One of the most challenging things we do as writers is attempt to have a new thought.
When you can’t think of anything to write, what do you do? I’ve always found the easiest way to get people writing is to discuss something, anything, they disagree with.
In an educational setting, giving someone something to write about is called a writing prompt. From my experience as a teacher, though, it’s clear that some writing prompts are better than others.
The way you measure ‘better,’ when you teach writing, is to see how much writing emerges; an effective writing prompt stimulates a lot of thinking and responding.
Let’s say you’re one of those writers who prefers to sit down at your computer, typewriter (do people still use typewriters?) or pad of paper, with an entirely cold brain. If you’re the type of writer who gets up in the morning, looking at the blank page, waiting for inspiration to strike, my challenge to you, especially if you find your thoughts are as blank as the screen, is to think about something you particularly disagree with.
Your disagreement might be anything from very small to very large. You disagree with your child’s choice of music. You disagree with the government (that’s very easy to do, it seems to me). You disagree with the way world hunger problems or blue whales are dealt with.
At every step of the way, we think barely-articulated thoughts that we never write down. Instead, we attempt to live around them. The thoughts end up being big black rocks in the flow of information streaming, like a river, through our days.
Each rock represents a thought that is potentially interfering with your flow.
However, these big ‘rocks’ are there, sticking up out of your flow of thoughts, waiting to be noticed. These rocks represent something that bothers you.
Sometimes, what bothers you needs to be articulated, but perhaps you haven’t given yourself permission to talk about this big, black idea.
My suggestion is that, at least once, try to articulate something you disagree with. The primary reason you should try this is because the words really flow; upset, disagreement, anger, irritation—these are negative spaces that often prevent us from writing at all, and the energy we’re using to suppress them is what’s preventing us from writing.
An important reason to release negativity is to locate our personal values; we find out what’s important to us—who we really are—when we let ourselves disagree with something or someone.
Another reason to release thoughts of negativity is that we are blocking our real writing—the writing that’s waiting to come out, that lies just underneath the surface—and this is a useful way to gain access to what we need to say.
Once these states of irksome angst are recognized, we find that we’ve released a lot of other emotions we were holding back. Once we allow ourselves to express negativity, lethargy and depression also float away on the stream of words. Often, what remains is our true subject, the thing we’ve been waiting to write about, and that’s a precious thing to finally find.