Let’s face it, as writers, we all need fresh ideas from time to time. Sometimes writer’s block will rear its ugly head, and we’re just… stuck. Though often creativity seems to spring uninhibited, too fast for us writers to even organize it, sometimes the well of creativity runs dry, and we struggle to put one word after another.
But here’s the funny part.
Though a writer needs creativity, the reverse is also true: Creativity needs a writer! In other words, creativity needs us to go out and experience the world, try new things, and overall be active. New ideas come from the most seemingly mundane experiences, as long as we keep our options open.
In this post, I’ll share with you seven ways to develop ideas for your writing that you may not have considered before. Try these activities, approaching them with an open mind and your creative side ready, and you might be surprised.
Play With Kids
Kids have the greatest imaginations on the planet. I once held a conversation with a four-year-old about whether fish ate belly buttons because their mouths were the right shape and belly buttons looked like something had been sucked out of them. She also wondered why we don’t wear fish as hats and whether the fish themselves had hats.
We determined that fish hats would smell bad and get icky fish juice all over our awesome hair and that fish don’t wear hats because they would fall off as the fish swam. We debated the merits of an elastic band to keep the hats on but nixed the idea as fish don’t have hands to put on elastic-banded hats. I got a blog post title out of the conversation: “Don’t Ick on my Wow,” about not letting other people’s icky fish juice mess up your awesomeness.
Kids often epitomize free association, nonsequiturs, and stream of consciousness—three techniques that can help any writer, no matter how seasoned you may be. I’m sure Lewis Carrol was using nonsequiturs when he asked, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Taking two disparate objects and trying to find commonalities can be a powerful writing technique.
My four-year-old niece was doing that with fish mouths and belly buttons. Maybe as a writer, you need to write a piece on residential solar panels. You could use Random Word Generator to find ideas to free-associate with solar panels.
I just pulled the words “leave,” “stunning,” “designer,” “love,” and “culture” from the word generator. I could talk about the stunning design of residential solar panels, the eco-friendly culture solar panels fit with, or take a “love ‘em or leave ‘em” approach to the article.
If you don’t have kids of your own or ready access to friends’ kids or nieces and nephews, you can volunteer at your local children’s home.
Go to a Museum
Any museum can offer inspiration in your writing. A science museum could offer a new perspective on life as we know it. Art museums might move you to look at the beautiful side of whatever you’re writing about. A railway museum lends itself to ideas about the olden days. A natural history museum shows you where we’ve come from and how we got here.
Anybody can visit the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, or the Vatican Museums and be inspired by the greatness contained therein. It takes a special kind of writer to find ideas in, let’s say, more quirky museums.
You could visit the Museum of Ice Cream in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Visit the sherbet room, the indoor pool filled with 10 million plastic sprinkles, or the holographic scratch-n-sniff banana wall to fill your mind with whimsy and humor. Ask yourself, how is a popsicle like your solar panels? What’s the cherry on top of your solar panel installation?
You might be inspired by the confluence of the mundane and the eccentricity of Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Over 1300 works of art hang in Mr. Smith’s detached garage, ranging from college logos to pink flamingos and everything in between. What artwork might be on the toilet seats of the home where your solar panels live?
You might decide there’s no place like the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas. It’s dedicated to all things Oz, from the books to the movies, some dating back to 1900. How is the yellow brick road like residential solar panels? What if your resident is a Cowardly Lion about whether to install solar panels or not? What if you had the solar panels in you all along?
Visit a Zoo or Aquarium
Mother Nature is a great teacher of all things great and small. When you visit the zoo or aquarium, ascribe motives and needs to the animals you see there. Why are those two zebras sniffing each other’s noses? Why are the clownfish swimming in that particular formation? What do the rays and flounders think about being petted all day long?
What would the rhinos think of your residential solar panels? The tigers? The naked mole rats? The jellyfish? Perhaps the tiger would be like a domesticated cat, afraid of its own reflection in the solar panels. The naked mole rats may have to burrow elsewhere since the solar panels could block the sun’s warmth on their shallow tunnels, from which they maintain their body temperature. The rhinos might simply charge this new addition to their home, while the jellyfish would just float along, creating their own internal light as they go. What traits of the animals could be ascribed to your solar panels? Strength, speed, cunning, camouflage, smarts?
Search Goodreads for Quotes
Goodreads is an outstanding source of quotes on anything and everything under the sun. That includes 562 quotes about the sun, and one on solar panels: “…even in the poorest places on Earth, we often see a little solar panel on a little hut that feeds a Nokia 1000 phone, the most produced device in the history of manufacturing, billions of them have shipped….” — Andreas M. Antonopoulos.
Search for quotes on semi-related topics to see if you can relate them to solar panels. For example, solar panels create energy. A search for quotes on energy gives you this:
“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.” — Roy Bennett. How do solar panels shift energy, and how is that a creation process?
Search for unrelated topics and see what you can put together. For example, a search for quotes about folders reveals this quip: “I’m so excited. I just bought a new file cabinet, some manila folders, some sticky note pads, and a few highlighters, and I think I’m finally ready to enter into organized crime.” — Jarod Kintz. What does organization have to do with solar panels? Or crime, for that matter?
Search Answer the Public
AnswerThePublic.com “listens into autocomplete data from search engines like Google then quickly cranks out every useful phrase and question people are asking around your keyword.” You get two searches per day on their free plan. For example, a search on solar panels reveals 384 relevant phrases, questions, and topics.
Some questions include how solar panels work at home, are solar panels worth it, which solar panels are best, why solar panels are good, and why solar panels are bad.
Next come phrases. You’ll see things like solar panels you can walk on, solar panels with battery storage, solar panels without sunlight, solar panels can be recycled, and solar panels for home.
Then there are the comparisons. Solar panels and batteries, solar panels and pigeons, solar panels like roof tiles, solar panels shaped like flowers, solar panels or wind turbines, solar panels vs. solar cells, and solar panels vs. heat pumps.
After that come the “alphabeticals,” that is, phrases involving every letter of the alphabet. Everything from solar panel advantages, solar panel building regulations, and solar panels calculator, to solar panels for Xmas lights, solar panels you can plug into, and solar panels zero down.
Finally, there are related searches, including solar panels for home, solar panels for sale, solar panels for campervan, and solar panel grants.
Go See a Movie
Exposing yourself to anything new can get your synapses firing, and watching a movie is no different. A good storyline, realistic characters, and engaging dialogues can all spark great ideas for content creation.
For example, if you watched Forrest Gump, you might wonder if someone who’s thought not to be a smart man could install solar panels. You could speculate about solar panels being able to power the Bubba Gump Shrimp boats. You might consider how well solar panels would work if it rained for four months straight.
Or, if you watched The Hunger Games, you could think solar panels might be fueling the girl who was on fire. You could wonder if solar panels fueled The Capitol or the silk parachutes carrying sponsor gifts. You might posit that solar panels were involved in maintaining the energy dome that surrounded the arena where the tributes fought.
Going to the movies also gives you a great opportunity to people-watch. Who are your fellow movie-goers? What are their struggles? What do they want and need to be fixed in their lives? What are their deepest desires and darkest secrets? How would solar panels fit into their lifestyles?
Look Around You
What relations do your belongings or your present scenery have to the subject you’re writing about? How does your water bottle relate to solar panels? What can your toaster oven tell you about using solar panels at home? How would a lampshade fit into your article about solar panels?
Maybe you’re working on your article at the local park. What does the swingset tell you about how solar panels work? How does the merry-go-round describe the use of solar panels? Which slide is the most like solar panels, the big tall one, the wavy one, or the one for the littlest kids where their mommies wait at the bottom to catch them?
Perhaps you’re like me, and you have sticky notes on your walls with inspirational sayings. How does “Put yourself in the way of beauty” relate to solar panels? What about “No matter how small you start, start something that matters”? Or “Everyone forgets; Icarus also flew”? Maybe “How would the person I wish to be act today?”
The truth is, many writers try to get new ideas by simply closing their eyes, expecting creativity to come to them. But that’s not where creativity is. It’s out there!
Creativity Is out There
Many people, including writers, believe writing involves sitting before the computer, closing your eyes, and “coming up with stuff.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Writers need to experience the world, discovering new ideas before they can write about them.
If you’ve struggled with writer’s block, if you have been trying to find creativity without much success, it’s likely you’ve been looking in the wrong place. Creativity is out there, in every experience that can pique our interest and tickle our imagination.
Writing cues are all around you if only you have the courage to look for them. Play with kids, go to a museum, visit a zoo or aquarium, search Goodreads and Answer the Public, go see a movie, or just look around you, and you’ll find ideas galore to fit all your writing needs. Be patient; there are content ideas all around you if you only relax enough to see them.