It’s hard to run out of ideas to write about, but it’s easy to run out of ideas worth writing about. At a certain point, the object of your writing becomes less fixated on producing content, and more focused on producing content which pushes your brand. I can write about everything, but I can’t write about just anything.
As you plumb the depths of a topic, you hit a wall where your understanding isn’t high enough to progress. The less you know, the harder it is to learn quickly. You walk in a spiral out away from the base of understanding, with each cycle getting longer and longer. The road gets rougher and the path is less well trodden the further you go. You can advance the entirety of a subject with the right research, but you need to know what to look at to even get started.
To confound all of this, you also have to consider the value a topic has to your purpose for writing. A content pipeline is useless if you’re writing for money and it isn’t profitable. At the same time, a topic you’re good at but hate can sabotage your long-term efforts.
Let’s keep it simple and focus on these two factors. You have to hit a certain bar of knowledge to be able to write about something, and you have to factor your branding efforts of reason for writing. There’s so much more to the equation, but these factors make it or break it. These two factors set the fundamental limits for where your writing will go.
You need to understand a topic to write about it. While this is common sense, the implication is a bit more profound. Understanding has multiple levels of depth, each of which provides its own value to its own niche, and you can always learn. The limitation of how far you go comes down to you.
The less you know, the more you need to work to get to where your writing matches the level of expertise you aim to provide. Research can get you everywhere, but you need to be willing and able to do it.
It’s easy to get disheartened or blinded to where you are with your writing. Ghostwriting kicked me down enough to learn how much I don’t know. My failures are laid bare time and time again as I reach higher and higher. It can feel like a chore, but if you love writing it becomes just a challenge.
There’s always more to learn and more to understand. If you write nonfiction, it’s even more important to know more. Even fiction benefits from an informed writer however. The more about the world you know, the more angles you can reflect in your interpretation of it.
You can focus on slowly building on a topic or try to dive deep with each effort. I do a bit of both if possible to hit more niches and a larger audience. Slowly building means spending time on a topic which takes away time from other topics without getting below the surface. Deeper dives take more time and preparation which robs from iterative improvements. Which is right stems from what and why you write.
Reason to Write
I could write about makeup or similar with the willpower and time to learn, but it wouldn’t exactly fit my brand or my personality. It’s not a topic I’m interested in or have an inroads into which could benefit my writing. I write because I love it, but also because I like money. Which master gets shortchanged depends on what bills are due when.
I could romanticize my reasoning for writing, visceral and spiritual, but to do so would be lying. I write because I love it, and because it could make money (I’m content to ride the high of the gamble). It would be a lie to say that the lottery with the odds stacked against me didn’t hit as a romantic notion though. My dreams could come true with the right roll of the dice.
That being said, I can’t just flirt with any and every topic. I need to push a brand and a purpose. My reason for writing impacts what I can and will write about. I work in tech so while I write about it, I don’t go as far or as deep as I could. Writing is my escape, not my continual prison.
Why are you writing, what does it mean to you, and what keeps you going? The answer to these questions enables you to succeed when writing. You need to understand what your relationship is with writing for better and for worse.
Are you writing because you love it or because it’s where your career landed? This isn’t an interview: why do you write? Trying to stay noble is hard when you’re just going through the motions. It’s also hard when you care, but just aren’t quite there because you can’t sleep in a tent.
There are countless topics I could write about, but far fewer which would serve me for my writing. I write to push myself forward. If my inspiration to write doesn’t line up with my knowledge, it’s functionally the same as writer’s block.
How much is your time worth and how can you improve your knowledge to include new topics? Is it worth spending a lot of time to dig deeper, or less time per topic to touch on more fields? Who are you writing for?
If you’re writing for yourself, what keeps you going? Why are you writing? If you’re writing for money, what is going to sell? I write because I like it, but I want to make money too. There’s a balance between interest and profitability.
It can be worth the effort and time to dig deeper into a topic you don’t like if it benefits your writing. It can also crush your will and effort to progress. There’s an intersection between why you write and what matters that you need to work out. The right answer is dependent entirely on the variables which go into it.
Only you can determine why you write and what you know and how the two factors go together. Sometimes research can help, other times it can crush you. What are you learning about and why does it matter? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
What are you writing and how does it help your brand or reason for writing? What do you know and what do you need to learn to write what you want? This intersection can determine what you need to focus on to avoid advanced writer’s block. How do you write to progress your craft and your persona?
Originally published at https://somedudesays.com on January 13, 2021.