7 rousing ways to get ideas for what to write about

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Reading time: About 2.5 minutes

Do you ever struggle with finding new topics for your writing? If that describes you, consider these tips on how to get ideas for what to write about:

“Writing is easy,” said Gene Fowler. “All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

If this describes YOUR approach to writing, here are some more practical ways to get started.

1) Find the story/anecdote/example FIRST, then apply it to your topic. Whenever something interesting happens to me, I make notes on it. I know that I’ll be able to use it in a piece of writing some day. And here’s the secret: If the story is interesting enough, you can surely find a way to apply it to just about ANY topic! For example, although I write about writing, I’ve produced newsletters on my flute lessons (I linked music practice with writing practice), on seeing a lecture by composer Rob Kapilow(which became a meditation on creativity), and about feeding my triplet babies (I related how I had kept charts of their feeding and counseled writers to keep charts of their work.)

2) Do a mindmap — in fact, do more than one! Mindmapping is invaluable to all types of writing because it gives you access to the deepest recesses of your brain. A friend of mine who produces a blog often starts a mindmap with the topic “next topic?” written in the middle of her blank page. Once she has an idea, she then does another mindmap on the topic she has identified. (You will have received a free booklet on mindmapping when you signed up for this newsletter. Read it again!)

3) Commit to writing at the same time each day, ideally in the same place, for the same amount of time. Ideas are more likely to appear when you make them keep a schedule! Just as there are bad habits, there are also good ones. It is far better to force yourself to write a little bit every day then to write a lot once a week. Make your beginning goal small (even five minutes) so you are certain to achieve it.

4) Conversely, if you need some new ideas and you are truly stuck, it may make sense to go somewhere different to write. Try a neighbourhood café, an empty boardroom at your office or even a different room in your house.

5) Go for a walk. The rhythm of walking is inherently soothing. As your feet wander, so too your mind is able to slip into back alleys or take a path down by the river. Allow your mind to roam -– free from the constraints of a computer or pencil and paper –- and you will be surprised by how productive this “non-writing” time can be.

6) Talk about your ideas with others. We usually begin by talking to ourselves –- and sometimes we can talk ourselves in circles! Find a friend or trusted colleague with whom you can share your writing ideas. This person will bring his or her own life’s experience to the topic and it will be different from yours. This discussion may cause you to develop a brand new topic!

7) Keep your “well” refreshed. Working is not all about work. If you are exhausted or burned out or unduly stressed, of course you will be unable to come up with ideas for writing! Ensure you are giving yourself the “raw material” to keep creating. Ask yourself: Have I read enough books lately? Seen enough movies? Talked to enough friends? Listened to enough music?

Creativity is contagious. Try to catch that virus!

[Photo courtesy Jose C Silva, Flickr Creative Commons]