I'll grant you, coming up with ideas for writing can feel challenging or seem impossible. After 25 years of writing multi-media copy and 16 more years of teaching, I still occasionally experience problems with on-demand writing. I know that pain so I often share unorthodox idea-gathering methods in my Mentored Writing Groups. Today I'd like to share that inspiration does not always manifest in the way you might expect.
When I feel stymied or frozen, I get up and move around or hop into another project, because if I try to force an idea, I can end up going in circles or get more stuck. I've refined that process over the years. More about that below!
One of my guest bloggers, Henri (Yes, his name is just "Henri," FYI), says he learned to go with the flow when he was a professional poker player. Now THERE'S a comparison with the writing process I've not seen before; poker and writing!
Henri says Focus is a crucial survival tactic in poker. The player must focus at all times, and they do this by tuning into the flow of the game. Most of the time, you cannot force the hand, or anyone else's. Henri says when he lets things unfold naturally, everything flows smoothly, and his results are more satisfying.
But, "In the end, you have to find your way of doing things." –Henri
Henri also says he's never had a real job. He routinely taps into his writer-brain and has done for many years. He's had a lot of time to get familiar with how his body, mind, AND soul conjure up ideas, and he doesn't mind if we look over his shoulder for some pointers.
SIDE NOTE: Where Do Ideas Come From Anyway?
Inspirations come from a place we don't see, but we know it is there, we feel it. Inspiration isn't something that belongs to us; it floats through thin air until someone pulls it down onto paper. But this method of gleaning inspiration is not a conscious act.
Writing Ideas come to us when we calm down, relax, and get out of our own way. When you stop thinking, your innate wisdom emerges; unleashed, the Inner-Writer delivers a plethora of thoughts, images, ideas, and words!
However, there are some tools you can use to nudge the process along!
A Note on Brainstorming-
A friend of mine offers some great perspective on brainstorming. He's a stand-up comedian, and as you might imagine, those guys use a lot of brainstorming to come up with their material! He says:
"My favorite way of brainstorming is to take a topic and start writing keywords that come to mind. The best way to do this is to use your cellphone as a recorder because the last thing you want to do is censor yourself, which happens a lot when you're writing or typing. Let everything come out. Don't worry if you're straying off-topic. I've found a lot of good ideas that started on-topic but quickly streamed into even more fertile territory."
1. Washing the Dishes. It's incredible how many ideas I've gotten while washing the dishes. I've never been a fan of using a dishwasher. Why do I need one when I can clean everything by hand so much more quickly? Anyway, washing the dishes helps me focus my mind on one thing. In that sense, it is like meditation. Whenever I need an idea or a problem solved, if there are dishes around, I wash and dream away!
Often it doesn't help to think more, but to think less.
2. Befriend Your Bed. [LOL!] It's not what you think. What I mean by befriending your bed is taking a break and lying there, relaxing. If you've been trying to come up with a great idea or solution all day, give yourself some time to cool off and take a nap or lie there. Try not to think. Although sometimes people make "Not-thinking" into another job. Just Be. That's my best advice. (March | 2013 | Ibrahim Gana Malgwi's Blog. https://ganzymalgwi.wordpress.com/2013/03/)
3. Allowing. Sometimes ideas come when the time is right. I view ideas and inspiration as something that comes naturally, so when I'm not receiving a solution to a problem, it's me blocking it. When nothing else works, I meditate and release any resistance I might have in my body.
4. Observing. I like to take walks with Ingela and our dog, Cleo. It helps me clear my mind. If you decide to go for a walk, stay as present as possible and remember to bring something on which to record your ideas. I've noticed that once the flood gates open, I want to capture whatever is coming. Don't wait, jot everything down right away. (or record it!)
5. Being Present. I almost hate saying, "Be Present." "Be in the now," These phrases are overused, but we repeat for a good reason: they work. When you stop worrying and get your ass back to the present moment, you'll improve your idea generation significantly.
6. Brainstorming. I've fallen back in love with brainstorming. Sometimes I use mind mapping software, sometimes I use notepad, and sometimes I use good old pen and paper. The only reason I don't use an audio recorder for this method is, I like to see my ideas! So if I record everything, I'd have to transcribe it all, and that takes time.
7. Exercising. Have you ever noticed how clear your mind is after you've exercised? I have too; it's pretty cool. We're back to the theme of doing something completely unrelated to what you were doing and letting your unconscious come up with a great idea or solution to a problem you're having. Our conscious mind is nothing compared to our unconscious mind.
A Great Example From Life–
"I was listening to an interview while sipping my freshly-squeezed orange juice, and that's when it hit me. I received inspiration for my next blog post. I wasn't even THINKING about my blog, but when inspiration hits me, it's almost like there's a rope attached to my heart pulling me to my computer to write. After I've written a post that came from my heart, I feel phenomenally awesome." –Henri 2015
From and inspired by How to Generate Ideas Out of Thin Air | Wake Up Cloud. By Henri. https://www.wakeupcloud.com/generate-ideas/