2 Keys to Unlimited Ideas

“Everybody walks past 1,000 story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see 5 or 6 of them. Most people don’t see any.”
–Orson Scott Card

One of my writing mentors wrote that he is always suspicious of people who say they can’t think of things to put on the page. Most professional writers have too many ideas to write them all. What makes the difference? Two words: Observation and Innovation. Most of the time we are extremely focused on the tasks we have to complete, and we miss so much going on around us. This tunnel vision is sometimes necessary, but breaking out of it will definitely stimulate your thoughts. You can become an idea assembly line by developing these two skills.

Observe everyday life – Take notes.

One day I was sitting in the donut shop. A woman with a toddler-age child strolled in; both were wearing purple glitter hi-top sneakers and this caught my aWriting - Keys - Notepadttention. They also wore bright blouses, jean jackets and long frilly skirts. I wondered if the youngster had decided on their outfits. In between turning the pages of my book, I observed the child enjoying her donut using both hands. Mom used a knife and fork, slicing as if enjoying prime rib. They were having great fun. I jotted down a few notes before leaving. I knew those few observations could add realism to something I’d write later.

When life isn’t enough, innovate!

Consider everyday items in a different light.

A kid wonders if a toaster will cook a hotdog (laugh, but there is such an appliance).  A curious person asksWriting - Keys - bulb what if an answering machine actually answered questions. Does a ten-gallon hat hold ten gallons? Nope, less than four.

Can you think of some ways an object might be useful other than its intended purpose? Some of these turning-something-on-its-head thoughts can become interesting articles or story ideas.

Skew your view; look at a situation in a new way.

Instead of writing about why it is important to follow traffic laws, imagine a day when no one does and write about it.

Writing - Keys - ChildSpend time with kids and listen to their conversations.

They see the world from a different viewpoint than you, literally. Life seems quite odd when you are the height of most doorknobs. What if you walked around on your knees all day to regain a child-like perspective? Children also have limitless imaginations. They can help us remember where we put our creativity when we become too serious.

Now it’s your turn.

Can you come up with 10 ways your characters interact differently than society would expect? How about coming up with 10 Writing - Keys - 10questions an alien would ask if they were dropped off in your neighborhood. What 10 things do you know about right now that could become articles or story ideas?

Clunk, clunk, clunk – the assembly line is flowing. Hone these skills of observation and innovation and they will serve you well.

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9 comments on “2 Keys to Unlimited Ideas
  1. Nice post! I like how you mention how even a physical childlike perspective can help shift our own thinking. When I look at how my one-year-old views such simple objects with fascination (a mason jar and lid, book, and cardboard box all seem equally interesting to her!) it reminds me to reconsider how I view my surroundings.

  2. Hey Peter,

    Brilliant idea about listening to kids for writing ideas! My boys’ imaginations run wild. I’m sure I’ve missed a wellspring of creativity that was right under my nose. Good stuff! Looking forward to reading more.

  3. Dionne says:

    I see what you mean Peter. Exactly! Kids remind us we are surrounded by metaphors, imaginative things that sometimes as adults we forget to pay attention to. Kids give us that creative permission and show us how to unlock our imaginations. I believe creativity is in all of us, it’s just sometimes buried under all of our adult busy.

  4. Very true. If we stop being so wrapped up in ourselves we might notice that world is a fascinating place!!

    I can’t do 10, but I am sure if an alien were to drop in, it must wonder about the two legged beings running around behind the four legged beings picking up their poop!

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"A writer looks at a screen or piece of paper like a canvas. They see a country unexplored, a picture unpainted, a tale not told. They dare to venture into the barren land, explore its dark corners, and paint its pictures. Then they unveil the epic with the goal of compelling people to visit their newly discovered territory.”
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