Over the years, I’ve used various systems for organizing and storing my writing ideas.
Of course, I keep notebooks and journals, which are great for keeping track of my own ideas and not so great for storing ideas I collect out in the world–materials culled from blogs, magazines, websites, and other mediums.
I’ve created folders on my hard drive for storing images I find online. I’ve had manila envelopes for stashing articles and images cut out of magazines and newspapers. Folders, boxes, scrapbooks… it all gets pretty messy and disorganized.
I’ve always wanted a way to keep everything in one medium (preferably electronic) and in one location. Pinterest has made that possible.
Wikipedia describes Pinterest as “a pinboard-style photo-sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, and hobbies. Users can browse other pinboards for images, ‘re-pin’ images to their own pinboards, or ‘like’ photos.”
There’s more to it though, because you can also keep track of links with Pinterest. If you find an image on a website, you can attach the link to the image and pin them both together. So not only can you save images, you can also maintain links back to the source. If you use the Pinterest plugin on your browser, which I highly recommend, you can simplify the pinning process and the link to the source website will automatically attach to the images you pin. This allows Pinterest to function like a visual bookmarking tool.
But you can also upload your own images and scour Pinterest to discover images that you can repin to your boards. I’ve used Pinterest to save everything imaginable, from articles and recipes to writing ideas and inspiration.
Tips for Using Pinterest to Collect, Organize, and Store Writing Ideas
Pinterest has many uses; for example, recipe boards are all the rage. The site is rampant with fashion, home improvement, and various other mainstream and pop culture interests. But writers and other creatives have found innovative ways to use Pinterest. Here are a few tips for using Pinterest to gather, organize, and store your writing ideas:
- Start with writing-related boards: collect writing tips, resources, quotes on writing (for insight and inspiration), or articles on the business of writing. Make separate boards for different writing-related topics or stash them all in a single board.
- Round up your favorite books and authors: if you’re a writer, then you’ve probably been influenced by your favorite books and authors. Be an advocate for other writers by supporting and promoting them on Pinterest.
- Make an inspiration board: you can post images of people, places and things that inspire you.
- Character, plot, and setting boards: I see a lot of these from writers who are developing a work in progress and from authors who are published. Images are a great way to build a story and helpful for when you need to write descriptions.
- Create a prompts board: fill it with images that spark your creativity and make you want to write; this one is ideal for poets and fiction writers alike!
How Are You Using Pinterest?
Writing Forward has a Pinterest page, where you’ll find lots of creative writing ideas. I also recently wrote a post over at The Creative Penn about using Pinterest as a marketing tool for writers and bloggers. I hope you’ll check that out (and while you’re there, be sure to peruse the rest of Joanna’s site; it’s packed with excellent information about the business side of writing).
Do you have a Pinterest account? Do you use it for rounding up writing ideas? Share the link to your boards and if you have any ideas to add about how writers can use Pinterest for inspiration, please do share them in the comments.
A lot of artists struggle with originality. Of course we all want to be original, but is it possible? Is there anything new under the sun?
Some say there are no new stories, just remixed and rehashed versions of stories we’re all familiar with. Often, when someone calls a piece of work original, a close examination reveals its roots in creative works that preceded it.
Most of us writers have had ideas that we shunned because we thought they were too similar to other stories. But just because your story idea is similar to another story, perhaps a famous one, should you give up on it?
Writing ideas come and go. If it’s true that originality is nothing more than putting together old writing ideas in new ways, then instead of giving up on a project that you think has been done before, you can simply make it your own.
A Little Guessing Game
Look at this way: everything already exists. The ideas, plots, characters — they’re already out there in someone else’s story. Originality isn’t a matter of coming up with something new, it’s a matter of using your imagination to take old concepts and put them together in new ways.
To test this theory, see if you can guess the following famous story:
A young orphan who is being raised by his aunt and uncle receives a mysterious message from a stranger, which leads him on a series of great adventures. Early on, he must receive training to learn skills that are seemingly superhuman. Along the way he befriends loyal helpers, specifically a guy and a gal who end up falling for each other. Our young hero is also helped by a number of non-human creatures. His adventures lead him to a dark and evil villain who is terrorizing everyone and everything that our hero knows and loves — the same villain who killed his parents.
If you guessed that this synopsis outlines Harry Potter, then you guessed right. But if you guessed that it was Star Wars, you’re also right.
This shows how two stories that are extremely different from one another can share many similarities, including the basic plot structure and character relationships, and it proves that writing ideas will manifest in different ways when executed by two different writers. As a creative writing exercise, take the story above and write your own piece, and it will turn out to be pretty unique even though two of the most famous tales from the last few decades are based on the same ideas.
Recycled Writing Ideas
I’m not advocating for writers to go out and dissect popular stories and then rewrite them with a new twist (although that’s not a bad idea). What I am advocating is seeing writing ideas through instead of casting them aside because they have something in common with a story you’ve read or seen on film or television.
Creative writing is about discovery, imagination, and sharing your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with readers. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had several writing ideas that seemed brilliant at first but later just seemed like a retelling of some old story that everyone already knew.
But lately I’ve been seeing stories in a new light. When I read a great novel or watch a mesmerizing movie, I often realize upon reflection that these works have common elements with lots of other stories. I don’t know if J.K. Rowling ever realized that Harry Potter had so much in common with Luke Skywalker. Whether she did or not, the lesson we can all take away is that she forged ahead and believed in the story that she wanted to tell.
So I’ve come to realize that creativity isn’t always coming up with something new; often, it’s simply finding new connections, perspectives, and combinations of elements. Letting go of your ideals regarding originality and reshaping them with this new understanding will send you soaring into less inhibited and better writing experiences.
Do you ever discard writing ideas that you feel have been done before? Do you find yourself on a constant quest for a story that is new and original? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment.
Journal writing is most definitely an art, but how often do we actively use art in our journals?
We writers are passionate about our journals and notebooks, those sacred spaces where some of our best ideas manifest.
So it makes sense to rig our journals so that they inspire us as much as possible. And what’s more inspiring than art?
Let’s look at some ways we can fuse art with journal writing in order to cultivate inspiration and creativity.
The Art Journal
Artists keep journals just like writers do. But instead of filling their journals with words, artists fill them with images — sketches and paintings. Like writers, artists fill their journal pages with ideas, and they treasure their journals as sacred creative spaces.
What happens when we fuse art and words together, when an image is accompanied by a few lines of text or when a paragraph is accented with an illustration?
Words and images complement each other. And since writing is an art, writing and art can live side by side in your journal, coming together to keep you inspired and motivated.
Fusing Art and Words for More Creative Journal Writing
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So why write a thousand words when you can say it with an image? Save the words for whatever can’t be said with a picture or use words to expand on what an image represents. Next time you sit with your journal, experiment with art and illustration.
Here are some ideas for merging art with your journal writing:
- When words won’t come, doodle in your journal instead. You don’t have to be a trained or skilled artist to draw symbols and stick figures.
- Use your journal to sketch pictures of your fictional characters. Again, they can be stick figures. Use colored pencils to shade in their hair, eyes, etc.
- Start collecting images that inspire you. Pick up postcards that capture your imagination and clip images from magazines, and then paste them into your journal. Use them as prompts and write about what you see.
- Practice writing descriptions. Tape an image in your journal, then write a full-page description. Does the description you wrote render the image in the reader’s mind? Imagery is an important element in writing, and crafting descriptions will help you hone your imagery skills.
- Mix journal writing and art within the pages of your notebook. Draw a little, write a little. Let the words run over the pictures and vice versa. Use light-colored markers to create big, bold shapes and then fill the shapes with words.
You can add more art to your journal, too. Jot down your favorite song lyrics. Describe a favorite piece of music. Include your favorite photography. Allow all of the arts to come together by merging journal writing with other creative forms of expression.
And don’t worry about artistry, except when it comes to words. Lots of writers enjoy other arts, but it’s impossible to master them all. Stay focused on writing if that’s your greatest strength, but allow yourself to explore the full potential of your creativity.
Do you have any journal writing tips? Got any writing ideas to add or experiences to share? Leave a comment, and keep writing!
We look high. We look low. Sometimes it feels like we’ve been looking forever and will keep on looking forever more.
They are out there and we know it. But where are they hiding? Why do they keep escaping us? How can we catch them?
Writing ideas are not always easy to come by. Most ideas get tossed aside because they’re not original or interesting enough. So we constantly search for ideas that will capture our imaginations and keep us happily tapping away on our keyboards.
Not every writer is on this quest. Some writers are overwhelmed with inspiration and can’t find enough time to realize every brilliant idea. The rest of us are always on the lookout for exciting writing ideas to add to our inspiration archives.
Writing Ideas are in Your Hands
They’re actually all around you. Just by living on this earth, you are surrounded by air and water and writing ideas. Isn’t it funny how sometimes we don’t see what’s right under our noses?
Creative writing is a funny thing. If you look too hard for writing ideas, they’ll elude you. But if you go about your business with an open mind, they’ll suddenly start turning up everywhere.
The list below is nothing new. Just some reminders that in your everyday life, there are endless streams of sources from which you can draw inspiration. After you read the list, go about your business and try to forget about coming up with new writing ideas.
This is Where They’re Hiding
- In your journal or notebook: How often do you go through and look at all the notes and ideas you’ve jotted down?
- In your diary: You may not want to write your memoir or biography, but you might find some bits of dialogue or ideas for character traits buried in your diaries.
- Family: Who do you know better than your own family? They make great models and character launching pads.
- Friends: Everyone has a friend or two who have had some wild experiences. Borrow those experiences and give them to your characters.
- Coworkers: Some people don’t like to get too close to their coworkers, and that’s alright. You have just enough exposure to them to write a character sketch, and there’s just enough mystery that your imagination can fill in the blanks.
- Neighbors: Why is their garage light always on? What’s in that enormous shed in their backyard? And who’s that weird looking visitor who’s always stopping by? You watch them and wonder about them. Now make up their story and write it down.
- Nature: You’re on a walk and pick up a pretty leaf or unusual rock and stare at it. Instead of taking it home and putting it on a shelf, start asking yourself some “what if” questions. Like, what if this isn’t a rock, but a planet? Or what if this leaf is sentient?
- Space: Lie under a starry night sky and how can you not get all filled up with writing ideas? What’s out there? Who’s out there? How far does it go?
- Books and movies: We’ve all read books and seen movies that were clearly spawned from other, more original books and movies. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great writing ideas in them. What if the character had made a different turn at the beginning of the film? What if the novel had a similar plot but a completely different cast of characters?
- Music and poetry: Don’t ask me how this works or why. Just know that it does. Reading poetry and listening to music can relax your mind and open it to countless creative possibilities.
- Writing exercises: That’s what they’re for – generating writing ideas. You can buy books of them, search them out online, or get them right here at Writing Forward.
- Dreams: Before you fall asleep, ask your dreaming self to come up with some new writing ideas. Get some books on dreams (lucid dreaming, for example) and before you know it, your dreams will become your reality and you will be writing like mad.
Where Do You Get Your Writing Ideas?
Do you have any favorite places where you look for writing ideas? When you’re stuck with plot or character or can’t come up with the last line of your latest poem, how do you resolve your creative block?
These days, we writers use computers for most of our writing. But a lot of us admit there’s still something about good old-fashioned pen and paper that really gets creativity flowing.
It’s difficult to brainstorm on a computer or jot down notes and random thoughts, and it’s impossible to doodle in the margins (unless you have some extra fancy equipment). So for journal writing, note-taking, and brainstorming sessions, I like to do it old school.
Over the years, I’ve collected hordes of journals and notebooks. Some of them are pretty and whimsical. Others are simple and functional. I always go through lots of spiral notebooks for business note-taking, but when it comes to journal writing and creative brainstorming, I have learned (the hard way) that I have pretty basic but specific needs that my journal must fulfill.
Journal Writing Needs
What we need from a notebook depends on how we use it. If it gets carried around, dropped, and spilled on, then it needs to be robust. If we like to draw or sketch, then it’s better if the paper is unlined. Some notebooks are throwaways but sometimes we want to create something that lasts.
I use several notebooks that are throwaways. These are primarily for planning, outlining and taking business-related notes. When they’re filled up, I pull out the pages I want to keep, stash them in a binder, and recycle the rest. However, I keep journals for writing poetry, developing ideas, and recording my thoughts. These journals are keepers, not throwaways.
I need a hardbound journal so it can withstand lots of use. It can’t be too big or too small. Something in the 5×8 inch range is just right. The paper must be archival quality because there’s less yellowing and tearing with higher quality paper. Most importantly, the pages have to be unlined. I like to doodle and draw when the mood strikes. Occasionally, I write sideways, upside down, or even in circles (a technique for breaking through writer’s block). They can also handle markers, which I use often in brainstorming.
Sure, I can brainstorm and mind-map right over a line-ruled page, but why should I? Those lines are inhibiting and I need creative freedom.
The best thing about the Watson-Guptill (and other unlined, hardbound sketchbooks) is that if you are an artist and a writer or someone who likes to paste photos or clippings into your journals, they’re perfect because the pages are thick and unlined.
The Watson-Guptill sketchbooks come in several different colors including red, black, green, and purple. I’ve got one in every color! They are 5.5 by 8.5 inches and contain archival-quality blank, unlined paper. You can also get a larger size (about 8×10 inch) and landscape-oriented editions.
I find that when I work in these books, writing ideas flow effortlessly. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the hardcover (it feels so much like a real book). Maybe it’s the potential in all that white space. All I know is that I start feeling creative just by looking at one of them!
What Are Your Favorite Journal Writing Tools?
So there is only one journal for me: the Watson-Guptill Sketchbook. And the more I use these sketchbooks for my journal writing, the more I love them.
I know that writers love to rave about Moleskines. My confession for today is that although I have one, I haven’t used it yet (although I’m looking forward to trying it). When the right project comes along, I’ll break it out and do a little comparative analysis.
What’s your favorite type of notebook for journal writing? Do you find that your writing tools (pens, notebooks, etc.) spark or inhibit the flow of creativity and writing ideas? Do you keep separate notebooks for planning, note-taking, and different types of writing?
There’s something mysterious and magical about dreams. In the dreamworld, anything is possible. Our deepest desires and greatest fears come to life. Whether they haunt or beguile, our dreams represent the far reaches of our imaginations.
Journals can have similar qualities of mystery and intrigue. If your journal is full of freewrites, doodles, cryptic notes, and random ideas, then it might read like a road map through your imagination or it may feel like a crash course through your subconscious.
Journal writing is a great tool for dream exploration, and dreams are an excellent source of inspiration for writing ideas.
You can tap into your daydreams or your sleeping dreams as a way to inform and inspire your journal writing:
- Record your dreams so you can better understand them.
- Capture the images in your dreams and turn them into poems and song lyrics.
- Transform monsters from your nightmares into creepy villains for your short stories or novels.
Sleep, Dreams, and Journal Writing Ideas
Dreams have been a subject of great interest in the fields of neurology, psychology, and spirituality, to name a few. Yet we still know relatively little about the nature of dreams. Where do they come from? What do they mean? In one dream, you’re working out problems from your subconscious, and in the next, you’re a character from your favorite TV show. The white rabbit in your dream symbolizes a call to adventure but the white rabbit in your best friend’s dream represents fertility.
According to Wikipedia:
Dreams are a succession of images, sounds or emotions that pass through the mind during sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not fully understood, though they have been a topic of speculation and interest throughout recorded history. The scientific study of dreams is known as oneirology.
Like I said, we know relatively little about dreams. But that doesn’t mean we can’t put them to good use. Throughout history, dreams have often acted as catalysts for artists, writers, musicians, and inventors. Here are a few famous literary works that were affected or derived from authors’ dreams:
- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein;
- Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde;
- Stephen King’s Misery;
Keeping a Dream Journal
There are many ways you can use dreams in your journal writing. The most obvious is to keep a dream journal. Just keep your journal by your bed and jot down your dreams as soon as you wake, before you even get out of bed (otherwise you risk losing or forgetting the dream). It only takes a few minutes.
You can also jot down a few notes and later use your dream as the foundation for a piece of writing. Your dreams can provide you with characters, scenes, imagery, and even plot ideas.
Journal Writing with Daydreams
Let’s dive right in to what Wikipedia has to say about daydreams:
While daydreaming has long been derided as a lazy, non-productive pastime, it is now commonly acknowledged that daydreaming can be constructive in some contexts. There are numerous examples of people in creative or artistic careers, such as composers, novelists and filmmakers, developing new ideas through daydreaming.
The imagination is a bizarre and wondrous thing. Humans have the capacity to conjure up incredible things, but contrary to popular opinion, using one’s imagination requires time and energy. It might look like you’re sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing. But who knows? You could be plotting the next Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
In some ways, daydreams are a better source of inspiration for journal writing than nighttime dreams. Since you’re awake, you can take breaks from your daydreams to jot down notes. You’re also more likely to retain a daydream because you are awake for it. Many people have a hard time remembering the dreams that they slept through.
Dream Your Next Piece of Writing
Dreams are borne of human consciousness and imagination, which provide an endless stream of writing ideas and inspiration that can inform your journaling sessions. Your journal can function as a repository for all of these visions, and you can revisit your journal as an incredible idea warehouse anytime for any type of writing project.
Below are some links you can follow to learn more about dreams:
- Twelve Famous Dreams
- UC Berkeley has made an entire course on the Psychology of Dreams available online (audio format).
- Do you have a hard time remembering your dreams? Try a few techniques for better dream recall.
Do you ever write down your dreams? Have you ever kept a dream journal? Has a dream (daydream or night-dream) ever provided inspiration for your writing? Is journal writing a habit for you? How often do you write in your journal and how do you use it with your other writing projects?
Writer’s block is probably the most frustrating experience any writer faces. You feel creative and you want to create, but you’re just not inspired. You need writing ideas.
It happens to most artists from time to time, this disconnect from the muse. Yet there are creative people who seem to have overcome artistic roadblocks — authors who publish one or two novels a year, filmmakers who produce annual blockbusters, and singers who are on the top-ten list week after week. How do they do it? Have they tapped into a secret, endless stream of inspiration?
How can you tap into that stream?
I always say look to the source. When I see successful artists and innovators who are consistently producing creative work, I find myself wanting to learn more about where they get all their great ideas.
The Keepers of Writing Ideas
It makes sense that as a writer, you would look first to other writers to find out what inspires them. So go ahead and do that. Read biographies of your favorite authors and listen to interviews with writers to see where some of the best ideas came from (there are excellent writer interviews on podcasts such as The Writing Show and Writers on Writing). If you look hard enough (or listen closely enough), these writers will explain where they get their best writing ideas.
But don’t limit yourself to writers. Inspiration is similar across all of the arts. So check in with folks from other disciplines too. And don’t limit yourself to only those artists whose work you enjoy and appreciate. You might find that a movie director whose films you don’t care for has a creativity technique that works perfectly for you.
I recently heard a musician talking about inspiration and he said it was like the music came through him rather than to him. He explained that his source is unknown and outside of himself. Other artists will talk about “the zone,” a state of mind in which concentration and focus are absolute and intense. In this zen-like state, creativity can reach an all-time high. In fact, in this state, creativity is the high.
The Idea Zone
How do artists get into the zone? Some meditate, others use rituals, which might include praying, dancing, or listening to music. There are countless ways to get into the zone. At times, you might find yourself slipping into it by sheer coincidence or by accident.
There does seem to be this space that all creative people share. It’s not a physical place that you can visit, but it’s a place in our minds (though some believe it’s outside of ourselves, and that certainly is worth contemplating).
The point is that by stretching your own boundaries and reaching out to other people who possess creative passion, you can find new ways to keep creativity flowing. The writing community is one you should belong to, as a writer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage with other types of creative people. Nothing is more valuable than the exchange of ideas and knowledge, and you never know — the next street musician you meet might have a little bit of wisdom that will open doors to a whole new world of writing ideas for you.
Do you ever exchange creative writing ideas with other writers? What about other artists who are not writers? How often do you think about the source of your creativity? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment.
Do writing ideas just fall out of the sky? Is it reasonable to sit around waiting for a great idea to land on your lap, so you can write the next big bestseller?
I don’t think so.
When it comes to developing worthwhile writing ideas, it’s either feast or famine for most of us. Some writers have so many ideas, we can’t decide which one to pursue. Other writers struggle to find something worth writing about; they don’t have enough ideas.
And even if you have a compelling idea, the idea itself might not sustain a story or a poem. It’s not enough to have a premise: you need characters, settings, plots, subplots, and themes.
When writers are at a loss for ideas, they often self-diagnose with writer’s block. I believe that’s a misdiagnosis. People struggling with writer’s block aren’t at a loss for ideas. Many are merely dismissing their own good ideas (often because they aren’t perceived as original enough) or they don’t want to put a lot of effort into looking for ideas. I also think that poor health or stress sometimes are misread as writer’s block, in which case the only cure is to take better care of oneself.
However, for the rest of us who are struggling to find the right ideas, there’s no shortage of sources we can turn to for inspiration. Why not start at the top? Why not find out where some of the most successful authors have gotten their brilliant ideas? If that doesn’t inspire us, I don’t know what will.
No Imagination Necessary
First, let us dispel the myth that if you want to be a writer, you must have a vivid imagination. Plenty of writers have found success by being simple observers.
Mark Twain is a shining example. His idea for Huckleberry Finn wasn’t an idea at all; he simply based the character on someone he knew from real life. It turns out that the beloved character was practically a replica of Twain’s childhood friend, Tom Blankenship:
“In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us.” – Mark Twain
Have you ever known someone with a standout personality? Such a person can influence your work in the same way that Tom Blankenship influenced Mark Twain.
Political, Religious, and Social Commentary
Of course, Mark Twain is not the only author to successfully draw from real life. During the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of people migrated from the Dust Bowl to California and other western states. John Steinbeck (one of my literary heroes) told their story in The Grapes of Wrath, which was developed from a series of articles that ran in the San Francisco News in 1936.
But it was more than a story about people struggling with poverty in a downtrodden economic climate:
“I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects].” – John Steinbeck
Steinbeck’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel is a thoughtful commentary on social injustice and the forces behind poverty and oppression.
In today’s world, which is rampant with political, religious, and sociological commentary, one need not look far for writing ideas. If you can find an issue that matters to you, just look to the news and documentaries for true stories that you can use to tell a story that expresses your thoughts.
Dreaming Things Up
Creative people from all walks of life from artists to inventors have found answers and ideas within the magical world of dreams. One of the most successful living authors of our time, Stephen King, attributes a dream as the inspiration for Misery, a novel that was also made into a film and off-Broadway play:
“Like the ideas for some of my other novels, that came to me in a dream… I fell asleep on the plane, and dreamt about a woman who held a writer prisoner and killed him, skinned him, fed the remains to her pig and bound his novel in human skin. His skin, the writer’s skin. I said to myself, ‘I have to write this story.’ Of course, the plot changed quite a bit in the telling. But I wrote the first forty or fifty pages right on the landing here, between the ground floor and the first floor of the hotel.”- Stephen King
Unfortunately, many of us don’t remember our dreams, and if we do, they’re hazy at best. Luckily, there are some proven techniques to help us learn how to remember our dreams. Try a few of them and see if you can’t get your next big writing idea while you’re sound asleep.
Suzanne Collins broke the mold with Hunger Games, arguably the most successful post-Harry Potter series to date. The books captured the hearts and minds of untold millions of young adult readers and the films turned the story into a cultural phenomenon. So how did she do it? Where did Collins get the idea for a dystopian, young adult novel set in a future where citizens are required to tune in to an annual reality show so they can watch teenagers fight to the death in an oversized arena?
“One night, I was lying in bed and I was very tired, and I was just sort of channel surfing on television. And, I was going through, flipping through images of reality television where there were these young people competing for a million dollars or a bachelor or whatever. And then I was flipping and I was seeing footage from the Iraq War. And these two things began to sort of fuse together in a very unsettling way, and that is when I, really, I think was the moment where I really got the idea for Katniss’s story.” – Suzanne Collins
Look at the world around you. There are unimaginable things happening everywhere. Some are horrific; others are touching or endearing. What connections can you make in the world today to prompt yourself to imagine what the world will be like tomorrow?
No Excuses! Writing Ideas Are Everywhere
So much for writer’s block — and so much for imagination. We writers need only be influenced and inspired by the world (and the people) around us.
“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” – Neil Gaiman
You know what that means: no more excuses! You’re a writer, so go out there, find your writing ideas, and then write. Write your hearts out.
In honor of the forthcoming holidays, here’s a post on using gratitude to come up with writing ideas.
You might call your journal a notebook or diary. It’s the handy place where you store your thoughts, ideas, experiences, and your work, either on paper or in an electronic file.
A journal is an ongoing log, usually with dated entries. Some journals are topical (dream journals, travel journals, freewriting journals), while others are left open to explore just about anything.
Many topical journals are meant to improve the quality of life. For example, people who are working to lose weight might keep a diet and exercise journal. Folks who are trying to better themselves might keep a self-improvement journal. Parents may keep a journal of their children’s development. But there’s another type of journal that suits just about anyone, writers and non-writers alike, and that is the appreciation journal.
Journal Writing and Gratitude
Where do you get your journal writing ideas? Do you ever sit down to write in your journal and find that you don’t have anything to say? When you practice daily gratitude, you’ll always have something to write about.
There are a couple of ways to use gratitude to inspire journal writing ideas:
- Every morning, spend 15 minutes writing about one thing you’re grateful for.
- Every night, write a short list of things that happened throughout the day that you’re thankful for.
Don’t limit yourself to writing about big, momentous things. Be grateful for the little things, too. You can even dedicate a notebook for your daily gratitudes.
Over time, you’ll find that you have a lot to appreciate. You may also notice people around you who are ether appreciative or unappreciative. These observations can inform your fiction and poetry writing and will certainly influence your work if you write memoirs or personal essays. For example, a gracious neighbor could inspire a character for your novel, just as an ungrateful co-worker could inspire a villain in one of your stories. The people and things that you appreciate could become the subjects of poems and essays.
Benefits of Gratitude
While exploring your own gratitude can provide you with plenty of writing ideas, there are other benefits as well. Here are five reasons why documenting what you’re grateful for can be beneficial:
- A great way to start your day. It’s not always easy to roll out of bed and propel yourself into your daily routine. Some days it’s downright dreadful, like when you know you have to attend a long, boring meeting, take a test, or see the doctor. If you write in your appreciation journal in the A.M., it will jump-start your day on a positive note and a day that starts off good is less likely to turn sour.
- Good for the soul. The process of thinking about what you are grateful for and expressing your gratitude just makes you feel good. This could be contagious, and other people around you might absorb some of that positive energy. This makes life better for everyone.
- Promote positive thinking. Because the things for which you’re grateful are the positives in life, when you focus on them, you are directing your attention away from the negatives. According to some experts, concentrating on the good things in life attracts more good things to you.
- Generate new thoughts and ideas. This is especially useful for creative people, like writers. When you force yourself to sit down each day and think about something, the result is a string of thoughts and ideas. Some of these will be great fodder for articles, stories, and poems.
- A great way to end your day. When it’s time to wind down and shift into relaxation mode, thinking about the good things in life will help you clear your mind and put you in a lighter, brighter mood. That’s an excellent way to prepare for a decent night’s sleep!
Over the years, I have kept an appreciation journal on and off. I find that after a few weeks of daily gratitude in my journal writing, being thankful becomes second nature. Though some days there’s not enough time to write down my thoughts, I try to start off each day by thinking about at least one thing that I’m truly grateful for. The result? My attitude is more positive, it’s easier for me to put a smile on my face (even when I’m dealing with adversity), and minor annoyances tend to roll off my shoulder. I just feel better overall. I’ve also found that thankfulness in myself and others (or lack thereof) has given me plenty of writing ideas, especially when I’m creating characters.
Try it for yourself and see how beneficial gratitude can be!
Do you keep an appreciation journal or any other kind of journal? Have you ever written a list of things that you’re thankful for? What are they? Do you spend much time on your own journal writing? How do you use your journal to promote creative thinking and inspire fresh writing ideas?
When we think about writing ideas, what usually comes to mind are characters, plots, scenes, language, and images.
Ideas almost always have to do with concepts and matters of the mind, but what about the physical act of writing?
Most of us write at our computers, and many of us still use good old-fashioned pen and paper.
Isn’t it Ordinary?
It’s all rather ordinary and limiting – always sitting in the same position and using the same tools – day in and day out. Creativity gets stale with too much routine. Sure, you can take breaks. There are lots of writing tips that recommend getting out for some exercise and socializing, and there are plenty of creativity tips that help you think in new ways.
What about writing ideas that get you moving and positioning your body in new ways? Or touching different textures and being in an environment that’s nothing like your usual surroundings?
Get off that chair, step away from your desk, and try standing or crouching. Put yourself into a different environment – leave the office and go outside. Lie on your stomach in the grass and scratch words, carve them, paint them, and let the stimuli of your surroundings and the tools in your hand gently guide your mind, your muse, your creativity – to a new dimension.
Unusual Writing Ideas
These 18 writing ideas are definitely unusual, and unlike most ideas, they don’t happen inside your head. You’ll make them happen with your body, your surroundings, and the tools you’re writing with.
- 1. Supersize it
- Get some extra-large, oversized paper and sprawl out somewhere – like in the grass or on the floor. Instead of typing or writing in the limited space of your computer monitor or notebook, use pens and pencils, and write until you fill up the entire sheet. Use big, enormous letters or itty bitty ones. Either way, it’s going to feel a lot different from what you’re used to.
- 2. Colored Markers
- A pack of colored markers doesn’t cost much, and once you’ve got them, you can use them to write on that oversized paper, and that makes the previous idea sound a lot more fun. Putting down your words in color might spark fresh writing ideas, so use your markers to write in your notebook or journal, on sticky notes, and even on scratch paper when you’re jotting down concepts.
- 3. Speaking of Sticky Notes
- Try writing different parts of a story or poem on sticky notes. Limit yourself to a few words (for poetry) or just a line or two (for prose). On each sticky note, write a line of dialogue or some basic action (she walked toward the door). You’ll be writing in a tiny space, and that will make you choose your words more carefully, and when you’re done, you can have fun patching all the sticky notes together to complete your piece.
- 4. Chalk it Up
- Actually, chalk it down. Most department and toy stores sell big buckets of large, thick “Sidewalk Chalk,” which is perfect for marking up sidewalks and driveways. This is a fun exercise to do with the kids, by the way. Chalk a poem or a piece of flash fiction. If you want to save it, take a photo before washing it all away.
- 5. Stand and Deliver
- There are lots of ways you can write while standing. You can stand at a counter, for example, and write in your notebook, but that’s not very unusual. In addition to standing, try writing on a flat, vertical surface. Tape paper to a wall, door, or window and then let your words flow. You can also use an easel for this one.
- 6. Lie in the Grass
- The trick is lie directly on the grass. Do not use a blanket or a towel – make contact with the green. The idea is to physically connect with a texture you’re not used to. If grass is just too damp or dirty for you, then try this on sand or pavement (I bet the pavement’s WAY dirtier than the grass). The important thing is to be outdoors, be lying down, and be writing.
- 7. Paint Your Words
- You don’t need fancy paints or paintbrushes – a set of watercolors from the school supply aisle will do. You might want to use that oversized paper for this one. Paint your story or poem instead of writing it and if the mood strikes (and you’re feeling artistic), get some images in there too – or just let the colors run and see what happens to your words.
- 8. Get Super Old School
- Use a fountain pen and an inkwell (yes, they still make this stuff) and find out what it was like to be a writer hundreds of years ago. Remember, some of the greatest writers in history did it this way – dipping their nibs into the ink: Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Emily Dickinson. If they could do it, you can too!
- 9. Scratching on Crayon
- This an old trick that school-aged kids use: Use pastel crayons to color in an entire sheet of paper. You can use a solid color, or make rainbows, or big bubbles and stripes. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. When you’re done, go over the whole thing with the black crayon until it’s colored solid black. Now, you can use your fingernail to write by scratching off the black layer, and voila! Your writing reveals a rainbow of color beneath.
- 10. Ambidexterity
- Are you right-handed? Write with your left hand. Left-handed? Use your right. It feels awkward at first, but if you concentrate, you should be able to scrawl something legible using your opposite hand (yes, I know this because I have actually done some of these crazy things. What? You think I make this stuff up?).
- 11. Stay at Your Computer
- Okay, so you want to switch things up, but you just can’t pry yourself away from your beloved computer. You can still get creative. Try writing in white text on a black background. Or try lime green on a dark purple background. Mix up your colors, make them bold, or put them in italics, and get busy writing.
- 12. And if You Want to Get Really Fancy
- Still don’t want to leave your computer? Well go find some unusual fonts and write with those. Try script fonts or big, bold fonts, and put them into different sizes. Get away from Times New Roman and use fonts that are not 10 – 14 in size.
- 13. Eat Your Words
- Remember Alpha-Bits cereal? Well, they’re back on the market, and that means you can use them to write. I confess, I haven’t tried this one and it could get messy. It might also be difficult – if you keep eating your letters, you won’t have anything to write with.
- 14. Wear Your Words
- If you can eat your words, you might as well wear them. All you need is a Sharpie (better yet, try some colored Sharpies) and a cheap, white t-shirt. Stretch the fabric around something solid and start writing. Hey, if you ever become a world-famous novelist, that t-shirt is going to be worth big bucks!
- 15. Make a Mural
- You can buy rolls of paper at art supply stores and even at home improvement stores. Roll it out and attach it to the wall. Masking tape works well for this, and a good place for this activity is on a garage door. Now you’re really mixing things up; you’re standing, writing on oversized paper, and as an added bonus, you can get out your colored markers or paints and really liven things up.
- 16. Revisit Your Childhood
- Earlier I mentioned writing with paints and paintbrushes. Try doing it with finger paints (I bet you’re going to need that oversized paper for this one). You’ll probably get nice and dirty, and this is another great one to do with the kids. Leave yourself some time to take a shower afterward.
- 17. Carvings
- You’d be surprised at all the things you can carve – pieces of firewood, a candle, your kitchen table. I’m kidding. Don’t wreck your kitchen table. But carving words slows down the writing process, which means you’ll put more thought into what you’re saying and you’ll take greater care with your grammar. Use an awl or other sharp instrument to whittle your tale.
- 18. Shoe Boxes
- I recently helped a dear friend clean out her closet. She had some old stuff in there. Like a cardboard shoebox in which we’d written a story some twelve years ago. We had used nothing more than a cardboard box and a ball point pen (should have used a Sharpie), and here it was, over a decade later, hidden behind a pair of old sneakers. This one’s my favorite and that’s why I saved it for last.
I’m sure there’s some scientific reasoning that explains why these activities turn up the heat on creativity. I’m no scientist, but I do know when my own creativity is in high gear. I have actually tried several of these unusual and quirky writing ideas and techniques, and I clearly recall that they got me thinking in different ways, and I almost always came up with things to write about that otherwise never would have occurred to me.
So try a few of these out for yourself. Give yourself about 20-30 minutes so you have enough time to settle into the writing activity, and then see what happens.
Do you have any unusual writing ideas to add to this list? If you think of any other strange ways to write, leave your ideas in the comments and I can add them to this list later.
Give it a try and have fun with it. And keep on writing.