The mindset of idea generation

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much I miss my blog. I post a lot of short updates to Facebook, and I Twitter, but I rarely take the time to come up with a thoughtful blog topic. There are several reasons for that, but I think the primary one is that I just allowed myself to get out of the mindset of generating ideas.

This has been on my mind because I’m aware that the things I post to Facebook are somewhat ephemeral, in the sense that if FB one day disintegrates, the photos and everything else on there will also go away. When I post something to my blog–a photo or a recipe or some of my introspective thoughts or questions–I know I can go back and access it anytime I want. I like that feeling of ownership (and the ease with which I can search my blog to find a favorite recipe–you have no idea what my recipe box looks like). ;-)

It occurred to me the other day, too, that the time when I was blogging a lot was also the time I was writing the most fiction–something I’ve also done far too little of these days. And I really think that the reason behind that is the mindset. I posted a question to Facebook one day asking my friends how they brainstormed new novel ideas, and I got some of the most wonderful answers. (I wished then that I’d posted the question to my blog, though I’m not sure I would have gotten as many responses here–something I can talk about in another post.) My favorite response, though, came from author Laura Anne Gilman, who said,

The trick is to be open to a passing thought, and then grab it and feed it scraps until it grows into something. After a while, you learn to do that while you’re going about your day, without conscious effort. Then it’s your job to sort out what’s workable and what’s just Bright!Shiny!

And successful writing, whether it’s fiction or blogging, has a lot to do with idea generation, and I’ve come to realize that idea generation has to do with mindset. I’ve heard bestsellers say that they get a hundred ideas a day of things to write, and the trouble is picking one. I think that that mindset is something that has to grow on you, if you don’t have it already. When I was blogging all the time, my mind was constantly recognizing potential blog topics in the world around me–things I thought would interest my readers or things I thought I could write interestingly about. And in the same way, I was also getting ideas for fiction. I would notice things around me or topics my mind flitted to, and my mind would feed those ideas and see if they evolved. When I cut back on blogging a few years ago, those topics would still occur to me regularly, but because I didn’t blog them, the ideas just…tapered off. Really, that’s a pity, because I miss the camaraderie I had through my blog. But as my mindset changed, ideas for fiction tapered off as well. Most of the time in life, if we ignore something, it really doesn’t go away. In this case–in being mindful, though–I think that you can starve out ideas through neglect, and you can change your mindset for the worse because of it.

With that thought it mind, I’m going to try to recapture my own mindfulness. And I’m going to try posting to my blog more often as part of it. I feared for a long while that if I posted things that didn’t have to do with copyediting, people would get bored and go away. However, nothing is also boring. :-) So if you don’t mind putting up with my favorite recipes, pictures of my kids, and the occasional rumination on whatever topic my mind has flitted onto that day, I’ll hopefully see you in the comments. I’m going to do my best to always reply to them, too, because so many of you have such wonderful observations to offer.

And of course, if you have any thoughts on the mindset of idea generation, I’d love to hear them. :-)

9 thoughts on “The mindset of idea generation”

  1. Yay! Welcome back!

    (Everyone is different, but I cannot do Facebook or Twitter, the continuous flow of fragmented chitter and partial thoughts drives my already left-handed, fragmented brain into a frenzy.)

    I resonate with Laura Anne’s suggestion–I sometimes write ideas on yellow pads at my desk, where I can see them from time to time, and then as the reminder triggers complementary thoughts, I jot those down . . . and eventually they coalesce into something.

  2. Not to be a pessimist, but unless you’re backing up your site files regularly, your blog has the same risk of disintegration as Facebook does, if one day your provider should fold and take your files with them. (Lesson here, back up regularly!)

  3. Hi, Sherwood. Yeah, I think that learning to nurture those ideas rather than brush them off is an important step.

    And hi, Joe. I do back up my website, and it’s also fed to LJ, so I feel fairly safe with the info here.

  4. i just blogged today about how much i long for a group of creative people to hang out with and give me that energy. i think you’re talking about the same thing, just assigning it a different name. as much stimulus as i get from the blogosphere, i miss the creative energy that comes from hanging out with creative people – even if they’re working on something different than you are, you get so much for being with people who have a lot of ideas.

    i carry a little notebook with me all the time, or use the notes function in my iPhone to capture the ideas that come to me when i am out among people. i think we as writers spend a lot of time along (and we undoubtedly also thrive on that), but we also need the ideas and energy and inspiration that others give us.

    i think i found you from a link on twitter, but it’s so ephemeral, i’m not sure now. but however it happened, i’m glad i saw this post today. you helped me further my thinking (even if that’s not evident from what i’ve written here). :-)

  5. Hi, Julochka. I really understand that need. I long for that type of RL group, too, and I think that’s why writers get so much out of conventions. It’s wonderful to be able to spend time with our peers there and bask in that kind of mass creative energy.

  6. Pictures, recipes and chore reports are perfectly good sources of topicality. Some might find such minutiae boring, but others will find them warmly inviting. It’s all about the connect on the intarwebaloids; second-guessing your audience will lead to over-specialization. Those who only want copy-edit kung fu can click on the tag for goodness sake!

    Ideas are easy, just look around you. The world is made of ideas, you’re positively soaking in them. Holy grails marching by our front door always and ever. You have to work on them though–remove the primordial slime, tear away the layers, cut away at the outer mantle, and dig through the muddy earth full of centipedes and exploding fungoids. What you find requires engagement and creative effort to play with until it reflects back your relationship with the universe.

    Anyway, here’s an idea you can water to see what grows: Where’s that post about the WFC panel you were on? Surely there were goodies discovered at that shindig? Because it’s all about the goodies.

  7. Ha! I may have waited too long to post on the Dialogue panel, Paul. I’m not sure I remember it all, as there were a huge number of wonderful things said. I do recall that I got a good laugh when I brought up copyediting at one point and said, “Copyediting is like bathing. No one notices it unless you don’t do it.” :-)

    I’ll see if I can remember more, though, and the tag point is a good one!

  8. Heh-heh, I remember now you twittered that one. Funny, but also true! Phew, this manuscript is…ripe! Put some extra-strength Head and Boulders on that one.

    I suppose my point is keep your cellar stocked not just with the A wines, but the B’s and C’s too. Diverse eco-system kind of thing. If all you serve is A’s then the B and C folks wander off and then it’s hard to get them back. New folks only see the A stuff and don’t know you also have, or used to serve B and C.

    I mean, unicycle! That came out of nowhere for me, but there you are. Interest +1!

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