Opening Your Imagination

Generating ideas is easy, but generating the kinds of ideas that move YOU can be more of a challenge. Most of us have had at least one person tell us an idea and suggest we write it, but that never works because it’s their vision, not yours. So how do you find that idea that’s worth hours and hours of time and effort? Relax, look for it, and don’t let crazy and stupid be a deterrent.

First, relax. Soon after I started writing for publication, I had a panic moment. “What if I’m one of those writers who only has one good idea in them?” Now, even then this was utterly ridiculous, because I’d had quite a few ideas come to me and had even started short stories on a couple of them, but I hadn’t thought of any new ideas for a while, which is exactly where I’m at now. I’ve come to realize that when I’m focused on my current story, my imagination tends to stay close to the projects at hand and I don’t usually generate a lot of new ideas. That’s just the way I work, but I had to quit freaking out so I could figure that out. Relax, if the idea was in you for one story, there are more to come.

Second, look for it. Worried that my imagination-well might run dry, I started looking for ideas. When driving, I paid more attention to my surroundings. On the radio, in the news, even the magazines I picked up in the dentist’s office, I looked for ideas. Reading books, I tried to think of off-the-wall variations on its premise, or some concept in the book, and what kinds of stories would come. Even in talking to friends and family, I would look for thematic elements from our conversations that would lend focus to a story.

Which leads to our third point: don’t let crazy and stupid be a deterrent. I did come up with stories, utterly ridiculous ones. But if I relaxed, played around with them, and let them develop into other ideas or themes, I found myself coming up with some unique and interesting concepts. Did I suddenly start selling to top magazines and agents? No. But I wrote more stories that intrigued me, with characters that had depth, and my writing ability improved. I didn’t have to worry about ideas because when I needed them, they would come. Ideas would pop into my head while driving, in my sleep, and the most embarrassing, in the middle of conversations. “Um, yes, I was listening. What was that again?”

So, how about you? What kinds of activities get your imagination and your best ideas flowing?

4 responses on “Opening Your Imagination

  1. Eric Edstrom

    Great post. I know many people believe in free writing to find ideas. It can work, but I find it harder to start free writing than just making up a new story :p

    I don’t have much in the way of technique other than asking myself “what would be awesome?”

    That said, sometimes an uninspired brain has to pass through “cliche and overdone” to get to the good stuff. One thing that blocks people is not letting the brain explore the cliche idea. My brain wants to go there, so I let it. Then, when it realizes it’s bored, it moves on to more interesting territory. It’s like a dog that smells something disgusting under the deck. It becomes obsessed. “I must sniff it.” You can hold the leash, try to distract the dog with a frisbee, but it will do nothing until it satisfies its curiosity.

    So you let it go under the deck.

    “Oh, this is where I found that dead rat yesterday. Where’s the frisbee?”

  2. Colette Post author

    Great analogy, Eric! Though I wish I hadn’t been eating a muffin as I read about the dead rat. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the comment.

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