“I have nothing to write about.”
I hear it all the time from fellow writers. It’s the reason why some put away their notebooks, walk away from their computers, and idly think about the day when they too will write the next great American novel — an act that they just can’t do right now, because, they “have nothing to write about.”
Which is absurd. “I have nothing to write about” is right up there with “I have nothing to wear.” Really. Closet full of clothes and you have “nothing” to wear? You have plenty to wear. Just nothing that strikes your fancy right now. And the same way you have to make your current wardrobe work (unless you’re Kanye-levels of rich and can just buy a new closet full of clothes — alongside a new closet, and a new house), you have to find a topic that strikes your fancy and make it work.
Because, look around you. There are a million things to write about. Want to get into international news and talk about the recent acid attack on two British girls in Zanzibar? Or perhaps you have an opinion about potentially moving the Winter Olympics in light of Russia’s new anti-gay laws. Write about that. Write about it in a way that makes a person care about the subject you’re talking about. Write selflessly. Write, not because you want to amaze people with your incredible vocabulary and impeccable rhetoric, but because this particular topic matters to you.
Not one for journalism? Look outside. How is it today? If you’re one for novel writing, you will probably end up writing about the weather at least once in your lovely little story. Step outside. Breathe it in. Experience the weather with all your senses. Write about that. Write about it in a way that makes a person feel like they’re in the middle of a blistering heat wave in January. Write about it in a way that makes a person feel the sun on their face even when it’s been raining for days.
Think writing about the weather is too pedestrian? Look at the people around you. Think about your interactions with them. Think about their looks, their personality, the way they handle what life throws at them. Think about their shortcomings, their fatal flaws, their advantages. Write about that. Write about it in a way that makes a person sympathize — or despise — them. Write about it in a way that makes a person feel like they personally know who you are writing about. Write about it in a way that makes a person want to know more about your character, regardless as to whether your character is good or evil.
Write about textures, sounds, smells. Write about that damn cup of coffee that is sitting next to you and give zero cares about how clichéd such a description has become. Explore what you can say about it. See if there is something new hidden beneath the surface.
Think you don’t have the words? Try again. Close your eyes and type. The first draft is going to suck anyway. Get used to this bit of information. Make sentences that you know you’ll delete in an hour. Write words that you know will be replaced. Feel the freedom in knowing that an entire language – perhaps even more than one language – is at your complete mercy. Realize the power you have in creating, killing, rearranging them. You have a 20,000-strong army at your complete disposal. Act like the commander that you are and use them.
Still feel like you have nothing to write about? The problem isn’t the lack of topics, then. The problem is a lack of initiative.