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.

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