March 13

Storing your best ideas for later suffocates your writing

We’ve all done it. You have a fantastic idea that just feels so right. There's a surge of enthusiasm, and you think, “Wow, that would make such an amazing piece! Maybe it could even be the beginning of a larger body of work.”

Just as quickly, though, the doubts quickly creep in. Maybe it's too early to pursue that idea. Maybe it'd be better to save that brilliant idea for later…

Later, when you have a few articles published…

Later, when you have an established career or platform…

Later, when you have more time or energy or money…

So, you set it aside and try to work on something a little more manageable.

Young businessman trapped in a glass jar and using a laptop

But the truth is that when we try to save our best ideas for later, we suffocate our writing. Good ideas that get our blood pumping also get our creativity pumping. But when our doubts to creep in, and we put a stopper on that enthusiasm, we unknowingly put a stopper on the very source of our creativity.

The problem is not that you don’t have good ideas; the problem is that when you had a good idea, you squashed it.

How do you recapture inspiration?

James Altucher is a writer and an entrepreneur. His friends are always amazed at the sheer number and variety of ideas he comes up with – ideas for businesses, books, vacations, just fascinating things to do with life. His secret for his bottomless well of ideas?

Come up with 10 ideas every day.

Altucher says that the creative, idea-generation part of your brain is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. He starts off every single day by coming up with 10 ideas. In his blog post, “How to Become an Idea Machine,” Altucher says, “You don’t ever have to look at these ideas again. The purpose is not to come up with a good idea. The purpose is to have 1000s of ideas over time. To develop the idea muscle and turn it into a machine.”

Before you start your own writing, spend a few minutes to brainstorm 10 ideas for a future book, article, project, interview, or field study.

If one of those ideas is exciting, ride the wave and start writing.

Move past the fear, and have confidence in yourself! You can accomplish so much more than you dare believe, but an accomplishment begins with a first step.

Allow yourself to dwell in that really good idea for at least 15-30 minutes. Write about it in whatever way strikes you.

Write a journal entry detailing how it would feel to write this project. Sketch letter describing the project to a colleague. Outline the steps you’d need to take to start on the project.

Creativity begets creativity. The more good ideas you try to come up with today, the more good ideas you will have tomorrow. (Tweet that!)

So start today.

Come up with 10 ideas and spend 15-30 minutes writing about the one that gets your blood pumping.

Here I’ll give you my list: (I did this just now.)

1. A course helping non-native English speakers publish in international journals.
2. A podcast to talk about academic and non-fiction writing and publishing.
3. An online writing space that encourages creativity in academic and non-fiction writing.
4. A book of illustrated children’s poems for my own kids.
5. A non-profit that helps high school students in poverty-stricken parts of the world apply for college in the US.
6. A blog about being a mom, writer, and entrepreneur.
7. A course about e-book publishing for entrepreneurial authors.
8. A series of blogs about how academics and non-fiction authors can use blogs and social media to build their own platforms.
9. A series of photos of authors at work – their real desk spaces. Like caught on candid camera.
10. A desk chair that reclines all the way into a lie-flat bed.

Actually, I’ve really been pondering the podcast idea for a while. Instead of squashing it, I’m going to spend the next 30 minutes writing about what a podcast would look like if I started one.

And let me know in the comments! What are some of your ideas? Which idea gets your blood pumping? Sharing your creativity helps encourage creativity in other readers.


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