One Mistake Makes Us Overlook the Best Writing Ideas
“What should I write about that people would want to read?” is a haunting question most of us frequently face as writers.
With an increasing number of aspiring writers joining the game and an average human’s decreasing attention span, nothing weighs down a writer more than running out of ideas to write about.
And yet, all of us know more than one person who churns out quality articles like a machine. More like a freaking human born to write. What is it that motivates them to write something of a readable quality all the time?
I got my answer a few days ago as I sat pondering over the lessons I learned from a fellow writer friend. She shared her experience of bagging a much-coveted and difficult writing contract she’d been pursuing.
A Writer’s Secret Sauce for Ideas
My friend and I had started writing professionally at the same time. She tasted success with a magazine she was trying hard to get published with for quite some time now a few days ago.
She had faced multiple rejections from them — all on the account of her ideas. The story they finally accepted from her was her step-by-step guide to losing 5 kg bodyweight in a month with simple lifestyle changes. Could I replicate her success? I too was pursuing this particular magazine keenly now. Maybe yes. But what possibly could I write about?
“I haven’t brought about any such extraordinary life style change,” I thought to myself. “Would anyone want to read about how I lost a kg or two a few years ago even though I’ve gained them back now?”
I was focusing so much on weight loss that my story didn’t occur to me until yesterday when I was rummaging through my old photos. I came across a photo of mine from 2018 when I had attended a friend’s wedding. My face was full of acne marks back then. “The time when I was suffering through those ugly babies.” I shuddered.
That one photo brought back a deluge of memories. I realized I’d really struggled with acne from 2017 to early this year. The struggle. The victory. I had my breakthrough idea for the next article. Not only was my acne story a story of survival, but it was also a story of how to deal with your life when you’re suffering from acne issues.
But the ideas didn’t just stop flowing there. As I typed the title to my first article based on my acne story, I realized there were multiple topics I could write about drawing from my experience
- How to keep up your confidence when you’re suffering from acne (A self-help article)
- What not to say to someone suffering from acne (Mental health advice)
- How exactly did I cure my chronic acne (Survival story)
Each one of the above three topics was going to help my readers in some way.
- To deal with a problem
- To sail through tough times
- To empathize with people around them
I was amused. “This is just one such instance which gave me three interesting article ideas,” I thought to myself. If this is how it goes, if this is how all writers who write quality content regularly find ideas, what was stopping me from doing the same until now?
The Mental Block that Stands Between You and Your Next Writing Idea
Sure many of us would have done and experienced the same things as consistent writers: losing weight, traveling, reading a book, following life-changing quotes, taking a course. However, we often feel as if we are one step behind them in writing about it.
Why do we often overlook the excellent writing ideas good writers spot and talk about? Why did the idea of sharing my acne story not occur to me until the photo reminded me of it?
“It was so mundane,” was one of the answers I received from myself as I prodded. “I did what most people would do- hit and try my way to a clearer skin.” “Well, so did my friend who bagged the contract with her dream magazine, didn’t she?” I reasoned. If she would have thought about how people wouldn’t want to read her weight loss story because there are so many of them, she would never have secured what she proudly calls the biggest achievement of her non-fiction writing career now.
The Self-Imposed Idea Block
All of us do extraordinary things in our lives every day. Right from the moment we wake up to the second we close our eyes, we fight a lot of battles. Sadly, we are so accustomed to the regular lives that we stop noticing them.
Sure we wouldn’t mind sharing how we discovered a new trick to preserve spices with our best friend. Or discuss how we deal with little things that trigger our anxiety. We spend hours talking about the qualities we like in the opposite sex with our gang.
Then why do we feel shy of sharing it with a wider community of readers, some of who might benefit from and agree with our insights?
Maintaining an Ideation Book
Upon asking how does she manage to dig so many helpful writing ideas, my friend told me about a technique she learned from James Altucher.
She said she maintained an ideation book she carried around with her. Whenever she came across something she could write about, she simply scribbled it away in her ideation book. This would ensure that she always had a ready stock of ideas for writing quality stories.
It is thanks to her ideation book that she came across the idea of her breakthrough article. The rest of it was just careful execution and good formatting.
A Word of Caution
When you’re putting your thoughts out into the world, you need to keep in mind the following things:
- Your article should either do one or more of the three things: inspire, educate, or motivate.
- It should give the reader a key takeaway
- It should be easy-to-read and grammatically correct
I’ve learned that as long as I follow the above three rules, I would be serving something of value to my reader. Something that’s worth their precious time.
If your idea doesn’t simply abide by the above lines with some simple tweaks, then it’s best you move on to the next topic or club this particular insight with a couple of others to create one valuable article for your readers.
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”
Gathering ideas is one of the first and most important steps of writing. If you need to move ahead as a writer, you need to get this one hurdle out of the way. Thankfully, now you know it’s not as difficult as it sounds.
You just need to scratch a little below the surface of your life with some confidence, and you are bound to unearth a gold mine of writing ideas.
Granted not all of them will go viral or turn out the way you wanted them to be. But they will be enough to help you get started with ideas to write something valuable every time you sit down to write.