Whenever I want to cure my writer’s block, I refer back to one of my favorite Humans of New York interviews by Brandon Stanton.
“If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?”
“Change your mind about something significant every day.”
Some people take this the wrong way and assume that the quote is meant to encourage people to constantly sway with indecisiveness or have unstable values. But whenever I read it, I think about situations in my life that might have turned out better if I had been more self-aware and critical of my beliefs.
When I have nothing to write about, I make a list of topics that challenge my beliefs and try to examine them from an objective point of view. What’s on my list can range from topics that provoke me to think deeply about feminism and philosophy, or even to simple claims that I encounter on social media about veganism and pop culture. Doing this at least once a week helps me gain a better understanding of how I know what I know, why I believe what I believe in, and why there are times when I’m afraid of expressing my views on topics that spark controversy.
Throughout my many years of taking English classes, I’ve always heard this piece of advice when it comes to writing and self-expression: Write about what you know. It seems like a no-brainer at first – obviously, you can’t write about something that you don’t know anything about. But it can be very difficult to look inside yourself and write about what’s important to you without being conscious of the image of yourself that you’re trying to project out into the world. Although it can be difficult to even acknowledge that there are parts of yourself you’d rather hide or keep from others, the first step to becoming more open and developing your voice as a writer is to get over the mindset that you need to have everyone agree with you in order to be taken seriously.
To be true to yourself as a writer is to let go of any stigmas or inhibitions that keep you from saying whatever it is that you need to say. So the next time you’re stuck staring at a blank Word document or scrolling through Tumblr for inspiration, take out a blank piece of paper and write about what you know. Write about the beliefs you hold close to you, the controversial issues you care about, the last heated conversation you had, or the last book that led you to question something significant in your life. Some of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made as a writer fall under the category of only writing about topics within my comfort zone or being extremely fearful of how others might judge me because of the thoughts and views that I express on paper. You’re more likely to regret keeping quiet than being expressive of and coming to terms with your beliefs. This being said, making a conscious effort to step out of your comfort zone as a writer is something that will truly keep you from thinking that you have absolutely nothing to write about in spite of the myriad of knowledge you gain each day.