You want to write, but you think you have nothing to write about. Maybe you’re paralyzed by fear or uncertainty. Here’s how to write when you have no ideas.
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open,” says Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.
Don’t turn away from writing, fellow scribes. Lower your expectations, shake off your need to write perfectly, and stop comparing yourself to other writers. Taste your writing. Keep going back for more. Sooner or later, you won’t need writing help — you’ll be helping other writers!
Don’t fall into the trap of believing you have “writer’s block.” That will become a self-fulfilling spiral of doom and you really will have no ideas to write about. Instead, focus on writing the first draft of your project.
How to Write When You Have No Ideas
Even the best writers need encouragement. These tips will help you write when you think you can’t – they range from overcoming the fear of writing to learning how to create better freelance article ideas.
Practice writing through fear of rejection, failure, or success
Write as much as you can, even if you feel like you have nothing to write about. Don’t just write for yourself — write for Suite101, Examiner.com, Associated Content, your own blog, or your friend’s blog. Hell, e-mail me and write on my blog! I’m nice to guest bloggers — as long as they’re not better writers than I am. 🙂
If you want to get over your writing fears, you have to practice the very thing you’re afraid of. Writing. Submitting. Dealing with editors’ decisions to publish or not. The only way to be a successful writer is to keep writing — and accept writing help whenever you can get it.
How to write through discouragement
Discouragement is a death knell for successful writers because once it sets in, it suffocates your motivation to write. To write even when you’re discouraged, focus on either: 1) your past writing achievements; or 2) the failures and successes of writers you admire. Every writer has his or her own way of staying motivated to write. Your job is to figure out how to fire up the muse!
“Never give up,” says blogger Petteri Ollila. “If you are not getting enough traffic to your blog right now, find out what the reason is and work more. Maybe you are not marketing enough, or maybe you have to write better content. There is always something you can do better.”
How to write when procrastination is screaming your name
I’m doing it right now — instead of writing copy for my best client, I’m blogging. It’s not that I think I can’t write the article…it’s just that it’s work.
To force myself to write when I think I can’t, I say: “Laurie, after you’ve worked on your client’s stuff for 30 minutes, then you can reward yourself by blogging for an hour.” That’s an effective way to write when you think you can’t: schedule 30 minutes to write what you think you can’t, then do something fun.
How to write when you have no ideas
Some writers have more ideas than they can use; other writers struggle to come up with ideas they think editors, agents, or publishers will buy. One way to write despite “idea block” is to spice up what’s already been written. For example, there’s a glut of articles about making money as a freelance writer. Instead of adding to the pile, add a twist.
Another example: I have a chronic illness that may slow my writing career. I met a freelance writer a few days ago who spent several years in jail. How do freelancers like us make money — do our “issues” hold us back or help us be better writers? Teach yourself how to spin your life or an article idea so it’s not just an idea — it’s a story.
How to write when you think your work will never be read
Most writers want to be read…and I’m one of those writers who once thought writing something that’ll never be read was a waste of time. But, I know better now! Even if nobody reads this article, I’m becoming a better writer by honing my writer’s voice, developing my writing style, letting my personality shine through my words. The best writing tip I ever got was to relax and let myself peek through my writing — and forget about whether or not my writing will be read.
This is how you learn how to love writing.
How to write when you have no incentive
If you’re a new freelance writer, you may find it tough to spend hours writing article query letters and have no idea if you’ll get an assignment from any magazine. So, my writing tip is to find an “accountability partner.”
He/she can be another freelance writer or an entrepreneur. Find someone who has career goals similar to yours, and work together to achieve your goals. Make a pact to share your progress – and figure out effective “punishments” if you don’t perform satisfactorily. Be there for each other.
Free the Writer Within
“Writing is elemental,” said Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. “Once you have tasted its essential life, you cannot turn from it without some deep denial and depression. It would be like turning from water.”
Natalie Goldberg also said:
“A writer must say yes to life, to all of life: the water glasses, the Kemp’s half-and-half, the ketchup on the counter. It is not a writer’s task to say, “It is dumb to live in a small town or to eat in a café when you can eat macrobiotic at home.”
Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the gray, cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase, the Jewish writer in the orange booth across from her blond friend who has black children. We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.”