Where Do Writing Ideas Come From?
Writing Ideas Are Everywhere
Not long ago, someone who who knows I write asked me, "Where do you get your ideas?" It's a common enough question; non-writers seem to think there's a magic formula for developing salable ideas.
Writing ideas are everywhere!
My experience tells me it's easy to find ideas. Ideas are everywhere - the hard part is honing them into something salable.
For instance, when I got up this morning, I had no idea what I would write about - I just knew it was time for me to create another column for this site. A cup of coffee did no good, so I went hunting.
First I looked at the terms that most often bring up this site in my site stats. (I host at 1and1 and they offer detailed stats.) As usual, technical writing, in one form or another, was tops. I don't have anything to say about technical writing this morning.
Next, I went to our forum and someone asked about writers block.
As I was composing a response, my theory that writers block is often a result of not polishing an idea enough floated through my mind and I realized I hadn't written about ideas! Time to come up with, or recognize this week's article? Maybe 10 minutes. (With maybe 20 seconds wondering why I hadn't thought of this before since ideas are absolutely essential for freelancers.)
Writing ideas are part of your life
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.
So can you. The trick is picking which ideas you want to write about and then making sure the topic isn't to broad.
The 10 Word Purpose
My personal rule is that if I can't express the purpose of the work in 10 words, I need to do more homework. Like this:
The purpose of this article is to: explore where writers get ideas.
I use the same formula for books. The purpose of my book, Powerfully Recovered is to: explore how 12 steppers can use the program to get back to life. Sure, neither of those statements are particularly eloquent, but I know what they mean to me and each provides a focus for the work. Your interpretation would be different.
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 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... that's 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.
Freelance writing sounds glamorous, and to the uninitiated, easy. While I love my profession, here are some hard truths I've learned along the way.