May 29

How to come up with your next best idea for writing


    Summertime has finally come around – the time of year when we often think to ourselves, “Ah, yes, now I’ll finally have the time to work on that project I’ve been putting off!”

    What if you know you want to start a new article, book, or blog, but you’re not quite sure which idea is the best idea for writing? If you’re going to devote your precious free time to a writing project, it should be your best idea, right?

    First, let’s talk about how NOT to discover your best idea

    Do not sit down at your desk and think to yourself, “Alright, now, at this moment, I’m going to sit here and think until I discover the best idea I have to write about.”

    I can guarantee you nothing but an hour of pure frustration.

    When you’re searching for one idea, the “best” idea, your brain is attempting to simultaneously generate and evaluate ideas. Essentially, your brain turns into a whack-a-mole game, in which you come up with one idea, then immediately find something wrong with it, then smash it back down. The whack-an-idea game (if you will) continues until you have a headache and give up.

    Now, let’s talk about how you DO discover your best idea

    You sit down at your desk with absolutely no expectations of yourself. You set a timer for 20 minutes, and you free write.

    I used to think that free writing was a loose-goosey term that referred to any sort of unstructured writing. I’m reading Accidental Genius by Mark Levy (more about this mind-blowing book next week!), but what I’m learning is that free writing is an art to practice. You must train yourself in writing non-stop, as fast as your brain can think, for a pre-determined amount of time (whether it’s 5, 10, or 20 minutes). No stopping, no pausing, no backing up to re-reading anything – full force ahead, keeping your fingers typing or forming words the entire time. What spills out on the page runs the spectrum from complete hogwash to pure genius.

    So, you have your timer set for 20 minutes (or 10 if you’re a bit nervous), and you will write as fast as your fingers can reasonably go. Please, don’t pull a muscle here. Try to generate 100 ideas for your next writing project.

    The ideas should be ludicrous.

    The ideas should be completely impossible.

    The ideas should range from something similar to what you’ve already done to something you aren’t sure you could ever actually pull off.

    But there should be at least 100 of them by the end of 20 minutes.

    Why generating 100 ideas instead of 1 “best” idea works

    When your intention is to generate 100 ideas of any quality, as fast as you can, you don’t censor yourself at all. You allow your mind to explore the impossible, even if only for 20 minutes. You turn off your internal editor and let the possibilities take control.

    Your best ideas will happen when you create space for them to happen. When you give your mind 20 minted, 100 lines of paper, and no editor, you will be floored at what your mind can generate.

    Once you have the full spectrum of these 100 ideas, you can then turn your editor brain back on, review the list, and evaluate them as actual possible writing projects.

    Why don’t you give it a try?

    Turn off your phone, email, and social media. Turn your timer for 20 minutes. Write down 100 ludicrous ideas as fast as your hands can write/type. Then, mine the list for any remote possibilities.

    If you tried this exercise, let me know! Did you find any gold in your mountain of ideas? Leave a comment below!


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