A Writer’s Idea File

“Thirty-six books?  But where do you get all your ideas?’

I hear that question all the time.  If people only knew!  Would that I could live long enough to write on all the ideas in my bulging idea file.

Nope, those ideas aren’t all new and original with me.  Is there any subject under the sun that hasn’t been covered and covered and covered again?  It’s the job of a writer to take that already-used idea and imbue it with new insights, insightful interpretations, and fresh approaches. 

Here are six steps to getting your own Idea File started:

  1. Make a list of five things you know well enough to teach. Prepare to be surprised at how much expertise you already have. (Yes, of course it’s all right to put in more than five!)
  2. Look at what you consider irresistible reading.  Those articles, stories, and books you can’t put down are great jumping off places for your own brainstorming of ideas. 
  3. Make use of the newspapers and magazines you read.  In those pages, you will learn, be amazed, and meet the most wonderful prototypes for characters. (Truth really is stranger than fiction!)  How many times have you read something and said, “That reminds me of … (whatever)!”  When that happens, cut out the piece and jot your reaction down in the margin, then stick it all in your idea file. 
  4. Stash notepads in strategic places.  Great ideas strike at the most unexpected moments… and they have a nasty way of flying away before you can find a pen and paper.  So have notepads and pens ready and waiting beside your television, radio, and computer, and in the glove box of your car. 
  5. Disagree with what your read?  That’s a good thing!  When you strongly disagree, consider your reaction a good writing topic.  If you reacted that way, you probably aren’t alone. 
  6. Write from your own experience.  What has happened to you, the people you’ve encountered, the roads you’ve traveled… they are all grist for your writing mill.  But… Well, we’ll save that another blog.  Stay posted.

Write on!

“I write what I would like to read–what I think other women would like to read.  If what I write makes a woman in the Canadian mountains cry and she writes and tells me about it, especially if she says, ‘I read it to Tom when he came in from work and he cried too,’  I feel I have succeeded.”

Kathleen Norris–on publication of her 78th book


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6 responses to “A Writer’s Idea File

  1. Thanks for a useful list 🙂
    Enjoyed your post.

  2. Kay, I love the Writer’s Idea File. Mine is bulging as well and I hope I can write all the ideas flying around in there before I’m 94 (God willing I should live as long as my Grandmother). Thanks for the great ideas for the six steps and I loved the quote by Kathleen Norris. I’m printing it and taping it above my computer. : )

  3. I predict you will be writing until your 90th birthday, at which time you’ll retire to see the world. I’ll bet your file is a treasure trove. I know some of your great ideas!

  4. Thanks Kay, I’ll be using this list!

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