If you’re a writer or marketer, you’re on an endless hunt to generate ideas. They might be ideas for: client projects, nonfiction books, blog posts, novels, short stories…
In order to do this, you need time.
To generate ideas, you need time for research and thinking
From Inc.’s excellent article, 7 Ways to Generate Great Ideas:
Great ideas won’t happen in a vacuum. You need some way of getting your brain to think in new and creative ways. Commit time to specific sessions where you stimulate your brain into thinking differently.
By the way, if you’re a freelance writer, be sure to add research and thinking time to your project quotes. It’s easy to forget how long it takes to find material and assimilate it, before you can start writing. If you don’t take this time into account, your hourly rate will become dismal.
Let’s look at three creative ways to develop fresh ideas.
1. Use mind maps for research and creative thinking
I’m a big fan of mind mapping for research and creative thinking:
Mind mapping helps you diagram a collection of disparate thoughts… start by drawing a central node and then use lines, symbols, colors, images, and words to connect that node to other information.
Mind maps not only save time and keep you focused while you’re researching, but they can also help you to generate ideas too.
Tip: try researching on one day, then schedule creative thinking for another day. When you get back to your mind map, a fresh idea may jump at you.
2. Write first (brain dump), then brainstorm
I like brain dumps; they warm you up, so that your brainstorming is more productive. That said, don’t expect instant results from brainstorming. In my experience, your best ideas arrive a few hours after a brainstorming session.
Create mind maps for brainstorming as well as for research.
After you’ve created a mind map from your brainstorming session, do something else for a few hours. When you return, view your research and brainstorm mind maps side by side—print them out. Studying the two maps may trigger ideas—again, often a few hours later.
3. To generate ideas for fiction, start with a character’s attributes (personality)
Fiction is all about people, and change. When you want to generate ideas, always keep your characters’ attributes in mind. Once you’ve established a character’s personality, he needs to act believably.
For example, if you’ve established that a character’s in his 30s, calm, and mature, it’s unlikely he’d succumb to a sudden temper tantrum. He might, but you’d need to establish a believable why—on the page, so readers aren’t blindsided.
When plotting scenes, try creating a mind map with a character’s primary attribute in the center. Once you’ve settled on the kind of person a character is, readers will notice when he acts contrary to the nature you’ve established for him. Cognitive dissonance may even stop them reading your books.
Recently I stopped reading a favorite author’s long-running series (after nine novels) because the main character behaved in a way I couldn’t believe. It made me sad; I loved the character, and although I tried to keep reading, I couldn’t.
Got ideas? Add them to your Content Idea Bank
When you generate ideas, consider adding ideas you can’t use immediately to your Content Idea Bank.
For example, when you’re writing fiction, most authors come up with ideas for future books while they’re writing. Add those ideas to your Content Idea Bank—that removes the temptation to stop progress on a current project so you can dive into a new project. 🙂
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.