Write about what you know — that’s one of the fundamental nuggets of wisdom for writers. “But I don’t know anything worth writing about!” you protest. You don’t? Anything is worth writing about if the writer finds something engaging about the subject. Try these writing exercises based on firsthand observation:
1. Read the titles of books you own or those at the library or a bookstore. Create a story based on one or more titles or words therein.
2. Watch an unfamiliar TV show or movie with the volume turned down and invent a story based on the setting and/or the characters.
3. Look up names in a baby book or on a baby-names website. (Yes, of course there are baby-name websites.) Create characters based on interesting names you find there, and build a story around them.
4. Research historical figures on Wikipedia or in some other reference resource. Write about a fictional episode in their life — perhaps a chance meeting with another famous person (before or after they became famous) — or assign some invented secret to their life and write about it.
5. Randomly look up words in a dictionary, or in any book or other publication. (Randomly select them by closing your eyes and lowering your fingertip to a page.) Create a situation or a plot around any combination of words you find (not necessarily all of them).
6. Study a painting or a photograph and write a story about the subject, whether it’s a person, a place, or a thing, or a combination of two or all three.
7. Cut words and/or pictures out of magazines, and arrange them in linear sequences or in groups or webs of relationships until you can articulate a through line of thought. Make that thought the first line of an article, poem, or story.
8. Visit a historical location — a building, a site, a city — and write a factual account of its history or create a story in which it features, or one inspired by it. Or do the same for any structure or location, even if it’s brand new.
9. Go to a public place and watch people (without, of course, making yourself obvious). Create backstories based on their appearance, their habits, and their communication styles.
10. Visit a zoo or an aquarium, or even a pet store or a dog run at a park, and study the animals. Develop human characters based on their characteristics and interactions, and write about these people you’ve created.