The Curse of Writers Block
You know how to write…now you need something to write about. This can actually be the hardest part of being a journalist. What happens when you’ve exhausted your list of things to write about? In fact, this article was a byproduct of writers block. I could think of nothing to write and then it dawned on me writers block was a topic. Thus, this story was born.
I was asked about this by a colleague recently. They were impressed by the seemingly endless variety of topics I keep coming up with to write on. There are a few methods I use which work most of the time. However, just like any other professional writer I get stuck staring at a blank page with an equally blank mind. How do you find a subject worthy enough to capture your audiences’ attention? We’ll get to that, but first let’s examine what is involved here.
To start with, a good portion of what’s published online isn’t as impressive as it could be. Why? Perhaps it’s a writers’ lack of purpose and singularity of style. And maybe most importantly, they underestimate themselves by thinking no one will take them seriously.
Writers need positive validation because they are a sensitive breed. Criticize a writer and you quickly take the wind out of their sails. I’m not talking about constructive criticism which many writers practice amongst themselves. When one professional sees where another may need a few helpful tips it is common to offer such aid. It’s called professional courtesy.
The type of criticism that’s unappreciated is that aimed at a writers’ character, not so much the content of what they wrote. First and foremost a writer needs confidence in what they are saying is of value to others. The subject matter is secondary.
You may have heard the saying “You are what you eat!” The same principle applies here. You are what you read. That may sound strange to some but simply put, input equals output. By absorbing different styles and techniques your own writing will improve along with your idea list of things to write. Your inspiration comes from things you know or can learn. Writing has been said to be 50% inspiration and 50% content.
So, what can you write about? Look at what others are reading. What captures their attention? Are cooking, health issues, humor, the bizarre and mysterious what people seem to be interested in? This a good place to start, but by no means the last. Maybe writing on something not commonly covered by others is the ticket. Just because you might personally find a topic boring is of no consequence.
Maybe the mating habits of hedge hogs, isn’t a topic that floats your boat. However, somebody somewhere will be interested in it. Therefore, write it as if it’s the worlds’ most important subject. But, regardless of what subject you write on, thoroughly research it first. And then write it with passion. You aren’t selling just an idea but yourself as well.
Develop the art of listening to others. What are people talking about? I find many ideas just by listening to conversations of people I know. What’s on the History Channel, local news? There are many ideas which can be harvested from these sources. Adolf Hitler has been done to death…but consider side bar possibilities. Who was his mistress Eva and what role did she play in shaping history? Pearl Harbor has been done to death also, but you can choose a different angle. See it from the eyes of a Marine Private who awoke Sunday morning to find himself embroiled in a fight for his life.
Surf the net by googling “interesting topics,” “controversial subjects” or something similar. You will find lists of common and uncommon topics…some even categorized and in alphabetical order.
However, I get most of my inspiration simply by observing what’s going on around me. What kind of butterfly was that? What are all those Boy Scouts working on? Why is everybody taking pictures over there? All are possible subject matter.
Still stuck? Then consider some topics with universal appeal. Many never go out of style. Fashion and glamour, parenting techniques, cars, pets and animals are just a few categories. And then there are gender issues. Writing about how to find the perfect mate or differences between the sexes comes to mind.
But, even the best writers will still experience writer’s block from time to time. At times like this, I simply remove myself from the computer and go grab a cup of coffee, which is always on and piping hot during my writing sessions. I’ll sit in solitude for a while, not thinking about searching for a topic, instead just allowing my thoughts to roam freely. Perhaps, I’ll take a trip down memory lane recalling things I’ve done or places I’ve been. Remember Grandmother and how important she was in your upbringing? Well, what do you know…something to write on! Remember the practical jokes Grandfather subjected you to? They were aggravating back then but now are treasured memories. Bingo...another story! What about the trips your family took or how funny the things one of your siblings did was? Oh my…the ideas just keep flowing!
Let’s see now. What about the meaning of life. Anybody want to tackle that one?