What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write

By Ruth Barringham

There is one thing that’s really important if you want to work as a writer. And that is, to write every day.

Writing is like a muscle because it needs to be exercised regularly to keep it in shape. And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt since I started working as a writer, is that the more I write the easier it gets because not only does regular writing help me to write faster, but it also helps me to come up with great ideas. It really sharpens my creativity.

But what do you do when you sit down to write but you don’t know what to write about?

You know you have to write something because you can’t make money if you don’t write and publish, but some days it can be just so hard to get going.

So here’s what I do.

I just start writing about whatever is in my head. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing in my journal or sitting with a blank page in front of me waiting for inspiration to strike. I just start writing about whatever I’m thinking. And once I start, my thoughts start to link together.

Sometimes, I find it easy to begin by reading a book, or an article, and write out what I’m reading. I don’t mean writing it word for word, but just like when I used to study at school and university. I read a paragraph or two and then write it out in my own way of how I understood it. This is always a great way to learn more too.

I remember once wanting to find more information about something I’d seen on the news, but I didn’t know enough about it to do a Google search. Then my daughter (who practically lives online) told me to just Google what little I knew (“just type into Google whatever you already do know”) and see what came up. She showed me how to do it. She searched for what little I knew (I can’t remember but it was something as simple as man’s body found floating in a river) and from there the search results offered several options of similar news items until I found what I wanted. Until then I had no idea how good Google was at finding things from just a snippet of information.

And it’s the same with not knowing what to write.

Just write down what little bit of thought is in your head already and see what comes back. You’ll find it surprising that it works.

Start with something as basic as:

I don’t know what to write.

I’m not sure where to start.

Start What? What do I want to write? An article? An ebook?

I’d love to write an ebook.

About what?

Well, I love to cook so maybe a book of my favourite recipes?

I need to know how to write a cook book first.

How can I find the information I need?

I could go to the library or look up some writing blogs.

Or I could start writing out a list of my recipes.

Etc, etc, etc….

Once you start from where you are, it’s easy to move forward. Everything is easier once you start because then motivation and inspiration kick in.

Have a special notebook that you use for specifically this, for times when you want to write but you don’t know what to write about. I find that months and years later, I can read through my notebook and find all sorts of inspirational ideas lurking in what I’ve written before. It’s also easy to just grab your notebook and start writing whenever you feel stuck.

I find it also helps to listen to some soothing, meditation music when I’m feeling stuck because it helps to calm my crazy, monkey mind so that I can focus on my writing.

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