Have you ever sat at your computer screen that displays a blank page and the little cursor icon blinking at you like a clueless college student in the middle of a lecture about the positives and negatives of Pythagoras’s Theorem? I know I have. In fact, I have been doing that for the past few minutes. As a student, many questions flow through your mind. “Did I do well on that test?” “Will we have a quiz tomorrow?” and “What if I don’t find a boyfriend/girlfriend by spring?” However, none of these questions can hold a candle to the infamous “What will I write about?”
It’s a question that plagues us all: old and young, small and big, Hobbit and Ork. I know that when I receive the task to write, I freeze up the minute I sit down. What do I write about? Blink. Blink. Blink. Fear no more, random reader, for I, Alfred of the Writing Center, am here to share some ingenious ways to find your inspiration (in no particular order).
- Bounce Ideas Off of Someone
Leading up to the conception of this blog post, my fearless partner in writing, Caitlin, helped me by letting me bounce some ideas off of her. She too, would throw ideas out. Some of the ideas I came up with were, well, magnificent to say the least. These ideas were things like “the downfall of an empire” or “Story Time with Alfred.” Needless to say, I dream big. Caitlin also had some pretty good ideas, some of which turned out to be the basis for this blog. Why does this work? First, it gets the creative juices flowing. It allows you to voice and hear other ideas. You may find yourself using some of these ideas, or being inspired by some of them, as I was. Second, it also helps to have someone to walk with you through the process. This is kind of what the Writing Center does. We help students walk through the process of their writing. Some will come in with ideas they want to write about. We are there for them to bounce their ideas off of and sometimes, they end up figuring things out without any advice simply because they voiced their ideas.
- Take a Break Before You Begin
I will always recommend getting away from the project if you’re stuck. You’re getting nothing done sitting in front of the computer, staring at the infinite whiteness. Instead, take your mind off it. Go outside, take a shower, or listen to music. (Keep in mind, though, you do have to go back to the project. Don’t procrastinate!) I typically do my best thinking when I’m not actively thinking about the task at hand. I find the ideas just kind of pop into my head whilst I do other things. I’ve thought of sermon ideas while playing video games and paper ideas while I am out with friends at dinner. In this specific case, I decided to listen to music for a bit. I thought about how different types of music tend to differ from each other and how each person is inspired in different ways from each kind. That was one of the driving forces behind this post. Sometimes, good ideas come about in the weirdest ways.
- Read to Write
A good writer is a well-read writer. This goes for both academic and nonacademic writing. With academic writing, there is typically a source that needs to be used. That source can be a novel, short story, poem, journal article, you name it. You need these sources to base some of the paper on. With nonacademic writing, the best thing you can do is read read read. Reading tends to stimulate the imagination and, when a book is well-written, you can visualize the book in your head. You see, hear, and can even touch what is happening. Regardless, if you are not currently reading a book, I would recommend you go get one. By looking at other writing styles, you can even develop your own. However, this does not mean to blatantly copy them. That is called plagiarism and is very illegal. Like, super illegal.
- Just Start Writing
Write down ideas as they come into your head. Write out whatever you can think of until your tank is empty. Afterwards, look at your writing, go through it, and pick out the good stuff. This will also help you reign in your ideas as you can edit out anything that does not really add to the general quality of your writing.
Figuring out what to write can be a daunting task. However, if you find things that help you come up with ideas, use them. Use all the tools at your disposal to come up with ideas. Your mind is full of limitless potential. You can write a novel, a thesis, or even a movie review. All you need is the right inspiration.
Written by Alfred