Story ideas: They are the hardest part of writing for me, with no close contender for second place. I wish this was due to that mystical concept that inspiration is elusive, requiring a muse or divine intervention or some such nonsense. No, I confess, in my experience ideas abound when you work hard for them. They escape you when you’re being lazy.
And I am guilty of being a lazy writer in this regard. Pretty frequently. A great benefit to working with repeat clients and publications is that eventually, they often start coming to you with ideas. Here, we want a story written on this topic, you interested? Awesome. Doing it. And I let idea generating slide. Similar to exercising or getting dressed like an adult in the morning, the longer you go without generating story ideas, the easier it is to continue not doing it.
I was busy, busy, busy prior to taking some time off recently, nearly all of it with assignments so generously served up to me. Now I’m back and ramping up slowly, in such a way that gives me a little more time on my hands. Time I always wished I’d had before. Time, I’d always said in the far distant past of two months ago, that I’d dedicate to pitching new publications with new story idea and getting caught up on my blog. So what did I do yesterday? I stared at my computer. I scanned and rescanned the list of publications I intend to pitch. I let the cursor blink in a blank blog template for hours. I fiddled with my budget and website layout and social media a few times. I came back to the idea-generating tasks. And I had nothing. Nothing.
Write until you come across something to write about. Write what you know. Use a writing prompt. These are all completely legitimate ways to generate story ideas that I cannot get to work on me. Why am I so bad at coming up with ideas? Not because I am an artist and they are elusive. No, it’s because they take time. Legitimate time and research and mind wandering. And I like marking things off of lists. I became so obsessed with marking “write blog” off of my list yesterday that I was paralyzed. I had a couple of meh ideas, but instead of writing them out, I kept waiting for the idea. I didn’t read a book or other blogs or magazines or do any sort of research. I just waited. And I failed. Like I always do.
This morning, a Facebook interaction got me thinking about a blog idea. Because ideas simply never come from within. They always come from outside stimulus, which is more difficult to control and predict and fit snugly into a to-do list. So I wrote it. But it didn’t make much sense to post until another half-written post sitting in my drafts posted. So I finished that one. Today wasn’t a good day to post it though, but that was okay because by that time I’d thought of two more blog ideas, including this one. And the floodgates are open. Ideas: You have to go out and hunt them down, but once you finally ensnare one, they usually start presenting themselves to you, pre-snared.
Coming up with story ideas for pitching will be another thing. I’ll have to slowly research my way there. I’ll have to put it and only it on my to do list and not worry about when I’ll get there. I’ll have to read lots of other stories and talk to lots of people. And, ugh, it will take time. I hate things that take time. Except when I have no time, which is when I dream of doing them. It’s time to stop waiting for the busy to save me from doing better.