Prolific Writing Starts with Prolific Idea Generation

The Writing ProcessPhoto license

I’ve always assumed the only thing standing in the way of most writers becoming prolific was getting their butt into the chair and writing. I was wrong. Many writers have trouble generating ideas. I can think of only one reason not to have new ideas for articles; a belief that you must write about ideas that have never been written about before.

You can spend hours working through different ideas in your head until you find something you don’t believe you’ve seen before, write it up, and publish. This is the long way to write an article. Ideas that come as inspiration will go much faster. But, either method will have the same result. Now that you’ve written the idea, you’ll notice it appear in someone else’s writing. That’s why people sometimes think their idea was plagiarized, sue, and find out the defendant wrote their article, book, or story first. There is nothing new beyond scientific discovery.

Stop trying to be 100% original. Unless you’re involved in advanced research, none of your ideas are going to be original. Your writing is original only in the way you write it. That’s why you can’t apply copyright to an idea. If all ideas were copyrighted, it would be the end of writing and the end of many other kinds of creative work.

Because idea generation has never been a problem for me, I can’t explain the inspiration version of idea generation. Either you have an active imagination or you don’t. About half of my ideas come from inspiration and half because I see an idea someone else has shared and know I would write about it in a different way. What follows are the steps to capturing lots of ideas from others, making sure you get lots of them, cutting out the elaborations, and creating your own article or story. It’s been said before, but “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” When you cut the source of an idea down to just the idea, the source is gone.

Step 1: Capture Every Idea

Be ready to capture every idea in a file, notepad, or within your current writing. I use word processor files to capture ideas on seven different topics. New ideas go at the bottom after I’ve cut them down to point form. When I need to write a new article or story, I pick from the top. With hundreds of ideas in some of the files, I have no idea what the source article, book, movie, etc might have said. My new piece of writing will have no relation to the source.

When you get good at capturing every idea that comes your way, your ideas file will grow huge. That’s a bonus. If the top idea seems dumb, you’ll have no problem deleting it.

Since we are all so connected now, I’ll share one more way to capture ideas. Use a draft e-mail or send yourself an e-mail. I think most of us have more than one e-mail. Either way, you can capture ideas at any computer or with your cell phone.

Step 2: Search for Ideas at Every Opportunity

Actively look for ideas when you must visit idea sources for other reasons.

When you’re researching new information, you will see ideas that fit your subject. Capture them in point form while you’re there.

When you’re bored and decide to make yourself more bored by wasting time on the internet, watch for ideas. You can come up with some really odd article and story ideas this way. Not all will be worthless.

When you’re writing and have an idea, capture it immediately. The easy way is to just write a paragraph into what your working on and continue your current task. If you’re worried about finding it again, change the text color.

Be aware of your world. What unusual people or events have you seen on the way to work or in shops? How does what you see, even on the net, relate to what you like to write?

Step 3: Cut Concepts Down to Their Basic Points

For the ideas you capture to become your own, you need to clean out the data that came with them. In other words, all you want is the idea. You don’t need to know how the source implemented the idea unless you don’t know how to do it yourself.

If the idea is new knowledge for you, you’ve stepped into a learning assignment and you’ll want to get several viewpoints and put them to work so that you understand the concept fully. If you keep working with the original step-by-step instructions as you learn and make changes as you go, the final tutorial will bear no resemblance to the original.

Step 4: Wait Before Making Ideas Your Own

Return to your point form article ideas after some time has passed. Because nothing is explained, it will be your own ideas that you write to explain what’s up. As I mentioned above, the easy way to do this is to put new ideas at the bottom of a file and take old ideas from the top long after the source explanation has been forgotten.

A Shortcut

If you are only now going to start an ideas file and can’t wait to collect a bunch of ideas before writing an article, there is a shortcut. Find an article with an idea you’d like to write about and search for more on the same concept. You’ll find many different angles, more and fewer points, and explanations that wander all over. Use each new source to modify your first set of notes and cut the explanations mercilessly. Get the idea down to point form and then elaborate on the subject yourself.

Article writing isn’t even my main writing interest and I’ve been able to use these techniques to create hundreds of articles. You can too.

This article was created in point form while I was in the middle of writing my novel, Homicidal Tendencies. I finished it by elaborating on the steps during a break from writing the novella Toe-Cutter, a story about an anti-hero who wants to avoid a life of crime but keeps getting pulled back in because he can’t let evil win.

Best of luck in your search for new article ideas.

Article by Ivan Izo.

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