Writing can be one of life’s most fulfilling and satisfying experiences. But what can you do when you hit a creative block or are unsure what your writing voice is? Every writer will tell you just get writing. We have fifty-five writing ideas plus writing prompts, so you can discover your amazing writing potential just waiting to be expressed.
100 Writing Ideas When You Don’t Know What to Write
These ideas are organized by theme and topic for easy reference whenever you’re unsure what to write. Don’t forget to print or bookmark this article so you can refer to it when needed.
Personal Experiences And Anecdotes
In Anne Lammott’s classic book on writing, Bird by Bird, she encourages writers to start by writing their personal experiences.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.”––Anne Lamott, Author
These are eight ideas to help you write about your personal experiences.
- Your Life and Memories
Even if you don’t think your life is interesting, it’s still a treasure trove of source material and inspiration! Start with your earliest memory or something that seems mundane but holds a special place in your heart. Get as detailed as possible.
- What were you feeling?
- Add sight, smell, taste, and texture.
- Describe the people and environment.
- Connect your memory from the past to something in the present.
- Try to communicate a mood or your feelings without directly telling us the mood or feeling.
- Interests & Hobbies
People love to learn new things, and if you have personal experience or knowledge about a topic, you’re the perfect person to write about it. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in British literature to write about Jane Austen, and you certainly don’t need to be an expert on everything about relationships to write about dating.
Your personal experiences give you a unique view of the subject. Instead of trying to write as an expert (unless you are!), write from your unique angle.
Maybe you crochet because you live with a chronic illness and need something you can do from bed. Or maybe you’re obsessed with trains because a train engine is easier to understand than interpersonal relationships.
When writing about interests and hobbies, start with why you love this thing. The rest will follow.
- Experiences From the Every Day
You may think writing about experiences means going on dramatic global adventures or doing daring and shocking things in daily life. Skip the drama and intrigue––some of the most interesting writing is about mundane things.
What do you do every day? Write about it. For example, 5% of the American workforce1https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2021/acs/acs-48.pdf takes public transport daily. What does that feel like? Do you have to wake up an hour earlier to get to work on time? Do you worry about your safety? Does public transportation give you freedom, or does it limit what you can do?
5% of Americans will identify with your experiences. For the rest of the population, your writing could offer insight and understanding of an experience far from their own.
Maybe you’ve lived in Hong Kong and New York. The public transportation between these two places is incredibly different. Or maybe you live in India, where public transport2https://www.uitp.org/news/energy-transition-and-climate-action-public-transport-india-2022-budget/ has been an ongoing concern for years. Write about that.
Pro Tip: Write about how experiences vary by time, location, and even for different people.
- Feelings and Emotions
How are you feeling today? Get into the practice of reflecting on your feelings and emotions, either at the start or the end of the day. You’ll build emotional intelligence through self-awareness as you write down your feelings.
Being connected to your emotions is vital to the writing process. It facilitates writing from multiple perspectives and understanding what motivates people. Whether you’re writing a blog for a specific audience or the next great novel, you’ll need that.
Short List of Feelings and Emotions:
- Thoughts and Ponderings
Do you ever wonder why mockingbirds sing or feel like the blossoming of cherry trees is a symbol of beauty and regeneration? Whatever you think about, even the most random passing thought can be the foundation for beautiful writing.
Pro Tip: Carry paper and pencil with you, or use your notes app on your phone to quickly record your thoughts as they come. Those short notes you made on the commute to work or at night when you can’t sleep may be the seed for something longer. When you aren’t sure what to write about, look over those notes and think about whether you could write an article, a poem, or if it’s even a plot premise for a new book.
- Dreams Without Pressure
Keep a notebook by your bed and write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. Don’t rely on doing it later because, as we all know, dreams often dissolve from memory if they aren’t recorded immediately.
As well as being a good practice for processing your unconscious thoughts, it gets you into the practice of writing without the pressure of anyone seeing what you’ve written.
- Goals Through the Year
We’re a big advocate of setting goals at the start of the year! But you can also write down your goals and aspirations throughout the year.
Write down your goals and the steps you’ll need to get there, and don’t forget to add specific goals to your writing. This could include a weekly word count, submitting your writing at least once a month, joining a writer’s group, completing your novel by the end of the year, etc.
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- Quirky and Strange Family
Whether it’s your family history or the quirky and strange personalities that make up your family unit, writing about your family can offer insight into who you are. Try taking a step back as you write to observe your family members with less emotion and judgment.
Be curious, and explore what makes your family special, surprising, or intriguing. Even if you don’t have a good relationship with family members, look for things you can appreciate our respect as you write about them.
Pro Tip: Ask questions! We often think we know everything about our family, but there are probably experiences and events you’ve never heard about.
Current Events And News Stories
When writing about current events, it’s important to be informed before you write and respectful of the people you’re reporting on. Don’t be afraid to be controversial, but don’t seek controversy just for the sake of it.
As you approach any news story, differentiate between opinion and report. Even if you have a personal perspective, your feelings shouldn’t be included in a news report. That’s what opinion pieces are for.
Let’s dive into five different ways to cover the news.
- Local Perspective on Local Events
If you want to report on local events, get involved in your community. Make connections with key people, and always be on the lookout for stories. Even if you’re not writing for a publication, you can write about local events to get experience writing and sharpen your observation skills.
Action Steps: Attend a festival or other event and see if you can identify the person in charge. Tell them you’re writing an article about the event and ask if you can have five minutes of their time. If they say no, thank them for their time, leaving them with a good impression of you. They may prove to be a contact for you later!
Interview at least three people attending the event and practice taking good pictures. If you submit your story to a local paper, they will want photos.
Pro Tip: Research the event, performer, or location and prepare some interesting interview questions in advance. When you ask questions, get permission to record them using a voice memo app on your phone. Have paper and pencil so you can jot down some quick notes as well.
- Global events from a Local Perspective
Global events offer a constant source for writing topics. Even if you can’t write knowledgeably about foreign relations, you may be able to offer a local perspective on a global concern. Subscribe to a good news round-up, preferably nonpartisan, to get a daily overview of what’s happening. Plus, check several different partisan news sources to get an idea of the difference in reports.
- Opinion Pieces On Social Or Political Issues
If you’ve been tracking local and global news for a while, you’ll start forming educated opinions. Not to be confused with what people write on social media every day. If you’re going to write opinion pieces, start developing a robust research process that integrates both the present and an understanding of the past.
Action Step: Pick a social or political issue to start researching. Think critically about the present and ask questions. For example, instead of looking at the labor strikes in England based only on the present, consider the context of British history. Research the first labor strike (The General Strike of 1926) and explore the various responses to and interactions with labor workers by the Conservative and Labor parties.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a good grasp on global history, sign up for a class at your local college or start reading books that cover topics relevant to current social or political issues. Again, read and study varying perspectives.
- Political Events
You’ll have plenty to choose from to write about political events! We recommend taking a similar approach to this as you would for an opinion piece––context is everything. If you view politics only through what you see happening in front of you, you may get a skewed and imbalanced view of things.
Action Step: Pick a political event you’d like to write about, then look for articles that offer a roundup of the most significant world events in X year. Gather roundups from at least the past five years and see if you can trace how politics have progressed or regressed.
Pro Tip: Want to get really serious? Do an intensive deep dive into political commentaries on the topic and read up on the history of that country or location.
- Social Events
Social events are lighter and a quicker news topic to cover, but can be just as interesting and relevant to local communities! Subscribe to local newsletters and magazines, and start attending networking events so you can be aware of events before they happen. If you’re covering social events, be prepared to interact with people attending the event, and make sure to take photos.
Travel And Adventure Stories
Magazines and online publications are always looking for travel and adventure stories, so if you like to travel, you should be writing about it! There are several approaches you can take when writing about travel, so use these ideas if you’re overwhelmed by the thought of writing about your last adventure.
To start writing travel and adventure, look for Facebook groups or other forums for the location that you’re visiting. People constantly post about their favorite restaurants and events that are happening, and you might even pick up interesting information from the latest local drama. Sometimes this is more reliable than online reviews or roundup posts written by people who have never set foot in the location they are writing about.
Let’s get into seven different ideas for writing about travel and adventure.
- Research Other Cultures
You’ll have to do significant research to write about other cultures, but it’s definitely worth it. Learning about other cultures can be enriching and helps both you and your reader see the world in a new way. Try to research before traveling to learn about acceptable communication and avoid doing things that could be seen as offensive.
While experiencing the culture, ask questions, go to places off the beaten path, and, most importantly, be respectful.
Pro Tip: Avoid criticizing when writing about another culture, and please don’t objectify people. Or better yet, write about your own culture!
- Where to Stay
Researching a good place to stay is often the most intimidating thing about traveling to a new place. So if you can write well about this, you’ll be meeting a real pain point for many people.
When traveling, ask for local tips about neighborhoods that are less safe for foreigners or out-of-towners. You might ask someone where their family stays when they come to town or what hotels have a good reputation.
Check out these top tips from Lonely Plant to make your travel writing even better.
- What to Do
As a writer, think about what you can add to the conversation that makes it fresh. Skip all the regular tourist destinations, and do a deep dive into what makes a place special or exciting. Here are some fun ways to get a unique view of the place you’re visiting and gather unique suggestions for things to do.
- Get on a bus without a destination in mind.
- Stay at a bed and breakfast and interact with the owner.
- Hire a tour guide and ask them to take you to their favorite childhood hangout.
Pro Tip: Read a novel written by a local about the location you’re visiting. You’ll get an insider perspective on where you’re going and may learn about a location or fact that isn’t in the guidebooks.
- What to Pack
Packing the right things can make a trip more enjoyable or even downright frustrating. Use your knowledge of the location to suggest what people should pack. Here are some questions to help you put together a location-specific packing list.
- How do locals dress?
- Are there religious or social customs around clothing that should be respected?
- What is suitable footwear?
- Do most people walk everywhere, take public transport, or drive?
- What adaptors are needed for electronics?
- Are there any safety concerns?
- What food is available for those with dietary restrictions?
- What’s the weather like at specific times of the year?
- What over-the-counter medicine is available?
- Is this a shopping destination, or is it remote and hard to get to shops of any kind?
- Stresses and Challenges
While travel and adventure can appear glamorous, countless stresses and challenges are involved. That’s the type of content that is interesting, so don’t feel like you need to censor or sanitize your travel experiences. Obviously, you need to think about your audience and what publication you’re writing for, but sharing challenges can make your experiences more relatable.
- The Stories of People You Met
Let’s start with the caveat––anytime you’re writing about other people, respect their privacy and their stories.
With that in mind, when you travel, try to make human connections. It can be incredibly lonely when you’re traveling, especially in another country. And while it may be tempting to simply eat the food and see the sights, slow down a little and interact with locals in the location you’re visiting. After all, this is their home. Taking time to talk to others, ask questions, and even listen to their stories is a way to respect the environment you’re visiting as an outsider.
When you write about places, write about people.
Pro Tip: Don’t just go for the spectacular beaches of Costa Rica. Go to hear the dancing melody of the Spanish language, talk to the artisans selling their handmade products, and meet the families growing coffee for generations.
Don’t just go to Singapore because you watched Crazy Rich Asians and love boba tea. Go to learn about a country that was greatly altered by rapid urbanization and is considered one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Wherever you travel, go to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the local people.
- Photo Essays
If you love to write and take photos, the photo essay has been waiting for you to discover it! Photo essays offer an immersive experience for your reader.
The photos should create a narrative or theme that your writing will support and expand on.
Types of photo essays:
- Events such as protests or demonstrations, parades, or rallies
- A walking tour of a location
- Documenting the changes at a single place over a period of time
- Street Fashion
- Day in the life
- Food from a specific culture, a single ingredient, or a roundup of food locations in a city.
- A religious tradition
- A common place in different locations. Such as public transportation, hotel rooms, restaurants, and beaches. For example, you would take photos of public transportation in each country or state you visit, and create a theme around the commonalities and differences.
Reviews Of Books, Movies, Or TV Shows
Practice your writing skills and share your opinions with these pop culture writing topics.
- New books from your favorite author
- Books from your favorite genre
- A roundup of the best books of the year
- Hot new authors to pay attention to
- New movies
- Old movies
- Movies everyone should watch
- Themed lists of movies
- TV shows they should bring back
- TV shows everyone has been waiting for
How-To Guides Or Tutorials On Specific Skills Or Hobbies
How-to guides and tutorials are always popular! If you’ve got a skill, we can almost guarantee there is someone out there who wants to learn.
- About your hobbies
- Trending hobbies
- Detailed steps on how to do something
- A skill you have
- A skill you want to learn
- A skill someone important taught you
- A product you love
- Products people are raving about
- An underappreciated product
- List of supplies needed for a skill or hobby
- How to overcome a barrier to learning a skill
Reflections On Life, Love, Or Happiness
Human emotions are complex, and people love reading about other people’s relational fails or successes. Share some of your interpersonal stories and tips with these topic ideas.
- Things that make you happy, sad, or angry
- Things that make you relaxed
- Things that inspire you
- Relationship tips
- Relationship challenges
- Summer love
- School love
- Surprising love stories
Funny Things to Write About
Humor can make a serious topic more approachable or relatable. Plus, good humor in writing is surprisingly hard to find. If you’re skilled at writing humorous stories or articles, that’s not a skill to sleep on.
- Things that happened to you
- Things you’ve seen or heard
- Things you’ve read about
- Humorous or satirical takes on everyday situations
Why Use Writing Prompts?
Writing prompts are something even the best writers use at times to spark creativity, find new ways of expression, and help with focusing on a topic or theme.
Plus, writing prompts are a nice diversion when you’re blocked on another piece of writing.
We’ve written some fun and interesting prompts to keep you going.
Things to Write Poems About
Fact: Poetry didn’t die out with the modern world. We need poetry now just as much as people in times past. If you’re struggling to get started, try these poetry prompts.
- The shape and color of light on the object in front of you.
- The texture of the carpet under your foot.
- How you felt when someone told you they loved you.
- How you felt when someone wasn’t there for you.
- The rhythm of moving water.
- The smell of sunshine and freshly cut grass.
- Your father’s hands.
- Your mother’s smile.
- Being sick as a kid.
- Letting go of a dream.
- The visceral feeling of heartbreak.
- The sound of public transportation.
- The smell of city life.
- The rhythms of rural life.
- The sight of children playing.
- The feel of the trousers you’re wearing today.
Things to Write About When Bored
Next time your bored, don’t reach for your phone! As a writer, you’ll need empty space so unexpected ideas have room to grow. Instead of distracting yourself when bored, settle into it as an opportunity to become a better writer.
- Imagine you’re a dog, and you’ve just discovered your favorite toy is missing. Write a scene or short story written from the first perspective.
- If you don’t have any siblings, write an event that happened in your life but add a sibling to that moment. If you have siblings, think about an event in your life where a sibling played an important role. Now, rewrite that moment and what would have happened if your sibling didn’t exist.
- What do you see in front of you? Write about an object that you can see as if it were a product that you had to sell. Give it an imaginary function, and write about it by considering who you would sell it to.
- A thank you note to someone special in your life.
Things to Write Songs About
- The classic breakup song, but add an unexpected twist.
- Your toothbrush.
- How it feels waking up at home.
- Write a melody that mirrors the rhythm of the wind in the trees.
- The summer you lived overseas.
- A dream that was taken away.
- The way your child looks when they are happy.
- The sound of plants growing (if you could hear that).
Resources for Songwriters
- The Songwriter’s Club Facebook Group
- The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers
- Broadcast Music International (BMI)
Things to Write About Yourself
Think about your family history within the context of time and place. Did you grow up with Florida sunsets, church barbeques, Bugs Bunny, and listening to 90s grunge? Or were you raised with miners’ strikes, Margaret Thatcher, and Jacob’s Trio biscuits? Your life may seem boring at best, but your experiences can provide delightful vignettes or source material for a novel.
- What food did everyone bring to lunch when you were a kid? Write about what it felt like to always have that food or never have it.
- What was your favorite school hot lunch? Write a detailed scene about the smells, taste, and whether you ate alone or had lots of friends.
- What was the political climate when you were in grade school? Do you remember being aware of any of it? If not, research a political event when you were 11, and write a scene where it impacts you without knowing it.
- Write about something a parent did that drove you crazy growing up. Then, connect it to a good memory where you felt loved and safe.
- Write about your favorite summer memory.
- Write a slow and poetic narrative about the city or town you grew up in.
- Write about a change that shifted how you experience the world (e.g., a move, parents getting divorced, a new sibling, a friend leaving, etc.).
- How do people see you? How do you wish people saw you?
Resources for Nonfiction Writers:
- The Whiting Foundation Nonfiction Grants
- What is Narrative Nonfiction?
- Nonfiction Groups (North America)
Things to Write Stories About
If you’re ready to write a novel or a short story, but don’t have any inspiration, try using a plot generator. We tested Reedsy, and it’s pretty fun! Here are some examples.
A veteran who is weary. A reporter who is deaf. It’s a family saga story about overcoming insecurities. It kicks off in a manor with a job offer. (Note that: someone in the story had a troubled childhood.) And there’s a twist! You should tell the story in epistolary form.
A detective who is cynical. A pilot who is poor. It’s a hardboiled PI story about blackmail. It kicks off at a farmhouse with news that a research institute’s confidential database has been hacked. (Note that: the case in this story will span four decades.) And there’s a twist! Everyone in the story dies.
A jockey who can be stubborn. A barista, who is cautious. It’s a romantic suspense story about standing up for oneself. It kicks off near a yard sale with a runaway cat. (Note that: both protagonists are always in the right place at the wrong time.) And there’s a twist! The two protagonists never manage to meet in person.
Resources for Novelists and Short Story:
- How to Write a Novel
- How to Write Compelling Content For Yourself and Your Audience
- How to Write a Book: 10 Questions to Ask Before You Start Writing
- One Story Literary Magazine
Things to Write About in a Letter
While most people don’t write letters anymore, there’s something special about this mode of communication. Don’t worry about saying something profound or having lots of news to share when writing a letter. A letter is similar to writing in your diary, but of course, not quite so vulnerable or uncensored. Write what you think, and share your feelings without worrying about the content or structure. Use these writing prompts to start your letter.
- Last week, I was surprised by…
- I am sitting… and I can see …
- Remember when…
- I always think of you when…
- Did you know…?
- I was thinking about…
- Lately, I’ve been feeling…
- You’ll never believe who I saw last week…
Resources & Tools for Writers
- Writer’s Digest
- Writer’s Digest Competitions
- Nuance Dictation Tool $
- Descript Audio and Video Transcription Free and $
- Scrivener Writing Tool $$
- Reedsy Book Formatting
- Poets and Writers Contests and Training
- Narrative Magazine Contests & Prizes
- Critique Circle for Beta Readers
- Wattpad Self Publishing Platform
- She Writes––Self Publishing Business Advice for Women
Tips & Tricks to Find Inspiration and Overcome Writer’s Block
These are eight of our best tips and tricks to help you when writing feels like a drag.
- Change your environment. Go to a local cafe, restaurant, botanical garden, or park. The new setting can help clear your head and even give you a chance to people-watch for character development.
- Know when to push through and when to stop. Somedays, you just have to sit down and write. On other days, if writing is like pulling teeth, try taking a short walk or doing something different for the day.
- Write about things that interest you. There’s nothing worse than writing about a topic that makes you yawn. Even if it’s not a topic you’d like to write about, try to find a unique angle or something you can learn through the process.
- Research more. If you’re struggling to get through writer’s block, ditch writing and start researching. Make notes and even create stick figure drawings to capture concepts to reference later.
- Keep a journal. Journaling can provide a rich source of inspiration for your writing practice. There’s no pressure because no one sees what you write in a journal, but it can help you get down thoughts and feelings or things you want to remember for a project down the road.
- Get in a writer’s group. Even if you’re an introvert, being in a supportive community can change everything for you as a writer. Writing can be lonely, and you need support to stay motivated, get fresh ideas, and have your ideas tested and pushed even further.
- Keep a source file. Any time you come across an interesting study, article, or image, save that in a file or bookmark it on your computer. When you’re feeling bogged down or uninspired, cull through your sources to get inspiration.
- Set goals. Accomplishing even small goals like a weekly word count or writing time can give you a dopamine rush and motivate you to keep writing.
Now that you have everything imaginable to write about, get going! We’re excited to imagine what you’ll produce. Curious about what a writing process looks like? Check out Vanessa Van Edwards’s Writing Process for the book Captivate.
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