7 Ways to Find Ideas

How do you get ideas?  Do you struggle to find them, or do they come to you in an endless flow that is frustrating only because you can't act on all of them? Light_bulb_lamp_266884_l

Although most creative types fall into the latter category, I think if we're honest we'll also admit that there are fallow times when ideas aren't quite so forthcoming.  Your writing life will be a lot happier and less stressful if you realize that this is part of the creative cycle and don't beat yourself up over it.

I've been experiencing this myself lately, as you might have noticed from the lack of blog posts.   This morning I told myself I absolutely had to write a post.  But I had nothing to write about.  Nada, zip, zero, zilch. 

Until I realized that a lack of ideas is a problem all writers face at some point and I could just write about that.  The main reason I decided to do this was that I'd followed my own advice and consulted my list of ideas.  One of the items listed was "How to Get Ideas."  Voila! And so, here you go:

1.  Keep a list of ideas.  I have a pretty little Amy Butler three-ring binder that I keep ideas for blog posts and articles in.  This morning I perused them as I pondered what to write.  Even if you don't use an idea from the list, looking back over it will get your brain going.

2. Go surfing.  Spend a few minutes navigating about on the web and see what jogs your interest.  Warning: this can be dangerous.  As in, an hour later you're still reading articles and posts, justifying it because you're supposedly searching for ideas.  To avoid this, give yourself a time limit.

3.  Go for a walk.  This is the antithesis of #2.  But it is amazing how physical movement can jog your brain and let ideas flood in.  I find it especially helpful when I need inspiration in the middle of a project.

4.  Just start writing.  Not for the faint of heart, because it can so often bear no fruit.  But if you're really desperate for an idea pull out pen and paper and start writing.  See what happens.  You might surprise yourself.  You can also:

5.  Collect prompts.  The reason why prompts are popular is because they work.  A prompt is a jump-starter for your writing, a sentence or phrase that you use to get going.   I like to use them to gather ideas for current projects as well as to just practice writing.  It is best to cultivate prompts the way you cultivate friends–keep a list of them handy so you can go to it when needed.  I offer lists of prompts here every Saturday.

6.  Read a book.  A real book.  Step away from the computer screen and pick up a book, any book.  Grab a volume of poetry and sit with it for 15 minutes.  See if that doesn't get the juices flowing.

7.  Visit a museum.  Or an art gallery.  Or an art supply store.  Or a stationery or office supply store.  Or a book store.  Go somewhere that contains either the finished product of creative effort, or offers supplies for said activity.   A location that showcases finished containers or offers empty ones.  Either will inspire.

Bonus Item: Meditate or pray.  Or if you don't like any of that woo-woo stuff, get quiet and breathe.  Ask for an idea.  See what happens.  It might be magic.

What are your favorite ways to get ideas?

Photo by brokenarts, from Everystockphoto.

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4 Responses to 7 Ways to Find Ideas

  1. Patrick Ross 04/25/2011 at 10:11 #

    Good list! I’m trying to get better on #1. I actually had some inspiration this weekend while doing #7, and my wife reminded me to write them down. The sheet is in front of me as I type (for some reason I’m checking blogs instead of picking one and working on it…).

  2. Charlotte Dixon 04/25/2011 at 17:05 #

    Patrick, Your wife is a wise woman. :-)

  3. J.D. Frost 04/25/2011 at 17:24 #

    Welcome back, Charlotte. I like number four. You nailed it. Write from where you are. If you got nothing, start. Something will happen. I like John Prine’s comments on where he finds inspiration for his songs. He says there is a network running above our heads, sort of like heating ducts. Every once in while the literary god will dump something through your trap door. You damn sure better write it down. If you don’t, it’ll go back to the network and slip through some ready writer’s door. The next Great Gatsby will be written! It could be you, if you’re ready when it comes down your chute.

  4. Charlotte Dixon 04/25/2011 at 17:26 #

    J.D., I know. I think we forget that it really is as easy as just starting to write. If we could only get out of our own way…love the John Prine comments, and yes, if you don’t write stuff down it goes to someone else. I also think the literary Gods get mad and quit sending you stuff.

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