Posted in Ideas generation, Writing, Writing craft

Five Tips for Generating New Writing Ideas

if you’d prefer to see me talk about this, scroll to the bottom and click to the video at Write. Fix.Repeat.

People often say that there are no new ideas, only regenerated ideas- that everything is some kind of a rehash of what’s already been done. I don’t see it this way. What’s more, if you don’t have any new and innovative ideas or are not interested in the mental gymnastics of attracting new ideas, you should stop writing. No one wants to read the same old thing over and over again.

Okay, you might use familiar frameworks (mysteries often have similar frameworks), but your story doesn’t’ have to be in any way the same as someone else’s. So, if you’re having trouble with new ideas, let me help you turn on the faucet.

  1. Pay attention to details around you. Be a keen observer. Listen to people talking. Stop walking down the street, gazing into your phone.
  2. Check on what’s trending on social media and make notes. Don’t get caught falling down an SM rabbit hole, though. This misstep can be a time suck. Be focused. Pass right on by anything that doesn’t ‘grab you sufficiently to compel you to write a note about it.
  3. Read feature stories in the news. The odder, the better. Don’t just stick to the main news stories. (I’m making the reasonable assumption that writers read the news daily.)
  4. Journal about what you see and hear. Then play “what if” with yourself in your journal.
  5. Go on an “artist date” with yourself. Plan what writer Julia Cameron[1] calls an “artist date.” Go to an art gallery, a fabric store, a museum, a free concert. Eat at a restaurant that serves ethnic food you’ve never eaten, 

Writing prompts: Best left for writing practice (not idea generation).

Here’s a link to “Inspiration Snips,” video writing prompts for all you visuals out there.

Watch this topic on Write. Fix. Repeat.

[1] Julia Cameron. 1992. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Tarcher Perigree.

Posted in Ideas generation, Journals

Travel as writing inspiration

Who wouldn't be inspired by a beach in Tahiti?  I was.
Who wouldn’t be inspired by a beach in Tahiti? I was.

As I finish draft three of the new book and begin deliberations with a new publisher (more about that in an upcoming post), I’m also thinking about my packing list – that list is the one for an upcoming trip to London, Rome, the Greek Islands, Athens and ultimately five days in Istanbul. Travel is the other love of my life – after my husband, son and my writing.  I’m taking a few notebooks, a great pen, a mini-iPad and a flash drive.  Other than clothes, that should about cover my needs!

The truth is that I think we can be inspired by so many things. Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, we need to be always aware of our surroundings, what we see, what we hear, how we feel about what’s going on around us.  There we can find the genesis of an idea.

As I’ve said before, “The most accurate way to describe my mind is to use the Buddhist term: monkey mind. That’s me.  My mind is always moving; the thoughts are chattering away, unbidden.  Ideas fill my head from morning until night.”  Obviously, this can sometime make real life challenging, but I’ve learned to cope as all writers do.  The truth is that travel – whether to the other side of the world or simply to the other side of your town, province, state or country – opens up my mind t new things if I only pay attention and let my mind fill with the ideas without grasping for them.  Then that’s what the notebooks are for.  I take along several Moleskines™ of different sizes, my favorite kind, a great pen, and an iPad for making electronic notes that I then either store in Dropbox or send to myself as an email.  The flash drive is in case I have access to a computer in an airport lounge or, as is the case on this upcoming trip, in our suite on board the ship that will take us from Rome to Istanbul.

My new character.  What could she be thinking?
My new character. What could she be thinking?

I’ve been inspired with ideas for historical fiction in particular several times in the past. Two great ideas are still gestating in my mind as we speak, since I’ve been embroiled in several non-fiction projects with deadlines and haven’t had time to get back to my real love.  But that time is fast approaching.

One time several years ago, my husband and I were on a ship in the Mediterranean. Believe it or not the ship interior was the inspiration.  Among the various pieces of fabulous artwork on board was a large painting that covered one wall of the piano bar.  I was drawn into the face of the main subject as she sat aboard a ship on what in my mind at least was a transatlantic voyage.  She was a character out of an era that has always fascinated me: the 1920’s.  I photographed her and thought about her, wondering what she was thinking.  I didn’t figure it out until a year later when we visited the Caribbean island of

Bequia and I saw the ruin of a village that was evidently built in the 1960’s but in my mind (and that’s all that really matters to a writer, isn’t it?) it was built much earlier and finally I had a transatlantic connection.  I’ve already started the book.  Maybe I’ll post the first chapter here some time.

Moon Hole, Bequia.  My character is headed here.
Moon Hole, Bequia. My character is headed here.

The places that we’re visiting over the next month and a half are steeped in ancient history. I’ve been doing as much background reading as time permits and I think I’m ready.

I’m going to listen, look, smell, taste and feel some new experiences. I’m going to write those impressions down in my trusty notebooks and then I’m going to come home and write a new book.

Other thoughts about inspiration, keeping journals, and travel:

The Genesis of an Idea

Keeping journals

Maybe Bora Bora will inspire you! (from our travel blog)