I never know what to write about. Somehow, there are simultaneously too many and not enough topics. So I go to books—I had to read Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg once for class, and I’ve found that helpful for memoir or personal essayish things. I also sometimes just let myself react to things people have said to me, or things in the news, or things I can see without getting up from my desk.
Water bottle. Stack of books. Pile of laundry I have to fold. (So those times I usually end with me just doing laundry, not writing. Which is actually fine, because laundry is usually more urgent anyway.)
But for those of you who aren’t in school, or don’t read books (you should read books) or don’t want to end up dong laundry, here’s a list of five things to write about. Feel free to add your own favorite topics or prompts in the comments.
- Your dog. If you don’t have a dog, write about someone else’s dog. This probably won’t work if you’re a cat person, in which case, move on to number 2. (Do not write about your cat. It is evil and deserves no contemplation.)
- Your family. It’s hard at first, because you might not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But tell yourself that no one has to read something just because you write it, and after it’s done you can always just hit delete and never look at it again. Plus, if its brilliant enough, it might be worth losing your spot at Thanksgiving.
- A conversation you’ve heard on the street. Don’t act like you don’t eavesdrop. You have heard a strange snippet of conversation as two people walk past you. Did it leave you intrigued? My most recent experience of this was,
“But, like, she didn’t say no one likes square dancing.” (Is it really something you have to say?)
- Someone you hate. This might be easiest—we don’t care about hurting their feelings, we have tons of reasons, and no one wants to listen to it unless it’s well written and funny. So make it well written and funny, and tell me us you hate them.
- An old story. Take something you like—whether it’s Cinderella or Slumbdog Millionaire, and remake it. Change it, play with it, make it your own. It’s not stealing, it’s flattery. Right?
Good luck, I’m sure you’ll be brilliant!*
*This is a pointless compliment designed to give you confidence at the beginning of your writing process. You might be dumbest person alive for all I know.