You’ve been there before.
You’ve taken your seat at your desk, you’re ready to write another amazing freelance article, blog post, or novel chapter, but then the worst happens.
Nothing’s coming to you.
You stare at the screen, brush your fingers across the computer keys, but still, nothing comes to you. You look at some outlines, maybe at the schedule you’ve set for yourself, but still… nothing comes. Whatever you planned to work on today has suddenly lost its excitement for you. You’re starting to get scared.
It’s happened again. You can’t come up with a single new idea. You’re stalled. You’re frustrated.
But don’t worry. I’m here to help.
The Frustrated Writer’s Guide To Generating New and Amazing Ideas
Today I’d like to share with you my tips on how to consistently generate new and amazing ideas. These tips have gotten me to Top Ten Blogger status and they’ve also helped me make HUGE progress with my novel. I get so many ideas nowadays that now my problem isn’t generating new ideas–it’s figuring out how to organize them all!
Okay, let’s start:
1. Journal On A Consistent Basis
My most helpful tool in writing (and in life) is a very simple one: it’s my journal.
Writing in a journal on a daily basis (especially in the early morning) will really help you clear your mind, sort through your problems, and uncover your most excellent ideas.
2. DON’T Carry A Notepad And A Pen With You All Day
It is often recommend that writers carry a small notebook and a pen with them all day so that they can jot down any new ideas that come to them.
I used to do that, but I don’t anymore. Here’s why:
In my experience, whenever I carry a notebook around me all day, the notebook is constantly getting in my way the whole time, which I find really annoying. Moreover, the notebook’s close proximity to me makes me feel a whole lot of pressure to churn out new ideas all the time Also, one time, I lost one of my “idea notebooks” at a coffee shop and I was depressed about it for a week. I couldn’t believe that some of my private thoughts were out there for some stranger to find and read. How embarrassing! The ideas inside weren’t even fully fleshed out yet!
So, I have found that taking a notebook with you wherever you go can become a total nightmare. Instead, I recommend you keep that notebook at home in a private location that only you know about, and only you have access to. (This will ensure that you don’t accidentally misplace it.)
Now, you may still find yourself getting a whole bunch of ideas during the day without your notebook in hand, and that’s okay. In my experience, about 90% of those ideas will be no good anyway. (You are probably not going to pick these ideas up and run with them in any serious way.)
On the other hand, 10% of the ideas that come to you during the day will be great. They will be so great, in fact, that you will remember them by the time you get home. So, when you get home, write those 10% down as quickly as possible.
In my experience, I have found that the most amazing ideas stick with me long enough, and are patient enough to wait for me to get home and write them down.
3. Go For A Walk
Go for a walk for about 15-30 minutes. Try not to focus on your thoughts during this walk, and, instead, take notice of the world around you.
This is called meditation. Meditation has become the second most essential tool in my writing and in my life. Deepak Chopra compares meditation to the act of washing a dirty rag until it is clean. The dirty rag is your mind. Now, imagine if you had a rag you hadn’t cleaned in years? It would probably be really dirty by now, wouldn’t it? You can start cleaning the dirty rag of your mind today by taking a quick 15-30 minute walk in the park.
4. Talk About An Opinion You Strongly Disagree With
You may think you’re the only one who disagrees with most people on a certain subject, but there are many who probably agree with you–they just don’t have the courage, or the ability, to articulate their opinion. You may be doing them a favor by being the first one to speak up.
5. Take A Snack Break
A delicious slice of pumpkin cheesecake helped me with this particular post. Trust me, it works.
6. Practice “Writing Judo”
Go with the flow. You know: take the feeling you are feeling right now and make it art. Make it the solution instead of the problem. “Be like water, my friend,” as the famous Kong Fu artist, Bruce Lee, contends.
7. Write Down Your Dreams
Hey, if getting new ideas from dreams worked for writers like C. S. Lewis and Stephenie Meyer, why can’t it work for you?
Here’s what psychiatrist, Dr. Judith Orloff, suggests:
First, place a notebook and pen on your nightstand. Then, tell yourself that you want to remember your dreams before you go to bed. Finally, when you wake up in the morning, and while you are still in that liminal space between being asleep and being fully awake, write down what you remember from your dreams in your notebook.
I’ve tried this exercise before, and it works every time. Your dreams can reward you with some pretty gnarly ideas.
8. Realize That Idea Scarcity Is A Big Fat Myth
9. Stop Talking–And Listen
No. Don’t talk.
What do you hear? What do you see? What do you taste? What do you smell? What do you feel?
Write it down. Now.
10. Do Your Laundry While Fighting Green Aliens
Just kidding. That was just the first thing that came to my mind. Which reminds me: use the first thing that comes to your mind and see where it takes you. Sometimes it’s weird (like the above title), but more often than not, it’s right on the money.
11. Do Research On Something You Love
But DO NOT start with a Google or Wikipedia search. Instead, go directly to a bookstore or a library and just start reading the books that catch your eye and peak your interest. (It’s “Stumble Upon” old school-style. Oh yeahhhh.) You’ll find many amazing ideas by doing this.
12. Follow The Logic of Your Theme
My writing mentor Cherrie Moraga taught me this one:
For instance, if your novel’s theme is “death,” and if you’re looking for a new idea for a plot point, then you might want to have a death in your novel. Or you might have someone contract a disease. Or you might have someone witness a death taking place. (This is an annoyingly obvious example, but you get the point.)
Think about the theme of your story, and follow that theme until you reach its logical conclusion. Then see what new, amazing ideas are generated from this process.
13. Share An Important Lesson A Teacher Or A Mentor Has Taught You
You know, like what I did in #12.
14. Cure Your Writer’s Block…
…by reading this.
Seek inspiration by reading the works of great writers, authors, or bloggers. Their work might spark some fresh new ideas in you.
16. Realize That Your Excuses Are Just A Block (You Really Can Write)
All those things you’re telling yourself like: “I’m sick, I’m tired, I’ve run out ideas, etc.” are really just excuses. You can write. Just becoming aware of the fact alone can really zap your frustration and bring you back to writing.
17. Trash All Ideas That You’re Not IN LOVE With
It is my strong belief that most writers don’t suffer from “writer’s drought” as much as they suffer from “writer’s flood.” Instead of lacking ideas, most writers are inundated with TOO MANY ideas. Some of them bad, some of them good, but most of them are mediocre.
Many people tell writers that they ought to keep all of their ideas in one big pile in their minds and never trash a single one. But this has made the inside of every writer’s head look like a bad episode of Hoarders.
Every writer has really amazing ideas, it’s just that these great ideas are being suffocated with “bad,” “okay,” or “just good” ideas. So hold on to those ideas that you’re madly in love with and then throw out the rest.
18. Listen To Music
One of my most popular articles, “What To Do When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough,” was inspired by a verse of a song I heard. I don’t remember the name of the song, but that doesn’t really matter–I got one amazing idea out of it.
19. Share A Personal Story
Before you do share a personal story, however, make sure that:
A. It’s a story that taught you an important lesson, and:
B. Others will benefit from reading your story
20. Play With A Puppy
You may not know this, but, I am the happy godfather (dogfather?) of two lovely little Chihuahuas. When I play with them, I am reminded that I should really chill out and not take life too seriously. These dogs remind me that unconditional love will keep me going no matter how stalled or frustrated I am in my writing, or in my life.
They can make me immeasurable happy just by lapping my cheek.
21. Review Old Work
If still no new ideas come to you, then I suggest revising and reposting old blog posts in the meantime.
Or, if your novel is the problem, maybe you can review an old short story, or dig up a draft of an old novel that you left a long time ago. Maybe you can find an idea that didn’t work well in those old pieces, but that will find new life in your current novel. You never know, until you start digging.
22. Share Information And Knowledge That You Know Will Be Helpful To Others
I took a class on sleep and dreams in college. I never thought I’d ever use the knowledge I learned in that class for someone other than for myself. But then, one day, I realized that my blog readers would benefit greatly from this knowledge, too.
Hence, my popular post: “Writers and Their Sleep.”
However obscure or random the information is–it doesn’t really matter. People love receiving valuable knowledge that they don’t already have, and that they can’t receive elsewhere.
23. Be You
What would you love to read? Write that.
24. Be Courageous
Go to a place in your writing that you were too afraid to visit yesterday. A place that makes you a bit uncomfortable, but not completely terrified. This is the place you need to visit today.
25. Be Creative
Invent new and amazing ways to come up with new and amazing ideas, then share them with the rest of us.
Just like I did.
much “and hundreds of light bulbs just went off,”
What are your tips for generating new and amazing ideas? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!
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