Like Oprah, here are three things I know for sure:
1. Energy breeds energy
2. The more you write, the easier it gets.
3. Ideas generate ideas
About that last truism, I have this theory that ideas actually breed like rabbits. If you note ideas in your journal, or corral them in an idea book, they find each other, mate, and multiply. One idea sires a whole new generation of them. And before you know it, you're overwhelmed with ideas. Then the lovely problem you have is how to not fall prey to bright shiny object syndrome. ("I think I'm going to write this short story instead of the novel I'm working on. No wait, I want to start working on that mystery. Oh no, I've got it, I'll write my memoir.")
Try it. Make an effort to write down ideas and see if they don't multiply. It is quite magical, actually.
But, you may ask, where do ideas come from in the first place? Good question, because writers and creative types need a constant stream of them. Without fresh ideas and energy for your work, you'll eventually stagnate and quit creating. So ideas are the lifeblood of our creative practice. How to get them? Where do they come from?
In my mind, ideas flow from:
Never underestimate the power of observation. Simply writing down something you saw (A man walking down the street wearing red shoes) can spark an idea One of the best ways to begin cultivating ideas is just to write stuff down. Doesn't have to be original or unique, you simply need to make a note of it. Because when you write down several observations, the rabbit breeding thing happens, and before you know it you simple little observations have combined into full-blown ideas. Voila!
The other wonderful thing that observation sparks is speculation. (Why is that man wearing red shoes? Doesn't he realize they are ugly?) You can actually force ideas using speculation. And, the thing is, at first when you're working on cultivating ideas, the process feels a bit forced. But soon the ideas are coming so quickly that you realize they were there all the time, waiting for you to start noticing them.
I'm thinking a lot about ideas these days because I'm going to be teaching an online class about them in December. Actually, ideas are half the class. The other half is about taking those ideas and making them tangible through goal-setting. It's going to be held on two successive Tuesdays in December and you can access the class by phone from wherever you happen to find yourself. I'm teaching it in December for a couple reasons. The first is because I always find the dark days of December to be an intensely creative time for me and the second because holding it then will set you up for massive productivity around your writing in the new year.
So check out the class here. (I'm also teaching a class called Make Money Writing in January. And I'm offering a special discount for people who sign up for both. Check that class out here.) I'm keeping the cost of both of these classes low, because I know a lot of people want and need this information.
And tell me: how do you cultivate ideas for writing? Do you have any tips for keeping the flow of them coming?
Photo by SC Fiasco, via Everystockphoto.