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How Writers Find Ideas for Magazine Articles and Blog Posts

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…

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17 thoughts on “How Writers Find Ideas for Magazine Articles and Blog Posts”

  1. Thank you for the insight–I am starting a blog in the near future and have a question about permissions when turning a blog post into a magazine article. How do magazine editors look upon this, if the idea is already posted in another format? Would I need to change anything, or could I use the blog post in its entirety (if it’s good enough for a magazine article. Any insight into this issue would be appreciated. Thanks so much!

  2. I was thinking the same thing but about new business generation the other day. When I’m short of ideas, often the best solution is just to get away from the desk, take a walk, take bath.

    A relaxed state of mind is much more creative.

  3. Its just the same with design – where does that inspiration for the next piece come from ? – you are right … “dunno” is often the anwser, it just pops in to your head.

    The tips mostly equally apply to design as writing and I’ll be sure to try them out next time I get a design block!

  4. Fabrizio Van Marciano

    Great post and great suggestion. As a writer and artist I can tell you first hand that ideas for both come from doing something totally random. Thanks for the post.

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments…Rahul, I don’t know how those creators got their ideas, either! It’s amazing, how some people come up with stuff.

    But, I do know that writers find ideas for magazine articles, blog posts, etc by finding ideas for magazine articles, etc. That is, once the ball is rolling, the ideas keep coming in. The hard part is getting the “idea ball” rolling.

  6. When i do some thing i get some idea immediatly for doing some thing or write about some thing.

    As all we know An idea can change your life,its true i don’t know how google,facebook,twitter owners got idea to start this ventures.

  7. I appreciate the ideas and information you provided. It is indeed helpful for writers like us. Like we really cant avoid that if we want to write something nothing comes to our mind and we tend to dream and go out somewhere just to have an idea what to write. But many thanks for your post.

  8. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments — I love learning how other writers find ideas for magazine articles or blog posts!

    Nard ~ That’s a great idea, to write down all the ideas that occur to you. Then, pick the ones that fit your personality, mission, career or blog goals, or style…that’s a great way to approach it.

    Andrea ~ I want to be more like you — always writing articles in my head 🙂 To me, that’s what being a “real” writer is all about.

    Vaastu ~ finding ideas to blog about is difficult. I think that’s why so many bloggers steal other people’s writing. Here are two articles to help you find ideas to write about:

    What Should I Blog About? Tips for Bloggers Who Have No Ideas

    Ideas for Blog Posts – How Writers Can Rewrite Old Articles

    These articles lead to more articles about writing, so you should find a few ideas in them.

    Thanks for being here!


  9. I am a new one in this field. I have also started a blog but not have any unique or entice ideas to write articles for it. My curiosity is to learn more about it. I hope you will post some another stuff towards this topic.

  10. I have to agree that the first thing you can do is to “look” for the ideas. I can turn practically any situation, conversation, or setting into a blog post or article because I’m constantly looking and listening for the clues and connections. On vacation in Mexico, my boyfriend lovingly joked with me about everything we did in my “blog voice” as to say I was writing articles in my head throughout our entire trip. Too funny! (And I kind of was!)

  11. Find ideas is easy, but find the right idea isn’t. All I do is write all ideas that come to my mind. Either it’s weird, or unbelievable. Afterward, I’m gonna choose which one goes with my vision and mission.

  12. Sometimes it gets very difficult to get ideas ! At that point of time we should not think of writing crap , but wait till you find a good article !! Generally i do follow some part of your article

  13. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment and tips! Daydreaming is one way writers find ideas for magazines, etc — but I find that sitting down and actively brainstorming or mind mapping helps, too. Especially since I have to write two blog posts a day…sometimes it’s a grind, other times it’s a piece of cake.

  14. “You get ideas while daydreaming”, yes it is absolutely true. Ideas most of the times come out of nowhere for me. Then I evaluate whether it is to be framed into an article or not and then do some research about it and then write article. Great post and a great blog (Since I am a first time visitor). Hoping to be a regular here

  15. Wow, great ideas. I plan on printing it out and tacking it to the wall next to my computer. How often do I just sit there with nothing to write about. Just reading this post gave me too ideas to do something about. Thanks!