Getting Ideas

How do you get ideas? It’s not like you sit down in front of your computer and automatically you know what you are going to write about and how you are going to write it. Not each and every time anyway. There is some planning and organizing involved.

I keep a messy idea file. Most of it is in a notebook which I keep in my purse. I use it to note down the ideas as they occur to me. But, ideas tend to pop up at the worst times, as far as being able to make notes. That’s because its usually when I’m doing something else that I get my best ideas. Driving along to work, running a bit late, suddenly I have a great idea for a new story. I can’t just pull over and start writing. Traffic would be in a mess for one thing.

So, I try to remember my idea until I can write it down. Usually I do this by focusing on a key word and depending on that to jog my memory later. It doesn’t always work but it’s something.

Anyway, back to how you get ideas. If you’re lucky you find an idea in something already published. Those can be kept easily enough. Just get a copy of the article and store it in an idea file at home. Try to keep them organized so they actually are useful and not just a collection of paper you will use ‘someday’.

Other ideas can come from freewriting and brainstorming. Two versions of the same thing. Freewriting is just letting yourself write, without stopping to think too much along the way. Write until you’re finished. Ignore proper grammar, don’t check spelling and leave punctuation nitpicking for later. Just write everything that comes to mind about a topic or don’t even start with any one topic in mind. Brainstorming is the same but I always think of it as making a list of points more than writing in sentences.

Need more ideas? Read! Start with the newspaper and work your way along to magazines, books, newsletters, cereal boxes and so on and so on. The more you know about the more you will bring into your range. You could be writing about buttery toast and add in all kinds of information from what you know about butter, safe use of knives, etc. But, if you don’t know about using a knife to butter toast you won’t know to write about it. If you don’t know what to look for you won’t find it.

Something I do when looking for ideas to add links to my column is randomly combining words. Just think of topics, things you are interested in and put them together in ways you’ve never thought of before. It’s really interesting what you can come up with. Sometimes you find really unique ideas this way. Best of all is finding a group of people who have had the same ideas. That is always a gold mine to a writer, a research gem.

However you get ideas, don’t forget to talk to people. Talk about all kinds of stuff. Everyone has different life experiences, you can’t experience everything yourself. So learn to pick up what you can along the way from the people you bump into. Great ideas are all around you it’s just a matter of keeping your senses open to them. If you do get stuck, take a break. You’re most likely to come up with something when you stop trying too hard.