WHAT ON EARTH CAN I WRITE ABOUT

question mark for blog what on earth can I write about

Nine Ideas For What to Write When You’re Out of Ideas

Every week now, I take one day off for business development, to work on my business as the marketing experts say, rather than in the business.

Over the past few months, this day has mostly been taken up with writing for my website: blog posts, developing a fortnightly newsletter and book reviews.

Today, when faced with a topic for a blog, I came up blank. ‘What on earth can I write about,’ I pondered from downward dog position in yoga class this morning. ‘What can I write about’ I asked myself when driving home afterwards. ‘What am I going to write today’ I repeated in the shower. And this went on right up to the moment I sat down with my laptop in the café to have breakfast and get stuck into a productive business development day.

Still nothing.

I toyed with the idea of writing about the seven story archetypes, or literary devices or explaining obscure terms like pleonasm and prolix. But they all failed to inspire me today.

For fun, I Googled What on earth can I write about and came up with nothing to do with writing. Instead, my search returned existential results like factors that support life on earth, why is life possible on earth, how does earth support life, and five interesting facts about earth. I did find a writer, Daniel J. Botha, whose post Why on earth do I write?  at least contained the words ‘earth’ and ‘write’ in the same sentence.

So, I decided to write about what to write about when you’re out of ideas.

Here are nine ideas. I’ve written my own take on each one. You’ll have to excuse the unfinished nature of them. I was ‘just writing’, freeing up my creative mind. I hope you find at least one that’ll work for you when you’re clean out of ideas.

ONE: Sit in a Café and People-Watch

Here’s what I wrote in the café after breakfast. I just wrote for five minutes (I timed it).

The rainbow lorikeets in the palm trees are going nuts. I think they must feel the storm coming. They’re smarter than the people meandering along Surfers Paradise’s main drag oblivious to the soaking they’re about to get. It’s turned so dark in this outdoor café that the staff have just turned on the lights. I can smell the rain in the air.

At the table opposite, a man with close-cropped grey hair wearing a grey hoodie slowly stirs his cappuccino, licks the spoon, picks up his cup by the rim between his thumb and middle finger, and sips. He’s with a mate, who’s also wearing a grey hoodie, but they’re not talking. His mate is drinking a green juice from a bottle through a straw and scrolling through his phone.

TWO: Sit in a Café (with Free Wi-Fi) and Google Something You See

Here’s what happened for me when I did this.

I looked across the road and saw a sign for a boutique called Posha. Googling the word, I found many things. One of them is a name originating from India with the meaning ‘flower’ that can apply to both females and males. In Indian astrology, the article says, when the letter ‘P’ is the first letter of a person’s name, this is significant. It means that person has the power of philosophical thought.

THREE: Use a Childhood Memory

Here’s what I did:

I didn’t write anything today, but I’ll refer you to a story I wrote about my memories surrounding the old shed at my childhood home. Scroll to the last story on the page, The Shed, and download it for free. Enjoy the read: https://editors4you.com.au/gail-tagarro-author/

FOUR: Free-Write

Just write anything. It can be any old jumble. You’re just trying to free up your creativity.

Here’s what I wrote. Just five minutes:

It’s almost mid-October and we’re well into spring, which on the Gold Coast is nothing more than a dress rehearsal for summer. But today, I’m cold. A watery kind of sun showed its face for a half-hour or so this morning, but it’s hiding now. We’ve reverted to wintry weather for a few days. Most people have ditched their sleeveless tops and flip-flops for jackets, jumpers and trainers. I like feeling cosy, so I dressed for a day that the Bureau of Meteorology app told me would reach a high of 23°.

See? This is no literary masterpiece, but I’m writing. And that’s the main thing.

FIVE: Use a Writing Prompt

I used the beginning of a sentence as my writing prompt, ‘She sat in the car…’ Here’s what I came up with. This is as far as I got in five minutes:

She sat in the car gazing at the beach through the raindrop-splattered windscreen. She’d parked under a spreading Norfolk pine. It was raining steadily now, the rain from the soaked branches above tapping out a constant rhythm on the car roof. No one was swimming or surfing today. Somehow, when the sun wasn’t out, the beach no longer held appeal for people. The grey-green water looked uninviting. But it was the same water, she thought. Odd. A bit like a meal: you could have exactly the same food in two different bowls, one a hodgepodge and the other beautifully presented, and you’d swear the beautiful looking one tasted a thousand times better than the hodgepodge.

The patter of the rain against the car made her shiver, although it was warm inside the car. She liked coming to the beach on a weekday when there was no one around. Easy to find a park. Quiet. She could drift into a daydream, mesmerised by the breakers and white water…

SIX: Write Dialogue

Write a conversation between two people. I wrote for about seven minutes.

‘So, how did your little holiday in NZ go?’ Meredith asked her friend, who’d just returned after a week-long break.

‘It was just what I needed. I didn’t realise how much until I was away.’ Jo smiled. ‘The weather was shocking, good old Auckland, but it didn’t matter.’

Meredith nodded. ‘You really did need the break, so I’m glad you enjoyed it. Did you visit any of the old stamping grounds?’

‘Sure did. I was staying with my friend Mary and we went to some of those cafes we used to go to, remember? Down on the waterfront?’

‘I remember. We’d go down most days to one or the other.’

‘Mary and I went out for drinks a couple of nights, and we went to the movies on one of the most miserable days. I even visited our old house. They’ve painted it black now!’

Meredith held her breath. Jo mentioning her old house and saying ‘our’ meant she was going to start on it again.

‘Bastard,’ Jo said under her breath, and then began recounting the thousand and one things her ex had done wrong over their forty years of marriage, the last one trumping them all: an affair with his first wife, for whom he’d left Jo. Then she added, ‘You know what my psychic said? That it isn’t going to last. He isn’t happy. That he’ll end up leaving her…’

For the first time since The Great Breakup, Meredith didn’t let her go on. ‘Jo, you’ve got to start letting this go, you know.’

‘It was forty years,’ Jo snapped.

‘I know.’ Meredith touched Jo’s arm. ‘And I’m not saying it won’t take time to get over. But going over and over what he did and said isn’t going to change anything. It’s over, you’ve said so yourself. You wouldn’t have him back even if he asked. And if it doesn’t work out between them, it’s not your concern. Thinking about it doesn’t help you move on.’

SEVEN: Write a Scene from a Movie or TV Show You’ve Watched Recently

My daughter and I have been following a Spanish TV series on Netflix called Cable Girls. Here’s my recollection of a scene in which an accidental murder takes place:

Mario pushed Angeles up the stairs to the rooftop, where she stumbled and fell to the ground.

‘You bitch! You f… bitch! You thought you could just run away from me? With our child? I’m going to kill you, you bitch!’

Mario was at least six foot and although lean, he was strong. Angeles was no more than five five, slim and fragile.

With practised hatred, he began kicking at her slender form on the ground of the rooftop. With each agonised cry he raised from her, his kicks became more furious.

‘Why? Why did you try to leave?’ he shouted.

‘I hate you. I’d rather be dead than take any more of your abuse, your beatings, your insults,’ she whimpered.

That earnt her more kicks, one in the head this time. Blood was tricking out the side of her mouth.

Then the door to the rooftop flew open and Angeles’ three friends from the telephone exchange were tackling Mario. Carlota managed to wrestle from him the baseball bat he’d just picked up to finish off his wife. She threw it into a corner, out of reach.

With Mario thus distracted, one of them helped Angeles up. Blood was streaming from her nose and she was gasping for breath. Now he turned his fury on Lidia, who had jumped on his back and was trying to overbalance him. He managed to get her off and was now holding her by the throat, throttling her near the edge of the rooftop.

Frantic for her friend who was close to choking under her husband’s brutal iron grip, and afraid for the others, Angeles acted on instinct, seizing the baseball bat.

What happened next seemed to play out in slow motion. The backward swing of the bat. The forward swing of the bat, with a strength she didn’t know she possessed. The crack as the bat connected with her husband’s skull. The sigh as he slumped forward, already dead. The slowly spreading puddle of red around his head.

She dropped the bat.

EIGHT: Describe Something That’s Thoroughly Familiar to You

Write about it for someone who’s never experienced this thing before. Use all five physical senses to describe it (what does it look, sound, taste, feel, smell like).

Here’s what I came up with:

The Sea, The Sea

The sea is blue or green or grey or black, depending on the depth and whether it’s day or night, sunny or cloudy, and it’s so vast you can’t see the end of it. The breaking waves sound like the wind and the rain, constantly chafing against sandpaper. It tastes like the salt on your food. It feels wet, just like when you have a bath or a shower or you go out in the rain. It makes your skin go taut when it dries. It smells fresh and clean and sometimes, it smells strongly of iodine.

NINE: Use the Dictionary

Take out your dictionary (or use an online one) to find a word you’ve never heard of before. Use it in a sentence.

Here’s a good one: jejune. According to the Macquarie Online Dictionary, it’s a rare adjective that means ‘unsatisfying to the mind; dull; boring’.

He attended the play expecting it to be uplifting or at least engaging, but it was a jejune story about a man and a woman who met on a bus.

TEN: Here’s a Bonus One to Try Yourself

Go somewhere unfamiliar, even if it’s just to a local café you’ve never been to before. What you’ll see with be through fresh eyes. Describe the place, just as it is, avoiding flowery language.


The next time you ask yourself, What on earth can I write about, try some of these ideas. I hope they’ve helped inspire you.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS & REFERENCES

Botha, Daniel J., Why on Earth do I Write? The Story Behind my Stories Part II, 2018. https://medium.com/@danie2life/why-on-earth-do-i-write-3e048cc5e3ad Accessed 11/10/19

Macquarie Dictionary, 2019, Macmillan Publishers Australia.

Moonastro, Baby Name Posha Meaning and Astrology, https://www.moonastro.com/babyname/baby%20name%20posha%20meaning.aspx Accessed 11/10/19

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