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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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Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

I read People magazine on the regular (it’s my guilty pleasure), and one thing I love about it is there’s always a “Best New Books” section, mostly filled with novels. I love reading this section to keep tabs on the new books that are coming out.

Plus, I always learn something about Concept and Premise.

Take the write up I saw for the book, Maybe In Another Life, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The write-up for this book details the plot as:

Tired of meaningless jobs and fresh from a breakup, 29-year-old Hannah goes home to L.A. seeking a new start. What she encounters first is her old boyfriend, Ethan, in a bar. Is it fate? Should she stay with him or leave with her friend? In parallel story lines, Reid plays out the consequences of each decision.

What’s Conceptual about this story is the parallel story lines–we’re seeing two stories happening to the same character simultaneously, and we don’t know which one is reality and which isn’t. This in and of itself is interesting, and an Antagonist hasn’t even been introduced.

And then the Premise happens when we see that she has moved all the way back home–only to run into her high school boyfriend (the story’s Antagonist, I’m assuming, since I haven’t read the book).

Where Story Ideas Comes From

I don’t know about you, but I love the Concept that Reid is playing with in this story. It has so much inherent conflict, and so many possibilities built right in. It’d be cool to know where the idea for this story came from, and how it transformed into the book Reid published.

‘Cause story ideas are just that–ideas. They aren’t actual stories. Not yet.

In order to count as a story, it needs a whole list of things, like a Protagonist, an Antagonist, a Concept, a vicarious experience, and something happening.

Story ideas are merely seeds or sparks of inspiration that can be turned into a story by asking questions, playing with different scenarios, and finding the most optimal choices.

But a good story can be sparked by almost anything:

  • something you hear or see in real life
  • a story in the newspaper
  • a song lyric
  • another story
  • an experience you’ve had
  • an experience someone else has had
  • an experience you’d like to have
  • a character
  • a setting
  • a year in history

This list of story sparks could go on forever…

But none of these sparks is an actual story. Not yet.

First, a Concept and Premise needs to be introduced.

An Inside Look

There’s so much that goes into what you see in the final published story. And there’s so much that came before it–the story development process, writing the draft, revising the story, editing, polishing, etc.

Problem is, you rarely ever get to see this stuff. All you ever see is the final product.

So I wanted to give you an inside look at my story planning and development process, the one I use for my stories and all of my client’s stories. I’m live-planning my new story starting next Monday. 

The idea seed for my new story comes from something that actually happened. Back in 2008, I came across an inspiring story online that totally captured my heart–a Starbucks barista donated a kidney to one of her customers.

It struck a chord with me, and made me ask a lot of questions:

  • Why would someone donate a kidney to an almost-stranger?
  • What would it be like to go through this experience?
  • How would it change you?

These questions were enough to hold my interest and spark a story idea that I’ve been marinating on for years.

Next week, I’m diving deeper into how I’m turning this idea seed into an actual story, with a Concept and a Premise.

Be sure to join my email list so you don’t miss a thing (and you’ll also get a special freebie I only give to newsletter subscribers). 

 

Image courtesy of Magenta Rose