Recently I was asked where I get ideas for writing. I find ideas are all around me. The more ideas I use the more I find. To quote Maya Angelou, ‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.’ Here are ten of the ways I find ideas:
1. Talking to people I talk to all sorts of people including friends, shop assistants, professional people and random people I happen to strike up a conversation with. Sometimes they say something which sparks an idea for a piece of writing. At other times I research more on a topic they have mentioned and that may inspire me to write something.
2. Overhearing conversations I don’t consider it eavesdropping if a person is speaking loudly on their mobile or talking to the person next to them on the train loud enough for me to hear. Many years ago I heard a lady on the train complain to her companion, ‘This sure is a slow boat to China’. The train was stopping at all the stations. I haven’t ever done anything with that comment but it has stuck in my head. These days I write anything I think could be useful in my notebook.
3. Graffiti Some graffiti is just a tag or a crude word which doesn’t do anything to inspire me, unless it was to write an article about the cost of graffiti to the community. However, occasionally there is a message. One day I noticed the words, ‘Unemployed fight back,’ on a billboard. I thought about the words and the plight of people who are long term unemployed. I wrote a short poem about the frustration of the person who had written the message.
4. Newsletters I receive newsletters, either via the internet or by snail mail from groups I am a member of. These contain information which may spark an idea for an article or a poem.
5. Books, magazines and newspapers I borrow magazines and books from the library. If I am alone I enjoy reading printed material provided in coffee shops. When I see an article or even an advertisement which attracts my interest I jot down some notes. I find quotes particularly useful and have quite a collection. Sometimes I read a magazine in a waiting room.
I love the free newspapers that one finds around the place as well as those thrown onto the footpath in front of my house. It may be an article about a new craze, a story about a lost pet or the latest research on a particular topic. I may follow up with further research.
Author’s own photo
6. Internet The information super highway is a source of an infinite number of ideas and so easy to access. Research on the internet can be addictive as one thinks, 'I'll read just one more article and then I'll turn it off.'
7. Public transport Travelling on buses, trains and trams provides exposure to people of a variety of ages and cultural backgrounds. People watching can provide an idea for a piece of writing. Some days I just read a book, write the outline of an article or gaze out the window and don’t take any notice of the people around me. Sometimes there is an interesting person near me who catches my attention. There are occasions when it is impossible to ignore one or more of one’s fellow travellers.
8. Street Art Art of any type can inspire but the thing about street art is its accessibility, especially in city environments. Buskers also provide ideas and they can expose the onlooker to a wide variety of music and performance styles.
I noticed this sign outside a toy shop. Author’s own photo
9. Going somewhere new There is so much to explore in one’s own city. Taking photos in a street one hasn’t visited before or exploring a funky store can provide ideas. Reading the signs written in shop windows or on a blackboard outside a store can make you think. Sitting in a park, watching children playing and birds flying around can make one feel relaxed. It can make one question something and the basis of a story pops up. Travelling further afield certainly gives food for thought and a few articles. The sheer mental stimulation of being somewhere different generates ideas.
10. The Natural Environment Mountains, rivers, the sea and deserts inspire me to write poetry. Flora and fauna can be the theme of a piece of writing. The piece may be factual or fantasy. I love taking photos. Different types of weather, different seasons and varying times of day bring different results.
There are so many ways to get ideas for writing. I find the real problem is not finding the ideas but making the time to write all the pieces floating around in my head.