Seriously? How do you NOT find something to write about? Someone posted this question in a nonfiction writers’ group and I can’t even.
I mean, yeah, I can see maybe asking that in a fiction group—they may be wondering what genres are hot right now or what a good place is to start as a writer. But even then, their question should be more focused. Start by learning how to write a question that will get you the answer you’re looking for. (Snark)
Seriously, nonspecific questions in writers’ groups are annoying as all get out. You’re a writer—say what you mean. But… back to the original question.
How do you find something to write about in the nonfiction realm?
Start with Your Why
I don’t mean your big, existential why. I mean start with why you want to write something in the first place. Are you writing to a particular audience because you want to increase your authority and visibility? Are you writing to find clients or advertise your services? If so, start with what that audience needs information on. You can find that by going to question sites like AnswerthePublic.com or using Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest. You can also look in Facebook groups (see what I did there?), on Quora and other forums. What do people want to know? By answering these questions, you’re showing people that you know how to solve their specific problems, proving your credibility.
If your goal is to be a freelance writer, start with what you know. You’ll hear that advice time and again for a reason: It’s valid. If you’ve been in a certain field for any period of time, you have background knowledge that will make it easier for you to decide what content is important and true, and what isn’t. You may also have some professional contacts and some credibility in that field. These things help when you’re getting started as a writer.
My freelancing career started in the real estate investing niche, where I was known and where I knew people. I branched out from there. I had specific knowledge of many industries mostly because I have decades of work and life experience. If you’re young and have little experience, interview people with experience. Focus on one field to get a depth of knowledge before branching out. Get comfortable with writing in a field you’re comfortable in.
Or… Write about ANYTHING!
Write about anything you damn well please. Write about stuff that interests you even if you’re not sure anyone else is interested. You know why? Because the Internet, that’s why.
Once upon a time, it was difficult to sell niche stuff because we didn’t have an easy way to advertise and distribute widely. You might make handmade shoes and back in the day, you sold those shoes to people in your geographic area or people who visited your geographic area. You were limited in who you could reach to sell to.
With the Internet, you can sell those handmade shoes to anyone in the world. Shoemakers send a box with mold material in it, the client steps into the mix and it creates a mold of his feet. The box gets shipped back to the shoemaker who can now perfectly fit the shoes to a client he never personally sees.
The same with writing. I may not be able to find 500 people interested in reading my article on beekeeping where I live. I may not be able to find a beekeeping magazine or trade newsletter to publish my article. But I can post my beekeeping article online where beekeeping enthusiasts world-wide can find it with a simple search.
Very Little is Too Trite
Perhaps the person who posted that original question was wondering if what she wanted to write about was important enough to write about. As writers, we want to write about big ideas and possibly save the world while being Noel Coward level amusing. (I’ll wait.) With practice and dedication, we may someday do that.
In the meantime, there are people (like me) wandering around wondering how to hard boil an egg. (Seriously. I have to look it up every time I hard boil eggs.) I also wonder how long hard-boiled eggs last (about one week), and the best way to peel them. There you go—three article ideas. Is an article on hard-boiled eggs going to change the world? No. But it’s going to help people by giving them information they need when they need it. (Especially if you don’t spend 1,000 words talking about the first time you had a hard-boiled egg and the quaint farm in Bulgaria where you got the egg straight from the hen’s nest before you get to the damn instructions, thank you.) And you know what? It’s probably going to get a lot more views than an analysis of color theory in advertising. But here’s the thing: Both are equally important to the person searching for that specific information.
The Best Way to Find Something to Write About
The best way to find something to write about is to ask yourself what you want to know more about. What subjects intrigue you? What is something you’ve always wanted to do? The most important question: What would be FUN to learn and write about?
Writing shouldn’t be drudge work or something you approach with trepidation. Yes, sometimes when you’re writing for hire, it’s hard to get enthusiastic about the topic. But even with the most boring topics, the writing process itself can be fun. If you are lucky enough to have your choice of what to write about, write what you want to write, not what you think people want to read. You have access to an entire world of people. Solid, informative writing attracts its own audience. It might not be huge, especially at first, but they will be your people. And, if you start with writing what you are interested in, you’ll never run out of topics.
Go write something.