Ideas are everywhere. It’s what we do with them that matters. The latest issue of Writer’s Digest is dubbed The Big Idea Issue—and we’ve filled it with clever tips and simple strategies to help you find more inspiration for your writing, develop your most creative ideas into great stories, beat writer’s block, and stay inspired day after day.
The November/December 2012 Writer’s Digest hits newsstands this week, so I thought I’d give you a sneak peek inside by sharing three of my personal favorite tips from this issue’s talented roundup of creative contributors.
3 Tips for Making the Most of Your Writing Ideas
1. Don’t rush idea development. In her article “How to Develop Any Idea Into a Great Story,” award-winning novelist Elizabeth Sims relays a story about attending an inventors’ club meeting (who knew such a thing existed?) and having a lightbulb moment when an experienced inventor leveled with the newbies and said this: “Look, ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the development that put you over the top.” Sims writes:
Fiction writers share a lot with those inventors. It’s not hard to get inspired by a great concept, to take it to your table or toolshed or cellar and do some brainstorming, and even to start putting the story on paper—but eventually, many of us lose traction. Why? Because development doesn’t happen on its own. In fact, I’ve come to think that idea development is the No. 1 skill an author should have.
In the full article, Sims pays it forward by sharing plenty of lightbulb moments of her own in a clever four-step method for developing any basic idea into the most innovative of stories. (She also illustrates her method in a full-fledged example of creative story idea development in our online-exclusive companion to the piece.)
2. When battling writer’s block, understand that willpower is overrated. In his article “Overcoming Writer’s Block Without Willpower,” writer Mike Bechtle explains:
In their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, researchers Chip Heath and Dan Heath share the results of their revealing study that found we have a finite amount of willpower available. Simply put, when we use it up by resisting a chocolate doughnut all morning, there’s none left to stay disciplined in our writing an hour later. The “willpower tank” has to refill before we can use it again.
Bechtle goes on to show what scientists have discovered about how the creative brain works—and how writers can use that knowledge to their advantage to be more productive and minimize creative blocks. I highly recommend the full article—not only is it filled with great tips, but it’s just plain fascinating stuff.
3. Embrace what’s unique about your own creative process. From idea generation to creative expression, the writing process is different for every writer. But we can learn a lot from sharing in each other’s struggles, epiphanies and victories. In this issue, we collected essays on creativity and inspiration from five very different writers. In one of them, Roger Dunlap writes of how he managed to finally free his creativity by, after years of resistance, finally giving himself permission to call himself a writer:
I found the answer on trips to New York and New Orleans, where I discovered street musicians, sidewalk artists, jugglers and singers. There is a saxophone player in front of Macy’s who will tear your heart in two with his rendition of the blues. There is a sketch artist on the banks of the Mississippi who can make you feel the burning sand and cooling surf of the Caribbean. I wouldn’t ask that sax player if he were a musician. I could hear the answer. With the artist, I could see the answer. Fame and money are not the measure of their artistic identities.
What’s the most unexpected place you’ve found story ideas? Leave a comment to enter our free issue giveaway!
In my editor’s letter for this issue, I share a story of unexpectedly finding inspiration for my writing during a visit-gone-wrong to the county fair—and judging from the unusually high volume of feedback I’ve already been receiving in emails and tweets, the experience really resonated with writers of all types. That makes me wonder:
What’s the most unexpected place that you have found writing inspiration or creative story ideas?
Leave your response in the comments section below, and you’ll be entered to win a free copy of The Big Idea Issue! Deadline to enter is 8 a.m. EST on Thursday, October 25, and the winner will be announced in a future post.
All of the above is really just a taste of what the November/December 2012 Writer’s Digest has in store. I promise: We don’t call it The Big Idea Issue for nothing! Preview the full November/December 2012 issue online, check it out on your local newsstand, or download a digital version instantly.
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine