How to Write When You Don't Know Where to Start

It happens to every writer. You sit down with a topic in mind, and suddenly ... it's like you're lost in a fog. You don't know where to start. It feels like you've forgotten everything you've ever known about your subject.

And so you sit, frustrated, in front of a blank page, for what seems like hours. 

Yes, I know the feeling. It happens to all of us at one time or another. It's not quite full-blown"writer's block," but it does feel like wading through quicksand, and it's exhausting. 

When you get stuck and don't know what to write, there are a number of "quick-start" techniques you can employ. Usually, once you get your brain engaged and asking questions, you will be able to pick a start point and hit the ground running. 

Here are my go-to questions for those times when I just don't know what to write: 

  • "What do I actually know about this topic?" (Hint: If it helps, brainstorm a list in your notebook!)

  • "What lights me up about this subject?"

  • "Why is this topic relevant right now?"

  • "Why does my audience need to know about this topic?"

  • "If I could share only one thing about this topic with my readers, what would it be?"

  • "How does this topic connect to and support my personal (or brand) purpose and mission?"

  • "What results do I want to help my readers create by sharing about this topic?"


If you sit with these questions for a few minutes, chances are you'll get a spark. After all, the purpose of writing is to share something with your readers - an idea, an argument, a deeper truth. If you can connect to the WHY of your writing, the WHAT and HOW will soon appear. 

Here's another tip: to keep yourself on track in ANY writing project, go back to your trusty outline! 

Happy writing, everyone! 

Bryna René Haynes is the founder and President of The Heart of Writing, the chief editor for Inspired Living Publishing, and the best-selling author of The Art of Inspiration: An Editor's Guide to Writing Powerful, Effective Inspirational and Personal Development Books. In over a decade as a writer, editor, ghostwriter, designer, and publishing consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors find their authentic voices and create powerful, memorable, successful works. She lives outside of Providence, RI, with her husband, Matthew, and their little Moonbeam, Áine.