“I don’t know what to write about.”
The affliction plagues us all. The blinking cursor mocks us. Everything else in our lives that needs to be done calls out to us, saying “don’t write right now. Watch a movie. Clean the kitchen. Aren’t you hungry? It’s a nice day for a walk. You’re tired—you really need a nap. Hey, remember that book on your Kindle that you haven’t read?”
Resist. These are the words of the sirens calling you to your doom.
There’s no perfect way to do it, but here are three things I suggest based on my experience.
1. Set a timer. The Pomodoro method gives you twenty-five minutes on, five minutes off for three cycles, then a fifteen-minute break. Can you complete one cycle? How about one session? Maybe you can do what I did while I was finishing my dissertation: eight minutes on, two minutes “off” to do whatever I wanted. Eight minutes on, two minutes off. Eventually, I got the boulder to the top of the hill.
2. Just start typing letters. That’s what inspired this post, incidentally. I had a sudden block and just started typing the letter “x” over and over again. The result? Inspiration to write a brief post about writer’s block.
3. Lower your expectations. Don’t worry about quality. Just let it flow, and take a break once you’ve hit the word count. Frequently, you won’t produce anything at all worth reading, or even doing anything other than deleting. But think about it like going to the gym. Sometimes, all that matters is that you went.
Don’t get mad. Don’t get frustrated. I do both, frequently, and it is never helpful. I’ve never said, “Gee, I sure am glad I got angry and fumed about that for fifteen minutes.” Inspiration is fickle, and as Deirdre McCloskey has put it, “fluency can be achieved through grit.” The more you build that grit, the more you’ll be able to produce.