What To Write About When You Don’t Have Any Idea What to Write About

discovery

How to Write When You Don’t Have Any Idea What to Write About


discovery

On Saturday, I finished the essay for this week’s email. It was ready to go. But you’re not reading it right now. This morning, I panicked. I couldn’t send it.

In that email, I was going to commit to a new writing project, but I realized that there is another major project I haven’t finished. I should devote my time to that rather than procrastinate by starting something new. I will eventually take on that challenge (and send that post), but not today.

The only problem was that I didn’t have a helpful piece (or even an idea for a piece) to share instead.

But what I love about writing is that you don’t always have to have a great idea when you sit down to write. In fact, putting your butt in the seat, making a promise to write and publish, is often enough to get your creative juices flowing.

As the author, Somerset Maugham, said:

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
He was inspired at 9AM because that’s when he sat down to write every morning—to write, not mess around on the Internet while thinking about what he could write. He did that even when he didn’t have a great idea for a piece. Magically, he always came up with something.

That advice still works today. From author/artist Austin Kleon:

“As a young artist, I thought the ideas had to come first before you wrote, and now I think the opposite: You start working with your hands and the ideas come.”
And novelist Marilynne Robinson:
“Writing should always be exploratory. There shouldn’t be the assumption that you know ahead of time what you want to express.”
That’s why I make this appointment with you every Monday. Even if I don’t plan what to write, planning to write is often enough.

Three Things is about creativity, improv, and inspiration. If you enjoyed this week’s letter, you can sign up to get them delivered to your inbox each week by digital carrier pigeon. Pidgey