10 ways to make ideas happen

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I’ve spent 15 years working in creative industries, a shortage of ideas has never been an issue. This is how I make ideas happen, and keep happening:

  1. Observe the world around you. The news, things you overhear at the supermarket, something that happened to someone you know. The best stories are rooted in truth. Write it all down.
  2. Don’t wait until you have a commission, assignment, deadline, whatever, to look for ideas. You are an idea-collecting machine. Everything that seems interesting needs to be recorded. Have a scrapbook of ideas that you can leaf through when you’re in need of a little inspiration.
  3. Music. Art. Theatre. Get outside of yourself for a bit. Immerse yourself in something creative that you didn’t have a hand in and let it inspire you.
  4. Talk to people. Other people have frustratingly different opinions to you. Sure, you might think they’re wrong, but what if they make you think about things differently? Wouldn’t that be something?
  5. Sometimes working on the thing you’re supposed to be working on is tough because you’ve got something else on your mind. My advice is to write that first. Got a great idea that came to you whilst you were pairing your socks but it’s not relevant to the thing you should be writing? Well why not write it down anyway, file it in your ideas folder, and then you can put it aside and get on with the task at hand.
  6. The same goes for stuff that’s pissing you off. Get it out. Write or rant or whatever works. And then move on.
  7. Take a break. Go for a walk, meet a friend for coffee, go on holiday. A change of perspective can sometimes be prompted by moving from your desk and going out into the world.
  8. Ease off. If you’re struggling to meet your target word/page count then back off a bit. Setting goals you’re destined to miss is demoralising. Okay you might *need* to write those words by Wednesday, but stop telling yourself that. Set your targets low and watch yourself sail through them.
  9. Read widely. Read the books you like. Read the ones you don’t. Read as much as you can. Learn from other writers.
  10. Sometimes you have to start over. Sometimes you just need to look at what you’re working on and accept that you needed to get it out, but it’s wrong. It’s okay. Starting again can be freeing. This time you can do better.