Need inspiration for something to write about? If you don't right now, there's
no doubt that you will eventually.
Writers often find themselves at a loose end, either when they've finished a
major project or when they've exhausted a list of topics. Sometimes one article
or blog post will lead straight onto another, and sometimes it won't. There will
inevitably be times when you'll feel like there's nothing going on inside your
head, when the well of inspiration seems to have dried up and you can't think of
a single thing to write about. But it doesn't have to stay that way for long.
Here are six techniques you can use over and over again - forever - whenever you
feel the Muse has deserted you. Rather than just sitting around twiddling your
thumbs, waiting for her to show her face, use these techniques to stimulate
those little grey cells and get you writing again.
1. Find Material by Flipping Through a Dictionary
This is a fascinating exercise that will give you lots of food for thought while
increasing your vocabulary at the same time. The concept is simple: flip through
your dictionary and either:
- look up a word you want to know more
- pick a word at random
I combined both of these techniques when I
was researching my book Beat Writer's Block. I opened the dictionary and my eyes
rested on the word onion. Naturally I know what onions are, and I know that
there are at least two colors, i.e. red and golden. But where does the word come
from? What else can I learn from a book that's sitting there on my desk?
I read with interest as the following information revealed itself to me:
On-ion: (un'yen) n. 1 A
field-grown edible bulb of an herb (Allium cepa) of the lily family; a
succulent vegetable remarkable for its pungent odor and taste. 2 One of
various allied plants.
According to the dictionary entry, the
word onion originates from the Old French, oignon. It concludes by pointing out
that the word onion is a doublet of 'union' -- in other words, two unions make
Combined with what I already know about onions, there's a lot of additional
material I can use here to make an enjoyable and fact-filled article. It makes
sense that the word has French roots, as we're so used to seeing French people
portrayed (rightly or wrongly) with strings of onions and/or garlic (a close
cousin or 'allied plant') round their necks. But I never realized onions were
members of the lily family.
Now I'm curious. I look up garlic and discover it to be 'a hardy bulbous
perennial (Allium sativum) of the same genus as the onion'. Notice how both the
onion and garlic have that same Latin root, Allium. Both are 'edible bulbs',
both are pungent and both are vegetables. And I found all of this information in
a dictionary, without having to go online or phone a friend.
I've already got one potentially cracking headline for my article: 'Allium you
can eat.' And after just 5 minutes of painless research in a book I already own,
I've got enough source material to keep the Muse on fire for a good long while
2. Use Opposites to Provide New Material
Sometimes you've got an idea, but you just can't do anything with it. On those
occasions, why not write about the opposite of whatever comes to mind?
Opposites can provide tons of ideas for stories, articles and blog posts. For
instance, take a look at this list of potential titles:
- How to Grow Your Own Vegetables
- Easy Ways to Save Money
- Keeping Your Car On The Road
- Doing Your Own Tax Returns
- Finding Suitable Images Online
If you look hard enough, you can see that
each one of these titles has a clear and obvious opposite point of view. If
writing about saving money is too painful, why not consider an article on the
best places to shop? If the thought of doing your own tax returns leaves your
head spinning, why not write about the advantages of hiring an accountant?
Not interested in growing your own vegetables? No problem. Write about why you
shouldn't bother. Or, if you're struggling to find suitable images for your
articles, write about how easy it is to take your own photos instead.
Simply take the initial idea you had - the one that's not getting you anywhere -
and think about the reverse situation. See if that produces better results. It's
not rocket science, but it really works.
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