The More You Write, the More Ideas You’ll Have

Ideas

 

by Millie Ho

I used to think that I would run out of ideas if I wrote too much. This fear drained my ability to write at times. But it made sense, right? Your mind can only generate so much content in a lifetime, and eventually you’ll just end up rewriting your existing ideas. Or worse, you could hit a brick wall that won’t move no matter how hard you slam into it. Writer’s block could last for days, months, years—and it’s always worse knowing that you’ve actually hit your ceiling than for it to remain a vague possibility looming in the background.

Now that I’ve been writing consistently every day and haven’t run out of ideas yet, I’d like to correct some of my misconceptions. Perhaps you can relate!

 

Misconception #1: I’ll become a parody of myself.  

I had a fear that I would just be rehashing the same ideas over and over. But I haven’t reached the kind of output to qualify for self-parody status yet, not by a long shot. And if I become a parody of myself, so what? At least there’s something to parody, at least I’ll know what I’m all about. So there’s no need to worry about things that haven’t happened yet. Just focus on what needs to be written today.

 

Misconception #2: I need to come up with insanely original ideas.

Nope, not really. There are infinite ways you can tell the same story. I’ve been reading How To Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey, which is a very helpful classic on storytelling, and one section in particular caught my eye:

How many novels could be written on the Samson and Delilah theme? Dozens and dozens. Ever read a story in which a plain but deserving girl finally marries Mr. Wonderful? It has been done a trillion times and will be done a trillion times more.

The key differentiator is not in the idea itself, Frey suggests, but in how the writer executes the idea. Remembering this helped redirect my focus from brainstorming to revising. After all, the real magic happens during the editing process, when the writer demonstrates how their story stands out. Originality comes from execution.

 

Misconception #3: It’s bad to produce crappy ideas.  

Sure, I believe in quality over quantity just as much as the next person, but how do you develop quality? You need to generate lots of crappy ideas first! The more I jot down all new ideas, the more good ideas I get along with the bad ones. And sometimes it’s not even the initial idea that materializes into the final story, but a secondary idea that branched off the main one. Knowing this has encouraged me to keep writing and generating new ideas, even if they don’t go anywhere. You never know when the stars will align.

 

My Experience With Writing Stories Daily 

It all started a few months ago, when I wrote new stories to take my mind off Draft One of my manuscript so that I could revise it objectively. My first few ideas were bad. They resembled half-formed thoughts and I failed multiple times trying to stretch them into stories. But I persisted. I worked on one story for a few days, set it aside and started a new one, then edited the first one after I finished the second one. Rinse and repeat, over and over.

Eventually something interesting happened: my ideas began to get better. My execution of these ideas also improved. I also began to see ideas everywhere: an overheard conversation in a restaurant, a random song lyric that formed the basis of a character sketch. Since I now believed I won’t run out of ideas, I began to see the ideas I would’ve missed if I hadn’t been looking.

 

Consistency Is key

I tried doing something like this in the past, but I didn’t stick with it consistently. As a result, my ability to ideate turned rusty. Eventually, I falsely believed that I was incapable of brainstorming new and better ideas. But it’s like exercising, really: it’s inefficient to start, stop for a few weeks, and then pick up the dumbbells again. To properly strengthen the writing muscle, I need to keep exercising every single day.

My experience has taught me that you won’t run out of ideas.

You’ll just get better at recognizing and developing them.

 

 

Guest post contributed by Millie Ho. Millie is a writer and illustrator from Toronto, Canada. She uses her blog and YouTube channel to document what she’s learned about writing from both the writing process and from books, TV shows, and films.


226373498_dacf4f263f_bNeed help with your book or novel? Check out the Writer’s Toolbox, a list of free, discounted, and overall helpful links to tools and benefits to help you with what you do best: writing.


 

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20 thoughts on “The More You Write, the More Ideas You’ll Have”

  1. I have always thought that I would run out of ideas, or lack ideas in general especially since I struggle coming up with ideas in the beginning. I like that you said you’d work on one story, give it a break to work on another. And while you were busy with the other, you were able to generate ideas for the first. For some reason I’ve always worked under the idea, one srory at a time. Since I could never finish that one because the ideas weren’t flowing, I’d stop all together. I’m glad you wrote this and that I was able to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading! Working on another story while letting your existing one rest is a good way of refreshing the mind, though you can also get good results with working on one story at a time as well. I think it comes down to what works best for you and being open to experimenting with different methods. Hope you are successful with finding new ideas. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an excellent post. It kind of reminds me of when I started my blog a little over a year ago. At that time I hadn’t written anything new (aside from necessary non-fiction stuff at work) in a long time – years! So for my first posts, I simply pasted in articles I had written way back when. I felt a bit guilty doing this, almost as if I were cheating by not creating new pieces. But then a funny thing happened. As you imply, Millie, a long-dormant part of my little brain started to wake up and produce *new* ideas for *new* articles, which I then dared to post in my blog. Hallelujah! Behold, a born-again writer! Now I’m revising my first book which I started last winter, and which I *never* would have had the courage to write had it not been for my blog, greasing the ol’ gears. So YES! We write, and we’ll write more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing, Ellie! Great to hear that your blogging exercise woke up the part of your brain that allowed you to find and develop new ideas. I liken it to pumping water from a well: apply loads of energy to get started with the first few drops, and then you just need to pump consistently to maintain the flow of water. You’ll be surprised to see how much water was in that well to begin with! Best of luck with your book revision (I’m at the same stage). Yes, we will write more!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great metaphor, Millie! My book is done; I’m working on a query letter now. I will send it to several select agents, as I plan to try the traditional route first. Thanks and good luck to you too!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the great post. More writers need to ‘exercise’ their writing muscles before leaping into the long-term project that is a novel. Some chase half-formed ideas to then end before finding out they have several fatal flaws. I think the ability to generate story ideas is more a state of mind than anything else. If you get into the habit of asking “what if?” when you see or hear something new, story ideas are bound to spawn. My major source of inspiration is from science, any field of science. Search the science news and you’ll find everything from the discovery of fundamental particles to a frog that can survive being frozen in a block of ice. If I let my mind ask “what if?” it invariably expands into a story, complete with characters, setting, and conflict. There is some trial and error, and many ideas won’t be good ones, but if you get in the habit, you will have more novel ideas than you can use in a lifetime of writing. Originality isn’t hard to come by either when you consider the scale of science and all of its possibilities.

    Thanks again,

    Philip
    https://pakramer.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Philip! Absolutely agree that the ability to generate story ideas is mainly a state of mind. We’re all capable of generating more and better ideas. We just need to believe that we can, and then take action. Similar to your “what if?” exercise, I started spotting more story ideas simply because I now believed they were there and therefore started actively looking for them. Science news is a great source of ideas. I recently read an article about the discovery of a huge X-shaped star structure in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Boggles my mind, and could be the start of a sci-fi or speculative fiction story.

      Yes, there is no shortage to the ideas we can generate. We just need to keep looking, keep writing and, as you said, make it into a habit.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I spent a year tweeting four tweet stories a night, four nights a week, just throwing story ideas at the wall. You would think you would run out of ideas, but the opposite is true, Often I did more than four. I could riff one idea into five or six.

    I learned from improv performance that if you hit two out of four jokes you’re doing good. This is true, and, best of all, you can take the best of the good routines and develop them into some wonderful performance and written pieces. But if you’re not throwing stuff out there, and getting a reaction, you don’t know what’s working.

    Like

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