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What Should I Write About?

Written by author/teacher/speaker, Dr. Allan Hunter. Dr. Hunter will be returning this winter to teach Writing from Life, Part II. There are no pre-requisites for this workshop. LEARN MORE and REGISTER here!

Sometimes that question – and we’ve all asked it of ourselves at some time – stops us in our tracks. And that’s around the point most writers tend to give up and raid the fridge or switch on the tv instead.

"What if we took a moment to look around us and just be aware of what we see?"

Full disclosure here: when Peyton suggested I could write a blog post here that was exactly my thought. What should I write about? For a while I had no ideas at all.

But what if we changed the question entirely? What if we took a moment to look around us and just be aware of what we see? If we’re able to let go of the ‘should’ in that first question a whole world of everything opens up.

"...‘should’ can be a dangerous word."

Let’s put it another way: ‘should’ can be a dangerous word. Imagine you wake up on a Saturday and you have the entire day open before you. Then you ask yourself “What should I do?” The chances are very good that you’ll respond by saying that you should get the bills paid, call your friends or your mother, get the groceries, and so on. We ‘should’ do all these things, but we might only want to do a few of them. Or perhaps none at all.

If you write from the place of ‘should’ it will always feel like a forced activity.

Let’s see if we can trade in this route march for a gentle stroll through the countryside.

For argument’s sake let’s pretend it actually is Saturday. Now: try writing from a place of memory. Do you remember other Saturday mornings? What were they like? Or perhaps you had a job that gave you a day off midweek in return for working weekends. What was that world like? How did it feel? I used to work six days a week, but I’d get two Tuesdays a month off, and it felt so good to be free when everyone else was tied to a job. The places I liked to go were always full on the weekends, but not on a Tuesday. Is that anything like your experience? As I ask that I remember going to my favorite coffee place, which had a real, working fireplace, and a cat and a dog that would sit with the customers. On Saturdays the cat and dog were petted by everyone, and were barely to be seen, while the dedicated early customers sat by the fire and refused to move. But on Tuesdays the place was empty. The logs crackled, and the old dog, eager for company, sat at my feet while the snaggle-toothed cat with the tattered ear purred on my lap.

I haven’t thought about that place for ten years, but it makes me feel very happy, now it’s come to me unbidden.

"Follow the memories. Follow their energy."

And I realize, now, that since that time I’ve often chosen to visit places only in the ‘off’ season, delighted to be experiencing them without the crowds.

My suggestion? Follow the memories. Follow their energy.

If you let your imagination have this kind freedom you’ll find you write much better about much more interesting things than you could have predicted. You’ll find things out about yourself you may have forgotten to ask for.

Dr. Allan Hunter

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