Recently I was talking to one of my writing buddies. She had finished the most recent rewrite of her novel and had it okayed by her editor. She decided to take some time off before working on a new idea. “I don’t really have anything nagging to be written. I’ll have to think about it.”
Until she said this, it had never crossed my mind that ideas can be rare things. I bounced this off my critique group and nearly got smacked. Apparently, I’m an odd duck. In truth, I knew that but I really did think that most writers have scads of ideas. Truthfully, I find it hard to avoid new ideas. Maybe it has something to do with how I generate them.
- Hanging out with my audience. I primarily write for children and for other writers. Conveniently enough, I spend a lot of time with both groups. Whenever a writer mentions a problem with a manuscript or something they would like to see an article on, I make a note for myself. When my son and his friends or my niece seem particularly interested in something, I pay attention. And, yes, both groups will sometimes TELL me what to write next. They can actually be a bit pushy.
- From my reading. I read a lot. In fact, I usually read 15 or more books a month. It helps, again, that I write for children because picture books and early readers are short and don’t take long to read. When I read, I almost always come away with ideas. With nonfiction, I latch onto a fact or a person who is in the background of the main story. When I read fiction, I’ll wonder if something is true. Or I’ll start playing “what if” or “why.” Soon I find myself researching something new.
- Talking books with other people. Not surprisingly, I know a lot of readers. When they talk books, I pay attention to things they don’t like, books they wish they could find, topics that haven’t been clearly explained. All of these things inspire me.
- Visiting places near and far. My family likes to go to museums, zoos, and nature preserves. Cave tours, endangered species breeding programs, art exhibits, and more have lead me to ideas. In fact, most places we go inspires at least one idea.
Having troubles coming up with an idea for your next project? Move away from your desk. Get out. Listen. See. Feel. Eventually something will catch your interest. If you’re anything like me, it will be more than one thing. Before you know it, you may find yourself with a list of ideas to prioritize.
Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.