Writer’s block can hinder the best writers at the worst moments. With any opinion piece, you often want to respond in-the-moment to an ongoing issue.
Here are a few ways that you can find inspiration if you’re blocked or stuck on what to write about:
First, answer the following questions:
- Why you?
- Why now?
- Why are you arguing for this particular point of view?
- What actions do you want readers to take?
This set of questions will help shape the perspective from where you write and it will also give you a leg up when you pitch the op-ed to an editor. It’s the same set of questions each publication will ask when choosing whether or not to publish your piece. Get these questions right off the bat and you’ll have an easier time planning your piece and getting it published.
Second, read the titles of recently published op-eds:
You may not get to choose the title of your piece when it runs, but what you are doing here is finding out what angles publications like to take. Use those angles to determine how you’ll write your piece.
Here are a few taken from real headlines:
Angle 1: I did (significant event) and here’s what I learned about (larger theme).
In The Shadow Of COVID-19: What I Learned From A Patient Who Defied The Odds by Dr. Sudeb Dalai
Angle 2: I am a part of (group of people) but I believe (something different than the majority or stereotype)
Angle 3: I am a (particular example) of a (national/international issue)
Angle 4: You should start doing (insert action)
You Should Start Writing Letters by Jordan Salama
Angle 5: Here’s what it’s like to experience (life changing moment, national issue, tragedy)–and why it matters
I Have Cancer. Now My Facebook Feed Is Full of ‘Alternative Care’ Ads by Anne Borden King
Angle 6: A common practice or invention presents dangerous implications
Angle 7: Why (important holiday) matters to (your issue)
A math problem for Pi Day by Satyan Linus Devadoss
Angle 8: What we should do next
People Have Stopped Going to the Doctor. Most Seem Just Fine. by Sandeep Jauhar
Angle 9: Giving a voice to a person or group
Dear Katie Hopkins. Stop making life harder for disabled people by Lucy Hawking
Angle 10: It’s worse than you think
Angle 11: Lessons from a past event applied to a similar one today
Step 3: Try writing your piece based on the different headlines above
Many writers wait until the end of a piece to give it a headline but in this case for the first draft go ahead and give it a title in advance. Then, write to that title throughout the piece. If you don’t feel like you have enough, change titles and see if that helps in crafting the piece. The list above isn’t exhaustive. Instead, look at the publication where you want to get published and start reading its headlines to find out the angles and tone that the publication most often publishes. Use those clues to write your next op-ed.