Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Challenge yourself: Write About Something you don't Like

By Ana Parker Goodwin

Just like most writers I've been told that the best way to find topics to write about is to make a list of all the things you know best and that excite you: your work, a special hobby, interest, or experience you survived. Or if you have several children, you might want to write tips to parents about child rearing. And to a large degree these teachers were right.

I recently talked to a man who, after a nasty divorce, raised his five children by himself. He is writing some articles about his personal experiences and adventures with the children as they grew up. He is writing about a topic he knows well. Most of us have heard few personal accounts of men raising children alone and we are interested in hearing about the rapid changes occurring in our culture today. Will single parent men be considered and accepted to be as capable as women at raising children in our near future?

I, myself, have followed the advice of my teachers and peers. Both in fiction and in nonfiction, I write about topics that I know well and am passionate about. Mostly I've stuck to psychology, because learning how the mind and brain work is absolutely fascinating. What amazing creatures we are! Most people have no idea how powerful their mind is. On my blog site I write a lot about the stress of past traumas and how to deal with it. Why? Because I gained so much knowledge in that area while working as a psychotherapist and I want to pass it on to others who need it.

But recently I said to my husband, "I need a challenge. What if I try something new? What if I write about something I know nothing about and really have never found interesting?" He stared at me and his left eyebrow rose higher than I'd ever seen it rise.

"Okay," he said, and went back to reading his book on plant viruses. In plain English, "I'll believe it when I see it." So now it's a real challenge.

Right now I am checking everything and searching everywhere for ideas. As I go about my day I often ask myself, "What don't I like and what does not interest me?" I notice things I haven't noticed for years. "When do I change the channel on my TV? Am I watching something that triggers me or bores me?" Actually observing everything around me has been more fun than I've had for a long time. I'm checking the news, the neighborhood, people, jobs, hobbies, sports and anything else that doesn't interest me. I'm not fond of movie stars, or arrogant people, or people who I consider to be shallow. I'm not fond of football or car racing, or reading books that don't have a fast moving plot.

This morning I decided to write an article on movie stars, my least favorite topic. But here is something interesting that is happening. The more I research and delve into their lives, the more fascinating they are becoming and the more I like them. I am learning things about the movie industry I never knew and about the sacrifices movie stars have to make to become and remain famous. And suddenly I am realizing that they are very human like the rest of us---not shallow or arrogant--- just people who are hiding behind a thick veil.

Oh, oh! I think I'm back to psychology again.

What would be the topic you might least like to research and write about? Leave a comment.


Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

This presents a very interesting challenge. It amazes me how hard it is to think about things I dislike. So far, I have only come up with those ghastly, shiny, swirling bedspreads you see in motels. How is that for a topic? I love beauty in all its forms. What irks me is the total disregard for it that one sees so glaringly exhibited in those sorry, sad rooms. If Paris is the ideal, what is the opposite? Tar sands... fracking... okay, pollution. That would be the topic and I can see that if I could just control my blood pressure, I may be able to write about it some day.

Jennifer Rova said...

I agree with Elizabeth. Everything I thought I disliked, upon examination, I found I could twist some element to something I liked...except science fiction. I don't read it, do not like it... except of "E.T." Darn! Another topic I found I could write about. This is a valuable exercise to try at least once a year. Thanks, Ana.