As a blogger, I see everything that happens in my life as a possible jumping off point for an article. There are writing topics surrounding me at every moment. And yet, I sit down most weeks not knowing what I’m going to write about. I face “writer’s block” on a regular basis.
How do I manage to think of something to say every week? I scroll through various topic sources such as:
- articles I’ve read or that someone has sent to me over the past week
- things I’ve learned at a conference or workshop
- articles someone else has written that I might want to post as a guest post
- client success stories and challenges, as well as business lessons from the past week
Topic ideas are a dime a dozen. But how do I land upon one that strikes a chord with my audience? Sometimes I start writing only to discover that it’s a dud; and so I start over.
Today’s article began when a friend sent me a link to a page of chalkboard art. I looked through the images through my default filter of “Is there a blog article in this?” When I saw a beautiful rendition of a quote by Flannery O’Connor, “I write to discover what I know,” I knew I had found a rich topic.
I started thinking about a class in law school, Alternative Dispute Resolution, where I first discovered the phenomenon of “discovering what I know” by putting pen to paper. Each week we were given a choice of 3 topics and had to write a page or two about one of them. Each week, I was sure I would have nothing to write about. But write I did. I got an A.
Writing doesn’t have to be academic to be a discovery process. Even writing a shopping list can help you uncover previously hidden information. So can writing a heartfelt letter to a friend. If you are someone who writes a journal, you understand that you discover surprises about yourself as you let your thoughts flow onto the page.
Often all it takes to “unblock” a writer is the spark of an idea; sometimes that idea must be accompanied by a detailed framework or outline of a full essay. If someone is having a hard time writing a resume, going through How to Write a WINNING Resume along with one of my resume questionnaires can do the trick. Clients often tell me that completing that questionnaire is one of the most valuable parts of working with me; they identify what they know about themselves as they start putting it into words.
I would like every person faced with a writing project to know that it’s okay to start out not knowing what you’re going to write. Even if you have no clue, try sitting down and writing, even if it doesn’t make sense or isn’t related to the topic. Stream of consciousness is just fine and is a great way to discover your own thoughts.
You might be someone who needs to talk through ideas with another human being and nail down an outline before writing. If so, call someone (perhaps The Essay Expert) to work with you. If, on the other hand, all you need is structure, I recommend reading “how to” books such as How to Write a WINNING Resume or How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile. If you are stuck on your resume, try answering the questions in my resume questionnaires so that you have guidance as you start to put your ideas to paper (or to computer).
I am a frequent writer, and thus an evolving discoverer. I explore how seemingly unrelated topics connect with each other. I dive into my opinions, likes and dislikes. I find out more and more about who I am and who I am not. Flannery O’Connor was right on target, as I hope you too will learn as you embark on this path of discovery.