I’ve been talking about how to organize your ideas. Now I want to talk about where those ideas originate.


You might ask, “Don’t ideas just come?”

For some of us, the answer is a loud, “Yes.” There are people who are overwhelmed by a constant flood of ideas. I’ll talk about that problem later.

I find, however, that many new writers really have only one idea. Often, it’s related to something that happened to them. And, quite often, they think they have to write a book about it.

Since all of writing is dependent on ideas, I want to explore this world of ideas in the next few weeks, starting with how to find ideas to write about, and then helping you decide which ideas to work with first.

But before we start, there are…

Four things you should know about ideas:

1. An idea is simply a starting point. Fifty people, if given the same idea, would likely write fifty different things.

2. It’s what you do with an idea that matters: not what you might do.

3. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Good writers learn to separate the good ideas from the great ideas.

4. All ideas must be refined. Yes, a good idea well-executed is a wonderful thing, but ideas have to be studied and evaluated and shaped and crafted to make them work for you.


postit note - true story

Writing exercise:

Using 3″ x 5″ cards, small 2″ or 4″ pieces of paper, an Excel file, or whatever works for you, write down every idea you have at this time. One idea per page.

One of my actual ideas is on a post-it note right here. Give enough information so that when you look at it a year or two from now you’ll still know what the idea was about. Just writing something like “lost keys” wouldn’t be enough. Try to provide a few details if you can. Sort of the “who, what, when , where, why, and how of the story.

Or your idea might be philosophical. Say you want to write something to help people “understand the difference between doing your best and doing enough to get by.” And maybe you have a specific illustration or maybe you have only the general idea. That’s okay too. Just put down as much as you can at this time.


Check the Category Lists at the top of the home page for more posts on this or similar topics.


For some reason, N. J. Lindquist was born with the impression that, whenever she learned something new, she had an obligation to teach it to other people.

While she's the first to admit that her compulsion to teach can be really annoying, she's also discovered that there are some people who are happy to learn from her.

This blog is therefore a place for her to share what she's learned about writing with people who are interested in what she has to say.

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