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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

When You Don’t Know What to Write…


When you don’t have a clue what to write about, let yourself be inspired by whatever National Day is coming up.

Since National Donut Day is right around the corner, let’s use donuts. No, not by eating them. All right, go ahead and eat one, then consider other ways you can use be inspired by donut.

  1. Give the object of the day, in this case a donut, to your characters/people you’re writing about. What’s their attitude about donuts? Do they prefer donuts or muffins or croissants? What kind does each person like? What kind do they disdain?
  2. Start a conversation with, “It’s National Donut Day.” Or start with “National Donut Day was the [number] anniversary of [character’s name]’s __________.”
  3. Consider your own family history around donuts. Invent your character’s family history around donuts. Did great aunt Anita make doughnuts that everyone loved? Or hated? Who gets to inherit the donut pan? Or has to dispose of the week-old donuts crazy Uncle Ike keeps bringing over?
  4. To get your imagination revving, list as many uses for a donut as you can.
  5. Make the donut an object of desire. Is there someone who desperately needs a donut for something other than food? What would that person do to get a donut? What else could donuts represent?
  6. Take a donut from your characters/people. How would your characters react to losing a donut, dropping one or having a dog steal their favorite donut? How is this reflective of how those people react to loss in general?
  7. Make a donut a plot point or a theme. How could a donut shift the whole plot or focus? What if someone used a frozen donut to murder someone, then ate the murder weapon? Why might someone steal a donut? Where and why would someone smuggle donuts? What would your donut-addicted character do if donuts were banned from public schools?
  8. Consider the history of donuts and the role donuts have played in history. What’s the economic, political and emotional significance of donuts? 

If some 0ther random entry on the list of National Days really grabs your attention, by all means, go with it. But resist the temptation to go shopping for a “better” inspiration.

The point isn’t to craft the best writing of your life – the point is to get moving again by writing some random thing about some random thing.

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