Do you ever feel completely out of ideas? Sometimes, I’ve got time to write – but I’m just not feeling inspired. I might want to write an article for one of my blogs, or work on a short story. I may just want to write something personal, perhaps a letter to a friend, or a journal piece, but for some reason I can’t think up a topic.
Inspiration doesn’t always come easily. But for any writer, it’s vital to be able to generate ideas and get on with the work. I’m going to cover some great ways of coming up with more ideas than you’ll ever be able to use …
Brain-Storm or Spider-Chart
I like to brainstorm ideas on paper, though there are lots of pieces of software available – these might be useful if you want to develop an idea into a full article, as they allow you to move things around.
For the low-tech method, though, just grab a bit of paper – a full blank sheet of computer paper works well, as it’s good to give yourself plenty of room! Write your topic (maybe the name of your blog, or the subject for a short story writing competition) in the center … and start jotting ideas around the edge.
Set a stopclock for five minutes and start writing. Scribble down as many ideas as you can in that time, and don’t let yourself stop – keep your pen moving, or keep typing, until the timer goes off.
The pressure of time can force you to be creative: you’ll find yourself jotting things almost in desperation, but when you look back over the ideas that you’ve written down, you may well find some gems in there.
Lists of 50 or 100 Ideas
When I’m coming up with topics for blog posts, I often start by opening up a new document and typing “50 Ideas for My Blog” and then sitting there until I come up with all fifty! For the truly brave, 100 is even better. It’ll take you a while to get there, but the more ideas you write down, the more you’ll find yourself coming up with new and different possibilities.
If you really want to challenge yourself, combine this with the stopclock idea above (I’d suggest allowing at least fifteen minutes).
Joining the Dots
You can use your list or your spider diagram for this. Draw lines to connect related ideas together: sometimes one thought won’t in itself be enough for you to write a whole article from it, but several points could combine together well. Alternatively, one topic may be far too broad – so jot down sub-points around it.
If you’re brainstorming for fiction, try combining ideas from opposite sides of your page – you could even stick a pencil in at random. Juxtaposing two very different elements can give you that spark you need to come up with something truly creative.
Using Other People’s Ideas
There are hundreds of ways to find ideas ready for the taking. If you write fiction, try using writing bursts or writing prompts. You could try picking two novels at random from your shelf, choosing a character from each one – and then combining those characters. Or how about borrowing the plot from a fairy tale or traditional story? (Think that’s cheating? Shakespeare did it…)
For non-fiction writers, try using a list of famous quotes to spark off new ideas for articles. Responding to someone else’s words – whether you agree, disagree, or go off on a tangent – can start to get your own ideas flowing.
How do you come up with ideas? Do you ever feel uninspired and plough on regardless? Share your tips in the comments. If you try some of the above methods, it’d be great to hear how you get on!