Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

by Anne Wayman

Tell someone you’re a writer and they may ask you where you get your ideas. It’s a common question that is asked not only by non-writers, but by beginning writers as well.

Writing Ideas are Everywhere

My experience and my conversations with other writers tells me it’s easy to find creative writing ideas. Ideas are everywhere – the hard part is honing them into something salable.

For instance, the first time I wrote about this was a morning when I got up with no idea at all what I might write about. All I knew was I needed to write an article on freelance writing. A cup of coffee didn’t spark any notions, so I tried some other techniques. 

First I paced around, trying to dream up something. No luck.

Next, I went to our forum and folks were talking about writer’s block. I commented that I got writer’s block when I handled polished an idea enough to be truly clear about it. I realized I hadn’t written about ideas! Soon I was writing the original version of this column.

Time to come up with, or recognize that week’s article? Maybe 15 minutes. (With maybe 20 seconds wondering why I hadn’t thought of this before since ideas are absolutely essential for freelancers.) 

Your Life is Full of Writing Ideas

You need only look at your own life to find ideas. What did you do last night? I went to a business rally. I could write about that and, depending on the slant, offer it to a variety of markets. I could, for example, do a profile the speaker, or one or two of the attendees. Or I could put together a short news piece for the local paper.

On the way home, someone with those new halogen headlights followed me, throwing a nasty reflection in my rear view mirrors. I could write about that, after I decided if I was going to write a personal essay, Op Ed piece, or some sort of well-researched article. There are several writing ideas just from one evening, and I could go on.

Hone the Idea Before You Write

So can you. You’re literally surrounded by ideas if you take time to notice them. The trick is picking which ideas you want to write about and then making sure the topic isn’t so broad you’ll get lost in the writing.

My personal rule is that if I can’t express the purpose of the work in 10 words or less, I need to do more homework. Like this:

    The purpose of this article is to: explore where writers get ideas.

Not All Ideas Are Worth Writing About

Not all ideas are good ones for me (or you). I may eventually do something with the business meeting, but not yet. I need to think about it more and let it ‘yeast.’ It’s too big an idea at the moment; I don’t know what I want to say about it. I don’t have access to the speaker, so an interview with him is out, and I don’t like doing interviews much anyway. Right now, and maybe forever, it’s not a good idea for me. Chances are, however, there was at least one other writer at the meeting who could do a dynamite job writing an article about it.

I really don’t want to write about halogen headlights, unless it’s a rant against them. And a rant would be hard to sell.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve rejected the ideas I’ve come up with in this article. Rejecting ideas is also part of the process. I know there are more ideas out there than I’ll ever consider, let alone write about.

Let your mind burble over with ideas. Don’t reject them until you’ve had time to work with them a bit; you can hold an amazing number of ideas in suspension by writing them down. Some of your ideas will be gems, absolutely perfect for you.

[askanne]

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

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