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Writing – The Ideas Factory

September 24th, 2011 Matt Leave a comment Go to comments
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When I was a teenager, ideas came thick and fast. This stopped being the case long ago, but that doesn’t mean the ability to come up with new ideas is gone. Maybe I’m just out of practice.

Black bulb of dreadful inspiration

This rather clever photo was taken by image munky

Serial Sequential Certainty

Whenever I write something, I will get ideas for something else during the writing process. Just recently, during my current WIP first draft (a short-ish story. I have two on the go – one in first draft mode, one in editing mode), I generated an idea for a sequel of sorts, or a novel based around the world. It was done simply by thinking about my main character’s background. I decided he was part of a specific class of people. What would happen if these lone warriors, each with their own set of values and ways of getting things done, were forced to unite to defeat a common foe. The forming of this coalition and the internal conflicts would make an interesting novel.

Suddenly my short story is the background to a wider conflict. This gave my story more depth, and made the world more viable as the setting for a longer piece.

This is not the first time it has happened either. My other WIP, currently in editing mode (still. STILL!) gave rise to a sequel short story idea. This again came when fleshing out my main character’s backstory. I decided a story about one of the men in his past might be interesting to explore – et voila! A story is born!

The Writer’s Mindset

But it’s not just creeping sequelitis that comes from regular writing. I really believe that getting your brain into that practiced writing state can help generate new ideas when you’re away from the page. Writing stays with you, even when you’re not typing or scribbling. And the more you do it the more that state of mind infects the rest of your daily life. I am sure I have more ideas when I’m writing than in my periods when I’m slacking off.

Back to my teenage self. I thought about writing a lot. Hell, I even did some. I can’t say I did more writing then than I did now, but when I did it was not a case of trying to form a routine and get into the process. When I felt inspiration strike me, I wrote. It was part of my psyche, I guess; I had decided I was A Creative, sprung from the womb with an innate talent. I don’t believe in such things anymore. Instead I believe that if I’d put more work in then, my well of ideas would not have run dry. If I’d known what was involved to really become a writer, I would not have got out of practice.

Again this validates my view that writing is a kind of training, not just in refining your craft, but in mindset. That is, after all, the most important training you can give yourself – with the right mindset a person can achieve most things.

Do you ever run dry on ideas? What do you do to get yourself out of the rut, or is the answer always to write?

Categories: Inspiration Tags: , ,
  • Craig

    I think part of it is that generating new ideas (and not just random flash in the pan fragments) takes *energy*.  And when you’re younger you obviously have massive surplusses of that stuff to fling around left right and centre.  As you get older though, other things take over.  Life, family, ‘proper’ jobs (for some of us) and generating ideas (good ideas, fleshed out ideas) takes a lot of thought and effort and energy.

    While when I was younger I hated the idea of churning out tons of sequels – I saw them as cheap cash ins (especially the dreaded trilogy) – being on the other side of the argument now, I can see its easier.  No effort has to be put into the background.  The only ideas you have to come up with is ‘what mess can our hero/heroine get into now?’ 

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      Regarding sequels, I have a better appreciation of how new stories naturally come out of the ones I’m working on. It’s not like it has to be forced for commercial gain. I think that’s where after-the-fact (i.e. sequels not part of a story designed as, say, a trilogy from the off) sequels work best (or maybe the only time they work at all).

  • Eric

    I like this idea. There have been too many times when writing takes a background to other things because I just cannot come up with ideas. That’s why my screenplay has been collecting digital dust in my writing folder…

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      Hi Eric – thanks for the comment!

      Yes, it takes a bit of a flip of perspective – don’t write because you have ideas, write in order to have ideas! The temptation (and I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past) is not to write anything and wait for an idea to come to you. But as long as you’re waiting, you’re not writing. Better to write something (anything) for the sake of writing – ideas will probably just come.