Why not use night thoughts to brainstorm writing ideas?

Night time can be the most creative interval for your next big idea.

Carina Nicu
Jan 14 · 6 min read
Photo by Beth J on Unsplash

One of the trickiest parts about writing is coming up with good ideas for future articles.

Since joining Medium 4 months ago, I’ve been putting together an ever-growing list of article ideas.

Every time inspiration hits, any idea that pops into my head, be it good or bad, goes onto that list.

Then, I revisit the list of ideas time and time again, getting rid of the ones that will likely flunk as articles, and keeping the ones that have potential to become good ideas.

Getting good ideas for articles can happen any time of day — first thing in the morning when you’re wide awake, while you’re walking to/from work and day-dreaming, or even in the middle of the night.

Night time can be the most creative period

As somebody who gets the odd night of bad sleep, I can vouch for how ‘fun’ it is to be wide awake and struggling to get a decent night’s sleep before travelling or going to work the next day.

In the moments when I struggle to fall (back) asleep, my mind is filled with thoughts akin to a swarm of bees. I used to get annoyed by the thoughts that kept me awake, but now I welcome them.

Because night time is the only period of the day where the whole world is silent — most of them, unlike you and me, sound asleep and dreaming.

It is precisely night time when, if you suffer from ‘restless brain’ syndrome, you should peacefully let your thoughts chaotically flow, observing them from far away.

Because in that hurricane of thoughts lie the things that you most think or worry about — the exact topics that you should be writing about.

Getting inspiration from night time worries/thoughts

Two years ago, this would have been my top-worry-at-night list:

1. Finishing my PhD

2. Dealing with work-induced anxiety

3. Own health

This mainly reflected my state of mind back then, when I was one and a half years away from submitting my doctoral thesis.

That challenging period would have provided a cornucopia of writing topics had I been blogging.

Alas, I hadn’t properly started writing back then.

Now, 3 months post-PhD submission, the list has certainly changed, and I find myself worrying most about:

1. Moving to Florida in 3 weeks’ time for the new job

2. ’Making it’ on Medium

3. Career path

Funny how the number 2 item on my list of worries is now making a name for myself on Medium. I’ve effectively renounced anxiety induced by PhD life and instead am pondering how to become a better writer.

How I’ve turned night time thoughts/worries into decent blog posts

Looking back at the things I worried about two years ago, that tumultuous time may have passed but the amount of life experience that I gained from worrying about my PhD, then-occurring anxiety and health has sketched probably tens of ideas for articles that I can keep writing from now on.

One example is a recent article in which I highlighted questions that one should consider if you wanted to do a PhD project.

I decided on this particular topic since I’d gone through the process and had enough insight to put together a useful piece for others.

What happened after I published this article and distributed it to social media and linkedin?

This article received the most views and reads out of everything I’d previously published, ranking at 61% read ratio.

Granted, the number of reads (46) is really low and far off from responses you would expect from professionally-written pieces. Also, most people who viewed my article were external, rather than internal viewers, so I probably won’t earn much off the article itself.

But the fact of the matter is, it was a significant improvement from previous attempts of writing.

Why?

· I chose one aspect of the topic that used to keep me up at night

· I wrote about something that I have sufficient experience in

· I’ve improved my ability to edit Medium articles

In fact, I’ve decided to keep writing about my postgraduate experience as I have 4 years’ worth of ideas, with which I hope to genuinely help others who want to embark upon the PhD ride.

Take-home messages

1. Listen to your noisy brain at night

Rather than internally moaning that you can’t fall asleep (again!), use the time that your brain is busy ruminating to brainstorm your next successful article.

If you think about it, the topics that we worry about at night are likely the most important things going on in our lives in those moments. Ergo, they are the things that our mind spends the most time carefully analysing from all angles and creatively finding solutions for.

That sounds somewhat similar to putting together a good quality article. A lot of thought and planning goes into a successful blog post — so why not take advantage of ‘half-baked’ night time ideas and turn them into kick-ass Medium articles?

After all, finding inspiration in concrete life experiences is the quickest and easiest way to come up with great posts.

2. Make note of those ideas the next day…

If you can fall back asleep and not forget what you were thinking of until the next day, wait until then to jot down your new ideas.

Make sure you make a note of them — even though you won’t end up writing articles on all the topics you considered, these can serve as good starting points later on when inspiration for new pitches is lacking.

3. … or get up and write them down then and there

Or, if you can’t for the life of you get back to sleep, better get up and clear your noisy brain by writing down ideas on your laptop.

If inspiration hits in that moment, don’t hesitate, just start writing, even if all you manage to get done is a basic draft. You’ll thank yourself for it later when you re-read the 1000-word article produced in 1hr worth of work.

I started writing this article at 7.45 am on a Sunday morning — the idea for it came to me whilst struggling to fall back asleep after chirping birds woke me up at 6 am.

4. Sort out the good ideas from the bad ones

This one’s an obvious tip — you need to separate the good ideas from the pile of boring and bad ones.

Since background noise in our minds normally consists of many unhelpful or negative thoughts, one must be selective when deciding which topic to pursue further and spend time working on.

Otherwise you end up wasting your precious time on things that aren’t going to get you anywhere. Better spend some time deciding about good vs. bad article ideas at this stage, rather than later on.

5. Carefully select the publication to pitch to, and don’t forget to edit, edit, edit.

Good ideas can make for very promising articles.

But being impatient and going through the correcting and editing process too quickly can severely slash your posts chances.

Similarly, if you don’t pitch your article to a publication on Medium that aligns with your article’s topics or target audience will also backfire.

If, like me, you’re fairly new to Medium, spending some solid time reading around and finding the right page to submit your work to can save you lots of time and disappointment later on.

Carina Nicu

Written by

PhD science graduate writing about life, self-improvement and love. Connect with me on Twitter https://twitter.com/CarinaNicu

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