What To Write When You Don’t Know What To Write

Writing About Writing


A young violin student had a chance to play before a visiting maestro. He played his best piece. He put his heart and soul into the performance. Afterwards, he asked the maestro for his opinion. Is he good enough? Does he have what it takes?

The maestro considered. Asked him to play a simple piece, then a complicated one, ran him though exercises. Finally, the great man spoke,

“Technically you are proficient. But that is all. You lack the fire.”

Crestfallen, the young man turned from music to business. He made a fortune in widget distribution. One day, the same maestro came back to town as a guest conductor. At a select sponsors party, the two talked,

“I want to thank you for taking the time to evaluate my playing all those years ago.”

“I didn’t listen. I never do. I tell everyone the same thing.”

The former violin student was thunderstruck. “I changed my life because of you. I change my major because you told me I lack the fire.”

“Ah,” says the great man, “But if you’d had the fire, you would have ignored me.”

This post was supposed to be another fiction sketch. I am having an H of a time – as my grandmother used to say – getting traction on this project. I’ve surfed for writing prompts. I’ve surfed for what to write when you don’t know what to write. One site said, essentially, if you don’t have something to say then you aren’t a fiction writer.


People have been telling me that I can’t write all of my life [Schadenfreude Saturday, My Pain Is Your Amusement]. Why should fiction be any different?

This will happen. I don’t know how, but it will.

Open to any advice on how to jumpstart my inner novelist after a career of writing to order.

Update, crossposted [Will Write For Feed]

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

8 thoughts on “What To Write When You Don’t Know What To Write

  1. First, your link doesn’t work.
    Second, why can’t you write about your life?
    Third, if you want to write fiction, take the things that happen in your life and elevate them to the extent that they become fiction? I ask, thinking that there’s a lot of drama in my life that could probably be made into a good episode of Grey’s anatomy, so I am sure you could probably have some stories of your own, no?

  2. What I usually do: Take a picture. Any picture. Doesn’t have to be a picture YOU took, but can come from a magazine, newspaper, whatever. Sit down and write for ten minutes about the picture. Set a timer if you must. Wash, rinse, repeat daily. Word prompts work well for me with photography, but they don’t work for me with writing. I need something visual to get my motor started.

    1. Also too, my brother told me once that a lot of his ideas and sometimes even snippets of conversation or even the story line in some of his stories come from writing in public places and listening to the conversations taking place around him. For example, he’ll routinely venture out to do some writing in an internet cafe or coffee shop; a hub that provides plenty of opportunity to more or less eavesdrop on bits and pieces of conversation taking place all around him. Writers tend to be hermits, so having a regular habit like that gets you out of the house and can give your imagination some new ideas. I never actually put that habit into practice because I don’t live anywhere near a spot where I could do that, but the concept wasn’t lost on me: use different situations to listen (eavesdrop) and casually observe people. Those two things can provide plenty of imaginative fodder if you train yourself to see and hear it that way. My brother helped me learn to utilize everyday situations to truly listen and observe the interactions going on around me, then allow my own mind run with that.

        1. Doesn’t matter. Strangers. No way they’re going to read something you wrote and think, wow … I think I said something like that two years ago in a cafe. Because … fiction. 😉

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