Maintain an idea repository to jumpstart your creativity every time you sit down to write
Each week I create several posts for my blogs. I also compose posts for others (content marketing). In addition, I need to produce columns for my various publications. At a minimum, I write five new pieces a week, sometimes upwards of ten.
Yet I seldom struggle with what to say. I always have at least one idea waiting for me when it’s time to write, usually many. Here’s my process:
- Keep a Running List: For each blog, client, or publication, I have an idea file. Sometimes I note a concept or a title. Other times it’s the first line or even the last. Occasionally there’s an anecdote to serve as the focal point for me to package. Then there is a bulleted list, the result of a quick brainstorm session during a moment of inspiration. Such is the case with this post.
- Look For Fresh Ideas: Life and living provides a treasure chest of ideas. We merely need to recognize their value when we see them. This takes practice, as well as discipline. Reading provides creative fodder for me, too, as do podcasts and especially movies. The key in this, which I learned the hard way, is to seize these gems as soon as I see them. Trusting my memory has cost me too many good ideas.
- Retain What You Can’t Use: Sometimes a piece doesn’t develop as I expect or I need to skip a thought or go in a different direction. Other times I need to cut a section. I always stuff these untapped nuggets into my file for another day.
- Build on Feedback: Some people comment on posts. Others email me their thoughts and questions, and a few react in person. Each source of input provides the potential for a future piece, which I add to my list.
- Tap Your Muse as You Write: Perhaps the most common source of inspiration occurs during my writing process. As I develop one piece, other gems for future posts pop into my mind. I stop writing immediately and capture them in my idea file. This happens with about half the pieces I write. Sometimes I receive multiple ideas in succession. I eventually use most of them.
- Bonus Tip: Sometimes when it’s time to write, I simply ask myself, “What do you want to write about today?” Without even peeking at my list of ideas, another concept pops into my mind, and I can’t help but develop it. This saves all the ideas in my file for another day.
I polished this process over time. First it was to minimize frustration over lost ideas; then for the sake of efficiency. But now it has become necessary for me if I am to meet all my commitments and make my deadlines.
Do you use a variation of an idea file? What process do you use to generate ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.