After posting an article on how writing everyday has changed my life I received the following question:
How do you find topics to write about on a daily basis?
As someone who is approaching 365 days of writing everyday this question got me thinking about the advice that has helped me to come up with words on the days that none want to come out.
Below are 8+ ideas to help you form the habit of writing everyday either taken from my personal experience or stolen from the experiences of others who have been there and done that.
1. START BY WRITING ABOUT SOMETHING YOU KNOW:
This may sound very basic, but like a margarita pizza it is a classic for a reason, it works.
Three years ago I was in a rut and it was affecting my relationship with my then girlfriend, now wife. Noticing that I was not acting like my normal self, my wife contacted all of my friends and family back in the US and asked them to not only send pictures, but also write out short messages so she could put them into an album for my birthday. The day she gave me this gift I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.
So when it came time to start writing everyday, I started with something I knew: my wife.
Each morning to get the writing habits cemented, I sat down and wrote about our stories and the lessons she has taught me along the way. Even though I will never share these stories with anyone but her, this exercise opened my eyes to the fact that I would never run out of things to write about if I wrote about what I have learned from the world and the people in it.
The beauty of writing is that you rarely know where you are going until you get started — so grab a topic you enjoy and sit down and let the words run.
The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ― Louis L’Amour
BTW — in the beginning frequency trumps duration and writing about something you know will help set the pace for sitting down everyday.
2. SUCCESSES, FEARS and FAILURES:
Like many people, founder of Bridgewater and author of “Principles,” Ray Dalio, learned that success is more often than not found on the other side of failure. Once he took the time to self-assess himself and determine where he went wrong, his life and business went on the offensive.
Scientist get paid to screw-up. It gets them closer to the truth. But this comes with a caveat, they have to constantly take notes and learn from their mistakes.
- When, where and why did you last fall in love?
- When, where and why did you last screw up?
- When, where and why did you last get it right?
- When, where and why did you last overcome an obstacle?
Pencil to paper.
“Study the past if you would define the future.” ― Confucius
3. AS LONG AS YOU HAVE A QUESTION, YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT:
Recently, Conor Neill Professor of Communication and Leadership at IESE Business School (recently ranked as the #1 center for executive training by the Financial Times) and owner of the best Youtube channel out there regarding these topics, asked me questions about passion. After I had finished rambling I spent the weekend writing out my real answer — and in the process I gained a whole bunch of insight in regards to the person I am and the person I want to become.
As someone who works with entrepreneurs, small business owners and business professionals across a wide range of areas, I am constantly in awe in regards to how they can come up with such amazing ideas. However, when it comes down to answering simple questions, they cannot find the words — and Conor opened my eyes to the fact that I am no different.
Take the standard interview question as an example, “Tell me about yourself?” Can you clearly answer this in two minutes?
What about if you ran into the person who can change our stars. Can you give them an idea of what your values are and what your pitch is in tweet sized sentences?
What about going more introspective and asking yourself which weakness is holding you back the most from maximising your strengths. The beauty of writing is that nobody has to see what you write so take advantage of this and open up to yourself.
Tony Robbins is a big fan of saying, “The quality of our life is determined by the quality of our questions.” And to an extent I agree, but only if we take the time to explore them.
4. DON’T WORRY ABOUT WRITING SOMETHING ORIGINAL:
Prior to this past year I thought that I had to come up with something truly groundbreaking to submit something. Not only was this selfish thinking, it was downright stupid. It did not take me long to realise that sometimes the best way to make something original was by adding to an existing conversation.
Author Ryan Holiday has a series of twenty something lessons he has learned from his mentors including Robert Greene and Tim Ferriss. One of the posts I am most proud of (and started a conversation with Ryan — albeit a brief one) was when I stole his idea and wrote about the 23 ways in which he has inspired my writing, work and life.
Austin Kleon wrote a great book, “Steal Like An Artist,” where he discusses this very idea. The best artists steal, and in the process of reading the voices of others, they found their own.
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”- Bruce Lee
5. TAKE A WEEK AND WRITE OUT YOUR TOP 20 / 30 / 40 LIFE LESSONS LEARNED AND GO INTO DETAIL ABOUT EACH ONE:
Training yourself to write everyday is a challenge and sometimes you have to cheat. Not everyday will start inspired, but that does not mean you cannot have a list of topics on hand to write about. This list I made here has saved me time and time again when I thought I had nothing.
“He who is best prepared can best serve his moment of inspiration.” ― Samuel Taylor Coleridge
6. REPLAY A RECENT ARGUMENT AND WRITE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE OTHER PERSON:
Any time something goes wrong or someone does something I do not like, I write about the experience from the others persons perspective. This has taught me not only that people do not wake up in the morning thinking of ways to make my life difficult, but also just how wrong I can be.
*Once you are done writing the argument out, call the person and apologize. Life is short.*
7. READ, READ and READ SOME MORE:
Obvious one, but I could not in good conscious fail to mention the importance of reading when it comes to writing. The more dots you collect, the more they will connect in your writing and reading is the number one way to always keep a conversation going.
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” ― Oscar Wilde
8. HANDFUL OF OTHER IDEAS:
Write “Thank You” cards. Write out a negotiation you have coming up. Steal a line from James Altucher and write out ten ideas for the people in your life or those you wish were. Write about a travel experience that taught you a valuable lesson. Describe the the face of a stranger. Write about a good story you recently heard. Interview someone.
Just start writing.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway