I just love drawing inspiration from anywhere I can… and, today, I found something in an unexpected place that made me think. Helping my son organise his thoughts for his new online learning program, I found a list about creativity and how to achieve good ideas. Looking through, I thought that many of these methods for his design course could be modified to help writers get started.
So here goes. This is my list on how to come up with some good ideas for writing – whether it be for coming up with an initial idea, or for working through a block:
Write down everything and anything you can think of relating to your subject. Get wild. In fact, the wilder, the better. Don’t judge, just write, building up as many thoughts as you can. Later you can evaluate, but for now the thing is to come up with as much as possible.
2. Right Brain It
Keep the problem at the back of your mind while you do something else – you’ll be surprised how often an idea will strike you while you are doing something else entirely.
3. Note It Down
Keep a notebook handy for those ideas that strike you out of the blue – or collect stray thoughts on your mobile phone (you can make a written note or a quick voice recording on most phones). I have a pretty notebook and a pen on my bedside table so that I can jot down those middle-of-the-night thoughts, which has the added benefit of letting me get back to sleep.
4. Talk It Out
Talk to other people about your challenge. It doesn’t have to be another writer. A trusted friend is great. Even if your friend doesn’t have anything to offer, just speaking about it will help stimulate thought. My mum is great for this... she just lets me ramble on and makes encouraging noises from time to time.
5. Hit the Library
Go do some research… check out anything you can find that is related to your work. Of course, the Internet is pretty good, too, just don’t let yourself get distracted by all those shiny things that turn up… like facebook or pinterest. The local library has the added benefit of a Librarian... wonderful people who are actually trained to Know where to Find Knowledge. You can even talk to them.
Settle down with a good book in the same genre and think about how the author has tackled similar issues… there is always something we can learn from others. This is not copying. This is expanding your experience. Unless you copy, which... just... don't.
Draw pictures, make maps, create flow charts. I recently spent a creative morning drawing up a house plan to help get the 'world' of my story in order... it took many attempts and more pieces of graph paper than you can imagine, but by the time I had finished i could really 'see' the house and knew what was happening where.
I cheated a bit with this one (which was about looking at how nature had solved design challenges), but heading out for a walk in nature is great for clearing the mind and leaving space for creative thought. On my daily walk i often find myself working through dialogue, solving issues, and realising why something isn't working.
Reject destructive thoughts… it’s not silly, do let yourself stand out, change it up (you don't have to do something the way others have always done it), and allow yourself to be creative.
It may sound odd, but just reminding yourself that you are a writer (and if you write, you are a writer) can sometimes be all the positive affirmation you need. I read somewhere recently that you need to remind yourself of this (or of anything else you are trying to become more confident in) fourteen times a day. I can't remember which guru I was reading said this, but I've been trying to do it on a daily basis, often all in one go so that i don't forget.
10. Just Do It
Trust in yourself and just start writing. It may not be brilliant, but anything you do get written is better than nothing. You can always go back and polish your work. A great tip here is to write about something unrelated, or to journal before you start your work for the day, just to get the brain working and the fingers flying. Go for it. You can do it.
Many of these tips, of course, can be combined for more powerful effect... I've learned that making voice recordings while out walking keeps ideas fresh and frees up the thought processes for more creativity, and the house plans that I drew up were dramatically improved with a bit of research on turn of the (twentieth) century designs (the Internet took me where I wanted to go for this piece of knowledge-finding, but, had I the need, I knew just where to find the right person, in this instance a museum curator at a nearby homestead, to Talk It Out with).
And housework and right-braining seem to go had in hand without even trying. I often find myself back at the keyboard istead of finishing the laundry or tidying the front room.
Of course, as I worked through the suggestions from my son’s design unit, I realised that these were all pieces of advice I’d met along the way from other writers. So they must be good. Let me know what works for you!