How to Always Have a Bagful of Exciting Writing Ideas

    exciting writing ideas

    How intimately do you know the blank, virginal screen?

    Do you have a love-hate relationship with it?

    On the one hand are many writing options, waiting to unfold.

    On the other, a dread of the unknown that freezes your fingers.

    And always, that vast, nagging question: what shall I write about?

    Take heart!

    You’re surrounded by brilliant writing ideas waiting only for you to grab them and transform them into riveting pieces.

    Whether you write a blog, fiction, or non-fiction, inspiration is all around you. Here are some ways to make your daily life an endless source of writing ideas.

    1. Mix Up Topics

    Interesting things happen when you choose a topic you care deeply about, and then combine it with something completely outside your experience.

    For example, perhaps you are pro-life, with strong opinions about abortion. Let’s combine that with something you know absolutely nothing about. Say, motorcycles.

    You could write a book about the member of a motorcycle gang whose girlfriend is pregnant. She doesn’t want the baby; he already visualizes it developing in her womb.

    When the baby is born, she disappears into the smog, and the biker is determined to raise the child himself. He wants his son to experience the world as he never had the opportunity to do. So he sets off on a journey across the country with his toddler.

    This can be a heartwarming novel, a hopeless tragedy, or even a comedy. It’s up to you. The possibilities are endless, even within this one scenario.

    2. Be a News Hog

    The news offers exciting possibilities.

    Make a habit of reading about what’s going on around you, especially the slice-of-life articles. You can build on these stories, making them your own.

    Some ways of doing that are:

    1. Imagine where the story could go next, and create a new ending of your own.
    2. Imagine alternative beginnings to the story. What could be the background of the characters involved?
    3. Change one major detail in the story. How would it impact the story? What new possibilities would that create?

    Last week I read about two burglars who broke into a private residence and stole jewelry worth thousands of dollars. Did they get away with it?


    They were quickly apprehended because one of the felons was caught staring straight into the house’s security camera, revealing his unmasked face.

    This seems to be an open-and-shut case. And yet, it made me wonder…

    The burglars were obviously experienced. They broke into the house without a problem, and they searched it systematically for valuable goods. It was clearly not their first job.

    So what caused the rookie mistake of not wearing face masks?

    Could it be that the burglar caught on camera was distracted as he was making his preparations for the robbery, and so forgot to cover his face? What could have distracted him? Was it a subliminal desire to quit this dark line of work?

    What made him go into house-breaking in the first place? And how did he feel when he looked directly into the camera, and probably realized he was in trouble? Why not try to deactivate the camera or find out where it was transmitting to?

    Don’t get me wrong.

    The true answers to these questions are probably boring: he was becoming overconfident after a long run of successful jobs and forgot to cover his face, or some such thing.

    But the possible answers are much more interesting. I can almost feel the conspiracy thickening around this man.

    Or maybe it’s a comedy of errors?

    What would you make of his circumstances?

    3. Capture Your Dreams

    Dreams can be a fertile ground for inspiration. They are the essence of imagination run amok.

    Your sleeping mind thinks up ideas that your waking mind might reject before you’ve even had a chance to register them.

    These ideas can be precious writing material.

    Your dreams are a gold mine, but so are other people’s dreams. When friends, family and strangers tell you about their dreams, that’s your chance to listen carefully.

    A friend of mine received the inspiration for her entire novel from a dream her husband had. (Her story wasn’t based on his dream, but relied on the unreal atmosphere it created.)

    Children’s dreams, in particular, are rich and free of filters. For example, your son’s dream about purple, diesel-drinking plants may inspire you to write the environmentally sympathetic version of The Day of the Triffids. How cool is that?

    4. What If?

    This is probably my favorite question ever. I turn to it whenever I’m out of ideas.

    1. What if time travel were possible? Where would my character go?
    2. What if three sisters decided to assassinate a tyrannical African despot? How would they do it?
    3. What if my husband decided that we should buy a motorhome and live on the roads for a year?

    Try it!

    Put together a long list of what-ifs.

    There’s nothing more liberating for the imagination than that little two-word phrase.

    5. Journaling—The Straight Way

    Keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings and experiences can help you capture great ideas from your own life.

    Write To Done has already covered this subject with two fascinating articles: How to Journal and 5 Ways Your Journal Can Take You Deeper Into Your Story.

    These will set you on the road to journaling success. And great story ideas.

    6. Journaling—With a Twist

    What if you hate journaling? What if you think your life isn’t interesting enough to write about?

    Well, make your life more interesting!

    What is a writer if not an astute liar, at the end of the day?

    Start with the truth—always a good place—and then embroider.

    Suppose you stood in a long checkout where the sales person was rude and obnoxious. In truth, you may have done nothing but await your turn, bear it, gather your groceries, and leave.

    But what would you like to have done?

    Don’t write the truth. Fantasize, fabricate, lie. Re-create yourself as a character you’d like to read about.

    And think how surprised and impressed your children or grandchildren will be when they discover your journal!

    Life is full of opportunities. Don’t let them pass you by!

    Try one of the exercises above and see where it takes you. Make it a habit to do a few exercises every day and you’ll never again lack writing inspiration.

    What do you do when you’re looking for fresh writing ideas? Share in the comments, please, and help inspire others as well!

    About the author

      Tal Valante

    • Deborah Scherrer says:

      Tal, this was a great article with ideas I’m going to start on now. Especially the angle on being a “News Hound”……because as we all know, truth is stranger than fiction! 🙂

    • great idea to explore n thanks for sharing

    • I thank my star for the day I stumbled onto your blog. I’ve improved tremendously in my communication and writing. Your articles are usually rich in contents and exciting to read. Please, keep the good work you are doing and God bless you.

    • Excellent suggestions. I’m writing a book on getting, capturing and using ideas, and these are suggestions I’m already thinking of, so I guess I like them even more because I feel extra smart 🙂
      One of my favorites is mixing up topics. I’ve been doing that this week, actually, and it’s a great way to get a fresh perspective. Thanks.

      • Best of luck with your book, Angie! It sounds super-interesting!

      • Alejandro G. Agelvis says:

        hey angie! congrats on that book! let us have a sneek peek of it whenever you want!

    • Roisin says:

      I love this article! I’m definitely going to try journaling with a twist.

      Thank you 🙂

      • I’m glad you enjoyed it! Have fun embroidering the truth!

    • I love your idea of journaling with a twist!

      I think this will help memoir writers decide on whether or not they should write a fictional story that is “based on real life events.”

      I know that I’ve struggled on how to present my autobiography to the world. In most cases, my life has been more interesting than a fictional novel, but “hiding” behind the word “fiction” might make it possible for me to reveal even more, without the fear of being judged.

      I’m sure many people feel this way, too, and so “embroidering the truth” might be a good solution as well!

    • Yatin says:

      Thanks for the wonderful post. I really love the term virginal screen. I also face this type of dilemma while writing my post. I try to connect things with our personal life. Ya, slice of life articles give some great information about our new ideas.
      Now, I keep my eyes open to all surrounding events because every moment captures some ideas which is worth expressing.
      Thanks for adding a new dimension of writing by extracting ideas from our dreams. I haven’t thought about it. I will try to extract some meaning out of them.

      • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Yatin! Like you said, it’s all around us.

    • Thank you for the pump primers above. And Flavio: great idea.

    • Your advise came at the right time. Been racking my brain trying to cement a germ of an idea for a story. So far I couldn’t move from where I wanted the story to begin to the end I picture mentally.

      But using a cumbo of “What If”, a journal of fantasies and captivating news pieces just might do the trick. Thanks Tal.

    • Virginia says:

      Good tips and techniques. Your examples brought them to life. I like the diesel drinking animal. It would make kids giggle. The motorcyclist with the baby would be a ‘real trip’. We just have to let the little imp in the imagination have fun. Don’t try to be so darn ‘serious’ about our work. Even non-fiction can be made lighter.

      • Thanks for stopping by, Virginia! Imagination imps are the best creatures ever. Take care to feed them, and they’ll give you wonderful ideas. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for a much needed and well timed post!

      I’ve been searching for my next blog post topic, writing what I think it will be, coming back to the draft and finding that it has fallen flat.

      As soon as I read your suggestion to mix up topics, my wheels started turning. I’m off to the races for my next blog post.

      • Oooh, now I’m curious to see what your next would be. I’ll keep an eye out for it! Thanks!

    • Joe Kovacs says:

      The points that rang most true to me are #2 and #6 although I include #2 not because most of my writing ideas have come from the news but because the news is a part of a larger overarching phenomenon called “real life”. A few years ago, I was in Lake George, New York and passed a street sign that had a bizarre and memorable name. As I kept driving, I got an idea for a murder that happened in a house on that street, simply because I wanted to write a story that would give me an excuse to keep wanting to write the name of the street!

      And then, about 16 years ago, I lived in Sri Lanka and was living in a city that experienced a suicide bomb explosion. I coupled that with the story of a young Sri Lankan girl who won a scholarship to go to university (with the suicide bomb being the culminating moment) and had a long short story called My Scholarship.

      Truly, writers need to keep their senses alert 24/7, which essentially means they’re always on the job even when not sitting in front of the keyboard. Because, as you say, Tal, the world is full of rich experiences that can serve as fodder for writing and stories.

      • Just as you say, Joe, life is full of powerful moments. From world-shaking experiences like that suicide bomb explosion, to tiny things, like a boy wondering over a flock of birds. They’re all around us–harnessing them is half the art of storytelling.

        Thanks for sharing!

    • Flavio says:

      I’m using a new kind of journal. It began from an exercise at the anthropology course I made past year. I called it Thinking Machine. It’s a deck of blank cards in which I write, one thought by card, after that I shuffle. When I’m looking for inspiration, I just pick up random cards — at least three of those — and try to bound the ideas, despite of the subjects.

      (Sorry by some mistake in the text)

      • That’s a wonderful idea, Flavio. I’m going to adopt it! Thanks for sharing.

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