More than 120 Ideas — Never Starting from Nothing!

Nothing by Dariusz Sankowski CC0 Public Domain from Unsplash
Starting from nothing is very much about the greatest challenge in writing, and as such it is for writers who are trying to achieve something. My conten­tion that a blank page is rare. Reality is you are never, start­ing from nothing. There is always something to work on, something to contin­ue, something for tomor­row.

Never — Starting from Nothing

Start by Maico Amorim CC0 Public Domain from UnsplashOn a person­al note, I always have ideas. Not all of them sane, nor repeat­able, but they consist­ently occur. They are concepts that pop into the mind from time to time. You need to listen to your mind! Sift through the crazy and find the snippets you can work with. No writer should be on the start line with  blank page, ideas should be in motion.
The best of my ideas are the ones that I take note of and after thought turn them into the core of something that is publish­able. Like you, I have seen many comments about how diffi­cult it is to start writing with the empty page; having nothing to guide you or push you. I woke this morning not knowing what to write about, yet I found inspir­a­tion. Simply imagine staring out and finding nothing on which to comment on. Where is the fun in that? In truth we should rarely start from nothing. In Evernote I have more than 120 notes, or ideas, that I have started and not yet completed.
Most of these notes are the bare bones of an idea needing research. Some never amount to anything, some are nearing comple­tion and others are simply await­ing time for polish­ing and finish­ing. I added one yester­day simply asked the question, “do you need to modern­ise the look of your site?” I will probably add random thoughts about his subject for weeks before turning it into something that is publish­able.
Recently I started writing a novel, where the words for the opening chapters came from a post published on anoth­er site. The topic of discus­sion was turned into a conver­sa­tion between sever­al people. It stayed true to the origin­al except that state­ments may have changed their form. Perhaps, turned into questions, which may trigger other thoughts to the parti­cipants in the story. Ultimately the discus­sion added elements that were not in the origin­al. The challenge is finish­ing the remainder of the story. Although that remains on track with new storyline being added daily.

Reading and Thinking

Incessant reading helps, it gives the brain hooks to either use or oppose. But no book is to hand, I find myself typing this on the phone, after I forgot to pick up some light reading for this trip. Later, I am writing at some strange hour of the morning because I woke in a strange bed in anoth­er city. Isn’t it amazing how you can feel lost at such times; lost and possibly bored? But writing can fill that gap. Inspiration can occur anywhere and at any time. Perhaps it is half-way through watch­ing the Yankees losing, once again to the Astros, the tone for this season. Thank goodness for the ability to pause live televi­sion, write the note, then contin­ue watch­ing the game.
You might think the prior paragraph was not written in a single sitting. You would be correct in think­ing that. I changed it three times, record­ing three differ­ent moods. The point is having an electron­ic notebook you can take an idea, change it whenev­er it suits and grow what you are working on. Every time you read your own mater­i­al it will spark new thoughts, perhaps trigger­ing the need to add in something new.
At the same time we all know tomor­row will bring a differ­ent set of circum­stances with our thoughts. Thinking is so import­ant. We have differ­ent thoughts. Something else to think about.

Reference Material

At my Desk - Royalty free image by Green Street I am working at home tomor­row, follow­ing my normal routine. This can make all the differ­ence, as I can open my files to find the press and magazine clippings to refer to. There are many projects needing finish­ing, so little time for reading or writing over the next few days. Then I also know that I will pick this note up in the future and massage it, change it, beat it into shape and eventu­ally publish it.
What do writers do when facing that blank page with nothing on it and no ideas? That is a critic­al question. Look on the inter­net and it seems that writer’s block is reach­ing pandem­ic propor­tions. Everyone is writing about it, so the challenge is NOT to write about it. Draw inspir­a­tion from the social networks; Google Plus, Facebook, and LinkedIn; not everything out there is boring! Or has inspir­a­tion has gone from this world for today? I think not.
Someone has published something, somewhere, that you will need to read. Take time to read it.

New Start…

On the day that I picked up this note, which has now been resting for more than a few weeks. It seemed appro­pri­ate to breathe new life into it. Take a differ­ent approach. Take the words, turn them inside out, and prove that there is no such thing as lack of inspir­a­tion. I think that our minds are so active that we start something new without finish­ing the old. Definitely a bad habit. But we can address that problem in precisely those times when you are lacking inspir­a­tion, take a new start.
In part looking at the things around you, or that affect you should lead to many ideas. Maybe walking along the golden sands on the beach leads to a love story. Maybe it leads to you think­ing about global warming, or perhaps driving your dirt-bike and churn­ing up the sand. It is all about taking that inspir­a­tion­al moment in your mind and doing something with it.
At the very minim­um writing down a note, for future use, record­ing how you felt at that moment. One writer sugges­ted we do just this when exper­i­en­cing a cold or the flu. How groggy and horrible we felt is something we forget when our senses return to full capacity. Those horrid feelings may have value, perhaps you have a charac­ter in your novel that is suffer­ing termin­al cancer. You may never publish these things, but by collect­ing those feelings and descrip­tions, you are build­ing a library of clips you can use in the future. I record all manner of snippets for precisely that reason, I re-read the idea, how I felt at the time and that future me decides to take further action, or not.

Ask a Question

Perhaps that is the time to ask the question, “okay Google what, or why is…”? See what the answer is.
What do others think about this subject? Is there someone who supports your view? It is not a disaster if they don’t. Does someone take the oppos­ite view? That can be helpful — it gives you something to argue against. The good thing about research is that you find out about things you have either forgot­ten about or never knew existed. Whether you are writing fact or fiction that journey matters, it is the heart of any writing project.
The more you know, the more it helps your writing. What is the best restaur­ant in Philadelphia? This could be import­ant to know if you are writing a novel about someone visit­ing the city for a few days and will be invited to lunch by a power­ful business figure. You will find people’s opinions through research. It will be possible to tell quickly that you are most likely to find it in the Rittenhouse, Midtown Village or Queen Village areas of the city. Then there is a comment on Facebook “Vedge is the best restaur­ant in town, perhaps ranking among the top restaur­ants — not vegan restaur­ants, not veget­ari­an restaur­ants, just restaur­ants — in the nation”. All that from a little research about a city I have not yet visited, I am hungry.

Far from Perfect?

There are times when what you write in your notes is far from perfect. The right words or phrases will not come to mind. That is alright because as long as you have the nub of it recor­ded it is always possible to come back later, then improve, or perfect it. Do not under­es­tim­ate the power of editing or your mind’s ability to take the story further then next time around.
Not knowing how to phrase something is very much an excuse. Just get on, write it, put something down. When I do this I often include the follow­ing comment «NEEDS editing and the right words found» on a new live in my note. I will search for “«” in notes that I am working on because they give me instruc­tions about changes I should consider. Far from perfect is better than nothing at all. “Far from perfect” gives you something to work on. Never publish it that way though.

Critical Mindset

On your mind by Elena Ferrer CC0 Public DomainAnother thing to consider… Perhaps it is time to devel­op a critic­al mindset. You uncon­scious mind, the creat­ive part of you is always churn­ing, always going through things. It is awake while you sleep.
In your research you should have discovered the thoughts of others about this subject. It is possible you could discov­er there is no need for your piece. This happens when you apply critic­al think­ing, but as a writer be prepared to park it move on to something else. More often though research leads to an affirm­a­tion that what you are writing is neces­sary. This is the point when you need to polish it up, make sure it adds value, then publish it.
Reading other people’s works with a critic­al mindset is a great way of spurring new ideas. If I am reading something and I encounter a state­ment I disagree with, this can be mater­i­al to used launch a new discus­sion on the subject. It is however true that you have to pick your battles. Not everything you disagree with produces mater­i­al for writing.

No Blank Pages

Are you start­ing from nothing? You shouldn’t be. It seems to me, that your page cannot be blank for too long, because your never start­ing from nothing. That the lack of inspir­a­tion in and of itself could be considered inspir­a­tion, if it is possible to follow that contor­ted logic. It is clear that it is a slow news day in the real-world sense, it is not possible to know wheth­er it is in the news sense, given there is no newspa­per to hand. I find that there is always a note or idea that it is possible to move one step closer to being finished.
Having all your eggs in one basket is not a good idea. Cast a few ideas out there in your journ­al and see what takes hold, contrib­ute to each when appro­pri­ate. Watch your ideas grow and ensure you are NEVER start­ing from nothing. If someone asks you to write about a specif­ic topic, look back in your notes to see what notes you already have, they provide the start­ing point. They may not be much, but they are something.

Other Writing on this Topic

Other pieces previ­ously published on this topic include:

 

 

Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee to thank him for talking about what to do when facing a blank page and failing to come up with ideas. If you have questions then please ask them via a comment. All images used here are avail­able in the public domain and have been resourced from royalty free sites like Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash.

1 Comment

  1. At times, a few of my story ideas come when travel­ing. As I am quite inter­ested in the Thriller genre, often when walking inside a metro station or waiting for train, new thoughts come to me. Such rides often give ideas for drama, or scripts that can throw surprises at the end.
    Another way is to read news articles. Sad times also could make us produce good literature- often poetic stuff as well!

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