That’s right, bad b*** squad — I’m back at it with the (relative) controversy. I’m about to blow a hole in the concept of finding endless things to write about. Madness. Insanity. [Insert more adjectives here].
You’ve heard the advice. Write an article a day, or at least five times per week. Keep a list of ideas and never stop adding to it. Make topics happen even when you don’t feel inspired, because muses are undependable little assholes who probably won’t show up if you so much as blink hopefully in their direction.
All of this is good advice, conceptually speaking. The issue comes from the way we tend to absorb it. If you’ve been putting pressure on yourself every time you ‘miss’ a post or article (like some tween on a Snapchat streak with her mediocre, too-much-axe-body-spray-wearing, crush), this article is for you.
Sometimes you don’t have anything to write about, and that’s okay. Actually, let me rephrase — sometimes you don’t find any topics you can write about in a meaningful, motivating, or high-quality way. So just…don’t.
There’s another way to do things. It’s called ignoring everyone and taking a big ol’ chill-pill (yes, that was a very 80s thing for me to say, thanks for noticing).
We Don’t Need This Many Articles Or Blog Posts, Anyway
Saturation isn’t merely a vaguely unpleasant-sounding word that makes me think of armpit sweat. It’s also a real phenomenon that’s become somewhat of an issue at various points in our current Information Age, where anyone and everyone can publish work and pretend they are interesting and know what they’re talking about.
Newsflash: they usually don’t. Sorry, mommy-bloggers, but last I checked you weren’t actually a health or psychology expert. Writing a blog that insinuates that you are both of those things? It’s not going to change reality.
And that’s the danger of this write, write, write attitude that says you should always have something to say about something, no matter how empty your creative tank feels or how forced the work feels.
A good number of bloggers and an even bigger quantity of writers on this very site have fallen deeply into this trap. The result is a vast amount of ‘fluff’ articles that have begun to bury many of these writers’ more inspired work.
This is a shame, really, because I think that’s ultimately more harmful to their brand than not publishing for a week or two. Readers are going to follow you if they like your work. You don’t need to shove 30 articles a month down their throats to achieve this. That’s too kinky for us, anyway.
Pretty much every platform you have provides a follow option. If you write ‘infrequently’ — which, by the way, is a completely subjective, ever-shifting standard of measurement — they’ll still be around and get notified when you do post something.
Make that something a piece with real interest behind it, not a flavorless, junk-food type article that gets forgotten as soon as someone skims through the headlines. Don’t create the writing version of unseasoned fries. Those are gross.
No One Likes A TryHard
To preface this point, being a TryHard isn’t the same thing as trying hard. It’s good to try your hardest to grow and improve as a writer. It’s not good to force out words like those squeezy play-doh molds that got gunked up constantly and inspired generations of toddlers to eat ‘spaghetti’ made of solid, commercial-grade starch.
Someone who tries too hard ends up being either mistrusted or actively disliked, eventually. When you’re constantly dragging up topics from the deepest depths of your saved links and iPhone notes, heedless of whether or not they actually present the world with something unique and worth reading, you become that kid.
The play-doh kid who takes things way too far and ends up super constipated. I was that kid in preschool. It’s totally embarrassing, guys. Don’t overdo it with the topics…topic. It only ends in cramps, tears, and regret.
Also, readers can absolutely sense it when you’re forcing yourself to write about something that doesn’t actually matter to you. We can smell the desperation for fame, fortune, and *wretch* effective brand marketing from a mile away.
We eventually feel uncomfortable reading your work and begin to lose that “spark” that brought us to your page in the first place. TryHards never prosper, my friend, but those who simply try hard and know when to write and when to hold back? Those are the creators who last a lifetime in our hearts and minds.
Some People Just Have More Ideas Than Others, And There’s Nothing Wrong With That
This is my requisite “but on the other hand…” portion of the article. Sorry, I’m a Libra. It do be like that.
So, yes, it’s not good to feel like you have to pull out topics from a big fancy tophat labeled “WRITER” every single day — but if you naturally do that? Well, that’s awesome. You do you, boo.
The key here is to know when you aren’t that person. Just because you aren’t an idea machine, that doesn’t mean you don’t have great ideas. Frequency is hardly a measure of quality, after all.
When you’re publishing something for the world to read and associate with you, it’ worth making sure that this something is unique, insightful, and hasn’t already been written a thousand times before. Especially by you.
Look through the motivational writing tag to see what I mean. Some of us end up sounding like a really boring broken record after a while, and that’s sad. I’ve been down that road myself. It’s not a good look.
Am I usually an idea machine? Yes, absolutely. But sometimes I’m not. Other times, my ideas are emerging in a totally random area of life that has nothing to do with my articles, blogs, or books.
Sometimes the idea part of my brain looks me dead in the eye and says “you know what? F*** you.” Then it flips me off and dies. I’ve learned to accept this for what it is and not try to revive it until it’s ready to behave in a civilized manner. If the ideas ain’t comin’, they ain’t comin’.
Go do something enjoyable and stop prodding the poor things. They’ll come back when it’s time.
Mostly, Though, Forcing Topics Will Take The Fun Out Of Writing — And That’s A Very Bad Thing
Writers who don’t actually enjoy writing become sad, decaying creatures of woe and sorrow. Those quotes about vomiting up your soul onto a bloodstained page are not only melodramatic — they’re also dangerous.
They encourage people to hate the one thing they’re supposed to love deeply and truly: Their Art. C’mon, I even wrote an old, outdated article about this, you guys!
The Tormented Artist
The stereotypes that people use to define ‘artists’ are often shown in black & white. The reality is much more complex.
You want to write an article every single day, a book every month, and a short story each week? Tough sh**. We can’t always get what we want — didn't you learn anything from the Rolling Stones? They made a whole song about it and everything, you ingrate!
I don’t know anyone who can write at the frequency and consistency we’re allegedly “supposed” to master the second we decide we’d like to write semi-professionally. It’s an unrealistic standard. Pursuing it is like building a stack of cards on a wind farm.
It seems cool for a while because everyone assumes you know what you’re doing, here…but eventually you end up looking pretty stupid. And if you get resentful at the wind farm instead of your own dumb a** when the cards fall down, you look really really stupid. Don’t do that.
Forcing out topics when they aren’t fully formed will get you a whole lot of half-baked nonsense and a brand to match. Write every day, sure, but don’t feel like that writing has to be publish-able, fresh “content” that will reflect on your professional name and image.
No one sits on baseball fields to watch routine workouts, right? A lot of the improvement and success we see as writers happens behind the scenes, and it reveals itself when the time is right.
I can’t speak for all writers, despite our status as a vast, Biblical plague of hive-minded, otherworldly beings. Each artist has a different way of approaching their own creativity, productivity, and progress within the field.
I just think we tend to take things a little too far, generally speaking. I mean, really, five articles a week? Forever? That seems questionable at best and, well, terrible at worst. Don’t put that kind of expectation on yourself.
If you’ve been anxiously trying to build up to that level and sustain it, do yourself a favor. Stop. Let your brain run out of ideas for a bit. Go gain some life experience and do things with your time that don’t require you to produce, produce, produce.
I could write a whole new article on the toxic, overly-capitalistic production mindset that’s wormed its way into content writing, and I probably will, eventually. Right now, though, I’m going to let myself stop chasing ideas and have a lovely glass of $10 wine from Trader Joe’s.
Now there’s an idea, right? Try not to try too hard, kids, and let your creative muse f*** off for a bit while you take some R&R.
The topics? Oh, they’ll come. In the night, when you least expect it. You should go and prepare yourself before it’s too late.
Anyway, thanks for joining me on this sleep-deprived journey! See you when I see you, Bad B**** Squad (BBS).