I’ve always been a huge proponent of the idea that you should “just write”. I’ve always supported the idea that writing is an absolutely integral part of your developmental process and that whether you’re using it to promote your brand, express your thoughts, or merely to work out some of the junk floating around in your head, there is nothing that is more effective for this task than writing. But occasionally, and this doesn’t happen that often, you have absolutely nothing to write. So what in blazes are you supposed to do then?
First, you need to evaluate if you need to write. I recently wrote that you should limit your writing schedule so that you only make yourself write as often as you KNOW you will be able to succeed at writing. Don’t sabotage yourself. Don’t commit to writing everyday when you know there’s no way in hell that you’re going to be able to write every day. So, first you need to evaluate if this is a matter of over-committing yourself. If you’ve run out of ideas because you get writing ideas at one pace and you’re trying to outsprint that pace, then there is no way for you to succeed. But let’s assume that you’re writing at a manageable pace, but you just don’t have anything to write about now. What then?
There are two strategies here. I’ll briefly talk about the first. I wouldn’t particularly recommend it, but sometimes it works. It requires that you essentially be a hard working sadist. Write through it. You have words in your head, right? Ok. Put them on paper (or in most cases, a computer screen). Sometimes they’ll be in the wrong order, sometimes they’ll be a short story about ninjas and sometimes they’ll be a recipe for tuna casserole. But none of that matters. What matters is that over time, as you work your way through those words, seemingly devoid of meaning, something will come.  I Promise. And through that experience you will learn to write, even when you seemingly have nothing to write about.

Now, the second strategy, the one I’m more of a fan of, is as follows; FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T WRITE ANYTHING. These two strategies may at first seem contradictory, and upon further inspection, they are. But it doesn’t mean that they each don’t have value. The second strategy suggests that maybe the reason you don’t have anything to write about is because you’ve emptied everything out of your head and your heart. The solution is to take the time to fill those two things back up. But how?

Try reading something. Whether it’s a novel or a blog or a book of poetry, seeing how someone else has taken words and thoughts and built them into something remarkable can often inspire you to do the same. There is great value to be found in being inspired by and agreeing with the thoughts of others. There is equal or possibly greater value in being challenged by and finding fault with the thoughts of others. Recently, a local government came up with some “new ideas” for tax reform that have been generally dismissed as ineffectual at best and counterproductive at worst. But several people have made an interesting observation about these measures. It’s one thing to say “I don’t like that idea”. That’s one, simple, weak sentence. But it is quite another to explain why, to introduce alternative beliefs and refute the ideas of others. So rather than writing one simple disagreement, try putting into words why you object and what you would do differently.

Try walking somewhere. I live in a remarkable city full of interesting people, unique businesses, breathtaking vistas and inspiring neighborhoods. And yet most of us spend the vast majority of our day sitting in front of a screen. And when we are out walking the streets, we make sure that our phone screens are planted in front of our faces. 

I’ve never seen a more poignant image than this, shared recently on Twitter. Leave your phone in your pocket for a couple of hours and explore the city. Don’t Instagram pictures of food, eat some. Don’t write a Yelp review of the customer service you received at Montana’s, say thank you to the server. Try, and just hear me out here, being a human being, sharing experiences with other human beings. It’s a stretch, I know.

Finally, there is now nothing you cannot learn, online, for free. And the experience of educating yourself, on any topic, is one that will open your eyes (and hopefully your pen) to new ideas and concepts. Companies like Coursera are doing everything they can to educate the world. From Music Theory to Statistics and every possible topic in between, try learning something other than the best way to beat the level boss in Bioshock Infinite.

And then, when you’ve read something, gone for a walk, interacted with people, and learned something, I promise you, your head and heart will be renewed and you can get off your ass and start writing again.

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