What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write

Writing blocks rarely hit me because I don’t know what to say. For me, they are usually derived from a mind swarming with ideas. So much so, that I can feel overwhelmed with questions like these:

  • Should I focus on idea A or B today?
  • Just because I’m interested in a topic doesn’t mean anyone else is, right?
  • Is my thinking on this matter completely delusional?
  • I can’t write about __________; people will think __________ about me. Won’t they?

Ah, the battles of insecurity a writer must fight. So how do we wage war against our own fears, those with the power to debilitate us if we aren’t careful?Writing Rules

For me, I’ve had to gulp, choosing to write afraid.

I love what Stephen King said on the matter. “The only requirement to be a writer is to remember every scar.”

The secret to great writing is daring to risk in order to reap greater rewards. 

  • When you aren’t sure whether idea A or B is better, choose one and decide to embrace your own decision.
  • Odds are, if you are interested in a topic, so are other people. If you doubt it, do a quick friend/family and social media poll to test the waters.
  • What sometimes feels delusional to us can feel like “outside the box” thinking to others. Research to see if you can substantiate your premise. Try to imagine how this might come across to someone foreign to the concept. Tell your readers you understand this may sound strange or that they might agree to disagree with you. And don’t forget to ask God what He wants you to say — He is the king of fresh ideas.
  • As Stephen King’s quote reminds us, the inner scars, the deep thoughts, and the vulnerable spaces in our lives are often the ones other people connect with the most. If we hold our tender areas captive, we can’t free someone else who needs permission to release their own fears.

I think most writers struggle with what to write when you don’t know what to write. But you can’t go wrong when your words originate from your soul. Don’t doubt yourself to the point of mental paralysis. Your unique take is as important as your unique voice in expressing your thoughts.

Dare to believe in what you have to say.
Dare to share your innermost thoughts. Dare to trust God with a message he wants you to offer.

What Are You Doing for OthersSo what if every person on the planet doesn’t share your perspective? Some of the greatest minds in history were scoffed at in the beginning. Do your due diligence, then dare to risk so you and your readers reap a greater reward.

What topics could you write afraid? What are you holding back that could help others?

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Cast Your Line to Hook Agents, Editors, and Readers

CatfishWe writers talk about luring and hooking readers. Makes writing sound a little like a field-and-stream exercise, doesn’t it? In some ways, writing is like fishing. In both cases, you have to step out of your comfort zone, bait your hook, and make your cast. Then you wait for results you can’t see.

In writing, as in fishing, it’s important to know the denizens inhabiting the particular “pond” where you’ve cast your line. It does no good to fish for something that isn’t there. This is why studying publishing trends is important to your survival. Good starting points to catch industry news are at Publisher’s Weekly and the ECPA community site.

In fishing, you bait your hook with delicacies enjoyed by the kind of fish you want. Just because a particular fish exists doesn’t mean you should catch it, though. You might not care for the taste of catfish, for example, but you love trout. Writers who follow every trend in the hope of landing a book contract often leave their interests out of the equation. When it comes to deciding what to offer, don’t pursue soulless commercialism. That may appear attractive, but it’s not sustainable.

For a chance to catch a fish, a fisherman has to ready and throw a line into the water. Similarly, a writer needs to prepare a line, bait a hook, and give a great pitch to ever hope to snag an agent, land a contract, and net readers.

Once that line is in the water, any fisherman watches the pole. If you leave it unattended, when you return you’ll most likely find your hook stripped. That’s because fish nibble at bait without swallowing the hook. A good fisherman knows it’s important to set the hook at just the right moment. It’s one thing to lure a reader into the first chapter of your book. It’s another to have that reader go on to chapter two. Ending each chapter with a new hook will string your reader happily along.

A complaint made by editors is that beyond the first 50 pages, manuscripts often fall apart. Readers want the same thing that editors do—a story that sustains interest throughout its pages. Once you have that, it’s time to go fishing.