Editors Blog

How to Find Great Writing Ideas

In the search for story-worthy ideas, most writers are sidelined by occasional bouts of creative myopia. When it sets in—when your field of inspiration narrows—it’s easy to convince yourself that your luck has run out and all the good ideas are taken. But finding exceptional writing ideas isn’t a matter of luck. Waiting passively for creativity to strike won’t put words on the page, either. The secret to cultivating writing inspiration is to go out and hunt it down—in unexpected places.

“Curiosity, attention, a little bravado, and a willingness to break routines lead to great writing ideas,” says writing coach Don Fry. “You lurk, listen, ask questions, and find experts. You can prowl the Internet, but the best writing ideas come from face to face interaction with people.”

He offers these great writing tips and more from his new book Writing Your Way (Writer’s Digest Books):

 6 Surprising Ways to Find Writing Ideas

“The best ideas are subjects that other writers haven’t written about, or haven’t noticed. The following writing techniques work because they dynamite you out of your routine ways of thinking and dealing with the world. They make the world ‘strange’ so you can see it fresh.

 1. Explain Common Things

Ask experts to explain how ordinary things work, preferably things invisible to the public. For example, how does your town’s water-purification system work? What happens to recycled plastic? How do wine aerators work? What do lifeguards look for? What makes chocolate taste good?

 2. Mine Your Emotions

If something bothers or puzzles you, find out why by interviewing people with similar reactions. You’ll discover you’re not alone in never changing your passwords, buying lottery tickets, or your fear of high bridges. I’ve always wondered if my parents are really my parents, which turns out to be a fairly common doubt.

 3. Follow Alternative Paths

Take alternate routes to your normal destinations, and try out different types of transportation, especially slower ones that let you see more. Leave your car at home and walk to work, or ride a bike. Climb stairs instead of taking elevators, take the service elevator, or enter through back doors.

 4. Cultivate Weirdos

Your mother taught you never to talk with strangers. Good advice for children, bad advice for writers. Strike up conversations with people you don’t know, even cultivating weirdos. Introduce yourself to airplane seatmates, to people carrying a sign or wearing a name tag.

 5. Lower Your Standards

Accept any piece of paper handed to you on the street. Read junk mail. Watch awful TV shows and ask why they appeal to anyone. Buy TV gadget offers, test them, and try to get your money back.

 6. Make Yourself Into Somebody Else

Role-play the lives of people with viewpoints different from yours or your readers’. I once spent half a day in a wheelchair and learned about hazards I never imagined. Bob Graham, the former governor of Florida, did manual labor one day a month to understand the public.

All of these writing techniques jar you out of your normal vision, because that’s where the writing ideas are, invisible in plain sight.”

 

Purchase a copy of Writing Your Way from WritersDigestShop.com

Thinking of self-publishing? Find out how Abbott Press (a division of Writer’s Digest) can help you achieve your goals.

Find more writing inspiration and ideas in 10 Essentials for Writing a Kick-Ass Novel Premium Collection.

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “How to Find Great Writing Ideas

  1. KB Gibson

    I think the old writer’s adage, “write what you know” is helpful but with an addendum, “also write what you want to know.” I’ve found that if you sit down and add up all the various things you know, you’ll be amazed. If you have an annoying co-worker who is always kissing up to the boss, write an article about “How to Impress the Boss.” Or if you’re writing fiction, “kill” the co-worker, on the page of course.

    In writing what you want to know, you have even more possibilities. Perhaps your child is trying to decide what colleges to apply for or a parent is requiring more care. You might do research to see how you can help and support family members, but why can’t you also turn them into great writing ideas?

  2. jdietzel-glair

    I especially like the idea of accepting “any piece of paper handed to you on the street.” I might get an idea. The person handing out the paper feels like they have accomplished something. And if it really isn’t worth my while I can just recycle it.

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