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Test your ideas for usefulness

Idea generation

Test for usefulness

How do you make sure the ideas you generate are relevant to what you want to write about? First, generate ideas using the exercises I’ve suggested in recent posts without worrying about usefulness. You’ll end up with much more material this way.

You’ll find the posts with the relevant exercises in them under ‘three creative tools that will help you come up with ideas’ and ‘using the one thing you know most about to come up with ideas (yourself)’ in this list of posts on idea generation.

Next write down why you want an idea and try to get specific about how you want to use the idea. In other words, decide on an idea generation goal. That way, you can keep coming back to this idea generation goal, to check whether the idea fits. Actually write it out rather than thinking about it.

By the way, if you find this process laborious or boring rather than intriguing or interesting then that’s a sign that you already know enough to start writing. Forget about generating ideas for now and come back to these exercises next time you’re stuck.

Next do this:

  • If you’re a poet, circle any ideas that jump out at you once you’ve done the exercises I’ve suggested in the previous posts and work on getting specific about the emotions you experience when confronted by that thing or idea.
  • If you’re writing fiction, take any aspect of the plot or characters that you’re stuck on, and try applying some of the ideas that made you feel curious. For instance, when I did the mini mindmap the fact that I like sea swimming stood out for me, probably because I was about to go for my first sea swim of the year. If I was stuck with a character, I could try bringing sea swimming into the mix, to see if that makes him or her more interesting.
  • Nonfiction writers and bloggers try this. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal reader, decide what problems they’re experiencing and decide what they really need to learn to overcome those problems. Could you use any of the ideas you came up with when you did the observation exercise, or the ‘all about you’ exercise to begin to describe the problem?

Here is an example:

Let’s imagine you’re a blogger who came up with ‘traffic’ and ‘cushions’ and ‘clutter’ when doing the observation exercise, like I did. You might add a relevant problem and solution to them in the following ways, but remember to unhook the idea from its source first:

  • Are you having trouble driving traffic to your website? Take these three steps today.
  • Having trouble finding affordable accessories for your living room? I was too until I tried x
  • Fed up with decluttering advice that doesn’t work when you’ve got kids? Try these easy to implement tips for storing your kids’ toys.

Connections exercise

  1. On one side of a piece of paper, take whatever it is you want to write about, break it down into its component parts and list them out. Don’t think about it too much, just do a brain download.
  2. On the other side of the piece of paper, list the ideas that leapt out at you when you tried the idea generation exercises I gave you in the last few posts.
  3. Try matching the list of component parts to the list of potential ideas by drawing lines between them. Then test them out. Can you find ways to connect them together?

More soon. Until then, happy writing.

Louise xx

P.S. If you’re a blogger and want more on coming up with ideas for your blog, go here.


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