Finding Things to Write About When You’re Stuck
The pressure is on. I know you can feel it! It’s hard to keep up with the demand for information when the competition to snag readers is so hot and heavy. This kind of stress can take the wind out of your sails and leave you struggling for words.
Another thing slowing you down is the apparent success of others. Some established writers make it seems so easy! It’s no stretch to imagine them sitting at a keyboard with a glass of wine or a latte, furiously typing and smiling with satisfaction as they hit “publish” over and over to the tune of cash register dings and applause.
But that’s not you. Not if you’re anything like me.
Maybe it’s because you know you’re different. The things that are inside you and the experiences you’ve had aren’t really like anybody else’s. Guess what? Good.
It doesn’t matter how many podcasts you listen to, books you read, articles you research, or influencers you follow. No one can teach you how to be you.
And that’s good news, right? You’re free to do your own thing. The world is saturated with people who are all trying to be just alike. Stand out the way YOU were intended to stand out. You were created to be an individual with your own thoughts, ideas, creativities, and gifts. When you get stuck, you need to tap into that.
You can find plenty to write about when you stop looking.
Here are a few things I know will help when you run out of things to write about — or think you have. Some are no-brainers and some are a little less conventional.
1. Put your phone down! I can’t stress this enough, and I know it’s unthinkable. Most of us forget our phones are not actual body parts. It is possible to put a phone down and walk away from it.
Phones are addictive, and like any addiction, we feel kind of lost without them. Once the shock wears off, you’ll notice things like traffic passing, birds singing, the smell of food cooking (or raw sewage, depending on where you happen to be). Your senses will come alive again when your attention is not directed at the little box in your hand. You may even have some thoughts spring to mind immediately that are worthy of pen and paper!
2. Stop doing research. This falls in line with putting your phone down, but not exclusively. I’m saying take a break from studying what others have discovered for a while and start discovering things for yourself. Close your laptop.
Take a break from the podcasts, the furious article scrolling, the video watching, and the advice taking. Stop the habitual learning. You’ve soaked up enough to quit for awhile.
3. Get outside. Once you close your laptop, what else are you going to do? Go breathe some fresh air! Take a walk. Clear your mind. Play frisbee, golf, or football. Walk your dog. All kinds of activities have been waiting for you to join life again. So go LIVE!
“Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have had your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had?. . . What one loses one loses; make no mistake about that. . . The right time is any time that one is still so lucky to have. . . .Live!” The Ambassadors (1903) Henry James
4. Go fishing. Speaking of outside, this is one of the most calming and restful things I know to do. When you’re waiting on the fish to take your bait, your thoughts can freely flow. It’s such a peaceful way to spend a few hours of thought, and you might even bring home some supper if you’re lucky!
5. Play with the kids in your life. Don’t be creepy. If you don’t have kids in your life, don’t go find some to play with. Get a puppy or something. But if you do have kids or grandkids, playing with them can release the kid in you. Even if you don’t think of one thing to write about, it’s time well spent.
Plus, you can revisit your own childhood by telling the kids stories. This is a great way to entertain the kiddos and come up with great new material.
6. Talk to your Mama. Mothers usually have loads of wisdom to share. It doesn’t have to be your Mama though. Plenty of older people, men and women, have stories to tell from days gone by. I love listening to people talk about the way things used to be. It gives me all kinds of new perspectives about life when I look at it from someone else’s viewpoint.
7. Speaking of the past, check out an antique store or flea market. Touch things. Pick them up! Think about who they might have belonged to, and what their story may’ve been. Imagine what your life would’ve been like if you’d have been them.
8. Relax at the water. A lake, pond, stream, or ocean will work. Sitting by water is very calming in most cases and can inspire the best creative thoughts.
The ocean is a little different than other bodies of water in the attitude it creates in you. Its ferocity and strength are a fantastic source of powerful feelings which can lead to profound words and maximum impact. At least that’s how it works for me. I’ve fought many battles with God, pushing back against the waves of His mighty ocean, always coming to acceptance at the end.
9. Visit the Grand Canyon. I know, that’s kind of out of left field, but that’s where I always played — left field.
The Canyon is like the ocean. You can stand and stare in awe at its vastness all day long. My eyes feel completely full, as if there’s no more they can possible see! And in moments like those, you can think. You can really THINK!
A place so enormous, so much bigger than you, sets you free to just be yourself. It’s the acceptance that you’re not the whole of existence. You’re a part of a magnificent creation. Isn’t it amazing how God chose you to be exactly who you are?
Each part of you including the parts you don’t appreciate, the parts that don’t work well, the parts that get stuck when you’re trying to write, and all the parts you find less than perfect were created by God just for you. Every part of you is beautiful, just like the ocean and the Grand Canyon, because you’re part of an amazing and intention design. Learn to live in that space.
10. Stop seeking validation. Look at yourself today and know that you’re exactly who you were created to be. You can always improve your writing. That’s not what I’m saying. I mean you don’t need applause from everyone else to be doing what you’re meant to be doing. If writing brings you joy, keep writing. Find your own style — your own voice. Don’t try to be like everyone else. You’re not supposed to be someone else. Your dreams were given to you for a reason. No one else needs to understand them or believe in them. That’s not what it takes for them to come true.
Believe in your dreams, and believe in yourself.
You may find some of this odd but inspiring. All it takes is a reset sometimes. Try these ideas or try something else to unplug from the stress of trying to write when the words aren’t coming.
One more thing, and it’s not as fun as the rest of this. Sometimes to find things to write about, you need to revisit your sorrow. I don’t even know if that’s the correct order of things, so it didn’t make my list. Grief is the well from which most of my words are drawn.
Hard things happen in this world and we all go through them. Other people need to know they aren’t alone. Tell your story. Tell it like it really is, not the way you wish it was. Dump all the hard words out on the table. It’s healing for you and may save a life. You never know.
Someone’s words once saved mine.
Also published here.