Many writers make the mistake of writing for the sake of writing, without any investment in a topic. They write to get words on a page; they write to add cents to their earnings. I've been guilty of this too.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t build a consistent writing habit or that you’ll ever have to look for your next topic, merely that you should remain selective with what you write about. Your work is your online reflection, and your articles are the tiles that compromise the mosaic of you, so make sure you stand behind each of them.
Even with this drive, there can be times when you sit behind your desk and struggle to find something worth talking about. There can be times when your content gears need a firm nudge. You need to find topics that you’re passionate enough about to discuss, but where do you find these topics?
This could apply to most social media platforms, so it’s worth finding the one that fits you best. Whilst I use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, it is Tiktok that has given me a lot of inspiration for articles. This is not to say that you should copy existing content but rather use it as a starting point.
I think Tiktok is the perfect app for writing inspiration as it is easily curated to your interests, not overly influenced by following friends or acquaintances. Tiktok is also filled with very passionate people and is a hub for new ideas. It depends on the videos you interact with, but my For You Page is filled with topics I’m interested in, and I can easily lose myself on it. By considering it as research, I also feel less guilty for spending so much time on it!
When a Tiktok really resonates with you, consider why that is. When a trend keeps coming up, consider the context of that trend. If you disagree with something, then explore why that is and write your version of things. Tiktoks can make excellent inspiration, and I often reference specific ones in articles as well.
Here’s an example of an article I wrote about a Tiktok that resonated with me.
My housemate and I have a lot in common. It’s easy for us to find a series or film to watch together, we were both raised as expat kids, we have plenty of friends in common, and we enjoy a lot of the same activities. But we’re also really different, such as in the work we do, the music we listen to, interests, life experiences and more. Our opinions can really differ, something that at first I found confronting but I now love, as it forces me to explain my reasoning and it opens me to new ideas.
She often asks what I’m writing at the moment, and I used to feel too embarrassed to discuss it, so I’d brush the question off vaguely. But now I love when she asks this as discussing the topic with her always provides so many ideas—hearing her opinion, whether similar or different, gives me more to work with. It’s like brainstorming out loud. I genuinely think it’s improved the quality of my work.
Find the person who does this for you, or just discuss ideas with multiple friends! Consider what you talk about when you’re grabbing a drink with a friend, or the articles you send each other. You’ll find plenty of writing inspiration in your daily conversations.
Sometimes when I’m writing an article, it’ll go a different direction than what I initially intended, and I’ll save the original topic for another day. Sometimes ideas will come up within an article that warrants an entire piece of their own. We often look to other people’s articles as potential inspiration and forget that our own work can also act as inspiration.
When writing an article, don’t be afraid to jot down ideas on a post-it that could work in a different article. If a subject is super vast, feel free to have several articles on the subject.
One major hurdle to finding writing inspiration in media is that we think you can only write a review on something. But writing about films, series or documentaries isn’t about describing what you watched; it’s about looking past that. When we use these mediums as writing inspiration, we’re challenging ourselves to either look at the bigger picture or focalise on one more minor aspect. The film or show can be evidence of something greater, an example you use within the article.
For example, I wrote about the series ‘Normal People’ without having watched it because it’s what the show represents to me. Maybe after I watch it, I’ll have something else to discuss in relation to it.
If you’re looking at a film, you could consider why people like the film, why you don’t like the film, why one particular film stood out, the role it plays in the greater discourse (e.g. female superheroes or portraying mental illness), and so much more.
This may seem like a cop-out, I’ve promised you places to find writing inspiration, and then I give you such a vague option. But hear me out because I truly mean this. When I say to look in daily life for writing inspiration, I’m talking about a state of mind. It is tempting to flow through life, to plug in your headphones and let the world pass you by. But if you’re a writer, you need to wake up to the world because it is overflowing with inspiration. You need to stop taking information as it comes and instead begin questioning it.
Why are things the way they are? Why do you have this habit, this instinct, this routine?
Question everything, absolutely everything, that happens. Stop letting sensory information flow past you and instead create a checkpoint in the road where you take stock of things, where you test the information for inspiration before releasing it. It’s like when you were a kid, and you’d play the ‘why’ game, responding why to everything your parents told you. Try this as an adult and see what comes up.
Being aware of things also lets you spot topics that are important to you, subjects worth exploring further. You notice what sticks with you, what you fixate on. Anything you Google could end up as a potential article, as it’s a question you wanted an answer to so someone else might as well. Not everything will, as naturally, some things aren’t worth the time and word count, but there is always that possibility.
Whenever I read a book, I consider if there is anything worth discussing from it. Maybe something I disagreed with or something I passionately agree with. Maybe the bigger context of the novel, or why we’re interested in that subject at all. I wouldn’t write a simple review for the book, but rather use it in a bigger discussion.
Keep a list of all these little tidbits that make up your day, either on your phone or in a notebook. Then when you’re sitting down to write, you can look through your list to see if there’s anything you’re still motivated by.
Alongside writing articles, I also write fiction novels. I love creating an intricate story, and I have a list of plots to write. I never have to look for inspiration when it comes to writing fiction, as I just think about what I want to read. A random idea will come to my head like “I wonder what would happen if X and Y happened” and then I write a novel that answers this. Daydreaming is an avid part of being a writer, whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, novels or blog posts, as it lets you escape the constraints of rational thought. We need to look past what is accepted and assumed into possibility, as that’s where good writing comes from.
Don’t fight the urge to daydream, as that is your creativity looking for an escape. Instead, go for a walk, lie down in the sunshine, and just let your daydreams happen. Write an article about how different things would be if one specific thing changed. Write an article questioning the way things are and how they could be.
This exercise led me to write an article about how different my life could have been if I didn’t have a mental illness, and it all started as a simple daydream whilst walking the dog.
I don’t think there’s a person in this world who doesn’t have insecurities. Some people are better at controlling them, some people are better at silencing the negative voice, but we all feel insecure about something. These insecurities can either tear us down, or they can push us further if we use them in our writing.
I genuinely believe that the things that are harder to discuss are the ones worth talking about. Subjects are considered taboo because we don’t talk about them enough. When we talk about our insecurities, we open the door for someone else to do the same, and we take a step towards normalising things.
When you feel insecure about something, take a moment to think why that is. Do you feel insecure because someone once said that to you? Write about the experience, write about how it changed you for the better and worse. Do you feel insecure because it’s a societal expectation? Write about that, write about how things could be different if it wasn’t so normalised, write about how we can move past that outdated concept.
Find your voice through writing about what is important to you. Give others a voice through writing about what is important to them. By providing a space to your insecurity, you own it, and you give others the chance to share as well.
In case it isn’t clear by now, you are the source of writing inspiration you’re looking for. The best articles are written about things that interest you, things that drive you, things that affect you. When you’re looking for inspiration, don’t pick up random topics and churn out a removed article that spits facts; instead, think about what you want to read and what you want to talk about. Your social media habits are all clues to your writing interests. Your social circle is ripe with potential subjects for your next article. The skill isn’t where to look for ideas, it’s how to look for them, it’s developing the awareness of potential topics. Forget the Muse because you are the only Muse you need.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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