Take it step by step. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? How do you feel? Where’s my 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, isn’t it?


Related reading: How To Write A Book And Enjoy Writing It


Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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