Having made the decision to start a writing habit, you might find yourself on occasion staring down a black page asking yourself “what do I write?” I would usually respond with “anything that comes to your mind” and while that remains a valid and positive answer, I find having a basket of ideas you can run through when needs be wouldn’t hurt either.
In this post I would be proposing simple ways to you may source for ideas to write about. Psst… They’re all around you.
- Watching the world go
- Keeping an eye on the media
- Drawing on your experience
- Read Books
- Use your imagination
1. Watching the world go.
Watch how people behave in everyday situations, jotting down ideas in your notebook as they occur to you. The next time you go to the supermarket, for example, observe the behavior of the other customers. Take a few seconds to chat to the checkout girl or the assistant who packs your shopping. Listen not only to the words they say but to how they say them.
If you commute to work, use your journey time to study your fellow travelers. Try to imagine what sort of homes they come from and how they might lead their lives. Whatever situation you find yourself in during your daily life, observe the people around you.
Not only should you watch but you must also listen. Writers are terrible eavesdroppers and will shamelessly listen in on the most private conversations. You can pick up some wonderful snippets that will effortlessly turn themselves into ideas for all sorts of things, from brief letters to your favorite magazine, factual articles explaining the apparently inexplicable, to lengthy works of fiction.
2. Keeping an eye on the media.
Newspapers, television and radio are some of the richest sources of ideas out there. Keep your eyes and ears open for the unusual stories and quirky programs tucked away between the major items. Jot down All kinds of things that capture your imagination.
You may decide to flesh out these ideas with your imagination, fact or ideas from other sources, before you know it ta-da!! You have a complete story.
3. Drawing on your experience.
You can also lean into your personal experiences for ideas to write about, this is usually a good way for you to strike a connection with your readers. Your relationships, both good and bad, from your earliest memories of childhood through your schooldays to adult friendships, romantic attachments or experiences at work; everything can form part of your stories.
Also with regards to writing about your experiences, you can approach it on a flipped perspective. Instead of writing about what happened to you, you may decide to write “what you wished had happened instead”. You know how instead of falling down the stairs horribly, you were magically able to float in the air in the process discovering that you come from a long line of wizards.
Far-fetched? Nope. It’s your pen, your paper and your story. Let you imagination roam free, write what you will.
4. Read Books.
Writers are readers, this may sound cliché but it still holds true even today. Apart from being a source for ideas for your stories, you also get to see what your contemporaries are writing/wrote and analyze how they did it.
When you read have a pen and notebook by your side, you never know when inspiration would strike. Failure to write ideas down can result in you losing them altogether. Committing them to paper helps commit them to memory and stimulate new writing projects.
Read what interest you, what catches your eye, what is news, what is not, fiction, nonfiction, literary novels or specialist articles. Remember you do not need to finish a book to have read it, if it gets boring and feels like work pick up something else. To develop a habit you must first learn to enjoy it, you can’t enjoy it if it bores you.
5. Use your imagination.
Stating this out almost feels unnecessary because for you to pull off any of the previous tips above you would at some point have to fill in gaps with your imagination, which ironically makes this probably the most important tip in this post.
Using your imagination when writing is not something you have to be a genius to pull, to begin doing it, you just need to combine ideas from different sources, chop parts you don’t want and continue repeating this (merge & chop) process until you have something you want.
Also using your imagination doesn’t mean that you have to do all the thinking in your head, as a matter of fact with writing you are better positioned if you do your thinking on paper. Slice and chop your ideas on paper.
Identifying things you want to write is important and the sources above are a wonderful place to start but when you are done with that it is also important to consider how you would set them down on paper.
If you write step by step long descriptive essays of your experiences and/or that of someone else you would only end up getting people bored. People enjoy reading things they can visualize not endlessly detailed ramblings.
Therefore when you source for your ideas remember:
- To observe the way a person talks as much as what they are saying
- The atmosphere and setting of the scene
- When you record what happened to you, record also how it made you feel
- What it sounds like, what it tastes like and not just what it is.
Combine writing visually with observing the world around you, tune in to your imaginations and practice consistently. You’ll be unstoppable.