Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How to Never Worry About What to Write Again

In my near-decade career of coaching writers, there has been one question I’ve been asked over and over again. In fact, this is something I often ask myself: What should I write about? The problem is that’s the wrong question.

Worried face pic

Photo Credit: Lisa Brewster via Compfight cc

When you get stuck thinking about what you should write about, your focus is on the wrong place. You begin to fixate on things like subject and genre, even niche. And all these are not essential to developing your calling as a writer.

The words you say are the paint on the house. The foundation is the belief behind them. Which is something most writers miss.

Where we must begin, if we want people to take us seriously, is not with what we say, but how we say it. As I’ve said before, people care more about the why than the what. In other words:

Voice trumps subject.

Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a subject for your blog or book. You should. It just means that’s not enough. Good writers, the ones we remember after they’re gone, are the ones who have developed a worldview and articulate it in a definitive voice.

And you should do the same.

Getting practical

So how do we do this? You can tackle this by asking yourself three important questions:

  1. What’s wrong with the world? Your answer to this in some way reveals your worldview, your particular perspective that makes you special. List out some possible ideas for this as clues to what makes your voice so unique.
  2. What’s one experience I have had that’s unique to me? Everyone has a story, and the easiest way to find your voice is to start telling yours. People connect to other people’s experiences, especially when it’s painful or embarrassing. When you share yours, you’re inviting others into a place where they can feel heard. Write one true, vulnerable story, and see how people connect.
  3. What’s something that’s easy to me that’s hard to other people? You are more of an expert than you realize. Right now, someone is looking to you for your expertise on something. A great way to figure that out is to reach out to a handful of friends and ask them what you’re an expert at. See what they say, and don’t discount how easy it is to you. This, too, is a clue to what you should be writing.

This is the secret to how you never run out of an idea on what to write. And this, after years of frustration, is what I finally decided to do. Don’t chase trends. Write with a worldview. And trust that the topics will follow. It works. (Click the image below to learn more.)

Bonus: Check out my free video that tells you how to decide what you should write about. It’s part of a three-part series I’m offering this week. Check it out.

What do you write about? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Hm. I like your “what’s wrong with the world” question to get you started. As I read, I started thinking, “what’s wrong with how my niche is perceived, taught and performed”? And how can I, with my unique experience and knowledge, make it better, easier, solve these issues?

    I’m glad I stopped by today :) Thanks for your wisdom.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Anabelle! Pleasure’s all mine.

  • Yes this does help. I always approach writing driven by a theme — the moral
    of the story. It serves as the skeleton or amature for what we write. With out it, a story feels empty. So, genre in essence is a myth. Just decoration to what we really want to say.

  • So many people talk or write about finding your writing voice. One thing I notice is the slipperiness of the word itself — what exactly is a writer’s voice?
    Is it …
    1. the writer’s worldview
    2. the writer’s style (the words they choose and the way they bring them together)
    3. the writer’s personality
    4. the writer’s tone
    Or, is it a combination of all of the above?
    I wonder too, even if we find our voice … and I believe I’ve found various forms of mine over the years, (depending on my audience and subject) can we, or should we, expect it to remain the same?

    • Emma Hoyle

      I’ve found that, for me, it’s more about characters’ voices than mine. Having said that, though, I do tend to use similar language between stories, so I guess that would be close to what might be called my voice. But best not to think about it too hard, and just let the words come out however they want to!

      • You’re right. Thinking too hard can be a problem, and it’s often in hindsight, after the writing is done, that I hear my voice. It’s those moments when you feel it in your bones that you know. Maybe that’s why so many people talk about it and search for it … it’s elusive, yet necessary, yet magical, all at the same time.

        • I think that’s true, T.O. Voice is best understood retrospectively.

    • To answer your question, I think your voice is your unique articulation of your worldview.

  • Joe Large

    It’s not about a stair lift. The device is not as important lifting you up the stairs. Than helping you down, because when you fall up the stairs, not a big deal. Falling down the stairs with the help of gravity, now that’s a problem.

  • Yes. Ask yourself what is wrong with the world because therein lies your passion. It irks you when people are treated without dignity. Your passion? Making sure people are valued. So many people who struggle with finding their passion need to know this.

    What do I write about? I seek to write to those who hurt. I don’t want them to feel they are alone or that they don’t matter.

  • Hey Jeff!

    One of the reasons I love coming to your site is because you are so encouraging. These are great points that bear repeating. I really like point #3. I think often times we don’t realize what we are great at because it comes so naturally to us.

    Thank you for the reminder to look at who we are, what we believe, and how we can make the world better based on those things.

    I appreciate the insights and encouragement!

    Jesse

  • I would’ve thought this was more geared towards non-fiction writers than fiction ones.

    • Does not JK Rowling have a worldview?

      Her stories clearly convey that Good will triumph over Evil.

      That seems very different from the worldview of Cormac McCarthy or Ernest Hemingway.

      Food for thought. :)

  • fabian

    Another great post from my favorite blogger/author. I agree with every word you’ve written. But the problem sets in with the voice thing. I even don’t know if I have one, coz I have been trying really hard to get to a point where I can write without fretting about the end product. ,I give too much thought on the flow, till i forget the other cruxes of good writing. Do you experience that? Do you read your articles and you’re like “they’re not good enough. Maybe I should just trash this.” I do that alotta time and now I’m convinced that i’ll never be good at writing.

  • I’ve been reading your art for a while now. I am always slow to comment. (I’m going to stop doing that!) The brilliance of this post is that you are able to break down such a complicated and confusing topic into manageable parts. You have spoken a lot about the importance of finding your voice. I’ve seen a lot of other authors say the same. But where they stop, you keep going. To be able to take such a vague topic (Find your voice!) and discover three very practical and actionable steps is incredibly helpful!

    So, here is mine:
    1. What’s wrong with the world? I read a stat the other day that only 40% of practicing Christians feel like they know what God wants them to do with their lives (it was only 20% for everyone else!). Our churches are filled with people that are just going through the motions and do not realize the amazing life that God has called us to!
    2. My story: I know I need to share this more. I am still working through this one.
    3. Something I do well: I have the ability to take the stories and teachings of the Bible and break them down in ways that anyone can understand in today’s context.

    Thank you, Jeff, for your faithfulness, generosity, and wisdom!

    • You’re welcome, Matthew. Thanks for the comment. Well done on this!

  • David Mike

    This is awesome! My blog is all about #2.

  • Thanks, Jeff. Every day, I find myself reading other people’s work to help me find more traffic, learn how to manage the social media jungle, or whatever else pops into my inbox. Sometimes, it can be discouraging when I share my perspective and I hear nothing back. But every once in a while, I get a little validation to remind me of the task I have been given. Today, that validation came from you.

    • That’s so cool, Michelle! Thank you for sharing!

  • I have no shortage of what to write. Like you say, though, it’s writing with my voice, not yours or anyone else’s, that matters.

  • I write about life’s stretch marks – things stretching me and things to stretch my readers. I write about leadership, personal growth, family, faith, and missions.

    • Heh. Stretch marks. Fun analogy. 😉

      • Yes, and if you read my about page, you’ll notice that my nickname in high school was Stretch. It seems to fit together nicely with my life.

  • I have to say that since I joined the 500 words challenge last february I haven’t been stuck with my writing ever…. Seriously! And I’ve never even tried to write before… It’s such a powerful tool! Thanks! :-)

  • Hey Jeff. I truly appreciate you! I have 1 comment and 1 question :)

    First, my topic: small business branding.

    I write bite size brand training for small business heroes. Branding is one of the most misunderstood disciplines in business. The world can’t even settle on a unified definition for heaven’s sake! My passion is to equip and empower small businesses entrepreneurs to break the mold and build meaningful brands.

    Here’s my question for you Jeff: In your experience, do you think this topic is too broad to build an audience around?

    I’d seriously love your input. My blog is at http://www.sethaddison.com/blog

    • Hey Seth. Sorry for the delay. Yes, it feels a little broad. I suggest approaching this topic with a worldview. For instance, why is branding misunderstood and how? What’s a better way to do it? What’s YOUR definition? That’s where your uniqueness lies.

  • oleg vorobyov

    For every person who is related to content Jeff is very super hero. I have a link to share with Jeff and all his fans its an essay editing service http://myessayeditors.com/ i have a good experience with them

  • Hi Jeff

    This article is great. You easily solved the writer’s no 1 issue. I like the tips especially point 1 because I used it to write my lastest post without even realising it was a strategy. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jeff,

    Thanks for this article, I have been trying to hone my voice. I have been writing more personal devotional style stories on the blog. On one I felt was rather disjointed it actually got 15 + on G+ which is the most I have ever received. I have been trying to be more open in my writing and writing from the heart, since that comes easier than having to research everything I write. So which Platform would you say that is? Thanks again for everything.

    God Bless,

    Paul

    • Good question, Paul. I would need some more information than that. But when someone shares something deeply personal, it’s often the Star or Prophet personality. Just kind of depends on the delivery.

  • Thanks for this article, Jeff. In coaching writers, ‘voice’ is one of the most challenging aspects of a piece to critique given how personal and subjective it can be. I love this: ‘Voice trumps subject’. I’ve read so many works of fiction outside of my usual field of interests because the writer’s voice was so compelling that the subject didn’t matter.

  • Thanks Jeff…Good read….My article is inspired by you..

    https://writinglizard.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/grow-your-writing-tree/

  • donnafreedman

    I think a lot of writers don’t trust their own voices. Heck, some of them haven’t even *defined* their voices.

    Instead of being true to themselves, they hide behind attitude or snark or hip-weltschmertz, afraid that they’re not interesting enough on their own.

    I’d rather hear an authentic voice than a manufactured one. THIS MATTERS. We’re supposed to be *writing* the blog post, not *building* it.

    Here’s what I’d ask a writer: What is your goal? To pull in page views, or to contribute to the conversation?

    To out-obnoxious other writers by larding your copy with slang words for genitals or tired phrases like “I wanted to punch (whatever) in the throat”? Or to provide information that can help people change their lives?

    If you’re a number monkey, pure and simple, more power to you.

    If you actually want to help people understand your topic, pay attention to your writing — and do it in your true voice.

    • Jamie C V Strong-Author

      “… I write, therefore I am.” Jamie C. V. Strong, author of ” The Wellington Ratio”. >>> jamiecvstrong.WordPress.com

  • My goal as a blogger and writer is to help the millennial generation live meaningful and fulfilling lives. I write about life, creativity, perseverance, and dreams and hope to one day be considered an expert on the millennial generation.

  • Worldview development is so important. That’s why it’s the focus of my blog and the topic of my book One of the Few.

  • Excellent post Jeff. I write about getting over the fears associated with selling. I use to be a marketer, got tired of sitting behind the desk all day and wanted a better future for my family. Through a jump along with many falls into the world of selling I was able to attract more success into my life. I do this at chrisspurvey.com

  • Jeff. Thanks for posting. I recently started writing and I have learned a ton from your posts. #3 on your list “What’s something that’s easy to me that’s hard to other people?”
    is what inspired me to start my own blog about web based business!

  • Jeff..thanks for sharing your life, it helps lot. I am on my way to blog.

    https://writinglizard.wordpress.com