Five questions to ask yourself when you don’t know what to write about

Often, writing is an exercise of endurance. What do I even write about? Why are all my stories and poems about the same topics, different versions of the same idea?

Every time I notice my writing going in circles, I ask myself these questions:

  • Have you stepped outside your home lately?
  • When was the last time you talked to another human being?
  • When was the last time you looked at yourself?
  • When was the last time you spent more than 5 minutes in silence?
  • When was the last time you watched a movie that made you feel like you were watching a movie for the first time?

Your creativity is a distillation of your life experiences, even if your work is not at all autobiographical.

But what if responsibilities get in the way of experiences?

Then, maybe we need to embrace silence and solitude. We surround ourselves with distractions just to stop hearing our own thoughts. Silence is uncomfortable. It forces us to be with ourselves. Sometimes, that’s unbearable. And when you’re unable or unwilling to face yourself, your creative voice suffers.

When you embrace stillness, you’re able to truly notice what’s around you. Your life doesn’t need to be an eternal adventure to be inspiring. There’s inspiration even in routine — in an office job, in PTA meetings, in fishing out hidden treasures in the discount bins at IKEA and eating cold pizza on a Sunday morning.

Then, maybe, over time you’ll get home with a headful of ideas just from eavesdropping on people on your commute.

Ideas are out there, all around us, if we stay quiet for long enough to hear them.

Embracing solitude for creativity
A Room in the Artist’s Home in Strandgade, Copenhagen, with the Artist’s Wife (Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1901). Statens Museum for Kunst.

Read the previous entry here: How to deal with heartbreak

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