Are you a fiction writer? Readers who love your work clamor for your next novel, right? And if you’re a copywriter, blogger, or ghostwriter, you make a day’s wage by writing content. Essentially, your world revolves around your ideas and how you put them on the page.
As writers, we’re measured by the ideas we generate and the subsequent words on the page. In fact, if you run out of ideas, it’s like running out of product, a potential nightmare. Readers are fickle—they’ll move on to the next writer who’s producing what they want to read rather than wait for you to come up with something new.
Some people call this writer’s block. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I’ve trained myself to write every time I sit down at my desk. But that doesn’t mean the ideas flow consistently or they’re worth their weight. So can you train yourself to find new ideas all the time?
Calm down—you’re not out of ideas
In fact, you can’t actually run out of ideas. It’s virtually impossible. How do we know this? Because Flannery O’Connor said so. Actually, she said, "Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days." And you can mine that information for ideas "to infinity and beyond."
Let’s take a minute. Writing coach and teacher Carolyn Roark, Ph.D., taught college students how to create calm so they could pick their brains for the best ideas. Inc. Magazine’s article, "How to Clear Your Mind in 15 Minutes" gives you her approach to clear your mind and focus on what’s important.
So calm down. The ideas will come. Let’s see how to find them.
You need to feed your brain plenty of information so it can make the important connections that result in epiphanies. When you have that "Eureka!" moment, your writing is on fire. So you need to cull enough reading material to make sure your brain has the fuel it needs to explode now and then.
How do you do this on a tight schedule? You read while standing in line to check out at the grocery store. You listen to podcasts when you run or work out. You spend an hour before bedtime every night reading something that engrosses you completely. You rake your life for minutes, sometimes seconds, that you can spend reading.
Sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for your appointment? You should be reading. Got 10 minutes before your next meeting? Read an industry article. If you have any commute at all, you should be (a) reading, (b) writing, or (c) both.
Train yourself to see the ideas
Ideas are in front of your every second of every day. You just need to train yourself to recognize them.
Have you ever been in the coffee shop, drinking your latte, when you see a child out on the sidewalk chasing after a puppy? And you suddenly remember when you were a kid how you pined for a dog, but your parents were adamant: "No dogs."
Or maybe you had a dog as a child and wanted one as an adult, but your apartment complex didn’t allow them. This prompted Kate DiCamillo to write Because of Winn-Dixie. She was homesick and wanted a dog, so she used her imagination to go back to her childhood home and get a dog.
It’s that brief flicker of understanding or awareness or realization. Learn how to grasp the thoughts that fly through your mind and see which ones could be fodder for your mill.
Find your clan
Your clan is full of like-minded people who get you. They understand what you struggle with and what you need.
Hop on Facebook and look for writing groups. If you need some suggestions, read our post, "Our Favorite Facebook Groups for Writers." Each of these groups help feed me in different ways. It’s amazing how centered and connected you feel when you’ve found your clan.
If you’re looking for your copywriting clan, there are social media groups for that, too. The key is to skulk around forums, chat rooms, and other places where writers hang out. Find your peeps and connect.
Everything is writing material
You can turn virtually everything in your life into a story or a blog post. Or use it as the impetus for content of some sort. All you need is to learn how to cultivate life experiences and use them. The best way is to start a journal.
There are plenty of blog posts on why you should journal every day, so we won’t go there. But the benefits are real. Beyond blog posts or content though, your fiction writing is all about revealing secrets. Why else are you writing if not to spill your guts about something?
Change the names to protect the innocent, but everything in life is writing material. Lady in the check out lane at the grocery store cut in front of you? She’s the first victim in your fiction crime thriller novel where the psychopath killer only targets women who feel entitled to diss others. Seriously, make a statement.
Copyblogger has an excellent article, "How to Find More Content Ideas than You’ll Ever be Able to Create," which you should read if you’re a copywriter. And if you’re writing fiction, sign up for a daily writing prompt to help you keep plugging away. (There are plenty of blog posts about writing prompts; Google it.)
Regardless, know you can’t run out of ideas because of that big, beautiful brain of yours. You have what it takes to create amazing fiction or non-fiction. You can depend on it. Now get writing.