- Books, Literature, and Writing
How to Get Ideas for Writing: 30 Ideas in 30 Minutes: Writing Prompts
A plan for 30 ideas in 30 minutes
Nothing strikes more fear into the heart of a writer than a blank sheet of paper, whether it’s a real sheet of paper or that big blank rectangle that Microsoft WORD has just put on my screen right now.
No ideas? No worries! Here is a plan for 30 ideas in 30 minutes. You can use these ideas to generate your own writing prompts.
How to Get Ideas
If you are an expert on something, it is easy. Write about whatever it is you are expert on. In my case, I’m not an expert on anything that the general public would be interested in. The next best thing is to be a dilettante—be interested in a lot of things. The internet is a wonderful research tool which can provide you with enough information to be an expert on any subject that catches your interest.
As a blogger (I have five blogs) and they all need to be “fed” at least once or twice a week. I also write for HubPages and I want to post to that site at least two or three times a week. Additionally, I occasionally need to write for traditional publications and sometimes I need to write a speech.
That’s a lot of writing and it requires a lot of ideas. Where do I get ideas?
What is your relationship with ideas right now?
Do you have difficulty coming up with ideas for writing articles, essays, hubs, and/or papers??
A university professor of English and successful writer pulls back the curtain on the magic of idea generation and reveals the wealth of writing inspiration right in front of you.
Get ideas from the newspaper.
Read the newspaper. Flip through the newspaper from front to back and jot down the ideas.
The newspaper gives you lots of topical things to write about which is fine if you are writing for a news outlet. However, we all know what happens to yesterday’s news. I want my posts to be “evergreen”—something that will have value next month, next year, and ten years from now. (The internet is forever.) I will take today’s news and find an angle that will be useful as more than the answer to a trivia question in the future.
Last Sunday I read the newspaper and came up with these ideas. It was the January 11, 2015 edition of the Orlando Sentinel.
1. The attack by Islamic terrorists on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, was all over the paper. This attack will soon be old news supplanted by the next attack. My idea: “What is the Difference between Satire and Hate Speech.”
2. There was an editorial about prison reform. This is an important issue that isn’t going away any time soon. My idea: “How Prison Reform Can Reduce Crime and Save Taxpayer Money.”
3. There was an article about a substance, fexaramine, which could help people lose weight. This one is for real. Experiments have shown that it works on mice, and human trials will begin soon. My Idea: Can You Lose Weight with a Pill? (I might have to update this one as new research becomes available.)
4. There was an article about population growth in Florida. This one is great for a humor piece. My idea: Twenty-Five Reasons You Don’t Want to Move to Florida. I’d start with hurricanes, pythons in the Everglades, alligators in your pool, George Zimmerman lives here, and heat waves in December.
5. There was an article about good marriages bringing a happiness bonus. This could be the basis of a serious article or maybe a humorous one. My idea: How a Good Marriage Helps You Be Happier and Live Longer.
6. You can even find ideas in the advice columns. “Dear Amy” had a letter from someone complaining about table manners. It gave me this idea: It’s Never Too Late to Learn Table Manners.
7. Even the funnies can bring ideas. In the Sally Forth strip, there was mention of feeling a little blue after the holiday. My Idea: Kick the Post-Holiday Blues.
Get ideas from television and movies.
I review television shows on one of my blogs. Not one of my best ideas because television and movie reviews have the half-life of a dish of ice cream left out in the sun, but I was new to writing on the internet when I stated the blog and I didn’t know any better. Now, I keep it up just because I like doing it. I’m lucky that outlets like Netflix keep old television shows somewhat relevant.
The Affair is a Showtime drama that won the Golden Globes for best drama and best actress. People will always be interested in adultery. My ideas are not necessarily unique, but perhaps I could come up with a fresh slant.
8. The 25 Signs Your Spouse is Having an Affair. (This would be a humorous article.)
9. How to Heal Your Marriage When Your Spouse Has Cheated
10. The 20-Year Itch: Why do People with Strong Marriages Sometimes Stray?
11. Political Careers Destroyed by Affairs. This one came from the TV show, but also from the news. I just saw a TV news story about how General Petraeus, who had previously resigned from his position as Director of the CIA because of an affair, may now face prosecution for giving his mistress classified documents.
The Theory of Everything is a great movie about Stephen Hawking, a brilliant astrophysicist who suffers from ALS, a debilitating disease that has left him totally paralyzed. As a young man, he was given only two years to live; he is now in his 70’s. Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed Hawking in the movie, won a Golden Globe for best actor in a movie.
12. My Idea: Six People Who Beat the Odds. (Stephen Hawking would be one. I’d find five more on the internet.)
13. Stephan Hawking’s wife was his caregiver. So many people these days are caregivers, often for their elderly parents. My Idea: How to Survive Caregiver Burnout.
A professional editor explains how to get ideas and what to do with them once you get them.
Get ideas from your life.
14. I belong to a discussion group. A few weeks ago, we had a discussion about longevity. The leader talked about how laugher is associated with long life. I wrote a hub: How to Live Longer by Acting Like a Kid.
15: I subscribe to a free newsletter written by an editor for writers. The editor mentioned lipograms, a form of word-play where a text is written without the use of a certain letter. I wrote a hub, Word Play: What is a Lipogram?
16. I attended a lecture about what famous authors over the centuries wrote about happiness in their novels. That led to my hub How to Be Happy: Quotes from Famous People on Happiness. (After that I decided to do a whole series of hubs about quoes of famous people on various topics.)
17. My friends are beekeepers. I learned a lot about bees from them–enough for several articles.
Get ideas from what others have written.
18. Recently someone complained in the HubPages forum that he didn’t have any ideas for things to write about. This article is my response to his complaint.
19. Someone mentioned in a hub about holidays that everyone hates fruitcake. I have a great recipe that I have developed for a fruitcake that people who hate fruitcake love. My idea: The Fruitcake Recipe that Everyone Loves.
20. Someone mentioned that it is hard in today’s world to be ethical and still earn a living. Her observation led me to write a hub on the topic; Right Livelihood: The Quest or Ethical Work. I discovered that right-livelihood is part of the eight-fold path of the Buddha. I had heard the term “right-livelihood” before, but I didn’t know where it came from. Now I want to write about the other seven paths, so I will count those as ideas 21 to 27.
Ideas are all around you. You just have to stay alert to them.
How’s the weather? There are lots of topics there. Have you been snowed in recently? My Ideas:
28. A Blizzard is Coming: Are You Ready?
29. Fun Things to Do When You Are Snowed In.
30: How I Survived the Great Blizzard of (fill in the year).
Substitute hurricanes for blizzards. Substitute earthquakes or forest fires. You get the idea.
I haven’t even touched on your hobbies and interests. Do you collect something? Tell us about your collection and how we can collect that thing also. Do you make something (jewelry, needlework, wood carvings)? Tell us how to do it. Do you do something (bass fishing, gardening, cooking)? Share your knowledge and experience.
Is there something you want to know more about? I had a grammar question, and that led to my popular series of hubs: The Naughty Grammarian.
Saying “I’m blocked. I have no ideas” is like a little kid saying “I’m bored. I have nothing to do.”
If you don’t have any ideas, sit down right now and don’t get up until you have 30 ideas. I just did it.
Be sure to write your ideas down. Keep a folder, actual or virtual, where you can stash ideas as they come to you. This is important--you will forget them if you don't write them down.
P.S. I call dibs on these ideas. In fact, I have already started to write some of them. These are my ideas, given as example--now get busy and think up your own.
Writer's Block? This will unblock you instantly.
© 2015 Catherine Giordano