Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’
Writers really need to be a jack of all trades these days since we are expected to be writers, editors, bloggers, platform builders, marketers and so on. We also have to have a million “sellable” ideas and we can’t afford to run out of them. Because all our other skills won’t add up to much if we don’t have any sellable ideas to begin with.
We need them for all types of fiction and non-fiction. We need them for our blogs and other publications. But there are times even the most prolific creators can feel stuck and uninspired or they can get lost in their search for an angle that hasn’t been done way too often.
The list I gathered offers what I do, and should do more of, to find ideas. While I get quite a few intriguing ideas without even trying (when the magical “what if……? “questions seem to come out of nowhere), most of them come through a lot of effort.
1) Go through your old posts on your blog.
What have you covered? What else should you cover? Should you update existing posts? Or are there posts that you need to turn into a series to make your advice more thorough and helpful?
*If you don’t have a blog, you might want to read 6 Reasons Why Every Writer Should Blog.
2) Go through your pitches. Maybe they landed you assignments. Maybe they didn’t. The ones that didn’t might be lying down somewhere forgotten because of the depression mode you got into due to rejection.
Is it possible that you targeted the wrong markets, you just got better at querying in time or you’ve just discovered other markets that could be interested in those ideas?
Recycle, improve upon and use those ideas.
3) Go through your published articles. You probably know more now than you did then. Do you think there could be another slant hidden there somewhere? Can you use the same research to write other articles around the same topic?
4) Study the markets you are interested in, focusing on titles, reading the articles, focusing on the slants/angles. There’s a chance you’ll disagree with some points, and develop an article idea on that. For instance, I came up with my Freelance Switch article How Coffee Shops Can Make the Best Substitute Offices after reading a few articles on the site that covered libraries and co-working spaces. Since I have a couple of favorite coffee shops I switch back and forth (in addition to my home office) where I worked productively, I decided to make a post of it.
5) Study the markets you find interesting, even the ones you think you may not write for. They might inspire you for fiction and slants. You might even think of an idea for them. You never know.
6) Recycling/revamping your ideas lists. You need to check your list of ideas regularly for updates and editing. You may have written about some of them, you might find inspiration while looking at the others. If you have used all of it, go ahead and delete it. Now you’ve updated yourself about some of the things you’ve already covered.
7) Watch TV shows and movies without switching off the writer in you. I’m a sucker for an engaging story, and I am running an entertainment blog, so I am tuning off the productivity tips about watching less TV. Of course keep in mind that I hate reality TV, and I quit or fast-forward a show the moment it stops being interesting.
How do they make good posts, you ask? Below are some articles that were inspired by them:
On story analysis:
- Crying for a Good Story, by PJ Reece (on Good Will Hunting)
- Two New Movies That Demonstrate Story Physics by Larry Brooks (on Lincoln and The Sessions.)
On delicious conflicts:
Having fun analyzing fictional writers:
I have so much fun doing this, I have an entire category dedicated to it.
8) Talk to professionals in different areas that you are interesting in writing about.
9) Make a list of your failures. Some of the most popular posts were born through author mistakes.
10) Make a list of your accomplishments. See what topics you can dig up from there.
11) Go through the “finding ideas” posts on sites you love, bookmark /print out the ones you find useful (that include tips you don’t already put to use or haven’t tried yet.)
12) Find a great “writing headlines” source and think in terms of titles, getting article ideas from them. Try Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks.
13) Analyze characters from novels you love. Think about them. Maybe they can tell you something. Lots of fun dating article ideas can be born from them, such as:
14) Think about the jobs you hated/you loved.
15) Think about your career progress. I realized that for me, a combination of a part-time teaching job and writing worked wonders. You bet I wrote a story about it: One Freelance Writer’s Surprising Strategy for a Revved-Up Career. It was published on Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing blog.
16) Write about songs. Especially if you’re writing about music, the ideas are endless.
18) Find things in common between Blockbusters/best-sellers and your writing topic.
19) Never turn off your creativity switch. Even if you are just watching a celebrity interview on YouTube.
20) Collect the best list posts on your chosen subject. Bookmark them, study them. Focus more on the information you haven’t internalized.
21) Gather your ideas in one place and look through them occasionally. Add, subtract, improve. It’s hard to keep track of them all when they are scattered on post-its, notebooks, word files and so on.
22) Cover your favorite resources. I do it often here. It helps me restudy the material, gives me something relevant to write about and helps me share valuable information with readers.
Some of my review posts are:
23) Cover stuff that inspired you.
24) Write case studies.
25) Brainstorm niches, and then brainstorm further from those niches. Here’s a great list from All Freelance Writing to get you started: 101 Niches to Write About.
26) Think in “how (to) ” terms.
It works wonders especially if you back it up with a real life success story.
You might try How I Made 6 Figures as a Freelance Writer in 2011 from Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing.
27) Think about how not to do something. Think about what not to do. Or the reasons why you shouldn’t be doing that. And start taking notes.
28) Gather your favorite resources in a list.
You might want to check out 60 Resources for Freelance Writers by Jennifer Mattern on All Freelance Writing.
29) Share success stories, and it doesn’t have to about writers.
30) Find inspiring, fun and useful templates/how-to (e) books and work your way through them. I really like Steph Auteri’s Freelance Awesome: A Starter Kit and Thursday Bram’s New Ideas on Old Topics. They can be acquired through their sites, and they are free.
Normal? What do you mean normal?
“There are two types of people: those who think they are normal, and those who know there’s no such thing.”
I love this quote, and recently I heard it again from Jeff Daniels’ character in the series Newsroom. I couldn’t get into the show, but I’m happy it reminded me of the quote.
I hate the term normal, because it is relative, invented by societies and cultures, and tons of people just kept trying to match up to it, without even questioning it. And the lot that questions it often gives up without trying enough, or believing that they can change anything.
The most common “normal” seems to be having a good job in a respectable corporation, climbing up the ladder while paying off a mortgage, having 2 kids and making a marriage work. Of course as time passes by, people work more and more, see those kids less, expect more from them (since they will face even a harsher competition for the best corporate jobs), have less fun and the vicious cycle continues. They do treat themselves to expensive stuff and some luxury holidays if they can afford it, without ever being able to appreciate it.
Bleak, right? I never wanted a corporate job. I never wanted a full-time job. I never believed marriage or having kids is a must. You want to get married? Fine. You want to have kids? Fine. But there is nothing wrong with doing things the way you want to.
And because I don’t want these things, I have been considered to be different/quirky/strange/eccentric by my friends and most of my family. They always believed that it is a temporary phase, just like I was expected to stop caring about the music that plays in the background. To get a stable job. To have a panicking biological clock because I’m past 25. What the hell?
I don’t fit in, because I have different dreams and plans. I aim to make it big as a writer, and even if I don’t, I’ll keep working as a writer. I’ll continue freelancing, writing those novels and screenplays, traveling and having the time of my life doing these. Of course this can be a lonely road since people around you either think you are crazy, or appreciate your guts and wish they could join you, but they won’t. It’s safer to stick to “normal” and “expected.”
So you do feel the need to read/meet people who feel the same way about things. People who do their own thing, and lead the life they want to lead. Johnny B. Truant is one of them.
I first came across his writing while reading Copyblogger where he guest-posts, but frankly, I could never really relate until I read his “Why Your Blog Is Going Nowhere (and the Truth about Getting Traffic).” on Jon Morrow’s boostblogtraffic.
Now don’t think that it is going to be the same old post. Just because everybody has discovered the draw of the “how-not-to-succeed/what-you-are-doing-wrong” sort of posts, don’t think his going to be similar. For one, he is blunt and uncensored. He also gives a lot of tough love, taking into consideration that it might just not be applying the wrong strategy, but you might also suck as a writer. Ouch.
But he does give advice that will work (if you apply them) whatever your problems might be. Now, I never let a good post go to waste-meaning I don’t just read and forget about it. I check the links, and see if the author is taking his own advice. I also read the posts the links take me to, because I always end up finding valuable resources and ideas for my writing. There’s also the benefit of reading more, which in turn makes you a more informed, varied and prolific writer.
So I did read the blog post he linked to, the one about how he wrote and published a novel on Kindle in 29 days, and the uncensored one (the other one he linked to,) and I decided, again, that he knew what he was talking about, and that I liked how he was talking about it. So I downloaded his free e-book How To Be Legendary.
HOW TO BE LEGENDARY – Review and Quotes
His analogies about Matrix got to be the second thing I liked about the series, the first one being Keanu Reeves. I might be alone in this, but I wasn’t remotely into the world where Neo wasn’t a slave to- it was just as bleak and lifeless and full of weird characters as the first one he didn’t feel he belonged to.
But the enslaving world in the analogy is the “normal” life as we are expected to live, and the liberating path is the one we choose for ourselves. It might end up being “normal” but it is important that we chose it willingly, and will be happy that we chose it to the last second we have on earth.
It is honest, fun and in-your-face.
“You’ll get old and then you’ll die, so there’s no point in hedging your biggest bets. It’s truly now or never.”
Not only doesn’t he book reinvent the wheel, but he openly admits to it. He admits his own procrastination and the period where he did things for the wrong reasons, and how he made them right.
You aren’t probably going to get any epiphanies reading the book, but it is a great motivator if you are struggling to put in the work for what you want to do, or presenting that work to the outside world. It will also remind you of how legendary people actually got to be legendary, and that not everyone will put in the work they need to.
So the book is helpful, though not everyone might feel that way. It helps, and will help, only if you are ready to get going. Like I completed this post in the midst of a major cold I’m fighting off. And yeah, it is nice to feel on track instead of feeling depressed over the obstacles/excuses (aka the lack of energy/lack of time/lack of inspiration…)
“The ‘I don’t have time’ excuse is the lamest excuse to ever exist. It makes me angry, because it is so fragrantly bullshit.”
Pay extra attention to what he says about trying to make things perfect. You can find the book here.
There are many writing-related cartoons that make me laugh. And not because they are hilarious or tragicomic, but they also have a level of truth to them – OK, sometimes the truth level is scarily high:))
I hope you can all enjoy the cartoons below. I’m planning to make this list a series, collecting the funny stuff whenever I see it.
Freelancers often worry about creativity blocks, lack of time, unsatisfactory levels of productivity and lack of promising projects. But what happens when you find yourself bursting with ideas, enthusiasm for promising projects, inspiration for your own marketing efforts, combined with the expectations of your day job/part-time job if you have one?
My “juggling” need started in late May when I had to deal with multiple competitions I wanted to enter, lots of ideas to pitch to different kinds of clients, upcoming deadlines for existing clients and the much-needed updates to my own web presence and marketing plans. With only 2 to 4 weeks to pull it all off, I came with an efficient plan to manage everything – without losing any valuable ideas in the process. I’m progressing at an effective speed.
Oh, yes – this can happen. Maybe it is the summer bringing out extra creativity in me or the upcoming deadlines of writing competitions, but I never had so many ideas and deadlines at the same time. The competitions want the type of stories I’m interested in, I have a lot of cool ideas both for my own and other people’s publications, potential new clients…and did I mention that the deadlines are relatively close and I also have a part-time job?
No, I’m not complaining. I’ve been quite thrilled and motivated actually. OK, I did panic a bit in the beginning. But once I sat down and came up with a followable plan (which is a plan that doesn’t push my limits more than it has to.) Everything fell into place.
So how do you start taking steps to enable yourself to juggle everything at once while performing satisfactorily at all of them without missing deadlines? Beware that you’ll need to do most (if not) all steps simultaneously.
1) Take a deep breath, and start researching.
What are your options? The deadlines? The costs? Conditions?
Prioritize according to your needs, expectations and the potential rewards. Then get to work, starting from number 1 on your to-do list.
2) Note down all the ideas- no matter how big or small, good or mediocre, detailed or precise.
Note who they might be for, and don’t limit yourself to one market/client. If this is a perfect fit for more than one market, write that down too.
3) Take this rush “period” to quickly but efficiently digest the extra information you need on the markets and how-tos.
I know there are a lot of great resources lying around waiting to be studied- and there is no time like the immediate need to devour the urgently-needed tips. This might even give you more ideas, which you will include in action number 2. Nobody is 100% creative or productive all the time, so take full advantage of this period.
4) Do the actual work – whether it is marketing, designing, writing, editing or else.
5) Switch between projects, without missing deadlines, when you get stuck or less productive.
6) Check, polish and deliver to the final destinations – but don’t forget to keep track of what you did for whom and when.
7) Cross “the done” off from your list of priorities – and make a new list of priorities if you have discovered more of those.
8) Review, refresh and edit your list of ideas- note their desired destinations and make a plan for the next couple of months.
9) Relax a little, do the social stuff you might have missed to recharge for the next round of rush period.
10) Reap the rewards and lessons of this insanely busy period.
I can’t believe my last post was a month ago. I’m so sorry about that. But I have a valid excuse: I was listening to my own advice (I’m a big fan of practicing what I preach.) Inspiration and motivation were chasing me at record speed so I willingly surrendered. I’m not saying that I didn’t get any valuable ideas to share here. I did. But I wanted to keep a really good record of every idea and goal so I jotted down a lot, changed my mind a couple of times about which contests to enter, wrote my drafts and I’m back. And I promise not to stay away for so long again.
- I have had these two fun screenplay ideas (actually I’d written the first drafts a long time ago) for ages but there was no way I’d be able to format them in time for the Big Break Contest organized by *Final Draft (a screenwriting software I’ve been happily using whose review I’ll post soon).
But Big Break’s *extended deadline is 15th June, they want the full script and the awards are nothing short of amazing. But my two scripts need adjustments in many areas, and there is no way they will be fit for a contest until the deadline.
Then I realized that I could enter the Script Pipeline’s Great Idea contest, where you are allowed to write anything from a logline to a treatment of 3-5 pages.
So guess what? Currently I’m writing 2 treatments and editing them. I’ll then submit & keep my fingers crossed. And even though I don’t get to be a finalist, I’ll have two very clear ideas on how I want to outline the story, and relive the events and my characters. Of course I won’t be sitting on these screenplays afterwards.
- I have some upcoming fun and useful writing posts.
- I have some wonderful movie post (for my entertainment blog) ideas, based on the romantic in me. It’s all Forget Me Not’s fault really. I can no longer delay those posts, such as the most romantic & original marriage proposal in a movie.
- My favorite TV shows are either over or on a seasonal break- which incidentally is on its way to be another post here. Oh yes, it is perfectly writing-relevant, trust me.
- I’m planning a two week trip to Norway and Sweden which motivated me further to pitch and research more efficiently.
Not only is it a specific deadline challenge, but also its blows to the budget will provide more incentive to increase my freelance income. Not just because I will spend a lot, but I’ll want to go on a travelling spree again very soon.
Yes, I confess, I am addicted to traveling, nearly as much as I’m addicted to writing and entertainment.
There’s more, but let that be another post.
How has your writing been going?
- Please note that extended deadlines typically mean increased entrance fees.
- The links in these posts aren’t affiliate links, just the direct links to the contest information pages.
I have a deadline for 2 travel posts. I have a more pressing deadline for a writing contest whose early bird deadline I ignored because I wanted the manuscript to be flawless (not that “flawless” really exists for a writer or an editor.) Of course there is the novel I have been trying to finish for months (which was originally intended to finish in line with Writer’s Digest’s 90 Days to Your Novel), and two contests that I found about much too late, but I’m dying to enter (or at least brainstorm a good idea for later use) anyway.
And guess what I’m inspired to write instead? Blog posts for my own blogs. Yes, I love my blogs and writing for them. It is always great to present good new content to your audience, and it definitely helps your blogs’ ranking and traffic if you publish new and interesting content more often. But whenever I make a schedule for my blog posts, I am inspired to write anything but.
When I want to concentrate on my novel, I find myself writing blog posts or working on a story that was written before but will be reformatted.
So I decided to run with the flow.
But if you have to write one thing before the other, and that pressure (of the deadlines) is making you not write at all, it is better to write what you are inspired to than write nothing at all.
I’m a big fan of chasing inspiration, but sometimes inspiration has other ideas, and it wants to reach you for different ideas and stories than the one you need to work on. Don’t let it go. Write it down, and even if you don’t have the time to write all of it, write the most crucial part so that you can make it work when you come back to it.
If you ignore inspiration because you are waiting for another kind, there is a chance it will ignore you for a longer time-even when you are trying to chase it.
So I’m off to writing that TV series post now. What do you feel like writing at this very moment?
Some people love to chase. While I am not a big fan of chasing when it comes to dating, chasing inspiration is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer.
I love it when inspiration comes by itself. When I have a magical A-HA! moment. When an idea comes by itself and not when I was brainstorming, forcing my brain to fix a plot problem. When it comes unannounced, unexpected and gives me the rush to start writing it right there and then. And even if I can’t start at that moment, I am smart enough to take enough notes so that I don’t let it get away.
Except this rarely happens to me. Especially when writing fiction. An exciting, entertaining idea doesn’t just come on its own. An idea- typically an ordinary one- comes when I think about what I want to write about. I know I want this ordinary situation or character in some way, but I don’t want it to be ordinary. No, I am not contradicting myself.
OK, think about it like this. You want to write about cancer. But you don’t want to go down the old, depressive, tragic, “what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this route”. Or the “I’m-already-dead-might-as-well-go-all-self-destructive route”.
Instead, your character decides to make the most of her life right there and then. She finds out humorous, practical and innovative ways to deal with her son and husband. She doesn’t care that much about saving money any more. She buys a red convertible – which will go to her son after he reaches a certain age. See how she lived for the moment, without screwing up anyone’s future? She also has workers build the swimming pool she always wanted. Impulsive? Yes. Irrational? No. If anything, this will increase the value of the house.
Did the plot sound familiar? Well, it is the plot of the comedy/drama show The Big C starring Laura Linney. Before watching it, I remember thinking “Humor in cancer? Right. Like that could happen!” But it has, and the show turned out to be really good and unique.
Isn’t this more interesting than typical ways of grieving?
This happens to me a lot. I respond to my ideas by changing the core of the story, changing the sex of the main character, shaking stereotypes, or adding some unexpected traits to the archetype. Victoria Connelly did a wonderful example of this by creating a writer character in her book “A Weekend with Mr. Darcy”.
In the book, the main character is Lorna Warwick – a modern day, famous author of best-selling Jane Austen style novels. But of course Lorna is the pen name and the writer is actually a guy. And he is not gay or a nerd. He is a masculine, heterosexual, sexy guy who hides behind the persona – and does adrenaline-inducing outdoor activities with his friends while he is not writing. And best of all…his interest in Jane Austen, and his novels, is genuine.
A Weekend with Mr. Darcy may not be the best book ever-created but I really liked the male protagonist being a guy’s guy and loving Jane Austen, and her characters, as much as the next gal. And guess what? Connelly has been published many times.
Where did the inspiration for this article come from? It came while I was reading this Writer’s Digest article about how not to write a novel, and one of the best ways to do it was to wait for inspiration. I am trying to write a novel and yet after all this time creating stories, I still tend to make the mistake of waiting for inspiration. The article stroke a chord and I wrote about it.
So an article about writing inspiration came when I was studying writing (so I could write my novel better and I could get to know the magazine enough to pitch great queries.) Not when I was doing something totally unrelated, or not doing anything at all.
While inspiration might occasionally do the favor of dropping by out of thin air, it mostly loves to be chased with vengeance. So you can just start writing about anything in anyway…and spice things up later.
If there is something that bothers me than writing something ordinary…it is not writing at all. The name of this blog is not a coincidence. I truly am addicted to writing. And while ordinary can be changed into extraordinary through trial and error, extraordinary isn’t born from nothing.