Do you write every day?
Well, almost every day. But I do writing stuff every day. Even if I don’t write a new piece, I will be editing the one I wrote the day before. Or polishing the one I wrote the day before that. Or pitching or submitting or publishing.
But there are other writing things we can do if we don’t feel like writing.
And they are important tasks as they are all related to future articles. You have to keep that idea pipeline full. I never have to think about what I’m going to write today. I just go to my list and pluck the top one off. If that one doesn’t resonate, I move down the list until one does.
But the list is always there. And I never let it drop below a dozen items. So, how do I keep that list full? I do these things several times a week.
Go Through My Old Stuff
This is one I learned from my photography. I have been shooting longer than I have been writing. And instead of hundreds, perhaps thousands of articles, I have tens of thousands of photographs. It’s the same with writing, I try to keep my pipeline full. This means plenty of fresh images yet to be processed.
But sometimes, that pipeline runs dry. Say, for instance, if a worldwide pandemic strikes. What do I do then? I go through all my old stuff. I apply things I have learned since I shot and processed those old images to turn them into new photographs.
And I can do the same thing with my writing. I go back to the beginning and look at all of my articles. How can I take a successful article and rewrite it with a new slant? How can I take an unsuccessful article and make it so? How about turning that 3,000-word piece into three 1,000 word articles.
Go Through Your Old Stuff
Well, maybe not yours, but everybody’s. I go to all of my writing and reading sites and scroll through all the articles. I pause on each one for just a few seconds. What pops out at me? A new idea? A different take on their piece. Or sometimes, something totally unrelated pops out.
Stream of Consciousness
Sometimes, I just open up a blank page and stare at it. I look around my office. I stare out the window. I daydream. How many jobs let you daydream for a living? As my eyes and mind wander, things start popping into my head. Random thoughts out of nowhere. I type each one down as it appears. Not thinking about what I can do with it. Just let it flow.
Then I do two things. First, after a set amount of time, thirty minutes or so, I stop and read the note from the top down. Does anything occur to me? Usually, it does. I think it is the act of just opening my mind and letting thoughts flow that kicks it off. The ideas may have nothing to do with what I wrote or everything to do with it.
The other thing I do with this is I date this note and archive it. I will come back to these every few weeks and scan them to see if something happens. It’s sort of like journaling, but not really. A free flow of ideas and thoughts captured forever.
Come on, admit it. We all use this crowdsourced knowledge base for research, vetted or not. But you can also use it for ideas. Did you know there is a random page generator? It’s on the menu. Just click it, and it will take you somewhere. 90% of the time, it is crap, but the other 10% you can strike gold. Or at least learn something new.
Did you know that Dammantenna is a small town in Sri Lanka?
Or Pexels or whatever stock image site you use. I am also a stock photographer and have my images on a dozen other sites, so I have more resources, but I still like Unsplash. It has excellent lifestyle images, and I love to scroll through it. Most of the time, I am looking for my header image. That special shot that will draw potential readers’ eyes to my article.
But I also use it to generate ideas. You just have to think in reverse. Instead of thinking which of these images will fit my article, you are thinking, what could I write about and use this image. Go to Unsplash and scroll. Or put in a random search term and look through the results. I never do this without thinking of some great ideas. I will then bookmark the image that inspired it for later.
Goodreads is a great resource for books. I have kept my reading list there for years. But it is also a great place for research. Just browse the titles and see what pops just like on Unsplash. They also have several quotes sections where you can browse famous quotes from books. If one of these inspires me, I will usually use it in the article.
I read many non-fiction articles, but as far as books are concerned, I mostly enjoy fiction. But for this exercise, I will browse the non-fiction categories. I may start with topics about which I frequently write or just browse randomly. But either way, I rarely leave Goodreads without some good ideas for articles and useful quotes to include in them.
Besides generating ideas, I will spend a few hours a week researching and browsing tools for writers. I check on the current and new grammar and spelling checkers to see if there is something I like better than Grammarly. I will look at the various headline evaluation tools to see if they work well and for free. I think those are moderately useful, but I’m not willing to pay for that service. I also spend some time studying SEO techniques.
I will research new sites where I can sell my work. No matter how much you are making in one place, you never want all your eggs in one basket. Maybe you can’t find one to replace that income, but you could find three that replace one-third each. It’s best to keep your options open.
Writers write. It’s what we do. But there are a lot of other tasks related to writing that need doing also. So, the next time you don’t feel like writing, pursue one or more of these ideas. I’d be surprised if you get through them without a thought or inspiration for your next piece.