6 Ways to Never Run Out of Ideas
Guest blogger: Ed Cyzewski (@edcyzewski)
The key to never running out of writing ideas has more to do with overhauling your lifestyle than changing how you write. Most writers have all of the ideas they need. Here are six practices that will help you capture and develop your writing ideas.
1. Cut Out the Noise
This is the hardest and most important suggestion to practice. I used to expend buckets of energy and emotion on national news events because I listened to the news all of the time. My mind used to especially swarm with frustration directed at politicians.
Why did I dedicate so much time and energy to the news? There are more efficient ways to become an informed citizen without fretting for untold hours about the news.
In order to reliably develop ideas, I had to step back from the endless news cycle that sucked up my energy and left my thoughts spinning. Cutting out the noise means I made some changes:
- I rarely listen to the news.
- I restrict my television watching (even hockey…).
- I limit my “radio” listening primarily to podcasts.
- I take walks without headphones.
- I drive in a silent car most days.
That doesn’t mean I coast along in ignorance. I still browse news online and read lots and lots of books. The difference is that I now guard my mental space and emotional energy with the zeal of a Jesuit. If my mind isn’t occupied by the news, I’ll have more mental energy to think about writing.
2. Learn How to Rest
By cutting down on the noise in my life, I’m creating space where I can truly rest. Do you know what it feels like to completely stop? Your creative energy depends on it.
Resting doesn’t mean you need to be completely silent or isolated. Learning how to stop by opting out of the frantic pace of life will teach you to pay attention to what’s going on in your mind. Are you worried about something? Are doubts killing your creativity? You’ll never know unless you stop and give your mind the space it needs (For my Christian friends, this is where prayer comes in!).
3. Learn How to Single-Task
Take a break to garden, start a craft project, play an instrument, bake dessert, or build a simple book shelf. Learn what it feels like to be consumed in a single project.
Once you’ve tasted single-tasking, download Freedom and open one program on your computer so you can write. Better yet, take your journal and a pen to a café or to the front porch to write for two hours. The more you immerse yourself in a project, the more your creativity and ideas will flourish.
4. Jot Down Incomplete Ideas
I know you’re going to jot down good ideas, but write down every other idea that comes to mind as well. Give ideas time to grow. Sometimes they’ll wither after you jot them down, but other times they’ll grow and expand in unexpected ways.
Try this: sit down and write out every idea you can think of in an hour. You’ll have a ton of content to consider. Let that list sit for a week, and then try writing a few posts based on those ideas. If you can give yourself a day or a week before the posts go live, you’ll be able to improve them and even discover fresh ideas in the process.
5. Learn to Thin Writing Ideas
Developing writing ideas requires a balance between believing you can develop tons of great ideas IF you jot down a bunch of ideas that may or may not work. You can write great ideas, but your best ideas will only shine when you learn how to weed out the ideas that don’t have any potential.
6. Write to an Idea
You read that correctly. Sometimes you can’t just write about an idea. The only path to some of your best ideas is through a lot of writing. That means you may need to crank out 1,000 words just find that idea that will become the seed of your chapter. If you want to find a lot of ideas, you sometimes need to write a lot of content that is destined for the recycling bin.
We’re all far more creative than we’ve led ourselves to believe. The problem is our lifestyles and writing habits often prevent us from tapping into our personal idea treasure stores. The good news is that we can change our lives and draw deeply from the riches of our creative reserves.
Have you found any of these strategies to work? What are your methods to keep your writing ideas coming?
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Ed Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology and Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus, as well as the self-published works A Path to Publishing and Divided We Unite. His blog about imperfectly following Jesus is www.inamirrordimly.com, and his writing blog is www.edcyz.com.