A lot of people think that writers just sit down and magically produce a great story out of thin air. Sometimes we do. Other times it happens through a lot of trial and error and hard work. We get asked where we get ideas from all the time. The only answer I have heard that I really liked was on a sci-fi show recently. His answer was “We don’t know.”
Where the idea comes from might be a mystery that people might understand later but for now, we’ll keep telling them “We don’t know” and keep writing. There are some ways to help you get ideas though.
A lot of bloggers and content writers get their ideas from an amazing place. They Read. I know it sounds crazy, but writers also read. Especially if you are doing it for someone else, like for a job. You have to do research on a topic you may or may not know enough about just freehand. You are supposed to read a few articles to get an idea or an outline and then work on it from there.
If you work in marketing, you will do a lot of this. READING! Then making it look like original work, so it’s not considered plagiarism.
Sometimes when I read an article or blog, I get an idea from what I’m reading that has nothing to do with the article. Tech guides give me a lot of material for comedy. Those things are sooooo boring that my mind wanders to places I normally would not direct it. I once had an idea for a funny hiking story while reading a how to assemble manual for a desk.
There probably was one little line that made my mind go to the article I wanted to write and off I went. Stopped putting together the desk and knocked a 2000-word article first draft in about an hour. I used the desk manual for the outline, kind of. The premise was there. First do this, then that, etc., etc.
The point is reading will give you lots of ideas for writing. If you are struggling to get inspiration, start reading to get UNSTUCK. It works, ask any writer if they read. If they say NO, they are lying because we all read over the stuff we write.
Yes, I do get inspiration for new things by reading my old stuff. It’s reading that does it, whatever you read.
One of my favorite places to get new ideas is from listening to people talk. It’s no secret I don’t see things the way most people do. So just listening to the news can give me all kinds of ideas for stories.
So and so did this and this happened. Well, what if they had done this instead and what if it had been in this setting and what if this happened next, and on and on. You can have a completely new story by just retelling what you hear and changing it into a new setting. Don’t like the news outcome: change it in your story. Unless you are a journalist, then good luck. I’m not sure there are real journalists anymore, they all seem to be marketers with an agenda now. Truth and fact got replaced with profit and hype but that’s another story. See how easy it is.
The radio is a great place to get inspiration. Sometimes I don't really listen to it and what I hear isn’t what they really said, and it turns into an article on something else. You don’t exactly have to be paying close attention for the inspiration to come from listening.
I have also written several articles based on what I think people think I am thinking about instead of listening to whatever they were saying to me at the time. It’s not that I’m uninterested in what people are saying around me, my mind is just somewhere else. I can listen with the utmost devotion to the right person. I just get uninterested in group chatter. I don’t miss a word when I’m listening to a sermon. I could listen to every word from the right woman. I’m just not that interested in all people, at least not in person. I don’t hear anything men say when I have to speak to them in person unless they are talking about Jesus or fishing. Maybe I’m weird but I am just not interested in male bonding. Let’s just say I am not interested but I do get a lot of ideas out of it, whether they know it or not they are inspiring me.
TV is another great place to get ideas. I think it’s because they assume people who are watching don’t read much less write. It’s in those little interactions between people that I find inspiration. The little things that usually go unnoticed in how people react to one another. I don’t understand most people anyway, much less why they do the things they do so a lot of it to me is entertaining. Then I rescript it into a fishing story or camping or make it into an applied scripture study.
People do a lot of stuff that is not going according to scripture, and it usually turns out just like someone going against God's plan and they wonder why. I make it into a story with a meaning. If you are not a Christian don't try this. You have to have Jesus in your heart to understand scripture. Even for us understanding exactly what God wants us to do can be . . complicated. It's not hard to be one though. All you have to do is ask. You have to choose it though.
The sudden Inspiration
The moments of inspiration that come from the blue are why most copywriters and writers carry a notepad or speak into their phones. We get ideas from nowhere that are great. They just pop into our heads. It’s usually a sentence or just an idea for a story. Then when we sit down to write it, the words flood the page.
I cannot tell you how to do this. It just happens. Usually when we ;least expect it:like in the shower. Supposedly it is because our mind is not thinking about writing. It’s not thinking at all. We don’t have to think about how to shower, we just do it. It is a learned activity that we can do in our sleep. This lets our minds wander into a creative space that we keep it from going to if we try to get it there. Sounds complicated:The more we try, the less likely we are to get there. You have to love life's little ironies like that. This is how I finally understood the phrase “You can’t get there from here.
This is also why I get so many ideas when I am fishing. Once I settle into it and just start fishing instead of thinking about how to catch one my instincts take control, and my mind is free to go to the creative place that gives me ideas for writing. I have come back from fishing with more ideas for articles than I did fish
Camping too. I get all kinds of ideas when I’m sitting around a campfire not thinking. Luckily, I took my laptop and started typing. Viola, a few thousand words later and let’s publish this. I just can’t force myself to do it. If I went camping to write I probably would not get the first idea, but if I go camping just to go camping it happens.
So, my advice, find something you love doing but don’t have to put a lot of thought into and then do it. When the inspiration pops into your head, stop that thing and start writing. Just test it out and see how it works. You might astonish yourself with what you can do if you don’t try and just let it happen. THIS IS NOT RELATIONSHIP ADVICE! If you just, try and let that happen by not doing anything it will probably move on to someone that does. That’s another reason I don’t like dealing with groups of people and try to stick to just one on one communication. That too is another story. It has a rabbit and a squirrel in it.
Believe it or not, writing is one of the best ways to get new ideas. You start out writing about one thing and then you get an idea about something else. STOP and write the other thing. It might seem a bit ADHD, but this is how our brains work. They can do a lot more than we are taught to believe we can. Our brains are built to multi-task. USE IT!
There are other times that I’m writing an article or story that I want to go in one direction but the more time I spend writing it the more it starts to go in another one. Then I have to go back and rewrite the part I have already written. The whole thing turned out better than I expected. It might not have been what I was going for, but the final result can be better than what we planned on. Occasionally this happens in life as well. Life imitating art or something like that.
Trying to force something to be what we want it to be instead of letting it be what it should be is a skill we all struggle with throughout life. Learning to listen when it’s time to go in a different direction takes practice. So does writing. Another reason is just writing is a good thing.
If you're just writing to get into it don’t worry about how good, it is at first. Sometimes we have to write a lot of words before the idea of how it can be decent finally shows up. I have a lot of articles written that I am still trying to get just right. It’s probably enough to fill a novel. One day they will all fit into their little places but till then I just keep writing. You learn by doing. Writing is something you have to learn to do too.
There isn’t an exact number on how many words a day you have to write. Some writers write a few hundred, some a few thousand, some write thousands of words a day. I don’t know how much of it is actually good or usable, but they claim to write that many. I think Steven King said he writes close to 10,000 a day. That is an exceptionally HIGH amount. I only write between 2,00 and 3,000 a day. Most days anyway. If the inspiration hits, I write till it all gets down.
It also depends on what type of writer you want to be. Novelists, you need to write a lot. Copywriters, depends on the type you want to do; short form may only need to be a few hundred a day, long is usually a couple thousand a day. There’s also flash fiction now that has a limit of 500 words. Short stories are like long form copy but can be up to about 5000 words. The guidelines are pretty loose too.
You’ll know the type of writer you are after you start writing.
The main thing is don’t just wait for inspiration to come. Actively seek it. Look for ideas. They can come from anywhere. This is just a short list of where I get SOME of mine from. Once you start looking for them, you’ll have more ideas on what you want to write than you will have time to write them. Write them all down and work on them when you can. You are a WRITER if you are WRITING! Good Luck!