How to Always Find Something to Write About

Start thinking like an artist.

By Shannon Ashley

Iused to think that being a writer was a lot like being an entrepreneur or inventor. As if you needed one really good and unique idea just to get started. Now that I've developed a solid writing habit, I am happy to report that I was wrong.

There are many different ways to look at writing, but when people complain about having writer's block, I think the issue is often that they've approached their writing as an idea problem. Like any good entrepreneur or inventor, many writers think a truly unique idea solves some sort of problem for their readers.

When they can't seem to come up with anything, they feel like a failure and diagnose themselves with writer's block.

But perhaps the problem isn't what you think. And maybe you don't need another new idea. Or even a problem to solve. Maybe what you need is some inspiration.

The good news?

Inspiration is everywhere.

Think like an artist.

All you really need to write regularly is a bit of inspiration and a good work ethic. This is how artists operate every single day around the world. They experiment. They work on projects that move them.

Artists often hone their craft with less emphasis on actual ideas and more weight on the meaning or purpose of their work. They also aren't afraid to flip a few bad pancakes.

This is how I suggest you approach your writing. Don't let yourself get so hung up on ideas. Inspiration will give you better mileage.

I never run out of things to write about, and you don't have to either.

Back when I first decided to pursue my own writing career, I knew that I cared about issues like mental health and parenting. But I had no idea what made my writing me. I didn't know what I was good at, and I didn't know what readers would like.

All I knew was that I had always loved writing, and I wanted to pursue a fulfilling career. Although my desperation as a single mom led me to work on my writing career, I was inspired to write and find my voice when I ran across some articles written by a former classmate.

He wrote openly and unapologetically about his depression, suicide attempts, and drug addiction. And his writing made me feel less alone. You see, I spent many years hiding in shame over the fact that my depression and mental illness had taken my life so far off course.

I skipped my ten year high school reunion because I was so ashamed of myself. Ashamed of gaining weight, and ashamed of the feeling that my life was going nowhere. But reading my former classmate's stories helped me realize that I wasn't as alone in my feelings as I'd believed.

That's when it occurred to me that maybe I don't need to avoid things like high school reunions. Maybe I don't need to hide.

And maybe if I wrote about my secrets, it would make life easier for somebody else.

Spilling secrets to help other people is my upper level inspiration. But there are lots of sub level things that inspire me too.

How to find inspiration anywhere.

It helps to know what your upper level of inspiration is, because that determines your direction, tone, and voice as you go through your writer's journey.

Beyond that, the possibilities are truly limitless.

Things that frequently inspire me:

  • Other writer’s blog posts, or books

  • My Facebook feed, Twitter, etc.

  • The news

  • Movies, TV, or music

  • My personal challenges

  • Things I observe or experience

  • My feelings

I use two main methods to sift through inspiration for things to write about. First, I am always on the hunt for a life lesson in visually everything I encounter. After 18 months of daily blogging, I'm not sure that I can even turn it off anymore.

After that, I pay attention to my strongest opinions. When an issue pops up and I have a passionate response, I know that's a good topic for a blog post because I'll have plenty of passion to fuel my work.

In blogging, passion is a special ingredient. It excites us as we write, and in turn, that energy reaches our reader.

There are certain topics that I always have something to say about, and these are perennial, or evergreen.

Do you worry about running out of material?

I used to worry. I used to think there was no way in hell that I could write something new every day. Yet here we are. After 18 months, I've learned to take my writing and inspiration one day at a time.

And I recommend the same for you. Just take it one day at a time. But quit approaching your writing as if you need to keep finding one brilliant idea after another. You don't.

You really only need to be open to the inspiration that’s already all around you. And try not to worry so much about a few bad pancakes.

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