Is Your Brain Stuck on One Writing Topic?

Are you having trouble coming up with new topics? Find your mind and writing drifting back to the same ol’ heartbreak/person/place/event/feel? Trust. I understand this feeling to no end, but I am trying to exercise myself out of it, in a few unexpected ways.

As I previously mentioned, I am doing a poem a day for a year. I am on day 46 and I see myself drifting back to the same topic that is front and center in my mind. I’ve recently had some medical struggles and without getting into too much detail, I am having a hard time finding my way to writing about anything else. It’s so hard to focus when you are currently feeling a pain so strong. So here’s a few things I am trying to get myself out of the rut.

First, I am trying new forms. This in and of itself is a great way to get yourself thinking differently. Strict forms like sonnets, villanelles, and pantoums allow you to follow a new direction, and although it is difficult at first, I think it has some rewarding outcomes.

Another tactic I’m trying is using an image as inspiration. Look up any photo a day project and don’t give yourself more than just a few seconds to view the picture, then flip to a blank page and start writing about your initial impression. I don’t let myself linger on the image too long, because inevitably my current moods or experiences will affect the way I am taking in the picture.

Another thing I’ve been trying is to celebrate the stuck. I do this by consciously writing about the same topic, but reflecting on specific perspectives that will add variety. I am currently trying this in a big way, putting together the very early stages of a poetry book that explore the same theme of illness and the way if affects the body and mind. I write honestly about the experience and the theme, and then go back and review, realizing that even if we write about the same thing over and over, as long as we are offering a new perspective, it is still valuable writing.

A dear friend and amazing artist Kristy Jane From-Brown told me once “I can paint a self-portrait over and over, but it will never be the same thing twice.” To reflect that on writing eases the self-criticism of feeling stuck.