How to Write When You Don’t Know What To Write About

So you want to write, but don’t know where to begin

Your mind is scrambled. You don’t have an overarching idea to plan out. What are you meant to do? Should you write whatever comes into your head? Should you try to make your work a cohesive whole somehow? Should you really be trying to shoehorn your short pieces into a novel?

Don’t be scared. You’re not alone. This blog post deals with these questions.

500 words for 31 days

I signed up to write 500 words a day every day for 31 days.

No, I’m not setting myself a NaNoWriMo style task where I have to write a novel.

What is the purpose of this exercise, then? I’m just trying to get into a daily writing habit.

Are you wrapped up in your non-writing life? Come and join me for 500 words a day. Send me a tweet to let me know you’re in. 

How does someone become a writer?

With writing. A writer is someone who writes.

If you’re doing this along with me, that means you can write anything for this 31 dat stint. I mean, honestly, I just want to be a writer, and if a writer is someone who writes, then goddamn it sign me up to the writing-every-day bandwagon.

Emails don’t count. Blog posts  count. Poetry counts, fiction counts, magic realistic shopping lists count. So long as you have the spark of an idea, however small, you can work with it.

And the thing with small sparks is that sometimes they can ignite a mighty fire. 

Maybe we’ll find ourselves writing shopping lists in a dieselpunk world and suddenly BAM there we go with a novel idea: and we have our daily writing habit to thank for this.

Google is your friend

Of course I Googled ‘what to write about if you don’t know what to write about’ when I was researching this blog post. There’s a load of hits for this topic (unsuprisingly!), but one or two links stood out.

There’s Things To Write About over at Udemy, Stuck for Ideas? 20 Quotes Telling You What To Write About at the fantastic Write To Done, and a little gem that also came up: 5 Ways To Find Time to Write When Busy (I am busy! You are busy! Everyone’s busy! We all need this!).

Making the time suck work for you

Social media can help you out if you’re stuck. This probably sounds counter-intuitive, being that social media is the biggest time suck ever, but be constructive with it. Let everything feed your writing; stories that other people share on social media, for example, can be a fertile feeding ground for writing ideas.

Some social media sites help more than others, of course. Pinterest is especially good for writing ideas as everything there is visual. Instagram, too! So if you’re on Pinterest (follow me! we can be friends!), there’s a board simply called Writing Prompts which you’ll find very helpful. I’ll be writing about the image below later.

What inspiration can you find today?



What Hemingway Has Taught Us About Writing

I don’t like the works of Ernest Hemingway. There are many reasons but that’s a whole other post (on a whole other blog).

What I’m focusing on here is how the man wrote: apparently he wrote about 500 words a day, every day.

Let’s think about that for a minute. Continue reading “What Hemingway Has Taught Us About Writing”

Creativity: Can Music Change Your Whole Brain?

First, a quotation:

Music gives biologists fits. Its ubiquity in human cultures, and strong evidence that the brain comes preloaded with musical circuits, suggest that music is as much a product of human evolution as, say, thumbs. But that raises the question of what music is for. Read more: Science Journal: Caveman crooners may have aided early human life

Second, how music spurs creativity – and isn’t only for the arts

Einstein and the piano – “The greatest scientists are artists as well.”

The links between musical knowledge and the health (or emotional well being, if you can call it that) of the brain have long been observed, even if they haven’t been entirely understood yet.

So many great thinkers and innovators through the centuries have had musical hobbies outside of their professional lives that allowed them to nurture their creativity in ways that it otherwise might not have been allowed to grow. Condaleeza Rice, for example, trained to be a concert pianist. James Joyce dreamed of being a singer, not a writer. Woody Allen plays with a jazz band. Steven Spielberg is a clarinetist. The former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn has played cello at Carnegie Hall.

You might be thinking this is a co-incidence…but there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Bruce Kovner is an American businessman who founded Caxton Associates, and is sitting pretty with an estimated net worth of around $4.5 billion (as of 2011).

You might not think a man moving in such fiscal spheres would be musical – but he is. In fact, like the concert pianist Robert Taub, he describes a sort of synesthesia — they both perceive patterns in a three-dimensional way.

Taub, who gained fame for his Beethoven recordings, says that when he performs, he can “visualize all of the notes and their interrelationships,” a skill that translates intellectually into making “multiple connections in multiple spheres.” Continue reading “Creativity: Can Music Change Your Whole Brain?”

Taking Charge of the Creativity Brainplosion

Drawing by Santiago Ramón y Cajal of two types of Golgi-stained neurons from the cerebellum of a pigeon
Drawing by Santiago Ramón y Cajal of two types of Golgi-stained neurons from the cerebellum of a pigeon

Cross-Disciplinary Creativity

I’ve been working on a number of different creative things in the past few days –

  • writing poetry
  • turning my novels over in my mind
  • starting a short story
  • how to depict myself in a comic strip.
Andreas Vesalius' Fabrica, published in 1543, showing the base of the human brain, including optic chiasma, cerebellum, olfactory bulbs, etc.
Andreas Vesalius’ Fabrica, published in 1543, showing the base of the human brain, including optic chiasma, cerebellum, olfactory bulbs, etc.

It struck me this morning that these are not all separate projects at all: these are all part of a larger work, and feed into each other. A larger, modular work. I’m creating the Ikea of creativity…or stories or something. If that makes sense.

I have no idea why it took me so long to realise this.

I have no idea how I didn’t realise before that I think in collage.

I’m always finding or making connections between disparate materials or scraps of information.

An ad on TV, a panel from a graphic novel, a topic to write for a client’s blog posts, a scene from my novel…the shape of the trees outside my window, someone’s photographs on tumblr, a piece of quantum mechanic theory, the shape of computer code with the visuals all stripped away. My mind moves at a billion miles a minute but that’s how it is and I’ve just realised that I should embrace this fact.

These constant connections and ways of making and of being make me and my work who I am and what it is.

And maybe that’s a great thing. Continue reading “Taking Charge of the Creativity Brainplosion”