Continue Your Idea-Making Awesomeness with These Six Amazing Guides!

My go-to team of books for when I'm in desperate need of a new idea. They'll have your back, too. | lucyflint.com

We writers live among our ideas. Kind of a cool reality, isn't it?

It's the truth: The degree to which our ideas delight us is the degree to which we're going to have exciting and enjoyable writing lives. 

That's what I'm aiming for! You too, I'm guessing. ;)

I hope that Idea Camp has been fun for you! You now have some fantastic strategies for making appealing, useable, and energizing ideas! 

SUPER good news for your work-in-progress, and for all those works to come! (Your future projects are all stoked, by the way.) 

But today's our last post for Idea Camp. And the writing life is a big one. Which means that, we're all going to appreciate having even more idea-making guidance in the days to come!

Here are six of my favorite books for creativity and idea-making. If you've been reading the blog for a while, you've heard of them all. But they're a part of my core team when it comes to creativity, so they deserve a big shout-out at the end of Idea Camp!

If you want to level up in terms of creativity, consistency with idea-making, and general awesomeness (that's all of us, right?!), then these are the books to read!

1) A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, by Roger von Oech

This is, no surprise, a totally off-the-wall book. (Title kinda gives that away, right?) But it is super helpful at shaking up the way we normally think.

Von Oech asks provocative questions about creativity, and he flips the ways we normally approach problems.

This is where I learned about the oracle method, "stepping stone" ideas, and a bunch of other ways to reframe creative problems. (His concept of "the second right answer" is totally brilliant and oh so helpful!)

This book will help you with your writing, for sure, but—bonus!—it will also make you a creative, problem-solving dynamo in the rest of your life as well. 

2) Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Yup, it was a mega-sensation in all creative-minded circles for a while, and for good reason. I devoured it, and then listened in on the accompanying podcast, "Magic Lessons," as well.

I just love Gilbert's frank discussion of creativity, her view of the artist's life, and her perspective on ideas like inspiration, wonder, and following your curiosity.

It's also just a thoroughly enjoyable read! This isn't so much a book about actively generating ideas, but the way she approaches creativity will definitely shift the pressure you feel in your writing life.

And that shift will bring wonder-filled ideas in its wake!

(I especially loved: the trickster vs. martyr discussion; the "sandwiches" we eat in pursuit of what we love; and the story about the lobster. Oh my gosh, the lobster. I laughed 'til I cried!)

PS, if you can't wait to get the book, check out her fantastic interview about Big Magic with Marie Forleo. It's all the things!!

3) Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

Yep, I've done a post on this one before. But it's worth bringing up again here, because Kleon has such a helpful way of describing idea creation: he breaks it down and makes it feel so doable.

I love his whole concept of "the genealogy of ideas," and how he recommends learning from the artists you admire. He says: 

Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What's in there that makes you different? That's what you should amplify and transform into your own work.

How's that for inspiring?! Geez!

And then I'm also haunted by this bit of brilliance: 

Think about your favorite work and your creative heroes. What did they miss? What didn't they make? ... If all your favorite makers got together and collaborated, what would they make with you leading the crew? 
     Go make that stuff.

Riiiiiight?? Doesn't that just get your mind fizzing? The whole book is like that, so, if you haven't checked it out yet ... um, go do that.

(He has a pretty fantastic blog as well... hop on over. And also, if you're trying to wrap your mind around the whole Internet, social media, how-to-be-seen thing, his book Show Your Work! is also exquisite and deeply encouraging. It gave me the courage to start this blog.)

4) The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp

This one again! For sure. Not only does Tharp talk about all aspects of the creative life in a compelling and exciting way, but she also has incredible tips on how to find ideas.

The whole book is helpful for this, but the best chapter for finding ideas is "Scratching." Scratching is Tharp's term for that process of hunting for an idea. She has a bunch of great habits and routines for idea searching... you've gotta read that chapter and try her exercises! You'll have plenty of new ways to forage for brilliance.

5) The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne

My favorite-ever structure book belongs in Idea Camp?! Yup.

Because if you're writing a novel, and you don't know what do to next, it helps soooooo much to remember the conventions of the genre you're dealing with, the parts of story form (in scenes, in acts), and the "change curve" that Coyne explains.

Having a solid grasp of novel structure definitely saved my idea-making bacon with my work-in-progress! And understanding story form is critical when you're defining the problem that you're trying to solve

6) A Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves

This is THE BEST writing exercise book I've ever encountered and it literally changed my view of my writing and my imagination. For the much, much better. 

It is seriously good.

Working through her daily writing prompts showed me just how incredible my brain can be at making ideas. At creating stories out of thin air. Even on days when I felt dull.

If you give the habit of writing exercises a try, you'll get into the mode of having a flexible, ready, energized mind, eager to snatch and develop any idea that crosses your path. 

BASICALLY, you acquire idea-making superpowers. Yes, really.

Because some of the best ideas you'll ever get, you'll get while your pen is moving. And that is an exhilaration that's worth finding!

Oh, and the articles and essays that make up the rest of the content? MEGA valuable and encouraging.

Dive in: you won't regret it.


We did it!! A month of relishing all things idea-related. WHOA.

I'd love to hear how you're doing: which idea-generating practices have been the most helpful? Any writing blocks blasted away? 

The second half of our writing year is going to be so full of good ideas now! Mmmm. Happy dreaming, lionhearts!

The One Cure for Your Biggest Idea Droughts

This is the strategy that will bail you out, again, and again, and again. | lucyflint.com

If you do everything you can, and you're still stubbornly stuck without a good idea, the best thing to do is stop.

Really.

And go do something else.

Go play.

Or go pamper: Take ridiculously good care of yourself. 

Go move. Take a walk, a run, a hike. Dance.

However you do it, it's time to give your project (and yourself) some space.

Take a micro break. Both James Scott Bell and Julia Cameron talk about writing down a question you have at night, and then getting up and writing about it first thing in the morning. 

Wonderful things can happen in your brain overnight. And in the morning, you write 'em all down!

Mmmm. I love that kind of near-effortless idea making!

Or, take a macro break. Like this:

Once, at the end of summer, I quit writing. I was done.

Out of ideas for workable novels, out of ideas for the drafts that were waiting for me, out of ideas for how to fix anything, including myself. 

So for three months, I just read novels. (And felt a bit depressed, but we can skip that part.)

I read and read and read, and I didn't even try to think about new ideas.

And then one October night, I got an idea literally out of a clear black sky.

I was staring at the stars when the crux of a novel dropped right into my head. It fueled a beautiful, dreamy project (which I plan to come back to one day!).

Better than the new project was that feeling: of being unstuck.

Of being hopeful again. With another trail of ideas showing that the writing life was still mine.

So sometimes? Sometimes you really do just need a break.

Give yourself some grace. Do something good for yourself.

And that idea you've been desperate for? Might show up when you least expect it.

Four Quick Fixes for the Next Time You're Looking for a Fresh Idea

A few more tricks for the next time you need a fresh idea! | lucyflint.com

Well, Idea Campers, how are you all doing? Do you feel armed and ready to face anything your work-in-progress throws at you? Because we have covered sooooo many idea-finding strategies by now!

When you're on the lookout for a new idea—an appealing, useable concept with velocity—it helps to have a range of techniques, right?

We have a list of major interests and a list of curiosities, to spark excitement in our ideas. We have a list of topics for which we've already done allllllll the emotional research (so let's put it to good work!). We have idea scout files and title files, ready to add shape and heat to our projects.

When things get really tricky, we know how to go over the problem in laser-like detail, to know exactly what idea we're looking for. And finally, we have the all-purpose skeleton key of idea-making: my favorite strategy ever.

Whew! That's a lot of power tools!! 

But just in case you'd like a little more back-up... 

Here are a few other idea-making techniques. Because it's good to have a trick or four up your sleeve for those really tough days. 

1) Remember the value of bridging ideas.

One of the reasons why I like to do a lot of my idea work with pen and paper is so that I have a written record of my process.

Why is that important? 

Because along the brainstorming path, there are sometimes these weird idea cast-offs.

Bizarre, off-the-wall, "couldn't possibly work" kind of ideas.

The awesome thing about these crazy ideas is their ability to spark other ideas.

They bridge you forward to a new idea that you might not've had, if you thought "pffft, I'm not writing down that dumb idea."

Know what I mean? 

Roger Von Oech calls these "stepping stones." In A Whack on the Side of the Head, he writes: 

Stepping stones are simply provocative ideas that stimulate us to think about other ideas. Stepping stones may be impractical or improbable, but their value consists not in how practical they are, but in where they lead your thinking. 

Exciting, right? 

So after an idea session, save your notes for a little while. Go back over them in a calm moment. You might find cast-offs that belong in your idea scout files: tidbits that didn't work to solve this problem, but which might be pure gold another time!

2) Shake your imagination up with a crazy challenge.

I saw this approach in Twyla Tharp's outrageously helpful book, The Creative Habit. She says we should have "an aggressive quota for ideas." 

Such as?

Such as, come up with sixty ideas in two minutes.

No, seriously. That's what she said. 

This is the kind of challenge that blasts you over obstacles, over hurdles.

You lose your hang-ups. All ideas count: everything is written down in the rush to fill up the list!

Which means? You end up with some really cool ideas. (And even the unusable ones could be stepping stones to other ideas...)

So before you totally dismiss this (like I did the first time!), give it a try.

Set a timer. Number a piece of paper. And then let rip.

You might just shock yourself with what you come up with... especially just before the timer dings.

3) Turn random into spectacular.

This is based on an exercise that Donald Maass presents in his incredibly helpful guide, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. (This book is on my all-time absolute must-read list for novelists, so, if you haven't read it yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out!)

In the exercise, he's showing how to weave elements of a novel together (and it's fantastic for that!), but I think that you could do it with any kind of idea generation.

Here's how it works:

Whatever your main problem or question is, try to split it into three categories or three topics. Write them out (with a little space in between) across the top of a sheet of paper.

So, in his example, you're listing characters, settings, and plot layers.

To look for an idea that might happen within a scene, you might list characters allied with the protagonist, characters allied with the antagonist, and various motivations/goals. 

If you're creating a title, you might list key characters, important images from the book, and the main settings.

Make sense? 

Once you've figured out your three categories, try to list six things in each category, and write them under each of your headings. 

And the more in each list, the better. So if you can come up with ten or even twelve for each of the three categories, that's great.

And then? And then it gets really exciting: 

You take a pencil and start drawing random lines, connecting entries from the first list to the second to the third.

What are you after? You're looking for connections.

You're looking for three entries to combine in such a way that your mind grabs the idea and starts running. 

So give it a little time, and keep messing around with it. Draw lines every which way. Link names and concepts together, and watch for what happens in your mind. 

I love this strategy because it shows me how to pair story or scene elements in new ways. And then? The idea sparks fly!

4) Get a new environment.

If you keep looking for good ideas and keep not finding them, try changing up where and when you're doing your looking.

If you normally brainstorm at your desk, in the afternoon, try: outside, in the morning. Or in your car, at midnight. In a grocery store, at 4:30. 

Sometimes we just need to change up the mental chemistry, move to fresh air, switch it up a bit.

It is perilously easy to fall into a rut when I'm doing all the same things in the same ways.

Find a way to change your surroundings, and you just might find your way to a fresh crop of new ideas.


There you go! A few more ways to find the brilliance that's lurking all around and inside you.

At this point, you're essentially unstoppable. I mean, look at you!

But just in case you hit a really rough patch, I've got you covered. Stay tuned for the next post...

Your All-Purpose, Idea-Discovering, Secret Weapon! (My hands-down, favorite, most-used technique.)

The easiest, clearest, best, favoritest, all-purpose idea making strategy EVER. (I love it. Can you tell? I really love it.) | lucyflint.com

Last November, I had a ton of fun inventing a list of fifty off-the-wall plot twists to help out all my writing buddies doing Nanowrimo.

Fifty plot twists! I was surprised at how quickly I thought of them all (more to come on that!). And I loved the quirky list when it was done. (It's a little bizarre. Just what I love, haha!)

Well, it turned into my most popular post of all time. I'm thrilled that it's been such a helpful resource for thousands (and thousands!) of people. 

But the coolest thing about all that and what I love most about it: It was so easy to come up with all those ideas! Seriously!

To generate so many crazy plot twists in just one afternoon, I turned to a method that I've enjoyed using for a long time.

I learned it from Roger Von Oech's A Whack on the Side of the Head—which is a MUST READ if you want to supersize your creativity! 

He calls it creating an oracle. (Check out more of his explanation on his blog.)

I've seen this method other places too, but Von Oech's book was the first place I saw it. And he was the only one who referred to it as an oracle. Which is, let's face it, a pretty cool name.

I've mentioned it before on this blog, but it's such a life-saver that I had to talk about it again, here in the midst of Idea Camp

The premise of the oracle method is really straightforward and simple. But it's incredibly powerful. Why? Because your brain brings all the magic. And our brains are pretty incredible.

So, buckle up!

At the heart of it, the oracle method is all about connecting two dots. You provide Dot #1 (your question or problem). The oracle provides Dot #2 (a random word or concept, which usually feels completely unrelated to your question).

And then: your brain steps in and connects the dots.

That connection—sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly, sometimes wild, sometimes fantastic—that is your new idea.

Sound fun? Because it's totally fun!!

Give yourself some time to practice it, and then marvel as your brain provides one solution after another.

So here's the real step-by-step. 

1) Find your oracle.

Yes, that sounds a bit weird. But all Von Oech meant was some book or resource that provide you with nouns.

I use a dictionary, or an encyclopedia. Or even, in a pinch, any novel or book lying around.

(He says you can even use a magazine and refer to the pictures... but I'd get too distracted!)

2) Define your problem.

Yep, you're all over this step by now!

You don't have to go mega in-depth, but you do need a crystal clear sense of what your problem is. The clearer you are, the better. This is your Dot #1!

3) Open your oracle and get a noun at random.

Open the book at random. And then grab a word off that open page. 

Oh, and don't try to select a juicy word.

At least until you get the hang of this, force yourself to get a random one: the top left corner, or the bottom right are good places.

Pick the very first noun there, and then close the oracle.

4) Consider your "answer."

So this word you've just grabbed? That's your marvelous Dot #2. And you owe it to yourself to give it a little thought.

You don't have to do a ton of research about it (unless you really want to!). Just mull it over in your mind for a second.

What does it mean? What images does it bring to mind? What special meanings might this word have for you? 

And then what are its other uses? Is it also used as a verb, or a proper noun? How many things could it mean? Does it represent other, bigger concepts as well? Are there metaphorical uses you're familiar with?

What else does it make you think of?

Feel free to jot some of these down. Again, it doesn't have to be laborious... just see what comes to mind, and take down a few notes.

If you have several angles to work with, you're in pretty great shape.

5) Give your brain the chance to connect the dots.

This is where it gets crazy and fun: the creative process up close! 

Decide that this Dot #2 somehow gives you the answer to your problem or question

Yes, that can feel a little weird. You might stare at it in frustration for a while, thinking, how in the heck are these two things related?

Because that's what you're looking for: A connection. 

Any connection. 

Give your brain a little space. Doodle on the edges of your paper. Stare out the window for a while.

Just keep turning the two things over in your mind: the problem, and this weird, doesn't-make-sense "answer." 

And keep looking for how they might be related.

It could be really off the wall. It could make you laugh. It might be too strange to credit at first.

But the more you play with it, the more you see how it actually, really, truly could work.

6) Call in extra help.

Usually one word is all I need for this. But now and then, I honestly can't think of anything workable with my first chosen word. I'll do all the thinking, and give myself time, and nothing breaks loose.

What to do? Flip open the oracle and grab a second word! Sometimes even a third. 

Play around with a few more concepts. See how your new words interact with the first one, how they're similar, how they contrast. And see how they react with your proposed problem.

Give them some time, and see what shows up!

So far, I've never needed more than three words to hit on a brilliant idea. So, even if you're frustrated with the process, hang in there! Let your brain play longer. Take a break and come back. Doodle more.

7) Take notes on your fledgling idea.

As soon as you feel like you're on to something, take those notes that you need! 

Flesh out the idea, add anything else that you're thinking of, the supporting details, the other information you'll need, anything you see in your head.

If your solution has stirred up more problems, you know what to do: Grab that oracle and launch into the next idea-finding session.

And then apply it to your draft or project, and you're off and running!

8) Repeat as necessary (and feel like a genius).

This gets easier—a lot easier!—with practice.

The more you trust the process, the longer you can hang in there when it feels uncomfortable. You get into a rhythm. You instinctively feel your way to the wild possibilities a lot faster.

Best of all? You get kind of addicted to that miraculous feeling of a new idea sparking in your mind.

(Because it is SERIOUSLY cool. And really fun.)

And then... go crazy! Invent to your mind's content. You can solve a dozen story problems in an afternoon. Or dream up fifty plot twists! ;)

This is truly the problem-solving technique that I use the most. It's easy, it's quick, and it's deliciously fun. 

Please give it a try, and let me know how it goes for you. 

Here's to overflowing with ideas! 

Don't Skip This Essential Step Before Finding A Swoon-Worthy Idea

Next time you need an idea to sweep in and save you, start with this vital (and incredibly helpful!) process. | lucyflint.com

So we're about midway through Idea Camp. Can you believe it?!

(Hey, June! Slow down!! Haha! ... Okay, but I'm serious. Slow down.)

We've covered a lot of awesome idea-generating tools so far: three topic lists that work incredibly well together (one and two and three), as well as a few idea scouting techniques (this one and this other one) that will absolutely get you some good results.

Whew!

Are your imaginations fizzing yet? 

Today we're going to take a look at idea-finding from the opposite end.

This is one of the most important things you can do when you're in desperate need of the right idea, the perfect solution.

Define the problem.

Does it sound mundane? Boring? Obvious?

Ah, but don't be fooled. Don't underestimate this incredibly important step—like I used to.

Because sometimes, just doing this process of analyzing the problem will give you the exact perfect idea to solve it.

Whoa, right? 

I can't tell you how many times I've hit a snag in my story, and then beat my brains up trying to figure out what to do next.

Maybe I've run into a problem with a character, a setting, or the conflict. I'll have backed my protagonist into a corner—and have zero ideas about what to do next.

It's great for story suspense, but pretty bad for my writing day.

So I used to make a lot of noise, growl at my computer screen, and rack my brains trying to come up with the idea I needed.

I spent a lot of time mentally spinning my tires, until I figured this out: That I needed a crystal clear definition of what problem I was trying to solve. 

Sometimes we can come up with a good idea on impulse. But for the more complex, more elusive solutions, it pays to back off and take the time to study the problem itself.

It's tough to remember to do! Usually I just want to plug away until I have the solution I need.

But in order to design the right fix, you have to know exactly what you're looking for.

And you need to diligently uncover all the hidden requirements of the particular idea that you're after.

We can't solve anything until we're clear on exactly what we're solving!

My favorite way to "define the problem" is with a lot of informal freewriting.

Basically, I interview myself about exactly what's gone wrong. I'm looking for the most precise description of my problem, of the story snag, or the hole I'm trying to fill.

And then I take plenty of notes on my answers.

Writing it all down is key, because all your discussion with yourself about the problem is full of good clues: pointers to your needed idea!

Just remember: You're getting the exact dimensions of your missing puzzle piece. That's the only way to recognize the best solution.

Obviously, the questions that you ask yourself will look different depending on the idea that you're after. But the first place to start is by asking: 

What exactly isn't working here? What is the problem really

And then, go into detail.

Like, a lot of detail.

You really can't have too much detail! If you're an overthinker like me, just do your thing. Let it all out.

So, for me, I need to define the problem most often because I've hit a major snarl in my plot.

Like recently: I needed to figure out what my protagonist was going to do during a critical part of the climactic sequence. I knew what happened just before this moment, and I knew what happened just after. 

But there was a big gap between the two, and I had nothing.

And after being frustrated for a while (stomping, staring, roaring), I remembered to start asking these questions. 

I opened a new document on my computer, and I wrote it down: "I don't know how to get my protagonist into this important building at the end of the story."

And then I imagined my computer saying (in a calm, thoughtful voice): "Tell me more about that."

This is when you start discussing every single component of the problem. 

So, for my problem, I wrote about who my protagonist was at this exact moment in the story.

What she had been learning, and what she was up against. How tired she was, and all the conflicts between herself and her allies. And also how she felt about the villains at the moment.

I also wrote down anything pertinent about her skills, her strengths, her flaws. What was her biggest fear? What was her chief objective, and what was the motive behind it? 

I reviewed all of this good stuff. (Brilliant ideas are lurking in these kinds of questions!)

Then I thought through my other characters, and what they were doing during this exact moment in the plot.

And then, too, the antagonist and all his friends: What were they up to? What were they worried about? How were they gathering for the climactic scenes? What did they still have up their sleeves?

I took a zillion notes, and then sat back and kept thinking.

What else was part of the problem?

Well, the building she needed to get into: it was extremely important to the story, and it had some special plot-related requirements of its own. 

So I wrote down everything that I could think of about that

And then I thought through everything else going on in the story's setting: the surrounding area, and the weather, and anything else that could be a part of it.

Another great question if you're looking at a plot problem: What story resources are still untapped?

What about these characters have I not used in a while? What haven't I exploited about the setting?

See how it goes?

The main thing is to drill wide, and drill deep. 

And don't stop until you feel like you have the most accurate representation of the hole you need to fill. 

Also, you can take some time to explain why other solutions don't work. 

This can be really clarifying. It's also a little cathartic, since you've probably had to abandon a handful of ideas for certain reasons. Get all that down, so that you know where you are:

I can't do this, because of that and that and that. I can't do this other thing, because of x and y and z.

Then ask:

What else will the solution have to take into consideration?

What other constraints are you operating with?

And (since sometimes you're filling a gap, and you know what's on the other side of it) what will this solution have to lead into?

Whew! 

After I've written everything down—and then some!—I'll usually take a break from this "Defining the Problem Q&A." 

I'll come back a few hours later, or the next day, and reread all the scribbling I've done and see if I've left anything out.

Once you've gotten every single possible element of your problem onto paper, you're set. Good job!

You have just become the expert on the idea that you're looking for. 

So where does that leave you? 

Actually in a really good place. 

When I did this process for that climactic story snag I had? The exact perfect solution dropped into my head, while I was writing down all the things that wouldn't work.

It feels like magic when that happens! Like "Congrats, you're a genius!!"

The right solution fell into place, and I love it. It feels unexpected in the story (I think!), and it ties up all the concerns I had about the moment itself.

But there's no way I would have been clear on that, if I hadn't gone through this process.

If the perfect idea doesn't show up, at least you know exactly what you are looking for. And that's a powerful place to be, when you need the perfect idea!

So how do you go about finding it?

That's what we'll talk about in the next post.

Ooooh. Story problems: brace yourselves!!

You Are Completely Surrounded By Potential Ideas: Here's One More Way To Capture Them!

You have a wealth of ideas right at your fingertips: here's a fun, easy way to capture them! | lucyflint.com

One of the most stimulating forms an idea can take is that of a marvelous title

Know what I mean?

A really juicy, intriguing, provocative title just gets my imagination whispering (and maybe bouncing up and down a little). 

Obviously, titles do so much to set the stage for a book.

They create atmosphere and build the world. Or they nod to the main characters and what they're up against. 

The best titles are a tantalizing welcome mat for the story inside. They wave their arms to the ideal audience, saying, "Come read me! You will LOVE this story!"

... Okay. I know. I get a little worked up about titles. 

But for those of us who are idea-seekers, titles are incredibly valuable: Even if you only have a title, you're set. You have a potent, miniature writing prompt. 

Come up with a title with the right kind of ring to it, and it's a bit easier to invent a story to go with it.

You start to develop a sense for the story, for what it might hold, what it promises. 

Big surprise: I love inventing titles, even when I don't have any plans for writing books to go with them. 

So, by now, I have a huge Title File. It's ... well, it's really, really big. 

I've arranged it by category: titles that refer to a character, a conflict, a central image, a setting, a genre. (And then of course, a miscellaneous section for all the crazy titles that didn't seem to fit.) 

When I used Scout Files to write a novel for Nanowrimo, I also used my Title File. I pulled out a bunch of titles that seemed to have the same feel as my central idea, and I used them as chapter titles for the whole project. 

Every day, I wrote a new chapter. And each chapter had a delightful, pre-brainstormed title. Which gave me an incredibly strong launch point for that day's work.

It sped up my process and guarded me against clichés. And it hugely influenced the sprawling, rambling, fun-for-me feel of that draft. 

Oh, TITLES. Look out: They can steal your heart.

There are two ways that I go after creating intoxicating titles.

1. Remix.

We've already established—multiple times—that I'm a total word nerd on this blog.

So, maybe it won't surprise you if I confess that I, ahem, make a game out of remixing titles. 

It's so fun. Seriously—it is SO FUN.

Here's what you do: looking at a bookcase or a list of books, you grab a few juicy titles. You can look at books that are near each other, or just pick whichever ones you like best.

Write 'em down. 

And then you just jumble up the words. Mix and match. Swap parts of titles around, until you get compelling images, phrases, ideas. 

And then you write down those titles in your Title File. 

Super straightforward. 

Did I mention it's easy? And fun? 

So... just for kicks, just because it's Monday, just because we like to have fun: here are a handful of titles from my bookshelf. 

  • Great Expectations
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • Peace Like a River
  • So Brave, Young, and Handsome
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  • Wildfire at Midnight
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • The Woman in White

All right, lionhearts! Get in there and mix and match. Make some new titles!

There's no wrong way to do it: You can even cut words in half, or sprinkle in extra parts of speech when you need 'em. 

Remixing the above list might give you titles like:

  • At the Bottom of the Willows
  • The Brave, Mysterious Peace
  • Handsome Midnight
  • Pie Expectations
  • The River Society
  • The Sweetness in the Wind
  • In the White Wildfire
  • The Young Woman at Midnight

Just play around until you find titles you like. 

And—this is important—not every title has to be amazing. In fact, they don't have to be amazing at all. They might just have a ring to them that you find... intriguing.

Like: Would Pie Expectations be a series of essays about pie? Or would it be a weird kind of modern day Hansel and Gretel retelling? Or maybe it would be about a young girl who works in a bakery and changes the feel of her whole city when she ... 

Hmmmmm. See what I mean? A pretty calm title. But some interesting possibilities.

This is a great thing to do when you feel stuck on your work-in-progress, or when you need a warm-up, or when you can't work for whatever reason: Look over your bookshelves and fill a page with remixed titles.

2. Out of not-too-thin air.

This is when you just pluck titles out of your surroundings. When you turn everything that you're observing around you into a possible title.

No big explanation needed, because that's really all there is to it: Turn your environment into titles.

So for me, sitting here at my desk and looking out the window, some titles could be: 

  • Wildflowers in a Pitcher
  • The Undrunk Coffee (Oh, doesn't "the undrunk" sound like a zombie spoof??)
  • Supplements: A History
  • Pinestraw Afternoons
  • Heat (and What Happens In It)

One of my favorite ways to do this exercise is when I'm sitting in a coffee shop or a waiting room.

I listen and observe for a while, picking up bits of the moods, of the other conversations and interactions between the characters, I mean, people around me.

And I'll start dreaming up as many titles as I can. Usually I'll challenge myself to fill a whole page, and I'll try to exhaust every possibility that's right in front of me. 

Obviously, some of them are more quiet and less noteworthy. But they can still be valuable. 

Title files especially earn their keep when you use them in conjunction with your Scout Files and Idea Lists.

Once you start taking entries from the lists you've made, and stir in a few great ideas from your Scout Files, and sprinkle in some of these titles to help guide the way...

Whew!!

Seriously, the ideas start flying, and your brain fills in the blanks with much more ease.

That's why it's good news for us that title making is kind of, um, addicting.

You can do it literally anywhere, and it's only going to strengthen your work. 


I would LOVE to hear any of the remixed titles that you created from the list I gave you... or even remixes from your own shelves! And if your surroundings start whispering titles to you as well, feel free to share those too in the comments!

The Fun Way to Build an Army of Brilliant Little Ideas (Ready to Conquer Your Future Story Snags!)

This is a fun daily (or almost-daily) habit, guaranteed to result in an army of awesome, useable little ideas, ready to march in and conquer your future story snags. Did I mention that it's fun? Did I mention that it's easy? And it really, really works? You've got nothing to lose: let's dive in. | lucyflint.com

Hey there, Idea Campers. How are your imaginations feeling? Excited to hit the trails? YES! But also a bit hungry? Yep, mine too.

We already have three awesome, idea-generating lists at our fingertips, right? (If not, create these invaluable resources here and here.) 

Today we're supplementing that foundation with an easy, fun habit. Which also packs a huge punch. 

This is the habit that helped me build my favorite writing project EVER. (So if I'm a bit excited ... that's why.) 

And it is so simple—you'll love it. Ready?

I call it Idea Scouting. And it's one of the best ways to build an army of ideas that will absolutely march in and rescue you, whenever you need 'em.

So get your word nerd on, and let's dive in to what Idea Scouting looks like.

1. Run to your most beloved reference book.

The point of Idea Scouting is to develop a rich catalogue of ideas, right at your fingertips.

Where do you find these ideas? From fantastic reference books.

Any compendium of words, phrases, or facts will work splendidly: I'm having a fling with a set of old encyclopedias, and I'm also still in love with my Collegiate Dictionary. So that's what I head toward.

But any other collection of facts, random entries, explanations, or odd tidbits will be perfect.

Browse the reference section and see what strikes your fancy.

(My most recent favorite place for this kind of thing is Atlas Obscura: I signed up for their emails and now get an incredible selection of fascinating info emailed to me every day. Trust me, it's completely addictive!)

2. Read like a scout (and not like a student).

Here's the great thing about this kind of work: You don't have to dutifully copy out facts and dates. You're not writing a report. You don't have to care about any entry that doesn't grab you.

You're a scout

You're on the lookout for anything that glimmers.

You're walking through the woods of all this information with your eyes wide open for any motion, anything out of the ordinary, anything that strikes you.

In other words, it's meant to be fun. You're searching for what you naturally like—and there are no wrong answers for that.

Notice what you notice. And leave the rest.

What's awesome about this: you are a totally unique, super original person. And by grabbing the ideas that appeal to you, you're building originality right into your idea files. 

Which is GREAT news for all your future writing.

So feel free to play to your quirks and lean on all the subjects you most love.

3. Take notesand write wide.

This is the most important part of the whole Idea Scouting ritual: where your simple habit turns into mega-genius. 

But it's super easy. Almost effortless!

When you're reading, and you notice something that catches you—a word, a concept, a phrase that's fun, an image, or anything at all—you write it down, of course. 

I've created separate files for different categories: character ideas, setting ideas, miscellaneous concepts, etc.

And I've arranged mine alphabetically because I adore the alphabet. But whatever suits you will work just fine. 

Pull up your appropriate file, and jot down the tidbit that caught your eye.

But then you press just a bit further: Write down anything that your imagination is already telling you. 

In other words, you don't just copy down the words that sparked you. Add everything else that showed up in your brain. 

Maybe a definition brings to life in you a particular character, with a certain tone of voice. You write down at that entry everything you sense about the character, and maybe some exact dialogue as well. 

If another entry sounds like the perfect place name, you write that down, and anything about the place itself that you can see or sense. 

Or maybe there's just a word that you love: if you can see it clearly, add in the specifics about what you can see.

Remember that great Heather Sellers quote about writing down images instead of ideas? Yeah. Do that.

Because this is definitely a place for images.

The more you can see and hear and sense, and the more you write alllll of that down, the much richer these files will be when you need them.

THAT is what makes your Scout Files so valuable. Every idea comes partially prepped! 

At the moment of writing it down, it feels like almost no work at all. It's easy to write when you can see something clearly in your head, right? 

But when you're searching for something later, you'll have all that juicy imagination work all ready to go. 

COMPLETELY amazing. It's a game changer.

4. Keep coming back.

Turn the process into a habit, and you'll never be low on ideas.

So when do you do this? It's up to you.

Maybe it's the first ten minutes of your writing day. Or maybe once a week you have a thirty minute idea-finding festival. Or some other pattern.

The most important thing is: To do it regularly, and to do it in such a way that it's a fun exploration.

Not drudgery. Not something you have to do.

Keep it light. Ten minutes really works just fine! Long enough to find some ideas, and not so long that your brain turns to mush.

The other thing is: You'll want to come back to your Scout Files from time to time and scan them. Just check 'em out, read some of the entries, and see what stands out. 

Maybe you'll want this review to be a regular habit too. It can be really inspiring to breeze through a list of ideas and feel your imagination revving up!

Or, you can just wander back through whenever the urge strikes.

However you choose to do it, you'll definitely want to do a major review of all your Scout Files before starting a new project. (Or, of course, whenever you feel stuck!)

See what works for you. The goal is to feel refreshed—not like you have one more homework assignment hanging over your head.

Scout Files in Action:

How is all this helpful? Well, the process itself gets you thinking and searching and imagining like a writer, which is incredibly valuable training.

But there's another huge reason why I love Idea Scouting  and my Scout Files so much: those files are what fleshed out my current work-in-progress.

I had a slim, quiet little idea, something that wouldn't leave me alone. But there wasn't much meat on it.

So when I decided to take that idea out for a spin during Nanowrimo (way back in 2009!), I combed through my Scout Files. Especially my huge lists of possible characters and quirky concepts. 

I pulled out everything that snagged my heart or made me happy or seemed to fit with the atmosphere of my new idea, and I put them in a separate file of their own.

And then, as I hurtled through Nanowrimo's daily writing quotas, I snatched those prepped ideas every time I needed a new character, a bit of setting, a detail, a plot twist, a new layer to the conflict, or a chance reference. 

The result? A wacky, marvelously fun book that's packed full of ideas I love. (And which wasn't too hard to draft!)

It's become a book that totally grabs my heart. And it's turned into a trilogy, as those ideas launched more ideas.

... Not a bad payoff, for spending ten or twenty minutes every day, cheerily reading the dictionary (and feeling quite writerly).

YAY for that, right?

As you settle into this habit, you'll see that it radically ups your confidence. Eventually, you'll have your own army of ideas.

Wonderful notions for characters, settings, and amazing little details begging to be sprinkled through your next piece.

With that kind of back-up, you can march into any writing project ready for action.

... And also, can the nerd in me just say: it is super fun to work with ideas in a no-pressure situation. To be looking for delicious ideas before you need them.

There's another name for that. ... Hang on, what is it? Oh yeah: PLAY.

This is a great way to play as a writer! Because you're just messing around, reading a bit and letting your brain look around and scavenge what it will.

Wahoo!! This is what we love, am I right?

So which reference book will you be taking out for a spin? The incredibly useful dictionary, an agreeable encyclopedia, or some other reference that you're partial to? 

Dig in. Let your imagination ramble.

And relish the ideas that come running out to meet you.

You've Already Done Your Hardest Research (So Let's Turn It Into Idea Gold!)

You've done so much living and learning that your heart knows a TON. (With clear, vivid imagery attached, of course!) Let's get it all down, so it can fuel your most amazing ideas! (Idea Camp going strong y'all!) | lucyflint.com

"Write what you know" is probably one of the most clichéd sayings in writerdom.

I've heard a few different takes on it, as well as a thorough defense of its opposite: Write what you don't know. (Intriguing, right?)

Like any cliché, it can get a little irritating. (Yes, I've definitely rolled my eyes at it.)

But. When we really lean into "write what you know," it can be one of the most powerful and freeing guides to our writing.

Also? It can generate a bunch of quality ideas.

Which is why it totally belongs in Idea Camp.

Here is the truest true thing about my best work: it all is closely tied to what I know very well. 

Especially what I know well emotionally. The stuff that I've seen to be true in my life. What I know about people, about power, about place, about change.

About family. About loneliness. About myself.

THAT is the kind of what you know that drives really good ideas, and really compelling stories.

Writing what we don't know is magnificent when it comes to new settings, fantastical beings, and villainy. 

But as writers (and observers! and artists!), part of our job description is to truthfully share the things that we know the best.

Meaning: What our hearts know.

When I encounter that kind of knowing in a novel, it rings in my head and heart long after I finish reading. You know the feeling? 

When another writer has taken the time to show exactly what it looks like: to be here, to be alive. To feel small, to be alone, to try hard. To get bruised and then to get up again. To fight for what matters. 

THOSE are the stories we need. And that's what it means (to me, at least) to write what you know.

Which means some of the best stuff that you will write comes straight out of your own past. 

The strongest, brightest, strangest, sharpest memories.

The places and people and relationships and circumstances that you knew most intimately. 

That is what will drive your material. And that is going to lead to your best, clearest writing.

Mmmmmmm!! I'm excited.

Let's hear from two helpful guides before we dive in.

First, Heather Sellers makes a fantastic point in Chapter After Chapter, when she talks about the difference between ideas and images:

When most writers try to write down their ideas for stories, they usually only capture a tiny bit of the work from a faraway, not creative place in their minds. ...
   Do not save up ideas. Do not write about the work from a distance. Instead of writing notes about an idea like
story about babysitter, write: Dana said, "You didn't pay me last time, either, Heather." And she smacked that gum which seemed to be a weird striped gum, green and purple, both. 
   Write down what you hear. Write down what you see. ...
   Transition out of ideas and into
images. You will be amazed at the results you get when you start doing this. 

Let me just say: she is totally right about that.

It is so tempting to leave our ideas in those distant terms. "Write about my second grade teacher. Write about recess in sixth grade. Write about my friend-who-wasn't-a-friend in high school." 

But for Idea Camp, we're aiming at appealing, useable concepts with velocity. 

Velocity shows up only when we're working in images. In sounds, smells, textures. In the emotions, in exactly how they feel. 

So, for this list we're about to make, paint your images as richly as you can. 

What's going onto the list? Memories. 

James Scott Bell talks about how this kind of memory list can work. This is from Plot & Structure (awesome book, by the way!): 

Early in his career, Ray Bradbury made a list of nouns that flew out of his subconscious. These became fodder for his stories. 
   Start your own list. Let your mind comb through the mental pictures of your own past. ...
   Each of these is a germ of a possible story or novel. They resonate from my past. I can take one of these items and brainstorm a whole host of possibilities that come straight from the heart.

(How much do I love the idea of Ray Bradbury's list of nouns?? Ahhhh. So much.) 

I love Bell's point: that these memories have a natural resonance.

Also, the things that our hearts have learned are tied to real, factual moments: Nouns. Verbs. Images. 

The concrete stuff that we'll communicate in our writing.

So today, we're going to start our Memory List. You can start with a bunch of nouns, if you like Bradbury's approach, and see what comes up. 

Or—because I like a good question to chew on—check out my list of prompts below.

Think through your past with each question. And if that feels totally overwhelming (it does for me!), try scanning  your history in seven-year chunks. Age 0-7. Then 8-14. 15-21. And so on. 

Try to answer each question with as much imagery as you can. Let your heart talk.

... But before we make our lists, one more quick thing. This is meant to be a list of things that you feel willing to write about. This isn't about the stories and memories that we're not actually ready to write about.

So if there are dark, sad, terrible truths in your past that you don't feel ready to share, then they don't belong on this list. Okay? Keep processing, keep healing. You don't have to write about those yet.

This list is truly just for the things that you're ready to bring out in stories. (Also, if this is you, then I wish I could give you a big hug. Truly.)

Ready? Grab your pen and paper, grab a fresh document on your computer, and let's dive in!

For each span of years, think about what stands out the most in your memory. Especially: 

  • What places meant a lot to you? Where did you live? Where did you visit? Where else did you go: school, church, camp, friends' houses, family, vacations... Describe them with as much imagery as you can remember. The sounds, the smells, the tastes.
  • What were you most afraid of during these years? (Again, press for the images, not just the ideas...)
  • What embarrassments do you remember?
  • What most delighted you? 
  • What happened on the "happiest day of your life" in this time period? What made it a great day? What were the highlights? Capture the sensory details of that kind of day.
  • What achievements did you have? What are you still proud of? 
  • How did you like to spend your time? What hobbies, what activities? 
  • Which people and which relationships were the most important to you (in good ways or bad ways)? Who was helpful? Who, um, wasn't? What specific memories do you have about these people? 
  • If you could go back and do something differently, what would it be, and why? What would happen next?
  • What haunts you from this time? And what do you still feel happy about? 
  • What else do you remember? What else won't leave you alone? Nothing is too small of a detail.

What I love about this list is that we've already done the emotional research.

This is the stuff we know! We've already done the hard work of learning it and living it. It's time to turn those experiences into vivid scenes, characters that resonate, high moments in our novels.

What I love about using our memories for ideas is how versatile they are.

They can be the tiniest ideas that we sprinkle into our stories—the little things we add to make the scene feel more real, vivid, and lived in. 

Or they can be the whole point of the novel itself. The theme. The main characters. The villain. The setting. The conflict.

That's why no memory is too big, too small, too localized, or too weird. (I love the too weird ones!!)

After you've taken your first run at this list, give yourself a bit of a break—a few hours, a few days—and then read it through and add more to it. 

Hopefully you'll see situations, characters, circumstances, details, moments, and settings that are just begging to be used.

Maybe you'll write them in clear, memoir-esque detail.

Or you'll use your history, but totally transformed, turned inside out and backwards. Reinvented. Fantastical. The funhouse-mirror version of your past. 

This is ridiculously fun to do, by the way.

When I think of ways to switch up my past and use it in a story, I get the most incredible glee. It's still one of the best parts of being a writer, being able to use (redeem, vindicate) your past.

Okay. Want to get even more crazy? YES YOU DO and so do I.

Get out your two lists from the last post: your Major Interests List and your Curiosity List

Let's have some fun. Choose an item from two of the lists, and mash 'em up in your mind. Or pick an item from all three! 

Do a little mix-and-match action, and just see what starts to come up. Try to imagine it as fully as possible: full images, full senses. 

Jot down notes, and chase anything that quickens your heart. 

Like: how much do I love the mash-up of my stern, much-wrinkled second grade teacher, who was always writing my name up on the board for talking (memory list), plus the circus (curiosity list)?

Stir in a bit of how cooking and sharing meals bring us together (major interests list), and suddenly I have some AMAZING images, unusual characters, and hilarious conflicts brewing in my mind!

This is the fun part! Let yourself loose, and see what connections you can make between the three lists.

Maybe there's your next novel in there. Or a whole series.

Oooooh.

Happy idea finding!


Want to do a little more digging into how you're already an original, full of ideas? (Because you totally are!) Check out these two posts: they're right up your alley! How (and Why) to Put Your Heart on a Platter and Stop Dodging Your Best Work (Celebrate Where You've Been)

We're Going to Be Invincible Writers! (Welcome to Idea Camp.)

It's one of the best feelings as a writer. And I'm gonna get it back. Wanna join me? | lucyflint.com

One of my favorite feelings in the writing life is when I'm just brimming with ideas.

You know the feeling?

When you feel like your mind and heart are just giving off sparks. When your creativity feels warm and flexible. 

Solving plot problems feels like a fun challenge (instead of something crushing). Creating stories feels like the best kind of adventure (instead of like bashing your face against a wall).

With plenty of ideas at my fingertips, I feel basically invincible as a writer.

Mmmmmm. It is completely awesome.

It is also completely not how I'm feeling at the moment.

(Anyone with me on that?)

The first half of this year has been more than a little rocky. And in all the chaos, I lost the knack for searching out ideas. 

Worse than that, I fell out of the habit of finding them and picking them up. Collecting ideas like the best shells and seaglass on the beach.

Without the continual practice of finding ideas, writing feels incredibly, um, uphill. As in, completely vertical. Cliff scaling.

It's a struggle, is what I'm saying.

I'm finally getting back into my draft-in-progress, and I want to dive in deep! But the idea-making-machine in my brain is rusty and cold. (Yowch.)

So ... I have this plan. 

I'm declaring June the the month of idea-making.

This is the perfect time to get back into the habit of finding amazing ideas. To practice snatching them out of the air, and spying them around corners. 

I want to pull apart all my favorite idea-gathering practices, remember everything that works, and then open my arms wide to a zillion new ideas.

Does that sound good to you?

Can we create and cultivate a healthy idea-gathering practice?

So that each of us has a huge crop of ideas that get us excited, ideas that motivate us to write and write and write?

Because THAT is how I want to spend my summer. Brimming and sparking with incredible ideas.

Mmmm. Heck YES.

Welcome to Idea Camp. Let's jump in.


Today, let's start by laying a foundation. Getting the ground of our minds ready to explode with ideas for the rest of the month.

(I'm practically jumping up and down with excitement here. Don't mind me. This is just going to save my sanity and my story, so ... let's do a few high-kicks for that!)

I'm a sucker for a definition, and, bonus, I love inventing my own. 

So, for the purposes of Idea Camp, this is our definition of an IDEA (just so we're all clear on what we're looking for): 

an appealing, useable concept with velocity.

Appealing: I am not super interested in just cranking out a bunch of so-called "ideas" that I have zero desire to work on. 

Believe me, I've done it before. I've followed prompts from creativity books and generated a list of stuff that seemed tired and unappetizing. 

That is not what we're looking for this month. 

We want ideas that beg to be used. That hit that mental sweet spot. 

Useable: Obviously. I want stuff I can plug into my writing life, my story-in-progress, or whatever I've got going on. And you do too, right? 

Velocity: When I think of a good idea, it has movement. It pushes me, pulls me, practically shoves me toward a writing pad.

I almost don't notice that I'm jotting it down, but I do feel an incredible rush of energy.

Good ideas aren't static. They have a buzz.

So that's what we're looking for this month: A bunch of ideas that you love, that suit your work, and that fizz with electricity.

Let's start by exploring the most essential part of that whole equation: You. 

Today we're going to create two lists that will be gold in our search for ideas. 

We're going to start by creating a big list of things that you find interesting, intriguing. The subjects that naturally draw out your attention, excitement, and passion.

Maybe that sounds obvious, too easy, or pointless. But here's what I've found: I can be spectacularly blind to what I love. 

Shocking, but true.

When casting around for a new idea, I can totally forget the subjects that most excite me. And then I wind up with a dud that my brain might find "acceptable, workable," but which my heart and creativity absolutely veto.

It's frustrating.

Save yourself the time and the slog by building a catalogue of topics that get your heart racing and your fingers tingling.

Woo! You ready?

Grab some paper or pull up a blank document, and just hang out with these questions for a while.

You can start at the top and work straight through, or start with the ones that seem easiest, or the ones you're most excited to probe into.

However you do it, write down as many answers as you can for each prompt.

  • In general, what intrigues you, draws you in? What kinds of situations, people, occupations, places?
  • What topics, problems, or subjects are you naturally passionate and excited about? 
  • What makes you angry? (On the news, on Twitter or Facebook, in books, in relationships...)
  • What situations, questions, or images fill your brain with interesting possibilities? 
  • What do you find yourself always noticing—in relationships, in public places, in families, in stores, in cities?
  • What do you keep taking pictures of? 
  • What themes and scenarios crop up in your favorite books?
  • What magazines or blogs are you most pulled toward? Which sections in particular? Which columns, articles, posts?
  • What documentaries are you always interested in watching? 
  • What kinds of books are you always ready to pick up?
  • What types of art just grab you? Which forms, what colors, what presentations?
  • What movies are you always willing to see? What themes or premises or genres are your favorites?
  • What are your most recent favorite ideas? (For stories, characters, other projects...)

YUP, I know. It can be hard to step out of the way you think, and take notes on your own mind. It's tough for me too!

Come back to this list a few more times, cycle back through the questions, and add to it. The longer your list, the more options you'll have later.

Because this, my friends, is an extremely valuable practice: to find out what you love. To keep studying where your best ideas will spring from.

We'll be coming back to this list again and again this month.

Whew! Shake out your hands, shake out your brain, and then:

Let's make a second list. This is the Curiosity List!

It's definitely related to the first list, but it has a slightly different flavor.

Ever since reading Elizabeth Gilbert's fantastic book on creativity, Big Magic, I've started keeping a Curiosity List.

And I LOVE my Curiosity List. 

It's pretty self-explanatory: Any time something crosses my path that makes me think, "huh, that's kind of cool," I add it to the list. (My latest entries: the dances of bees, and mimes in Paris—they even have a school!) 

Unlike our first list, this isn't necessarily stuff I know a lot about. It's not going to be the subject of a bunch of conversations of mine, or something I've diligently been studying.

I don't even have super strong emotions about any of the items.

It's just a list of little things that sort of nudge my mind. Things I'm, well, curious about. (Bats that live under bridges, Cambridge University, the legends of Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest, near-space travel...) 

So what good is a Curiosity List?

Well, in Elizabeth Gilbert's terms, it's a list of clues.

Clues to where your next ideas could be. Clues to what projects you'll want to pursue, what subjects you'll want to learn more about.

(I spend twenty minutes on Fridays just diving into one of the items from my Curiosity List. I just explore, I take notes or I don't, and I have a lot of fun doing it!)

Like the first list, this is a map to where some of your best ideas are going to be.

So, what are you curious about? 

What beckons you? What's intriguing—even if only slightly?

Even if it doesn't seem to have anything to do with writing, your work-in-progress, or anything you could create with?

Even if it seems "dumb" or random? Write it all down.

Push yourself to list at least twenty things that nudge your curiosity. 

Topics, stories, types of architecture, animals, situations, people, occupations... anything at all. 

Once you start, you might get on a roll. And that's great.

If you can, get fifty down. Or more. 

Keep coming back to it, during the rest of this month, and keep building it.

Try to notice when something catches your heart, makes you smile without realizing it, makes your heart leap a bit. 

Stay alert to anything that catches your interest, anything that snags your curiosity. Even just a little. Even just barely.


Whew! THAT was some seriously important work! Everyone go get chocolate, or wine, or both. (Wait, is it still morning? Cream in your coffee, then.)

These two lists are going to be super helpful the rest of the month.

They're gonna shape where and how we dig for new ideas. They can help us resuscitate ideas that aren't quite right (by sprinkling in one of our beloved or curious topics).

Best of all, they'll help us know when we're on the right track toward ideas that feel like magic. 

Ooooh, feel that?

I think my idea-making machine just gave off a few sparks.