What? I Can Write! That’s an Idea!

“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”—Samuel Johnson

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That’s an Idea!

Every piece of writing, regardless of genre, begins with an idea. Ideas are the seeds from which our stories and poems germinate. For this reason, ideas are perhaps the most essential tool in every writer’s toolbox, because without an idea, nothing happens.

Ideas are all around us. They bombard us every day from every quarter, but most of us don’t notice because we haven’t trained our minds to be alert to them. One of the most important things you can do to build your writing skills is to learn to be sensitive always to the many avenues by which ideas come your way that you can plant in the fertile soil of your imagination until they sprout.

Where do writers get their ideas? You name it. Ideas can come from anywhere: a snippet of overheard conversation; a song that evokes a long-forgotten memory; a smell that stirs up thoughts of home. It could be a photograph, a billboard, a news headline, or a passage from a book you are reading. Learn to be a keen observer of your environment, for that is where you will find the ideas that will fuel your stories.

Sometimes an idea will come as a mental image. C. S. Lewis said that his immensely popular series The Chronicles of Narnia began as a single image in his mind: the picture of a faun walking through a snow-covered forest carrying an umbrella and a bundle of Christmas parcels. Out of that one simple, vivid image grew one of the most popular set of children’s stories ever written.

Be more attentive to your own thoughts. Don’t ignore the ideas and images that occur to you. Develop the habit of writing them down. You never know which of them will give birth to your next story!


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