When Writing Teaches Us The Most


If you’re like me, you’ll oftentimes sit down to write and find that you have no idea what the hell you want to write about.  It can be when drafting a story, a scene, writing in a journal, scribbling on some looseleaf we found… there are times when we don’t have a theme, or a topic, or a burning idea to get down.

What then?  Do we wait until tomorrow?

(Insert Andy Serkis as Caesar yelling “NO!” – if you know, you know).

The answer for me is the same as it was for Caesar – NO!

I’ll write on anyway, because that’s when I learn the most about myself.

We’re often more creative, more fun, more exciting than we give ourselves credit for.  Our well of ideas doesn’t dry up, our energy doesn’t disappear.  It’s all there if we just close our eyes, stop trying so hard to outsmart ourselves, and let it out.

Writing when we have a pre-planned idea – one that’s been percolating in our heads for months – is amazing.  It’s fun and liberating and makes us feel like geniuses – “Wow, look how much amazing crap is spewing from my fingers without even an ounce of effort!”

But, it can also be limiting.  It boxes us in to a certain topic, and sometimes (not all the time, but sometimes), our best ideas and learnings come when we aren’t limited in any way, shape, or form.  When we’ve exhausted our prepared topics, scraped the well dry, and have to dig deep into our thoughts to write even a single word, we’re free to write any word.

Which is why I sometimes love to write when I don’t have anything left to write about.  At first it comes out disjointed.  For a few minutes it may be sporadic and nonsensical.  I often write down stupid words like “Blargh!” and “Grrrrroof!”  But eventually I hit my stride and, because my mind is still in writing mode but there isn’t a limiting template or box around my thoughts, something entirely unexpected comes out.

I learn about myself.  I come up with great ideas.  I have fun (fun?! what fun?).

So take off the training wheels every once in a while.  Work until you’re done working and feel like you don’t have any good ideas left, or sit down when you don’t think you have a single creative thought to give, and let it out!  Don’t spare any time – not even a second – feeling embarrassed by what might come out.  Nobody else has to see it if you don’t want them to.

Unleash it, have fun with it, let it all shine.

Sometimes I’m surprised by the amazing things I come up with.  Sometimes I learn something interesting.

No matter what happens, it’s worth it, it’s fun, and it’s good to surprise myself every once in a while.

What do you think?  Do you ever work when you don’t think you have anything to write about?  What interesting thoughts or ideas have come out when you least expected them to?

27 comments on “When Writing Teaches Us The Most”

  1. I agree with you… but I’d not isolate or limit it to writing ONLY…
    That’s the way I cook… start with a leftover, add some thing here, change mind and move from baking to boiling…
    Or, as a wood turner, I start with a blank piece of wood in the lathe… maybe some kind of shape in mind… but, while turning, the wood and the creative spirit take over and something not expected comes out.
    The creative process starts with a step, with a hint, with a word or two… then it flows.

  2. I’m writing a nonfiction book and have had a serious block after many, many months of writing every day and making forward progress. I’m going to take your advice and just keep going. There’s no other way forward. Thanks and best of luck with your own writing!

    1. Amazing! I’m with you, it’s so hard after I’ve been consistent for so long, but the only thing I’ve found that works to get through a valley is to just keep going and eventually I’ll get to the next peak. Thanks, and good luck to you too!

  3. Years ago (in grade school, I think), I had a creative writing lesson. The teacher had us doing things like writing something from the perspective of a box of crayons. Seems a little silly, yes, but having to think from a crayon’s POV was interesting and challenging. Years and years later, one of my fan fiction stories was written from the perspective of a garden bench (observations on the family who owned – the usual subject of the stories). Is that a waste of time? Maybe. Or maybe it gets you to thinking about how different people would view identical situations, thus making your characters more varied. Can you write a grocery list in prose without naming a single item? (…the apple-cheeked child…) Letting your mind roam and even get silly can open you up to all sorts of things that will make it into your ‘real’ stories.

    Good post.

    1. Thanks! And I love that – I have to admit I haven’t done many writing exercises along those lines. So outside the box I have to try it at some point.

      Do you still have the story from the POV of the garden bench??

      1. I loved it (honestly)! What a fresh perspective for a story. Usually I’m skeptical about stories that don’t have dialogue, but this one still felt light and breezy to read (and the bench did have a kind personality).

        “Servants have come to place a covering over me in the worst weather, likely at her direction. Few other benches receive such doting treatment.”

        Love that second sentence – it really makes the whole piece feel like I’m inside the mind of a bench. Like of course the bench would notice how it is treated vs. other benches as opposed to how it is treated vs. humans, because it’s a bench, not a human. Very subtle. Works beautifully.

  4. I just got back onto writing my blog and this was just what I needed. I stopped blogging about 4 years ago through not feeling as inspired by my surroundings anymore… now I realise that instead of waiting for inspiration to hit I should just write… write whatever comes to mind. Thank you!

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