Many people want to know where ideas come from. It’s very simple: everywhere and nowhere at the same time. You simply have to pay attention so you recognize them when the time comes. They always begin outside of you because there is no such thing as an entirely original idea for writers. There’s nothing new under the sun, there’s just our reinterpretation of what we see.
Capturing those moments have become a ritual for me, and the process has give me some tools to use to inspire me and jumpstart my creativity. Specifically, two tools have saved me more times than I can count: The Turn of Phrase Book and my Spark Log.
—by Kevin Kaiser
Turn of Phrase Book
I’m always looking for a new way to say something, whether it’s describing the sky or an emotion. To help me find inspiration when I most needed it, I started keeping track of the coolest turns of phrase I stumbled upon as I read my favorite novels. I call it my Turn of Phrase Book.
I use the Evernote app on my iPhone to do this because I can take it anywhere I go. As I’m reading something and come across a wonderful turn of phrase I enter into my TOP book. My book also contains favorite lines from movies or TV shows; anything that catches my ear goes in the book.
During those times when I find myself looking for a new way to say something in a story—for example, describing a sunset—I go to the TOP book and flip through it. I’ll always find something fresh that breaks my imagination loose.
The Spark Log
The Spark Log is a bit like the TOP book, only it’s concerned with capturing story ideas instead of specific words or phrases. I know of many authors who have something similar. Real life is stranger than fiction, and following the news proves that.
As I’m reading through the news or magazines, I always stumble across a fascinating tale that captures me—a giant eyeball that washed up on a Florida beach, an World War Two submarine that was found off the coast of Hawaii that still emits a low humming sound. The stranger the better.
I keep a log of every item that’s interesting and then regularly browse through my macabre collection to see if anything sparks a story idea. Sometimes it does and other times I wonder what I was thinking when I archived that story about the garden gnomes in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that may or may not be responsible for a neighborhood’s missing dogs.
Both of these tools have helped me innumerable times when I was bogged down and couldn’t come up with a writing idea to save my life. Developing the habit of paying attention to the world around me, capturing the weird and wonderful ideas that I bump into, and then using them later as imagination fuel have changed my writing process completely.
Want to learn more on getting started in writing? Expand your writing knowledge with these great writing books & videos:
- Fiction Writer’s Workshop (The Book)
- Getting Started in Writing Premium Collection (8 Products Bundled for One Low Price)
- OnDemand: 10 Practical Tips for More Consistent, Productive Writing
This guest post is by Kevin Kaiser, who has helped authors and publishers reach over 20 million fans worldwide. His online community, 1KTrueFans, helps writers find their voice, build an audience from scratch and create for a living.
Follow him @1KTrueFans.