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

At about 4 a.m. I decided to get out of bed. I’d been tossing and turning for more than an hour, at that point. It seemed fruitless to stay.

Sitting at the computer I pulled up a file I had been working on, a guest post for another blog. I worked on it a bit, sent it off to the blogger who’d asked for it.

Then, I turned to my own blog (this one, of course) and thought I would work on writing this week’s compliment of posts. I try to do at least three good posts each week. Typically, when I am on the ball and really hitting my writing with my full energy, I’ll write all of the week’s blogs on Monday and queue them to “publish” throughout the rest of the week.

I also keep a running list of possible blog topics, so when I moved on to this week’s blog possibilities, I had a list of several things to consider.

The only problem was, none of them appealed to me this early.

Do you ever get into that writing funk where none of your current projects appeal to you? Maybe you–like me–have a pile of stories you’re working on, in various stages of completion from a germ of an idea to those pieces you’ve re-worked and edited many times. Or, maybe you are in the middle of a book, and there are plenty of places that you can either move forward or re-write or edit, but the energy just isn’t there.

Blogging is like that, for me, sometimes. I enjoy it. I’ve met a number of fun writer friends through blogging. It’s been rewarding. But, sometimes I just can’t find the energy for it.

There are two ways I deal with this lack of specific energy. First, I write through it. I use the idea of free writing (or, in some circles, the concept of Morning Pages) to push through the lack of energy. Sometimes, it is just a matter of putting myself into motion. Pushing myself forward until there is enough momentum to carry me through. There are times, though, when that is not enough. Which brings me to the other way I move through low-energy times: I create something different. Lately, I’ve been playing with poetry. In the past, I would pick up the guitar or even a paintbrush or sketch pad. None of these three “other” creative endeavors (music, poetry, art) are in any way good enough for anyone else to see (or, in the case of music, hear) but they are great ways to vary the creative pattern and free up the ideas and energy and motivation to write.

What about you? Do you have methods that help you deal with a lack of creative power?

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11 thoughts on “What To Write When You Don’t Know What To Write

  1. Wonderful post. It’s a funny coincidence, I just put up a post on the same topic this morning, the “work” the successful creative life requires. It’s always nice to discover a kindred tortured soul.

  2. I’ve found that the only possible way to overcome this funk is to keep writing. At this juncture, your train of thought and your brain are like a blocked water pipe. All this filth and hair and waste turned into a big, juicy lump that doesn’t let anything out. So what do you do? You pump water through it, and you pump it hard.

    It’s not so easy at first. You need to deal with a bunch of dirty, smelly crap, all these residues of that old clog, but the water at one point has to come out clear again.

    Besides, there is always the possibility to revise content you’ve written. Even if your work comes out as garbage due to your funk, you can go back to it and polish it until its good. But there’s no way to turn a bad article into a good one if there is no article to begin with.

  3. I write through it. Anything. Sometimes just free-write a scene that doesn’t have to do with any current project or the first image that pops into my head. If I’m in public I take notes of people around me, “Harriet the Spy” style. I ask questions about it and go from there. A couple free-writing sessions–things I had no investment in, no weight on–ended up being published flash fiction or scenes inserted into a another project. You just never know. Your subconscious will help you work it out. It’s important to remember to work for pleasure only. We write in order to excavate our ideas, images, feelings without form at first, then we have fun getting messy and shaping it up.

  4. I have that problem with EVERYTHING in my life. No matter what, there’s always a day when it’s just not going to work for me (even chocolate, on rare occasion, just doesn’t suit my mood).

    It depends on what all is going on, but often, for me, the issue is that I’m 1.) overwhelmed/anxious about something else or 2.) I’m just plain exhausted (2 kids, right?). If I can’t manage to light a fire under myself, I just do something else. That would be my whole post on using procrastination to get other things done.

    Usually, that resolves things in a day or so. On the other hand, if it doesn’t, I probably need a nap. Badly. If that’s not possible, I do the same thing you do – unplug from that creative project and go to another (maybe my kids get to hear me sing oldies that day!). When all else fails, I walk the dog. Fresh air can work wonders… and then the dog isn’t giving me the hairy eyeball the next time I sit at the computer.

    Nice post.

  5. Thank you so much for the inspiring blog. I was getting stuck in my research paper. As you guys said, I keep pushing it and boooom, ideas just happens to flow like water.

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