When You Have Nothing to Write about, Write about Nothing

Marilyn Regan

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Photo by Robert Armstrong on Pixabay

Writer’s block is that thing that happens when you sit down to write and the blank screen or piece of paper is a reflection of you what’s going on in your mind.

Nothing.

Space.

Your mind and body feel like one gigantic yawn, a big open-mouthed one with nothing coming out. The inhaled air is trapped in your lungs and you’re struggling to find a way to let it all out.

But the truth is, it’s the littlest of things that are worth putting down on paper.

Think about it.

Literally and figuratively, little things, like a cell, a biological one, have a lot of details when you put them under a microscope.

Writing is about sharing our experiences and most of them are little. If we have to wait for something big to happen, some of us would have nothing to write about.

So look at the day-to-day experiences, the routines, because it’s these things we have most in common: the commute to work, working through lunch, unreasonable bosses, looking forward to that “Happy Friday” and the weekend.

Date night on a Saturday. Lucky you!

Curling up with a book, your cat, and a cup of coffee.

A birthday, yours, a friend’s or someone you love. You/They made it another year: celebrate!

And there’s the common, but natural, stuff like rain on the roof.

One of my favorite natural occurrences is the change of seasons.

I live in New England and we have four of them. You can’t depend on the weather being the same even hour-to-hour, but you can always depend on the first snow every Winter and the first buds of Spring.

Nature in its infinite intelligence moves the sun to different angles. The rays make it warmer. Birds sing, the earth softens, and new life pushes through.

Even a sunrise or sunset, when observed in silence, can feel like a little miracle.

Write about daily events.

They are the little moments that catch your eye, your attention right before you dismiss them as “ho-hum.”

Maybe it’s dust swirling in the sunlight, the ruffling of leaves as a gust of wind passes through a tree, or a sudden silence, absent of all sound. Your ears pick up. Silence is something we don’t hear too often.

Maybe it’s the moment you wake up in the morning, your body limp and liquid, your mind two steps behind unaware of the day. The sheets warm and soft, wrapping you like a piece of velvet.

Nothing is more nothing than when we first wake-up in the morning.

Your mind is unfocused, unencumbered, and relaxed. Leave a pen and paper next to your bed and scribble sweet, meaningless, nothings. It’s a great way to start your next piece or even your next book.

You never know where nothing may lead you.

Another method is writing prompts.

But before you begin, settle and clear your mind as much as possible.

Sit quietly with a straight back. Begin to listen to your breath. Don’t worry if you are having thoughts, just let them go. Be patient with yourself. Take 10 breaths and just listen and feel the breath it as it fills your lungs and spreads your ribs.

Feel everything relax.

Still nothing?

Pick a prompt.

Bucket List Prompt

If you had a year to live, what would you do? Or better yet, do an anti-bucket list. If you had a year to live, what would you not do? Or quit?

Empowerment Prompt

What do you need to let go of? How would it help you?

Who do you need to forgive? Yes, this is empowering. It removes that person from your mind altogether.

Travel Prompt

Where have you always wanted to go? Why?

Career Prompt

If you could do it all over, what would you like to be or do? Why?

Savior Prompt

If you could change one thing in the world to make it a better place, what would it be?

Hindsight Prompt

If you could go back to a younger version of yourself, what one thing would you tell yourself to do or not do?

Ah-Ha Prompt

Write about the moments or events that changed your life for better or worse. Include anyone that had a role in them.

Friendship Prompt

Write about friends you used to have as a child or young adult. Or write about new friends you have made recently and compare them to the ones you had in former years.

You can also write about past loves or marriages.

Your Favorite Book Prompt

Pick-up one of your favorite books. Open it up to anywhere and read until a line or expression hits you. Write it down. Sena Jeter Naslund wrote Ahab’s Wife, a national bestseller, from one line in Moby Dick.

Or go look at the last highlight on an article you read in Medium. What does it bring to mind?

Now you’ve meditated and have prompts. Set a timer to ten minutes, pick-up a pen, and write. Keep the pen on the paper and keep your hand moving across the page.

If you have to write, “I don’t know what the hell to say,” write it. The physical motion will get your mind moving.

If you’re thinking about doing the laundry, making dinner or going for a walk, write it.

Set the timer two more times for a total of three and you’ve written for 30 minutes, despite your lack of ideas and enthusiasm. Now look at what you’ve written.

Does anything stand out? A word, a phrase? Highlight these words and phrases. If nothing stands out, read what’s in front of you and find the common thread.

What’s on your mind? By virtue of the fact we are always thinking, something will jump out at you. And it might be unexpected.

Whatever it is? Expound on the details. Dissect it, word-by-word.

The subject might be nothing and the details little nothings, but as the word count adds up, you’ll have your next piece of writing.

And guess what?

You might still have writer’s block.

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Marilyn is a writer, yogi, spiritual medium and animal lover. She is a Bostonian in every sense and has the accent to prove it. She loves the ocean, the outdoors, wine, and sleeping in. She days what she means and doesn't waste words. Finally, she is mother to one son, two cats and has three grandchildren.

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