Where to get writing ideas

So, you want to write, but where do you get ideas from? How do you know what to write about? What kinds of words are you actually going to put down?

When you sit down in front of the blank page to write, you must have at least some idea of what you want to write about. Without an idea, you are sitting in that awful white space that most people like to call “writer’s block.” You shouldn’t ever have to be stuck there, though. In fact, you should have an ever growing list of ideas at all times. Here are 3 ways to gather ideas so that you’ll never run out of inspiration again.

1. Write down a giant list of things that make you curious.

Writing is all about discovery, for both the reader and the writer. In order to write, you have to be curious about what you are writing. You could sit down right now and make a list or, more commonly, keep a notebook (or even the notes app on your phone) and write down interesting ideas or things that come to you during the day. Maybe you see a lady walking a cat and that strikes you as interesting. Maybe you are curious about natural makeup or you want to know more about billboards. Maybe you heard a really weird conversation between strangers on the subway. Write it all down. When you are low on ideas, revisit your lists. Pro tip is that sometimes you can COMBINE different things on your lists and you’ll end up at an even more compelling topic.

2. Free write questions. 

This is what I do sometimes when I have a very general idea of what I need to write about, but I don’t really have anything more than that vague idea. Let’s say I know I have to write something about alpacas. I will start free writing about alpacas just to get something down on that freaking page to work with. Maybe I’ll start by describing an alpaca and then maybe I’ll write a list of questions I have about alpacas. How many alpaca farmers are in Ontario? What are alpacas for? How did alpacas get from Peru to Canada and why? Why are they so popular on Instagram? Why do I like alpacas so much? Those questions will generate direction and deeper curiosity about the topic. It will also give me a question to answer, which makes writing interesting. It also makes writing a lot easier when you have a central guiding question. 

This works even if you don’t have any idea to jump off from. Simply start writing down the scattered questions that you have bobbing around in your head. Something is bound to pop up as a writeable subject.

3. What bothers you? 

Annoyances or problems we encounter consistently in our lives equals great writing material. Someone else probably has the same feelings about the same issues as you do. Keep a list of these things too, especially if you find yourself regularly ranting about it to your friends or family.

There you go! These three strategies will help you mine your own experience to uncover something to start writing about. Once you hook into something that seems to be substantial enough to continue to write about, follow it! Free write, research, ask more questions and enjoy the ride. In my experience, the finished product usually looks much different than the initial idea. That is part of the joy of writing.

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