More successful writers than I, have blogged on the topic of finding ideas for stories (or blog posts).
Writing magazines and author blogs offer prompts to fire the imagination. Few inspire me.
Only when I have to follow a prompt – for our monthly writing group ‘homework’ or a competition I want to enter – do I force myself to address the topic, perhaps by making lists, word clouds, spider diagrams…
But without such boundaries, my mind remains stubbornly blank.
Occasionally, one of these stories dragged from me by a prompt has gone on to be placed in a competition, although, by then, I may have removed the reference to the original prompt that I’d shoe-horned in, or the first line we were given to begin the story.
Before I retired, solutions to problems facing me in the coming day were often solved during my morning dog walks. These days, I’m no more likely to recall any dog-walk inspiration than I am my midnight musings. (Which, sadly, confirms that my memory was once better than it is now.)
One day, I might remember to take my mobile phone dog-walking with me to record any such thoughts. Of course, on the rare occasion I do remember to take the mobile, inspiration eludes me.
My problem is that I don’t have spare thinking time. When not physically occupied with mundane tasks, such as cooking or shopping (…housework? What housework?) my brain is kept busy writing, reading, or solving puzzles. (Contrary to universal weight-watching advice that dieters should concentrate on the food they are eating, I either read or complete a puzzle during meal breaks.)
I have tried utilising those long periods in bed at night when I’m having difficulty getting back to sleep after being woken by barking dogs or an outside noise, or other call of nature. Thoughts of things I forgot to do yesterday arise to keep me awake, or suggestions for things I need to do tomorrow.
I know from experience that I won’t remember any of these in the morning. I will only recall, tantalisingly, that I had something I must remember, not what that something is. I have learned to keep pen and paper under my pillow to write down anything I want to remember next day, if only to free my mind for sleep.
It therefore seems sensible to use such wakeful periods for thinking up ideas for my next story or blog post, especially as I have writing implements to hand. (Whether I will be able to read such nighttime scrawlings in the cold light of day, is another matter.)
Directing my sleepless thoughts to explore writing ideas has proved my most effective cure for insomnia to date.
Sometimes, the only thing to do is to start writing and see what comes.
Please share any strategies that help you decide what to write about.
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