What Can You Write About if You Don’t Have Any Ideas?
This is a familiar situation for a lot of writers.
You want to write – but you don’t have an idea to actually write about.
Whether you’re working on blog posts, novels, short stories, or something else entirely, you need ideas. And it can sometimes feel that ideas are in very short supply.
You might well be able to come up with an idea if pushed – but it wouldn’t necessarily be something that interests you enough for you to devote valuable writing time to it.
One solution (particularly for bloggers) is to set aside time to deliberately create a whole list of ideas. Instead of sitting down at the computer and hoping an idea will strike, have a specific “idea generating” writing session where you jot down as many potential ideas as you can. (Don’t worry about whether they’re any good or not – sometimes a so-so idea can lead you to a great one.)
If that doesn’t really help you, though, you might want to use this “between ideas” time to:
#1: Work on Shorter Pieces
Understandably, you won’t want to commit hours and hours to an idea that you’ve picked for the sake of it. You might be happy to write a piece of flash fiction, though, or a really short blog post – every word you get down on paper is good practice (and you never know, it might end up grabbing you more than you expected).
#2: Enjoy Other People’s Creations
Whether it’s reading a great novel, sinking into a piece of beautifully crafted non-fiction, walking round an art gallery, or listening to an album by your favourite musician or band … immersing yourself in other people’s creativity can sometimes spark ideas of your own. Keep a notebook handy, just in case anything comes to you.
#3: Take a Writing Course or Class
Whether it’s a two-hour workshop or a weeks-long programme, a writing course or class can be a great way to meet fellow writers, to learn new skills, and to explore new types of writing that you might not otherwise have considered. Just being around other writers, and setting aside time for writing, can help you feel more engaged with your writing life again.
#4: Explore the Ideas You DO Have
Perhaps you already have a potential idea or two – but you’re holding back. You might feel that you’re not “ready” to tackle a particular idea, but what’s the worst that could happen if you give it a go? If you’ve got some half-formed ideas, set aside some focused time to explore them – maybe in your favourite coffee shop. You might find that you come up with a new angle or development that really interests you.
#5: Try Some Writing Exercises or Prompts
If you’re really stuck for ideas, use someone else’s! There are loads of online resources (and books) that offer writing prompts or exercises to try. Here are a couple to check out:
Set a time limit on how long you’ll write for (maybe five or ten minutes) – even if you don’t want to go any further with that particular piece, everything you write is good practice.
If you’re still stuck for an idea, here are a few generic ones you might want to try:
Ready-Made Ideas for Fiction Writers
- The most recent novel(s) you’ve read — what did you enjoy, or not enjoy, about them? Were there any characters that particularly interested you, or plot points?
- An everyday object used in a sinister way.
- An unusual family tradition (real or imaginary).
- Something that scares you (however irrational the fear).
Ready-Made Ideas for Non-Fiction Writers
- The three things you found most baffling when you were a beginner in your chosen field.
- The technical terms / jargon in your field — you might create a glossary.
- A review of a recent book / talk / podcast / etc in your field — what was good and what was not so good about it? Would you recommend it?
- A controversial topic, or one where people in your field commonly disagree — give both sides of the argument.
Finally – don’t let a lack of ideas get to you. You will have more ideas (and you’re not “unimaginative” or “uncreative”). Give it time, relax, and keep up your writing practice so that you’re ready to go when the next big idea strikes.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
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