Writers get asked all the time, “Where do get your ideas?”
Sometimes, this is the cry of an aspiring writer who’s suffering a drought in the idea department. They look at another writer, perhaps a friend or acquaintance, or a writer they admire and wonder where all their great ideas come from.
Some Ideas are Made, Some are Discovered
I wrote last week about the need to create space for your ideas to grow. New ideas often die because our lives are so filled with activity our minds don’t have time to stretch.
But what happens when you give yourself the time to ponder and dream and nothing happens? The truth of the matter is you have to work to figure out what method of idea creation works best for you.
Giving your imagination and creativity space to operate is crucial, but it’s not the only ingredient for the formation of ideas that eventually become stories. Sure, you might get a seed that seems like it could go somewhere, but what do you do with it once you’ve got it?
Some ideas come fully formed, but most have to be shaped, molded, and expanded before they’re worth anything of value.
Try Different Methods Until You Find the Perfect Fit
I’m a pretty tech-savvy guy. I try, as much as my budget will allow, to keep up with the latest hardware and software to foster my writing. I’ve learned, however, that using an old-fashioned spiral notebook and pen is the best method of brainstorming for me. Something about the ruled paper makes me want to fill it up, and ideas flow. I jot down plots, outline novels, create characters, and record research notes in a notebook. I eventually reach critical mass and find I’m ready to start transferring all I’ve created into a Scrivener file. This sounds like making more work for myself, but I’ve learned that I’m able to refine my ideas as I type those notes up.
Here’s some more ideas you could try to help your brainstorming sessions.
- Draw pictures: You don’t have to be an artist, just sketch out something in your head. It could be a rough sketch of a character’s clothing, or perhaps the layout of a room, or a map of some sort.
- Mindmap: There are free and trial versions of mind mapping software available, or just use paper and pencil. Take a seed idea and map out the connections and possibilities. Keep what works and discard the rest, or save them for later.
- Outline: Some writers poo-poo outlining, choosing to be pantsers who prefer to let the story flow. Well, be honest, sometimes that doesn’t work. You can write yourself into a corner. If you’ve got a plot going nowhere, consider outlining.
- Character development: Dream up some characters. They don’t need to be connected to any particular story. Just create some folks and see if their story speaks to you. You may find they’ve lived a life work writing about.
- Use a voice recorder: Get away from the computer and take a walk, talking through your ideas as you go.
The key here is to try new methods until you find one that fits for you. Perhaps you’ll find using a mix of methods works.
If sitting there staring at a white page on you computer screen isn’t working, try something, anything different.
What brainstorming methods would you add to the list? What works for you? Please share in the comments.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.