I’ve sat here many times before — late into the evening, alone in my office, waiting for inspiration to strike. Sometimes for hours, other times for days, just waiting for the moment that some groundbreaking idea comes and lands in my lap, eager for me to transform it into an article.
And often, it never does. So I turn to other writers on Medium whose work I admire, or to the books in my library, or to YouTube. I sift through other peoples’ content, analyzing their every sentence and thinking, hmm, how can I make something as good as this.
When times get really tough, I might even resort to tying together many different articles, assimilating my own patchwork version of their contents — a combination of a thousand ideas, none of which are really mine.
Sometimes, inspiration is hard to come by, and it’s all-too-easy to regurgitate information from another source and brand it with your own name. I’m here to tell you that that’s never a good idea.
If your ideas don’t flow, if they aren’t pouring out of you faster than you can put pen to paper, it’s time to stop writing.
Inspiration is Everywhere
Earlier this week, I took the London Underground where everybody was rushing around like crazy, and I thought it was pretty ironic that most of us are meditating nowadays but still racing here and there without a care in the world about being mindful. So I wrote about it.
The day after, my friend and I were discussing social media. He reminded me that nobody online wants to see you being perfect all of the time, and that showing a little humility is always a good idea — in person and online. I decided our chat would be another interesting topic to discuss on Medium, so I wrote about that, too.
And then, inundated with client inquiries and requests at the weekend, I wrote another piece about how the freelance writing industry isn’t as saturated as many of us make it out to be.
I don’t usually write that much on here, but this week I was on fire, producing five articles in the space of seven days. And then today — nothing. Why?
If You Don’t Have Anything to Say, Don’t Write
So many of us wish to be writers, even if we don’t necessarily have anything worthwhile to write about. Doesn’t that defeat the object, though? Is there any point in producing content if it isn’t something we genuinely feel passionate about sharing?
The reason I had so much to write about earlier in the week is that I was out doing things with friends, traveling to new cities and having great conversations. My cogs were well oiled, and my creativity center fully-functional.
And since then, I’ve been spending 5–6 hours in my home office every day writing for freelance clients. The most exciting part of my days this week has been steaming soya milk using the fancy new coffee machine I bought second-hand and posting Instagram stories all about it.
It’s no wonder I’ve had nothing to write about. What am I going to share after a week of sitting in front of my laptop? How to make a great cappuccino at home? How to have meaningful conversations with your house plants so that you don’t get lonely as a self-employed writer? I mean, I’m writing this article about not having anything to write about, but other than that, I’ve got nothing.
And that’s the issue — so many of us think that inspiration is just this thing that magically strikes if we try hard enough and wait patiently. That if we just sit in our offices all week, someday soon the creative fairies will come and bless us with a groundbreaking idea to send out to our followers.
News flash: that’s not how it is. And I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but the creative fairy doesn’t exist.
Where All Great Ideas Come From
George Orwell was so dedicated to creating something worthwhile in his literature that he literally made himself homeless to experience how it would feel before writing his novel, ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’.
I’m not suggesting that you should give up your belongings and exile yourself to the streets, but the premise is clear: profound ideas don’t just materialize magically before your eyes if you wait long enough, they’re cultivated through experience.
Your capacity to create great stories is like a seed, and you nourish that seed by going out and growing. By putting yourself in new environments or trying new things and then sharing your insights through writing.
When I have an idea that I’d like to write about, I take out my laptop and write it. The words flow, the sentences lace together naturally and the content is constructed from my heart. Granted, it needs a little copy-edit when I’m done, but I don’t have to spend hours looking at reference articles or analyzing the tone of my favorite writers to produce content. I just write. I share the message I want to share.
Those messages can’t be fabricated. You can’t sit and pluck them out of nowhere. In fact, the best stories I’ve written aren’t those that have taken me hours to research, but those that have come from moments where I’ve been out for a walk or talking with a friend and suddenly thought, Hey! that would make a great article!
The bottom line is that if you want to write great stories, you need something great to write about. Don’t complain about feeling uninspired if you’re doing the same thing every single day.
If you have a passion for writing but little to actually write about, don’t start scouring the web for articles you can copy and plagiarise. There are enough people doing that already, and they won’t get anywhere. That’s not what the great authors of our generation are doing, and if you want to be successful and respected, you shouldn’t do it either.
The truth is, you aren’t going to stumble upon your next great idea by sitting at your desk stagnating all day. It isn’t going to drop out of the sky and fall into your lap.
Those ideas come from novel experiences — those that make you realize things about the world and people that you’d never considered before.
So what do you do? You try new things. You experience life in new ways. Read a different genre. Go out and meet new people. Discuss controversial topics with your friends. Test your comfort zone. Take a skydive. Fast for a week. Learn a new language. Get in shape. Quit eating carbs.
If you aren’t inspired, you just need to do something different. If you did something new every single day, you’d have more ideas than you’d have the time to write.
And if you don’t have anything new to write about, perhaps you shouldn’t be writing at all. The right time will come, but only if you start going out and getting inspired.