There’s a very simple way to figure out what you should be writing about. Do you know what it is? No? Me either. But I know it exists. I guess that’s not very helpful, though, is it.
Well, until you or I figure out that “very simple way” let’s go through some of the things I did and learned from others when I was facing this conundrum.
Because the truth is, every writer—nay, every creative person ever— has had to face down this problem. So there’s lots of great advice out there to help you figure it all out. There’s also some not-so-great advice.
Follow Your Passion? Pfft!
We’ve all heard this advice. It’s about as useful as a wet sock. The advice isn’t wrong. And the folks who give it are well-intentioned. It’s just that this advice is too broad to be helpful. Maybe it works for other types of ventures, like… well, I dunno. But for creatives, “follow your passion” implies you have A passion, as opposed to three or four. Or fifteen-hundred, like me.
Choosing a topic based on a passion only leads to failure. It’s the reason so many new writers start books, blogs and other projects only to give up and start all over. It creates a cycle of failure with absolutely no focus at all.
Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you should write about it. Looking at your passions is a great starting point, but you have to dig deeper.
Write What You Know? Nope.
Here, again, we have another well-meaning piece of advice. And it makes sense—write what ya’ know. Unfortunately, this is often misinterpreted as “write something you know a lot about.”
Certainly you can write about something you know lots about. However, taking this advice as a new writer can lead you to create some boring stuff.
When I was younger, I tried learning the guitar from a friend of mine. The guy was a master. The first time he tried to show me a few things I thought he was speaking another language. You see, he was at a level of guitar playing that I could not fathom. The stuff I needed to know—the basics—came so naturally to him that he assumed everyone else knew them too.
The same thing happens to writers, especially bloggers and non-fiction authors.
Sometimes mastering something makes you the worst possible candidate for writing about it.
Getting to the Real Question
At least three times a week I get an email from someone asking me what they should write about. I love getting messages from folks in the Epic Email Club and from passersby who stumbled onto one of my blog posts. But when I see this question in my inbox I cringe a little. Why? Because there’s very little I can do to help.
The truth is, no one can tell you what you should be writing about. Writing is a very personal, almost spiritual act. It comes from inside you. I can give some basic advice, which I always do. But I’ve learned that the folks asking me this question are actually trying to ask me something else…
“What Should I Write About that Will Actually Make Me Some Money?”
Isn’t this what we’re really asking when we say, “What am I supposed to write about?”
I know that’s what I meant when I was asking everyone that question.
And that’s okay, there’s no shame in it. We love to write, but we gotta keep hot dogs and coffee in the kitchen. Am I right?
It’s important that you understand the real question you’re asking. Our minds can play terrible tricks on us, and if we aren’t careful we’ll never even notice it.
Running around thinking you have nothing to write about when in fact you do is damaging. It can cause your confidence to wane, making you eventually give up.
We all have plenty we can write about. It’s when we introduce the real question that all our ideas seem to fly out the window.
The trick is to choose something you can actually stomach writing that also appeals to readers.
Here’s the Secret
You’re not going to like this answer much, but here goes…
Anything you choose to write about can make money. I won’t act like there aren’t topics that are more profitable than others, but you can build a writing based business on just about any topic.
Topics Don’t Make Writers, Writers Make the Topic
If I told you you had to write about the most boring topic in the world if you wanted to make money, what would you say? Some would say, “Okay”. Then they’d go write about it a couple times and give up.
If something is boring to you, there’s no way you can continue writing about it. No matter how much money is involved.
There are loads of writers who have tried their hand at writing about weight loss or “marketing” or social media because they thought it was going to be profitable.
The internet is full of dead blogs on “profitable topics”.
Building a creative business is a long term venture. And those who succeed a writer’s, podcaster, YouTubers or whatever else, are those who create and publish consistently.
When the topic becomes boring, when new competition comes around that threatens to eat your lunch, when you feel like giving up — it’s those times that will test you. And if you’re only in it for the money you will fail.
But there is a way to have your cake and it too.
Be a Beginner and/or Be Curious
One of the best ways to choose what you will write about is to choose something you can keep a childlike interest for.
You can write about almost anything you want and still build a profitable business as a pro, or as a total beginner. It really has very little to do with…
- The topic
- How much you know about it
- How little you know about it
- The size of the market
Not that these things don’t matter at all. They do. Just not nearly as much as we like to think. If you choose to write about the most profitable thing, you know a ton about it and the market is huge — all that is icing on the cake.
What really matters is that you write about something that truly interests you. You see, it’s that interest that attracts readers, convinces clients to hire you and creates a loyal fanbase.
If you can’t wait to read the latest news, try the newest tools or implement a different strategy on [insert whatever you like here], then that’s what you should write about.
You can be a pro or a beginner and still have that kind of drive for something. I think this is where the “follow your passion” advice comes from. But being passionate about something isn’t the same as being ever-curious about it.
That’s it! Find something you can remain ever-curious about and I promise the rest will fall into place.