No matter how long you’ve been writing, everyone is prone to feeling “stuck” sometimes. If you can’t come up with a topic you’re interested in, or if a subject isn’t coming naturally to you, there’s always one niche you can turn to – controversial issues.
Controversial topics can inspire you and help you feel more passionate about your writing.
But, keep in mind that some topics are controversial for a reason. It’s important to tread lightly, depending on the subject matter. Otherwise, you might end up hitting a different kind of wall and getting frustrated.
So, how can you write about something controversial without self-sabotaging yourself?
Write Without Bias
One of the most important things to keep in mind is to write from a neutral standpoint. That doesn’t mean you can’t stir up thoughts or leave your readers asking important questions, but unless you’re specifically writing an opinion piece, you should focus on being a voice of reason.
It’s not always easy. There are plenty of hot-button issues that you probably have an opinion about. Some of today’s most controversial topics include:
- Civil rights
- Climate change
- Religious freedom
- Women’s rights
You probably feel a certain way about all of those issues, but sharing that opinion can actually be more insensitive than you might realize. That’s especially true if you haven’t taken the time to fully dive into certain issues. For example, if you’re writing about domestic abuse or child abuse but you haven’t educated yourself on how it really affects victims, it’s not the best idea to share your personal opinion.
No matter what you’re writing, research is crucial. Even then, being a peacemaker within your words will help you reach a wider audience without alienating anyone.
Engage Your Readers
As a writer, it’s important to remember your audience. You should be writing from the heart, even for non-fiction works. But, if your words aren’t engaging to your readers, you’re not doing your job. Using a controversial topic is a great way to foster that engagement.
For example, a topic like body positivity could gain a lot of attention, especially since studies have shown that nearly 80% of 17-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, and it’s a trend that continues for women of all ages. You can engage your reader by diving deeper into the beauty industry and how unrealistic standards are affecting the mental health of people across the country.
It’s not enough to cite statistics and lay out facts when you’re writing about something controversial. You have to go one step further and ask thought-provoking questions. Additionally, you can provide your own insight or use a different angle on the story to get your readers thinking. Whatever the topic, go beyond the basics, and do your best to get your readers thinking.
Topics to Avoid
Are there any controversial topics that should be completely “off-limits”? Realistically, the answer is no. You can write about anything you find interesting and anything that might engage your readers.
But, it’s usually a good idea to avoid topics that will stir up debates. You want your writing to be thought-provoking. People asking questions and starting up conversations based on your work is great, but when your work triggers tension and angry debates, it loses its meaning and turns into something ugly.
Level up with Resources for Writers
Things like the “woke” culture, social media censorship, or simply calling out something you don’t like or disagree with probably aren’t ideas that are going to win you many points with your audience. Some people will like and engage with it, of course, seeing as controversy is an attention-grabber — but you have to ask yourself if that’s really the kind of attention you want as a professional writer. Consider the following:
- What is your goal as a writer?
- What is your goal for a particular piece?
- Why do you feel so passionately about that topic?
- Is there a way to compromise your feelings?
When you take a few minutes to focus on these questions, you can calm down to the point of writing a more neutral piece – one that will get people thinking and talking, rather than coming after you for your opinions.
Writing about controversial topics isn’t always easy. But, when done the right way, it can help to get you over some common hurdles, so you can find the motivation to keep moving forward with your work.
First published April 2021; Republished March 2022