I’m often asked how writers find ideas for magazine articles and blog posts, and I usually say, “I dunno.” Ideas for articles and posts just come to me! But after reading an article in the Edmonton Journal about how cartoonists find ideas for their drawings, I realized the value in figuring out the idea-finding process.
Did you know that writers, cartoonists, artists, and composers find ideas in similar ways? Check it out:
“The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration.” ~ Ernest Newman.
It’s the same with writers! We have to get to work before we’re inspired — we have to start working so we can be inspired! If you’re a writer or blogger who struggles with the idea-finding process, you may find The Writer’s Idea Book helpful. It’s by Jack Heffron, the acquisitions editor of Writer’s Digest, and is a sure-fire way to overcome writer’s block and fire up the muse.
And, here are a few ways writers find stuff to write about…
How Writers Find Ideas for Magazine Articles and Blog Posts
Most professional freelancers look for ideas for articles. Professional writers and bloggers – freelancers who actually get paid for their writing – can’t afford to sit around waiting for the Muse to descend! They don’t write when the feel inspired, happy, motivated, or caffeinated. It’s their job to find ideas, so they chase them down. How? By reading, living, talking, listening, and thinking.
Some writers talk about the idea-finding process. “When old political cartoonists gather together, they talk about ideas,” writes Malcolm Mayes in “Best Ideas Can Arrive Like Bolts From the Sky – Others Take Hours to be Coaxed Onto the Page” in the Edmonton Journal. “The ink-stained veterans know that the idea is what distinguishes a good cartoon from a bad one. The idea carries the cartoon.” Are you a writer or blogger who struggles to find ideas to write about? If you have a writing group, initiate conversations about the difference between good and bad ideas. If you don’t have a writing group, find writers who inspire and motivate you.
Many writers discard more ideas than they accept. “Most [of my ideas] are discarded quickly; others linger and are developed further in a process of trial and error,” writes Mayes. “One phrase is combined with another, metaphors are twisted and visuals inverted until a unique idea is formed.” It takes time to get used to rejecting article or blog post ideas – just like it takes time to learn to edit your writing and delete entire paragraphs and pages. But, it’s important to see the difference between good and bad ideas, and pull the trigger quickly.
Most writers take time to develop a good magazine article. Our cartoonist says it can take hours to develop a good idea for a cartoon – lots of doodling, reading articles, watching related news clips, researching related stories. It’s the same for professional freelance writers who consistently sell articles and make money writing: they spend time and energy helping a weak idea become a good one, and nurturing good ideas into terrific ones.
All writers are open to (yearn for) lightening-bolt article ideas – and carry that clichéd pen and pad ‘o paper around with them everywhere. There’s no set formula for finding ideas for magazine articles or blog posts.
And, all writers know that ideas come from nowhere and everywhere. “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” ~ Neil Gaiman.
What do you think, fellow scribes? Any thoughts on how writers find ideas for magazine articles or blog posts? Comments welcome below…