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Why it’s hard to think of ideas

Advanced techniques for writers

Coming up with ideas can be tricky. Several people have said this to me recently and it got me thinking about this elusive concept again. I’ve written about generating ideas before but this time I wanted to consider why it’s hard to think of ideas. There are four main reasons. Read on to find out more.

Four reasons why it’s hard to come up with ideas

  1. We don’t have a system for doing it. Ideas have a reputation for hitting us out of the blue like a bolt of lightening. They’re ‘supposed’ to appear from nowhere. When they don’t, we feel stumped.
  2. We don’t have time. Other things get in the way and we simply don’t put aside a chunk of time to focus on creative thinking. Sometimes we need to sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit and simply think things through – but then what?
  3. The whole ideas thing isn’t specific enough. If I say: name this boat after a significant person in your life, or come up with a range of colours based on your experience of the ocean, or think of three ways to grow your own herbs, you probably could. Why? Specificity! If I simply say ‘come up with an idea’ it’s much harder.
  4. We think idea start ‘out there’ somewhere. They don’t. They start with us.

If you can bring all four elements together – a system, focus time, specificity, and a connection to you – plus a vital fifth ingredient, then you will start thinking of ideas, almost automatically.

A magic 5th ingredient

What’s the 5th ingredient? I started this blog post with it. It’s why. Why do you want to come up with ideas? And ‘why’ leads you to ask: What end result do you really want? Who do you want to connect with, for instance? What are you imagining when you think about the process? What’s your motivation?

Fancy a free mini-course?

If you’d like some idea-based thinking space, and a system to use again and again, I’ve got just the thing because I’ve been busy making mini-courses (free to my email subscribers). Click on any that take your fancy to enrol:

How to get the ideas for your novel out of your head and onto the page

The Ideas Machine: How to come up with an idea for a sellable book to promote and support your business

How To Come Up With Sellable Ideas For Your Self-Help Book

And thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions!

By the way, I recently had a chat with a social media manager who told me I should be putting videos of writing tips on Instagram. I am a bit of an introvert but I have decided to give it a go. I’ve posted one very short one so far so I could figure it out, but I’ve recorded several more already, mainly because it got addictive after a while!

More soon. Until then, happy writing,




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