You can look at a blank sheet of paper in two ways.
First, as a threat. Starting a new article, story or chapter can create a tinge of anxiety. What if no one reads this? What if it doesn’t get published anywhere? What if my idea sucks??
Second, you can see it in a positive light. Optimistic people see the New Year as a blank canvas to paint on. To them, a blank sheet of paper signals a new beginning.
It all starts with one idea. It may not be outstanding but your story is yours. No one else can tell it the way you do.
These are some strategies I use to generate ideas for my next story.
Looking at ourselves, asking questions that no one else asks, making time for reflection is one of the best gifts we can give to the artist in us. Accept it - you are an artist!
Having a high level of awareness about our behavior, thoughts, and emotions puts us at an advantage. When we’re able to spend time in solitude, we can dig into our deepest desires, frustrations, loneliness, and put them into words.
Set up a time and develop a strong internal life through journaling, spending time with nature, taking long walks, or even writing letters to yourself as professor and author Cal Newport recommends in Digital Minimalism.
I wrote more about this book here.
Our relationships with other people are wonderful sources of stories.
With the complexities of our relationships come depth, heartaches, and joy. From a single fight, we can take away a big lesson. From years of living with family, you learn acceptance.
What we go through in our most important relationships is a story in itself.
My most read article in Medium is the one where I described my partner. I still find that interesting.
When we allow people to be themselves to us, we can see who they really are. When we see people as they are, the flow of words come easier.
Nature is a template for how the world should be like.
The pothos plant explodes under the right conditions. At home, we found that this plant is not a big fan of sunlight and enjoys being indoors. The basil plant is the opposite. Basil likes the right amount of sun and shade. When weeds and pests show up in our pots, we put them out to keep them healthy.
Aren’t we just like them? We follow the trail of sunlight to nourish us. We need the right amount of water to grow. We bloom in the right season.
These are my sources of entertainment these days: books, editing videos, Kdrama, and our dogs.
In the book Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon said, ‘You are a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences.’ Whatever we spend our time on occupies our minds.
We don’t need to look for ideas anywhere, sometimes all we have to do is look at other people’s work and link it with ours. Nothing is original anymore.
Here’s Kleon’s advice from the same book: If you love different things, you just keep spending time with them. Let them talk to each other, something will begin to happen.
If you'd like to see what else is on my book list, click here.
Travel not only is a brilliant teacher, it’s a wonderful weaver of stories. The moment you step out of your home, you get surrounded by micro-stories that can turn into a 1000-word article.
There’s that old tree standing between that house and a lamppost that has witnessed history, the river you’re traversing serves as a home for hundreds of families, the plane that’s taking you to a place you’ve never been before. The family reunion that you refuse to go to but attend, anyway.
Getting out of our bubble makes us excited. It gives us a fresh perspective and usually, a renewed love for life.
When we sit down, take the time to look at what matters to us the most, that’s when we can put our heart into words.
Looking into ourselves, into our relationships, to nature, entertainment and traveling are always available to us and any of these can be used to generate ideas for our next story.
Writing is a gift.
We give to others when we write. Our ideas, opinion, lessons learned, tips, recommendations — there must be one person who needs them from us. Let that one person be a motivation to never stop.
When we write, we also give to ourselves. The reflection, solitude, time, the act of writing a draft that you doubt will make it — these are steps to reaching a higher level of awareness within ourselves.
Julia Cameron said 'Every year I worked taught me that creativity was open-ended. There was no upper limit.'
Your next story is waiting to be written.
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