Writing can be pretty fun, especially when you’re in the zone, and you’re writing about something you are really passionate about.
Time flies — words come easy, and next thing you know, you are patting yourself on the back, congratulating the legend you are for the work of art you just completed in under an hour.
Man, I love those days — Those days are fun!
But there are other days — Not so fun ones, where every word you try to get on paper (or screen for that matter) feels like the biggest struggle on earth. Every sentence, every paragraph — even header takes forever to finish and your “oh I just write a quick piece” banter turns into a “pilgrimage to the holy land” kind of mission.
Getting stuck for words really sucks. But as a writer, drawing a blank before you even get the chance to jot down your first words is a sheer nightmare. It was bad — It was an acute form of writer’s block — Actually, it was way worse because to experience writer’s block, you need to know what you want to write about in the first place.
I needed a way out of my misery and started a little experiment to finally get over my, by now way-too-long, “Ideophobia.”
I said to myself; “If I can’t come up with anything remotely interesting to write about, perhaps someone else can,” and I started to write about topics that were important to people around me.
It completely changed my writing. Well, maybe not so much my writing but it definitely boosted my productivity level. I have noticed that since the day I started to include others in my thought process, it has been so much easier to get on a roll and more importantly, to get creative with my writing.
I do this all the time now, even If I have great ideas or topics to write about. In fact, my last three articles on Thought Catalog were all ideas, coming from people other than myself.
As a writer, you want to make sure that what you have to say resonates with people. You need to make sure that you maximize your readers time spent on “you” with exciting content that’s of some value to them and that in itself is a pretty tricky thing to do.
If you waste their time, they will hit that red X at the top left corner (or upper right of course) before you know it.
So let’s have a look at the experiment.
It’s super simple, and you can do it virtually wherever you are and whoever you are with* (I have my 4–5 “go-to” guys and gals as well as a core group of friends I usually turn to).
There aren’t really any rules or constraints involved, and you can use it to whatever extent works for you with only one exception; It has to be a topic, rant, gossip, issue, etc. that hasn’t been brought up by yourself.
You have to trust the people you decide to include in this experiment and let them decide your fate.
Talk to your friends, your Mom, your football coach, talk to whoever you think can add legitimate value to your writing.
Make sure you don’t ask them flat out what you should write about but instead engage in conversations. It’s amazing what people give away when you let them talk. Feel out what it is that makes them itch, the things they rave about or what thoughts keep them up at nights.
An oasis of great ideas (or ridiculous ones, depending on how many rounds of tequila shots have been passed around) are dinners with good friends.
Next time you head out with friend’s just sit there, chuck the tequila under the table (IMPORTANT) and listen to what they have to say. It’s unbelievable how much (potentially) great content you can pick up when you spend a few hours with someone you are close with.
Unfiltered, raw ideas or rants tossed around and willingly given away without any F’s given. It’s incredible what kind of things people care about.
Observing what others have to say is hands down my favorite way of generating ideas and let’s be honest; it’s a super lazy approach to get away with really great articles. The chances are pretty high that topics that are getting tossed around among friends during a night out will be issues that are appealing to others too.
Whatever you write about, it needs to stand out! Not in the sense that it MUST be the best piece you’ve ever written, but it needs to spark an interest or create an itch. It needs to fill a void or deliver the answer to a problem and again if it’s important to your friends to go on endless silly rants or off on a tangent about a particular topic, then others will too.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with it. Next time you are out having a good time just wait until someone throws a random topic into the mix and see where it’s going.
Pay attention to the conversation — Take note of the different angles and opinions to one and the same problem.
I really want you to focus on the “heavy hitters” of the conversation. For instance, what exactly is it that sets people off? Which argument created the longest, most heated debate among your friends?
It’s so easy to do, and a surefire way for you to come up with an article, short story or even some fiction people will love, simply because it’s current, close to their hearts and a piece they can most likely relate to.