Episode One

Imagination and Inspiration - Transforming Ideas into Stories

In this episode of "The Wonderful World of Writing" Laura Cotton discusses 3 ways that you can generate ideas for your writing projects. She also provides an assignment, which is to start keeping an idea journal. 

The following is a more detailed discussion about creating new ideas.

Ideas can come from anywhere. They can come from a conversation you overheard, a book you read, a movie you saw, even an email you received! The key to coming up with new ideas is to be open to the fact that not all of your ideas are going to be great and that they don't have to be. Everyone has the potential to be creative and everyone will eventually come up with a fantastic idea. However, it is important not to share your ideas too soon because some people will be very quick to criticize and in turn, you will become discouraged. At that point, a critical voice will emerge inside of your mind - the voice that tells you that you are not creative and that you could never write anything worthwhile. Thus, while your ideas are still in a fragile state, it is best to share them only with people you know will encourage you.

The following is a list of three techniques that will enable you to generate ideas for your writing projects.

1) Keep an idea journal.

All of your ideas deserve to be recognized and valued. One way of honoring your ideas is by keeping an idea journal in which you write down your ideas followed by when and where you came up with them. A sample of what this journal could look like is below:

Screenplay about a woman who is trying to figure out why her grown-up children won't talk to her anymore.

PLACE (this is the place where you thought of the idea)
While watching an old lady eat popcorn in the park

10:45 A.M.

By keeping an idea journal, you will begin to recognize when and where you are most creative. You will also find that by writing down your ideas, you are freeing up your creative mind so that you can allow more ideas to germinate. You won't fixate on any one particular idea and, because you will have mutiple ideas to choose from, you will become more subjective when evaluating your ideas. You will also discover that you have many more ideas than you ever thought possible.

2) Draw from your own personal experiences.

Another way to generate ideas for writing projects is by using your own personal experiences. Drawing from your own life can be a useful tool in creating new ideas, however, it is usually best if you make these experiences more dramatic, humorous, or interesting than what actually occured. Some people believe that it is important for writers to "write what they know," and that you should only write about topics and people who are familar to you. However, the reality is that this advice is limiting and discouraging. Writers tend to be people who are reclusive, who prefer to be alone, and who don't need a lot of external stimulation to be happy. They don't need to "write what they know" because they frequently have vivid imaginations. In addition, the internet, books, interviews, and discussions can provide plenty of background information for writers.

3) Watch a lot of movies or read a lot of books in your particular area of interest.

The third way to create ideas is to watch a lot of movies or read a lot of books in your particular area of interest. For instance, if you want to write a romantic comedy, then you should watch a lot of romantic comedies. If you want to write a children's picture book, then you should read a lot of picture books. While you are reading, pay attention to what you like about that particular story. Do you like the characters? The setting? The point of view? Ask yourself what you would have done differently if you were the writer. In addition, one exercise that is particularly effective is to combine two movies or books together to create a third movie or book. For example, if you loved "Pride and Prejudice" and "The Terminator," you could combine these two movies together and create your own unique third movie.

In the end, however, it doesn't matter how you come up with your ideas. What matters is that you are passionate about your writing and that you believe in yourself. Any kind of writing is an act of bravery. You are committing words to a page and they might not always express exactly what you are trying to say. Brainstorming is the same way - you are allowing your creative mind to wander into territory that might not always be comfortable. Listen to your heart. Honor your ideas and, most importantly, give them the attention they deserve.

Assignment One: Start keeping an idea journal. Carry it with you everywhere you go and keep it by your bed at night. Write down every idea that you had, when you had it, and what you were doing at the time.