What do you see that no one else sees? What is the story you have that no one else has told? In this episode of This Writing Life, we’ll look at how to know what to write. We’ve talked about building habits of frequent writing, and we talked about disciplining yourself to write. But in the end, what should you even write about? Read on for more.
There’s too much crap in the world to waste your time on something that’s not awesome.
While writing “useless” stuff can be a part of disciplining your writing muscles, it should never be your end goal. After all, why bother? Medium.com is full of thousands upon thousands of articles, some that no one will ever read. Facebook has billions of statuses and updates. Newspapers churn out thousands of articles a day and hundreds of books are published every week. If you’re writing what you don’t care about, you’re just adding to the massive pile of worthless information we’ve already got around us.
If you’re not going to remember or care about something that you write, no one else will. A topic that gets you excited doesn’t guarantee good writing, but it does free you up to express yourself creatively. If you’re already focusing on the fundamentals of writing, revising, and storytelling, choosing a topic that you love gives you yet another chance at success. In that scenario, why not write? It’s just another step closer to success.
Too often I find myself writing the story I think I ought to write instead of the story I really want to write. The end result is often stilted, formal, and just flat-out boring. When I convince myself that I ought to write a story a certain way because I’ve seen it that way before, or because I think people might like it better that way, I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and focus on the story itself. Granted, it can be valuable to set up some goalposts to help your creativity thrive within limits (we’ll look at this in a few weeks): and you want a story to at least look a little bit like the ones around it. But writing a book simply because it’ll be a crowd-pleaser is not a great pathway to success.
Good writing will come naturally when you’re writing about the sorts of things that make your eyes light up, your heart beat faster, your voice get that tone of excitement in it. For me, that’s writing about writing, it’s literature, it’s the story that we’re all living. It’s the thoughts that don’t need prompting to spill out of my head, but are always swirling up there in some form. This enthusiasm is contagious, and it will flow through the work you create.
Too often I find myself writing the story I think I ought to write instead of the story I really want to write.
So go write the book about a skydiving detective that you’ve always wanted to write — or the one about the talking elephant who runs for congress: and wins! Don’t be afraid to let the outer reaches of your imagination influence your writing. So often it’s the stuff I think is too crazy that ends up being the most fresh and the most original.