Here’s a Trick to Help You Start Writing When You Don’t Know What to Write About

It’s always worked for me. Maybe it will work for you, too.

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I don’t know what I want to write about today.

I’m trying out a new schedule, since whatever schedule I had before has been completely dismantled thanks to this fuzzy bouncy thing called a “dog.”

I haven’t quite adjusted yet. I still haven’t figured out how to create space in this new way of living for all the things I want to fill the hours of my day with. If I even can do all the things I wanted to do before Izzie wandered in.

In all the years I’ve been writing — more than I like to say out loud sometimes — I’ve found only one strategy that always gets me writing something, even when I’m not sure what to write about, or don’t feel like writing anything at all.

I just start writing.

Ever since I did this as an exercise in a high school creative writing class, it’s never failed me. And I’m not sure I’ve ever actually spelled out the method on this blog — something I did not realize until I wrote “I don’t know what I want to write about today” at the top of this page.

It’s not complicated. You just. Start. Typing.

It doesn’t matter what comes out. It doesn’t even have to make sense. You don’t even have to spell things correctly. Stream-of-consciousness writing has no end objective other than to force your brain to think of words it tells your fingers to make appear.

Since I started writing all this, I’ve come up with a few new ideas. I went from “I have no idea where this is going to go” to “oh there’s something here, and another something there, and now I have more ideas than I expected to have all week.”

Have I gotten distracted along the way? Yes. It took me an hour to get out what you’ve read so far, between brewing another pot of coffee to feeding the cat to playing with the dog and oh yeah social media, why is it so shiny?

But look at all the words I’ve written.

Even if only 20 people look at some of them, at least I didn’t just give up, shut my computer down, and feel bad about myself for not pushing through the “I don’t wanna” feeling.

You should never sit down in front of a keyboard and worry that something you’re about to write doesn’t matter or will be a waste of effort. A good chunk of everything you write won’t ever go public. This is how writing works. You have to do it in stages. Write. Revise. Repeat.

I wasn’t sure if anything I was going to write when I sat down 90 minutes ago was going to end up published. I doubted myself. But then I shook it off and just started writing things.

I don’t know if it paid off. You’ll be a much better judge of that than I will.

Just write. Just start. Just try. It works.

At least, it does for me.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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8 thoughts on “Here’s a Trick to Help You Start Writing When You Don’t Know What to Write About

  1. Reblogged this on Ann Writes Inspiration and commented:
    It often times works for me. When I write nonsense, I dump it once I get it out, and write the words that I feel led by God to share with the world, or that pop into my head at any given time, that need to be shared and published. Blessings to you and yours, and have a lovely day!

  2. I can do short works like this, but for longer stuff, I’m a plantser. I draw a quick sketch and roll until I get stuck, then actually bother to look at my sketchy outline.

    1. I can definitely relate to that. I usually end up outlining a novel, for example, AFTER the first draft as an attempt to organize everything I already wrote. :P

      1. HAHAHA “still traveling” :) :) You don’t even want to see my outlines. They’re pretty much what my brain would look like in text form and even I can barely stand to look at them…:P

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