Let me guess:
You’re a prolific writer. You write at least a thousand words every working day. Since you’ve to write regularly, you tend to run out of interesting topics to write about.
Else, you fancy writing as a leisure activity. The fundamental problem is the same though – when you sit down in your own space, it’s a nightmare to stare at the blank white screen (or the blank page if a notebook floats your boat).
Don’t worry, amigo.
Whether you’re a blogger, content creator, or a fiction writer searching for inspiration for your writing, I’ve got you covered. In the guide, you’ll get access to tips, strategies, and prompts (alongside a few tools) for getting fresh ideas about things to write about. First, let’s lay down the basics.
Table of Contents
Struggling With The “I Don’t Know What To Write About” Stumbling Block? Then, Change Your Mindset…
I don’t remember the last time I was out of ideas that I wanted to share. I rarely run out of subjects to talk about in my writing. Part of it is because I have a LOT of genuine interests and form associations between seemingly unrelated objects.
However, the major reasons are:
- I believe I always have something interesting to say.
- I am confident that I can write from my unique experiences, which means I am okay with writing on subjects that have already been covered.
The belief that there are abundant topics hanging around and accessible to you will change the way you look at the world. You’ll have a lens of framing interesting subjects through your life experiences and the happenings around you.
All topic ideas might not be compelling and exciting to write for you. But a change of mindset can make the difference between having ten good topics to write about versus complaining that you have none.
Assuming you’ve made the mindset shift, let’s look at a few strategies to spark ideas for your writing project.
What To Write About: 5 Simple Strategies
Whether you’re stuck with writing a blog post, article, or story, the following strategies will help you break out – they are derived from method acting, copywriting, and digital marketing. Let’s get down to the first strategy.
1. Scan The Headlines Of Popular Articles And Books
A great place to spark new ideas is exploring the work of other writers. Indeed, simply scanning the headlines can jumpstart your own writing. Here are the places you can try:
The list is updated every hour and ranks the books most widely purchased by Amazon customers. You’ll get an eclectic mix of both nonfiction and fiction books. Further, you can explore books by department in the left-hand sidebar.
Indeed, you can find more best-sellers in every section. Here are the best sellers in romance (as you’ll see in the left-hand sidebar, you can also granularly explore subsections).
Right off the bat, you’ve six titles above that you can use as creative prompts. I could definitely write a short fantasy story on #3: “Where the forest meets the stars.” How about you?
If you’re stuck at a specific place in your plot, then try using the title ‘as it is’ in your writing. It might help you regain creative momentum.
2. Plug Your Favorite Website Inside Buzzsumo
It might also help to scan the headlines of the most shared articles on social media from your favorite website. If you plug a site inside Buzzsumo, then it returns its most popular headlines in the last year.
For instance, below are the most shared headlines in the last year from longreads.com. I particularly got intrigued by the title – “The difference between being broke and being poor”.
If you want to write an article, then you can also try plugging a competitor’s website inside Buzzsumo. The tool will return their most popular articles that can provide you a list of fresh ideas that you can cover from newer angles. What’s more? These ideas are already proven to work well with the set of readers you want to write for.
If you have broad ideas about what you want to write, then you can put that as a keyword using double exclamation marks inside Buzzsumo as well.
Here are the results for the phrase “long road” that I might want to use as the title for a chapter in my novel. Right off the bat, there are three stories (marked in red) that interest me and make for a good starting point.
I can read and use the life stories of Scott Frost and Nathaniel Rateliff as inspiration for my building my characters. See how it’s done?
3. Come Up With Narrower Topics
When I first pitched my headline ideas to my editor at Foundr magazine, she gave me a piece of advice that has stayed with me. Instead of writing on a broader subject, you can narrow down to more specific topics.
See, most of the subjects you want to write about have already been written online and offline. There’s a LOT of information created every day (4 million blog posts every day). To stand out and grab the attention of your readers, you’ll need to get deeper into the broader subjects that have already been covered an ample number of times.
Do you feel like losing out on the precious readership of your article by narrowing your focus? In fact, it will ensure that your writing resonates deeper with the audience that finds the article relevant.
Now, let’s look at an example:
Suppose, you want to write on habit formation. As you can see in the search engine results below, the science, psychology, and time frame of habits are well explored.
How about you explore a lesser explored angle on “When habit formation does not lead to behavioral change?”
The above subject is made-up. You’ll need subject matter expertise to come up with narrower and interesting angles.
Even when you get stuck with writing fiction, you can attempt to zoom in and focus on a specific scene setting. You can also try using exposition to your advantage as readers like tension and conflict rather than seeing your characters live peacefully and agreeing on everything.
4. Explore What’s Popular Right Now
Is Twitter buzzing with the latest presidential debate? Or are people fancying a major sports tournament victory? Else, maybe, people are crazy about the last episode of Game of Thrones (well when does that not happen)?
You can pick up ideas, anecdotes, events, and the signature phrases from these events and integrate them into your writing. Depending on who you’re writing for, these trends can even serve well as stand-alone subjects.
You can begin your search at Google Trends. You can explore the Google Search Trend reports of various years as well for every country. It’s broken down into convenient sub-categories (as visible below for the 2018 US report).
Do those names, questions, and events spark hot ideas that you can write an article/expand your story on?
Note: You’re better off not writing a lot on ‘newsworthy’ topics. If a trend dies down, then your efforts of writing the article on it go waste as its content is no longer valuable for your readers. It’s alright to include instances from such trending subjects in your writing, though.
5. Let Music Guide You
Method actors are trained to use music as a tool to get in the requisite emotional state for their scenes. If you like listening to music, then it’s a great recipe to get in an emotionally charged state.
As a part of my method acting training at Jeff Goldberg Institute, I performed a worldview exercise. It was composed of letting the music guide me to think about the specific aspects of my personality and how I see the world. I had to let events from my life pop up and make sense of the life trajectory. At the end of the exercise, I had written down in detail about my life experiences and how they shaped me.
You can similarly use music to enable your flow state and think about either of these instances:
- revisit your childhood
- your successes and failures
Now You’ve Cool Things To Write, Huh?
As you know, all stories worth telling have already been told. And many great topics worth writing about are already been published. However, that doesn’t forbid you to write in your own unique voice, mixing your life experiences, and adding your flavor to the same subjects.
I have shown you how to find things to write about with actionable tips and tools that you can use straight away. Hopefully, they will get your creative juices flowing.
How do you come up with new interesting things to write about? Do you keep a journal? I would love to know your process in the comments below.