Not knowing what to write is the ideal place to be

You sit down to write. You’re at the keyboard, the piano, the moleskine notebook, etc, to make something great, and yet…

You have no clue what to say.

You want to say something, and you’d like to have something to say, but currently, you’ve got nothing.

I feel you. This isn’t where we want to be. And if you ask me, this is exactly where we need to be.

Why is this?

Well, I believe writing answers the writer’s questions. We sit down to find out, not to tell, what we know. Starting with an answer doesn’t leave much room for finding out.

When we write, we aim to make something new. A large part of writing involves a battle between what we don’t know (the blank page, the unknown, the chaos of the universe) and what we do know. Hopefully, after the battle, we’re left with something new. How else could we produce something we didn’t know if we don’t expose ourselves to something we don’t know?

So when we sit down and don’t know what to write, this is good. This means we have a question. And we can’t find something out without first asking a question, implicitly or explicitly.

We don’t like this feeling because not knowing feels like we are stupid. That’s what anyone is before they learn. And no one likes to feel stupid.

But that unsure, stupid feeling of facing a blank page with no ideas means we have questions worth answering, and that those answers will be valuable to us. Facing a blank page with only answers and no questions would surely be a sign of our own arrogance.

So next time you sit down to make something new, and you feel stupid and unsure of what to make, know that I’m right there with you. And that this is exactly the right starting place for us to make a valuable, new creation. It’s our job, our duty, as a writer to willingly go to this confusing, uncomfortable beginning.

Have you felt stupid yet today?

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