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Stop Worrying About Not Having Enough Ideas And Turn Yourself Into An Ideas Machine

So often I see writers posting about and talking about the fear of losing ideas or having their ideas stolen. In the world of today, it’s a legit concern, of course.

But that doesn’t mean it’s something you have to constantly worry about or focus on.

I haven’t really talked about this much, but in October 2010, my blog, Procrastinating Writers, got hacked. They stole everything, including Write Everyday, the most amazing writing app my cousin built for me that generated a random writing prompt and then gave you a space to write it in. It was the most popular thing on my blog and brought in a ton of traffic. (Which, if you know anything about websites, is a pretty big deal.)

It happened two years into my blogging journey, when I had already built an audince and had an email list and was selling my own product (an eBook). Readers were emailing me, telling me that all of the links on my site were broken.

When I checked it out, what I saw was devastating.

The homepage of my site was there–and looked totally normal–but when you clicked on the headline to go read the post it took you to a white page with a bunch of random text. But it wasn’t my site.

My site, was gone.

GONE.

It was one of the worst days of my life.

Two full years of blogging, including writing three posts a week for most of 2010. I was beside myself. I went numb.

All of my words. All of the research and ideas and love that I put into building that site… gone.

I didn’t think I’d ever blog again. I gave it up.

For about a week.

And then I had some sense knocked into me by a fellow blogger who suggested I contact her husband for help restoring my site. Thankfully he figured out a way to restore all of my content from an old backup I had. So I didn’t lose all of my posts (just some of them, and that awesome Write Everyday app, damn it!!)

But all of that got me thinking…

What if I DID lose everything?

What if I DID have to totally start over with my blog and do it all again, from scratch?

What if I had to write new posts and come up with new ideas?

Could I do it? Could I really do it all over again?

And it was in this moment that I stopped being attached to my ideas and stopped feeling idea-lack. I realized that I had tons of ideas and I had processes and exercises for generating more of them.

I was an ideas machine. I had ideas coming out of my ears and I could come up with ideas not only for myself, but for other people as well.

I also stopped worrying. I stopped spending any energy or time thinking about or worrying that my blog would get hacked again. (I did set up better protection for my site as to best avoid that happening again, because, of course!).

And as I did this, as I let go of attachment and the feeling of lack around my ideas and realized I could generate ideas whenever I wanted to, I became a whole new kind of writer.

I became a writer who has endless ideas. Who never worries if an idea slips her mind or she loses one or someone steals one, because another one is right there, ready to go.

A quote I used to have written down when I was in high school–and I wish I could remember who said it–went something like this: There are writing ideas in front of you all day long. Great writers see 5-6 of them, most don’t see any.

And it’s SO true!!

Life is the greatest idea source we could ever have access to. And you don’t just have to use your life. You can look at the lives of other people for inspiration too.

If you use life as your inspiration there’s no way in hell you could ever run out of things to write about. Never. It’s impossible, because life is an abundant, endless, infinite muse.

For those who choose to see it that way.

I get emails almost daily from people telling me how much my daily blog posts help them and inspire and motivate them. (I love hearing that!!) And what’s cool is all I ever do (or mostly, anyhow, I suppose I do write about writing and storytelling a lot too) is just write about my life and what I’m thinking or feeling in that moment.

I just pull ideas from the ether and write them down.

I’m an ideas machine. I’m a writer who sees the 5-6 ideas (and sometimes more) every day and uses them to create and put out content for my audience.

And you can be too.

Yes. You.

You can be an ideas machine too. You, too, can pull ideas from the ether and write them down for your audience.

You can be a writer who sees the 5-6 ideas daily. A writer who pays attention. Who asks questions. Who wonders.

A writer who puts out daily (yes, daily!) content, in some way, shape or form.

People are always telling me they can’t understand HOW I create so much content and do so many things. And it really just comes down to paying attention to the ideas and writing them down and being committed to acting on the best ones.

If you want to be an ideas machine and a writer who can generate ideas and creative energy in the drop of a hat, here’s what you need to do:

1. Pay Attention More

Be present in the moment and pay attention to what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling because that is where your best ideas will always be.

2. Write Down Ideas Every Day

As much as possible, spend time generating ideas. I’m constantly making lists of ideas for things I can write about, create, teach, etc. I don’t use most of what I write down, but the act of writing the ideas down always allows the good ones to come through and grab my attention.

And then those are the ones that become books and workshops and blog posts, etc.

3. Believe In Idea Abundance and Know that There’s Always More Where That Came From

When I made the decision to believe that ideas are everywhere and that I never have to worry about losing one or someone stealing one because I always have another, that’s when I became an ideas machine.

4. Create of Iterations

There are no new ideas anymore. Everything has been done before. So all we can do now is put our unique spin on things, by creating iterations of what already exists.

Story planning is not a new thing. I didn’t invent it or put terms to it. But I teach it. I use it as inspiration for my writing. I’ve created content and products around it. Because it’s something that helped me (going back to that whole writing and creating from your life thing) and so I know it can also help you.

What iteration can you create? What ideas can you take and tweak and put your own unique vision and spin on? You’ll never run out of ideas doing this, and each one will be unique and new in its own way.

5. Think Like A Journalist

Look at a situation or a person or place, and ask questions and consider things. Who built this? Why? How did they do it? What does she look like that? What happened to her? What if she was born in a cult? What if her mother never loved her? What if I wasn’t stuck in traffic right now? What if I chose to just take the next exit and see where it takes me?

When you’re inquisitive and you look for the story in everything, you’ll find it. And sometimes it will be something that you actually want to develop further.

How do you generate ideas for your writing? Where does your inspiration come from? Share in the comments.

Dream life or bust,

 

 

 

#DreamLifeOrBust #DailyThinkDifferent

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Discipline Creates Freedom And Here’s Why

Today is the first day in over a week where I’ve actually sat down at my normal time to write my daily blog post. For the last week and a half I’ve been moving and unpacking and setting my life back up here in Austin where I’m now living.

Yes, I gave myself permission to take that time off. It was intentional. It was a decision I made–to put unpacking and getting my life back to normal a priority over everything else. And I’m OK with that.

But it also brought up a lot of Resistance. And procrastination. And doubt. And fear.

Because when you’re in flow, when you’re showing up every day around the same time and putting words on the page; when you’re actually doing the work that’s required to bring your dreams to life, you’re actually doing yourself a major disservice to stop getting your writing done. Even temporarily.

For months now I’ve had serious discipline and habit around doing my writing every day–my Daily Think Different blog post, as well as working on my fiction and nonfiction projects.

But then I took the week off. Intentionally.

And now here I am, trying to get back into my usual writing habits and finding it INSANELY hard to have the discipline I had before.

My original plan was to get into my new routine on August 8, and then when that day came, I just kept giving myself permission to not do my writing. To just keep unpacking and setting my life back up, because that was what I felt like doing.

And I’m glad I did it, because in one week I was able to totally unpack, get everything set back up in my apartment and get the hang of living in a new city.

But it also set me back quite a bit.

Not only because I didn’t do my writing for the week–which is ALWAYS a set back–but also because I’m now having a hard time getting back into the flow that I was in just the week prior.

That’s why taking time off isn’t really a good idea.

Yes, in theory it sounds like a good idea. It even feels like a good idea while you’re doing it (although to be honest, all I did every day last week was think about my writing and worry about all the ideas I was losing by not sitting down and just letting the words out).

But it was THAT MUCH harder for me to get back into flow after a week of doing nothing related to my writing.

All last week while I didn’t do my writing I kept thinking that maybe I shouldn’t write a blog post every day. Maybe I didn’t have anything that was worth saying anymore. Maybe I was just totally out of ideas.

The fear, the doubt, the worry that I couldn’t or shouldn’t jump right back into writing every day again.

All those annoyances that actually GO AWAY when you just shut up and make time for your writing every day.

And that’s why, even when it seems like a good idea to take a break from your writing, you really shouldn’t. At least not for more than a day or two.

Taking a week off can set you back for MONTHS if you’re not careful. Because you’ll just keep telling yourself every day that you’ll get back to it tomorrow. And then tomorrow will come and you’ll tell yourself that you’ll get back into it tomorrow.

And then tomorrow will come and you’ll tell yourself that you’ll get back into it tomorrow.

And then tomorrow will come and you’ll tell yourself that you’ll get back into it tomorrow.

And then tomorrow will come…

Are you sensing a pattern here? Because that’s exactly what happens.

When you pull yourself out of flow, out of habit, out of having the discipline that you once had, it becomes damn-near impossible to jump back in.

Suddenly you have all these excuses you didn’t have before. Suddenly you have all these “legitimate” reasons why you don’t have time or you’re out of ideas or it’s just not the right moment to jump back in.

That was me for the last few days. I finished setting our new apartment up on Friday. All that was left was hanging a few pictures and then we were officially done (minus the few things left that we still need to buy, like a DVD player and a rug).

And yet I still couldn’t get back into my writing.

I procrastinated ALL weekend. And then yesterday I was supposed to get back to it for real (’cause I usually start my new habits on a Monday) and yet all these things got in the way–my dog had to go to the vet for an appointment, I had to go to the chiropractor, and then I had an interview for the Author Success Summit, etc.

And I let all that stuff be a reason–an excuse–for not doing my writing. For taking yet another day off. For not getting back to the habits and discipline I usually have around doing the things that matter to me.

Most writers call this their life. They talk about writing and they think about writing and they even make attempts to write here and there.

But they don’t have discipline or habit around doing their writing every day. And that’s really the thing getting in the way for them.

As creative people, we often believe that having habits and discipline makes us less creative. We’ve somehow bought into the belief that creativity requires chaos and so any attempt to bring order and consistency into the picture is met with extreme Resistance.

But the truth is, discipline and habit are the ONLY way to create consistency. And consistency is required if you want to actually get somewhere in your writing life.

For months now I’ve sat down every morning–before I do anything else in my day–and I’ve written my blog post and worked on my books. And then I take a week off and it almost all falls apart.

I could’ve just continued my do-nothing streak. Most writers would. Most writers would totally fall off track and not get back on. Because that’s the easy thing to do.

And no one would’ve given me a hard time about it. After all, I did just move TWICE in the last three months, and I did just relocate to a totally NEW city, and I did have A WHOLE LOT of unpacking and resettling to do.

No one would’ve blamed me for continuing to take time off and not doing the things I usually do.

Except for one very important thing. Without discipline, you don’t have freedom.

And freedom is my most important value in life.

Sounds a bit strange. Maybe even a bit counterintuitive. How can being disciplined create freedom?

Discipline. Habit. Those words, by definition, are the opposite of freedom. Or so it seems.

But the truth is, having habits and discipline are the only real way to create freedom. Because freedom is a MINDSET.

Freedom is a way of thinking and being.

And when you’re not doing the things you want to be doing; when you’re not making space every day for your writing, your mind will constantly be cluttered with stories and ideas and unwritten words. Your head will spin all day long and you’ll guilt trip yourself for not doing the writing. And then you’ll get angry and resentful of all the other things you have to and need to do in your day.

Guilt trips. Resentment. Anger. There’s no freedom in that.

It’s only in having the habit and the discipline to sit down and do your writing and spend time every single day–even for a few minutes–doing the things you really want to be doing, that creates freedom.

Because now your mind is clear. You’ve got discipline and habit, so you sit down every morning and put words on the page. And then you can go about your day.

Already feeling accomplished. Already feeling like you did everything you really needed to do today.

Because your writing got done. That is always–and forever will be–the most important thing you can spend time on each day.

And it’s the habit and discipline you create around doing your writing every day that gives you the freedom–mentally and in the rest of your day.

Anytime I don’t do my writing, I spend my day feeling totally out of control and like time is flying by and nothing is getting done. I go to bed feeling like I accomplished nothing and berating myself for not doing what really matters.

That’s not freedom.

Freedom is me sitting here right now, in the business center at my new apartment complex, typing this blog post out. Putting the words on the page. The words that have wanted to come out for a week now.

I can already feel the sweet release that comes with doing your writing. I can aleady feel that sense of, YES!!! I got my writing done!! And anything else that I accomplish today is a BONUS on top of that. Knowing that my mindspace is clear and I still have more than half a day left to do whatever else I feel like doing or need to do.

That’s freedom.

On the days I don’t do my writing, time zooms by and I feel like I’m living without a purpose and just drifting along, wasting away.

Putting words on the page is the only thing that gives me the freedom I so love having in my life. And that freedom always, always, always starts with habit and discipline.

Dream life or bust,

 

 

 

#DreamLifeOrBust #DailyThinkDifferent

P.S. I’ve got a KILLER 48-Hour Flash Sale starting tomorrow that will help you finally create the discipline and habit you need in your writing life. Stay tuned for more details…

How To Strike A Balance Between Love and Your Love of Writing

By Donald EW Quist

“Hurry up, we’ve got to walk Tofu,” my wife barks at me, holding up our dog as a reminder of my responsibility.

“Just give me a second,” I whine. My fingers hover above the keyboard readily, waiting for something.

“Donald, come on,” she says.

We sigh deeply. Together, in unison, we recite my maxim, “Just let me finish this sentence.” Her tone is mocking.

She shakes her head disapprovingly as she saunters off to another part of the house.

Writing takes time; time you would have spent doing something else with someone else. It’s unfortunate but it’s sort of the price of admission; the cost of doing what you love.

Making writing a priority means sacrificing face time with friends or that special someone. Often procrastination is a result of meeting our commitments to others.

We put down the pencil and push away from our desks in order to keep our relationships active and healthy, as we should. Like literary agent Nathan Bransford told fans of his blog, “No book is worth losing a friend, losing a spouse, losing crucial time with your children.”

What I’m talking about here is deciding what time is crucial, and accepting the fact that you can’t get things done if you’re cruising the bar with your friends every weekend.

You can’t focus on your writing if your significant other demands so much of your attention you’re scared to devote time to anything else.

There is a feeling of belonging that comes with sharing moments with the people we love. Too often that feeling gets confused with accomplishment.

You spent the afternoon farting around playing video games with your brother, shopping with your sister, watching an entire season of The Shield on DVD with your spouse; meanwhile the piece you’re working on hasn’t advanced and you’ll be struggling to find some other time to finish it.

Striking a balance between these two loves can be difficult, but remains entirely possible.

  • LEARN TO SAY NO—Finding time to write requires having the strength to tell loved ones you can’t be available at their every beck and call. You need time for you, time to write.
  • FIND FRIENDS THAT UNDERSTAND—Needy friends are not conducive to writing. Unless you plan to make them characters in your next novel or use them as case studies for the next BIG dating how-to-book, you shouldn’t feel so obligated to hang out with them. Make sure that your friends are the type that understand your commitment to writing and give you room to work.
  • DON’T SETTLE—It takes a special kind of Special Someone to deal with a writer—a patient soul ready to deal with the fact that their partner spends just as much time inside their head as out.Make sure that the person you choose to be with understands your passion and encourages you to refine your craft. Try to find someone with similar ambitions who, instead of stifling your creative growth, nurtures your need to create.
  • SCHEDULING—If maintaining a healthy social-life is important to you, set aside specific times to write. However, don’t be surprised if you run a little over the time you’ve allotted for yourself…

“Are you finished,” my wife asks, bending down to let Tofu off his leash.

“Yes. Did you already take him for his walk?”

She nods, moving in closer. “You’re finished, you’ve saved and everything,” she asks.

“Yes,” I tell her.

“Good,” she says, dropping a plastic bag full of fresh doggie-doo onto my lap. “You can take out the trash.”

About the Author: A freelancer for Media General, Inc., Donald E.W. Quist has written several special interest features for the Florence Morning News, the Hartsville Messenger and InnerViews Magazine. He is the recipient of the 2005 Coker College Write-On Award, and his creative work has appeared in Xcursions Magazine and ERGO magazine. Currently he is shopping for a home for his first novel—Young Folks.

He hopes to launch a website this summer. He invites you to follow him on Twitter: @DonaldEWQuist.