Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

in Getting Started & Getting It Done

writers-inkI don’t know how many times I’ve been asked: Where do you get your ideas?

The question is often followed by some sort of story or statement about how the questioner would love to write but they don’t know what to write about.

Ideas Are Everywhere!

My experience tells me it’s easy to find ideas. Other writing pros tell me the same thing. Ideas are everywhere – the hard part is honing them into something salable.

Here’s what I mean about ideas are everywhere:

Yesterday I went to my grandson’s piano concert – it was gawdawful. Oh Ben, my grandson,  did well and so did a couple of the other kids, but most of them are horrid on the piano. They don’t have any rhythm; they don’t know one note from another. It was torture!

I could use the experience and write about it. I could, for example, write about how damaging it is to kids to make them play for an audience when they can’t play well, or I could write how awful it is for parents and grandparents. Or I could write about the lack of music in schools, etc. etc. etc. I suspect there’s a market for each idea.


Today my schedule has gotten all bollixed up because of the same grandson’s graduation from middle school. We didn’t even have middle school when I was his age, let alone any graduation other than high school. I’m sure I could do something for the weekly newspaper in his neighborhood, or even in mine.

Okay, you don’t like those? Neither do I much. How about:

  • Learning to compost.
  • Pruning roses.
  • Learning to cook mostly vegetarian.
  • Deciding I’m not a vegetarian after all.
  • Looking for a new used car – I’ve actually sold this one once so far.
  • Changing banks. I think I know where to sell this one.

All these are things going on in my life right now and anyone of them or even all of them could be turned into at least one article. I won’t use them all – I’m not an expert on roses or on any type of cooking. It doesn’t matter – the point is the ideas are there.

And anyone of these ideas could, with the right attitude and research, be turned into a booklet or book.

The 10 Word Purpose

As many of you know, I believe almost every piece of writing, from articles to books should have a 10 word or less purpose. The purpose for this article, for example is to:

explore where writers get ideas

Yep, a mere five words, but it can keep me on course when I stray into who knows what. You might want to read: Every Writing Project Needs a Purpose Statement.

Don’t Censor Ideas

Years ago I gave myself permission to keep having ideas. Of course not all of them are good ones. I may not want to write about every topic my mind presents me. But I want those ideas to keep flowing so I can pick out the ones I want to 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.

Where do you get your ideas?

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

SpikeTheLobster June 18, 2009 at 10:38 am

Didn’t want to post tons of info on your comments, Anne – would’ve been somewhat invasive of me!

CC’s very good. Some folks use it as a major source of income. Write what you like, post it up and – unlike article directories – get buyers. It’s especially good if you do PLR (i.e. not retaining any copyright) – those items can sell for $100 a shot if you’re good (more if you have reputation). No residual income, but it’s a nice marketplace and VERY well run. Only problem people ever has is meeting the editing guidelines.
.-= SpikeTheLobster´s last blog ..Rules Of Life =-.

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Nancy June 17, 2009 at 8:26 am

Thanks, Spike,

I’ll look at it!
.-= Nancy´s last blog ..Inexpensive and Fun Party =-.

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SpikeTheLobster June 17, 2009 at 5:23 am

Nancy: No, CC isn’t an article directory. It’s more a sort of “article supermarket”. You post the content into their system following their editing rules, which include no first-person stuff. That might save you a lot of time and trouble if the work’s like that (they’ll reject it). If it’s fine, it sits on the system and people can buy usage rights (at the price you set) – there are three or four levels of rights purchase (usage, unique, full, PLR if I remember correctly).

I tend to put anything non-exclusive on there with “usage” rights, at a fairly low price. It’s brought in a bit of extra income from time to time, though the “unique” and “full” rights work is generally more popular.
.-= SpikeTheLobster´s last blog ..Comment Spam =-.

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Anne June 18, 2009 at 10:20 am

Spike, good info here… I didn’t know that about CC

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Nancy June 16, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Anne, even 2 years ago when I’d been giving them the column for free for two years and asked the editor if they could pay even a little – she said they couldn’t – and she has always told me they get tons of comments about how much people love reading the column.

Spike – I don’t know what Constant Content is – is it like Helium and Assoicated Content?

Thank you, both, for your replies.
.-= Nancy´s last blog ..Inexpensive and Fun Party =-.

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SpikeTheLobster June 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Nancy: If you own copyright, you can put them up on Constant Content with ‘usage’ rights (i.e. non-unique). That might bring in some money and interest. Just a thought.
.-= SpikeTheLobster´s last blog ..Comment Spam =-.

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Edna June 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm

As a writer I do generate lots of ideas, but like Ed said the challenge comes in processing the idea and finding the right angle. I get ideas from many places: my horses, the barn I ride at, the outdoors, my dog. My partner can spin ideas quicker then I can write them down and loves to be asked about topics I get stuck on. When I feel flat and uncreative I switch to a fiction piece I’m working on and that helps get my mind back in the flow again, if only for a short time.
.-= Edna´s last blog ..Visit Power Properties Dallas in Dallas,Texas =-.

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Nancy June 16, 2009 at 1:31 pm

I’ve been writing about my college age daughter, monthly, since she went away to college. She graduated last month. I’ve done the articles for free for a weekly paper and get LOTS of comments from people. Either just how much they enjoy them, or how they connected with one of the articles.

I’ve sent samples of them to places hoping to syndicate or at least get a wider audience. No luck.

Baby Boomer Magazine (online – http://www.babyboomer-magazine.com/news/140/ARTICLE/1262/2008-04-10.html) has started printing them in order (and has the first 23 or 24 on his site) but he is also not paying.

Any ideas?
.-= Nancy´s last blog ..Inexpensive and Fun Party =-.

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Anne June 16, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Samples where they can be seen is a start – it can take so very long to really get started. How about your local weekly? Would they pay something?

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kahtleen June 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I would have to agree with Ed… “how do writers pick the best ideas.”
So many ideas, so little time.
If I could tape record my mind I would be having more success. You see I ride a motorcycle and currently I am not riding with music playing in my ears… thus my mind runs amuck and spins some great tales.
My inspiration comes from my environment, as it does for many of us. When I lived on a horse farm I often wrote about the horses. Now that I ride steel horses my mind wanders to writing about the colorful folks and roadways.

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Ed June 16, 2009 at 10:33 am

The question should not be where do writers get ideas, but how do writers pick the best ideas. Story ideas are everywhere. The best potential writers are sponges, reading, watching and observing everything – in other words, nosey. However, to move from potential to actual, writers need a key ingredient: the ability to process that information. That ability is what enables us to look at a chair leg and think about the deforestation of the Amazon, the next trend in furniture, the obesity problem from sitting too much, the export of furniture-making jobs and so on. Without the ability to convert those ideas into stories, writers are simply annoying know-it-alls. ;)
.-= Ed´s last blog ..Chicago Sun-Times Files For Chapter 11 =-.

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Anne June 16, 2009 at 11:42 am

Absolutely! In fact when someone asks me where writers get their idea I know darn well they are not a writer, or if they are, they are just beginning.

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Lori June 16, 2009 at 10:17 am

FYI, http://www.vegetariantimes.com. Makes the cooking much easier and the recipes are incredible. Also, 1001 Low-fat Vegetarian Recipes is also excellent, as is Veganomicon.

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Anne June 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Thanks Lori. I don’t know about others, but I’m eating lower on the food chain all the time.

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Lori June 16, 2009 at 10:15 am

This one is such an annoying question. It’s annoying because it’s so hard to answer. But I’ve found that asking the question back incites some interesting conversation. “I don’t know – where would you get your ideas if you were writing?” It’s not a put-down question or one meant to insult – I really want to hear how someone else defines the genesis of the idea. Maybe I can learn something!

I can answer only to my current projects. As you said, ideas are everywhere. Where one particular one comes from is in a different universe than another one would be.

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Anne June 16, 2009 at 12:08 pm

In truth, I’m not asked this as often as I once was – maybe I’ve got a scowl on my face or something ;)

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SpikeTheLobster June 15, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Hi Anne. I’m one of the luckiest men alive, as I get most of my ideas from my muse – who is the lady with whom I share my life. I just sit and talk to her for about a minute and she batters me with inspiration (not batter like the stuff you cook, that’d be somewhat messy). She’s brilliant.

If I’m stuck and she’s not around, there are dozens of sites out there with writing prompts – visual, photographic or word-based. A quick Google will turn up several that will get things rolling!

P.S. Composting is surprisingly technical, isn’t it?!
.-= SpikeTheLobster´s last blog ..One Easy Way To Make Your Blog Better =-.

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Anne June 16, 2009 at 12:09 pm

lol, I live with only my cat, MzTiz – and once in a while I do get an idea from her ;)

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