One of the hardest things about writing is figuring out what to actually write about. In my experience this is true regardless of the type of writing you’re doing. Whether you’re planning an essay, a blog entry or an article for publication, figuring out exactly what to write about can be a very difficult hurdle to overcome. However, there is a relatively simple and effective way to get past this particular form of writer’s block: Write what you know.
Writing what you know means writing what you already have knowledge of or experience in. For example, suppose you already know a lot about film. You could write something that takes advantage of that knowledge, like an article on modern directing techniques or the rise of independent film in the United States. There may be a particular genre of movies or television that you love. If you’re a Star Trek fan, write your essay about that. You might be a fan of professional basketball. You could write an article chronicling the ups and downs of your favorite team throughout history, or an essay spotlighting the efforts of a specific player. No matter how exciting or dull you consider your own life to be, there is really no end to the things you could write about.
Consider your learning, experience and interests. When I was in college I took one of those exams where students are required to write a short essay within a specific time frame. I think we had about thirty minutes to complete it, and the topic could be any subject we wished. I spent a few moments panicking, realized I was wasting precious time and put my pencil to paper. “I’m going to write about books,” I thought. What exactly I was going to say about them I had no idea, but I started writing anyway. I ended up writing quite passionately about my lifelong experience with books and reading and had enough time to conclude the essay, go back and proofread before turning it in. I must have looked pretty funny all hunched over and scribbling away, but I had a subject come to mind that I knew and was passionate about and that made all the difference (the pressure of the deadline probably also made quite a bit of difference, but that’s another subject).
I ended up getting an A on that paper. The professor even wrote a comment at the end saying my enthusiasm for books had swept her up while she was reading, and that’s another important point: If possible, write not only about what you know but also about what you love. The more you love something, the greater your interest in and passion for a topic, the more captivating your writing will become. People won’t be able to help themselves. They’ll feel your excitement and it will make your writing seem all the more interesting.
Writing about what you know and love is a lot easier than choosing a topic that sounds dull or is something you know nothing about. You have to make the extra effort not only to research and learn, but also to find (or feign) some enthusiasm for the subject. If you choose something you already know well, you’re ready to write! You can go back and edit later, but it will be that much easier to get something down to work with in the first place.