Want to write more posts? Want to write more articles? Want to write a book?
If so, you're not alone (here's looking at you, LinkedIn Pulse), but coming up with compelling topics can be tough. So where can you turn for inspiration?
Here's a guest post from Ryan Robinson, an entrepreneur and writer at CreativeLive, where he teaches people how to create meaningful self-employed careers.
Finding inspiration to write your next book, blog, or short story can be a serious challenge regardless of how experienced you are as a writer.
Whether you're brand new or a seasoned author ready for a new project, it can be incredibly difficult to find the inspiration you need to commit to an endeavor as arduous as writing a book. Especially given that the best book ideas, I firmly believe, need to come from within.
However, the ways in which you find and cultivate the internal spark that has the potential to turn into an idea you're passionate writing about, are plentiful. As a writer myself, I've gone through a lot of creative ups and downs.
For this exhaustive list of writing ideas, I'm pulling straight from my personal list of ways to find inspiration when I'm lacking motivation. Over the years, the list has grown with ideas and inspiration I've gleaned from a handful of my favorite experimental storytellers--including Tim Ferriss, Dan Carlin, and Alex Blumberg--who've created some of my favorite dynamic podcasts and blogs.
These techniques for finding inspiration as a writer come from pushing myself outside of my comfort zone by trying new experiences, conducting massive amounts of research on topics I'm interested in, running massive lifestyle experiments, taking a deeper dive into my thoughts and dreams, and so much more.
Let's dive in.
1. Write About What Pisses You Off Most
I could write endlessly about the mistakes entrepreneurs tend to make with their first businesses. It doesn't quite piss me off, but I care so much about this topic and want to help others avoid the most painful mistakes I've made myself, that it fuels my ability to write ad nauseam on the complexities of how to start a business. What gets you most heated?
Take that topic and write about it without any creative restraints whatsoever. Let the words meet the page, don't judge your ideas, and then structure the content later. This approach has fueled many of my best blog posts that could easily turn into books and short stories in the future, a strategy Tara Gentile teaches in her class "How to Write and Publish an eBook."
2. Do Something Remarkable, and Then Write About It
Imagine the story you could tell if you took a bike trip like Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman did in 2004, crossing 20,000 miles, 12 countries, and 19 time zones. Of course, these were celebrities taking time off to raise money for charity. If you're anything like me, you're probably not in a position to travel unpaid for 115 days. However, there are still many smaller-scale remarkable endeavors you could make that'd be worth writing about. For instance, you could ride a bicycle through every state in the U.S. in one year or attempt to break a world record, and then share the experiences and lessons learned with your readers.
3. Start a Blog and Write Chapters One Post at a Time
This works particularly well for niche topics. Gain a loyal following writing a series of blog posts on something you're interested in. Once you have built up a quality library of posts, you can repackage them into a book. Philip Sandifer is a fan of the British sci-fi show Doctor Who. He wrote an essay on every Doctor Who story (there are more than 800 of them in the show's 53-year history), and then collected his blog posts into a series of books. Whether you plan on going the traditional publisher route or self-publishing a book on Amazon, this is one of the best paths toward writing a book over a more realistic period of time without undue pressure.
4. Create a Podcast and Write a Book Based on What You've Learned From Guests
Did you know that one in four Americans aged 12 to 54 listened to a podcast last month? In fact, the same number of Americans listens to podcasts each month as use Twitter. One of the most popular podcast formats is to invite an interesting guest onto your show and interview him or her for your audience. Entrepreneur Lewis Howes took this approach when he wrote his New York Times best-selling book The School of Greatness, which shares everything he's learned from interviewing hundreds of the world's top creatives.
5. Write and Self-Publish a Short E-book to Test the Waters
If you have an idea for a book or blog but you're not sure whether there's enough demand in the market to support book sales, why not test the waters by writing a smaller e-book on the subject? If you get a positive response, this will give you the confidence to dig deeper into your subject matter and write a full book on the topic.
6. Write a Book and Publish One Chapter at a Time With Amazon Kindle Singles
If the thought of writing a full-length novel is too intimidating, then a very real option is to break your book into smaller chunks that you publish one at a time. You would be in good company if you did: Charles Dickens, in the 19th century, wrote The Pickwick Papers, his very first novel, as a series of short stories. With easy-to-use blogging platforms, the internet now makes this a very easy task. As an added benefit, you'll have the opportunity to adjust your writing style for the later chapters in response to feedback you get early on.
7. Ask Your Friends What They Like Reading Most and Write Something for Them
Your friends are already a captive audience. Ask them what they like reading about: Chances are, there are more people out there who have similar tastes. Write your book imagining that your friends are your target readers. Of course, your friends are unlikely to be fierce critics if the first draft of your book isn't up to snuff. So make sure you elicit honest (sometimes brutal) feedback on the first versions of your book, to avoid your friends' just telling you what they think you want to hear.
8. Jot Down Everything You Laugh About for a Week and Write a Story About It
We carry around smartphones wherever we go, so jotting down some quick notes every time you laugh for a week isn't very difficult. While it may be challenging to remember to write down the reason for every burst of laughter, it could very well provide you with rich material for your next piece of writing. Try to capture these three things with each laughter entry and you'll have some great writing inspiration for a solid book idea: who made you laugh, why you laughed, and how that made you feel. I've done this in a short journal-entry format, and it's been some of my favorite material to reread weeks or even months later.
9. Write About What Makes You Laugh Hardest
This could easily tie in with the activity above, but I've found that it's often more fun to expand on just one instance when you laughed hysterically in the past. To me, laughter is a sign of a truly great story, and it's usually highly contagious. Of course, you might be embarrassed about what makes you laugh most, and it may not be politically correct. However, the more outlandish or embarrassing the story, the more likely you are to attract an engaged audience for your book idea.
10. Write About the Most Upsetting Experience You've Ever Had
One of the stranger quirks of the human state I've come to observe is that we're drawn to read, watch, or hear traumatic stories that highlight the difficulties others have triumphed over in life. While you may struggle to tell the world about your most upsetting experiences, it's likely that people would benefit tremendously from hearing how you've gone through unfortunate circumstances or failures, and what you've learned on the other side.
11. Write About the Person Who's Had the Most Impact on Your Life
Have you had a mentor who's left a lasting impression in your personal life or within your career? Maybe it was your best schoolteacher, a youth leader, a business adviser, or simply an older friend or a family member. Think about how this person's impacted your life, pull out specific lessons he or she imprinted on you, and dedicate the book to this mentor as the ultimate thank-you. Gratitude is contagious, and this format makes for incredibly empowering writing inspiration.
12. Take Photographs of Your City and Write About Your Experiences
Do you live in an interesting, vibrant city? People love to hear stories about interesting people in fascinating places. This book idea is particularly compelling if you already have skill at using a camera. Have you been in an Urban Outfitters recently? There is a huge demand for visually stimulating books featuring beautiful urban photography and the tales behind the images.
13. Write About One of Your Hobbies
People love to learn more about their hobbies. Whether you are a cake decorator, an ice skater, or a fly fisherman, there is potential for you to share your knowledge with others who share your interest. Quite often you can even sell hobby-related books to people who do not otherwise read often. Even nonreaders have a desire to improve in their favorite hobbies, especially when they can take their new skills and monetize them in some way.
14. Take Inspiration From Your Favorite Songs and Musicians
You could choose to write about your favorite musician from a fan's perspective. Perhaps you've been to one of his or her concerts and could write about the experience. If you have a good music collection, perhaps you could choose to write about the songs he or she has released, possibly looking at the messages behind them. Alternatively, you could examine some song lyrics, and see if these can inspire you to tell a tale.
15. Write About Your Career Experience Within Your Industry
Most of us have built up a wealth of life experiences. Many books have been written by people telling tales from within the industry in which they work. Have you been working in a job long enough to build up a series of anecdotes that might interest or amuse potential readers? How about teaching them something that'll accelerate their path to becoming an expert within your space? I've done exactly this by chronicling my personal journey of becoming a freelancer within the content-marketing world, and have written a series of posts about how to start a freelance business that has attracted a large readership.
16. Write About the Biggest Problem Facing Your Industry (and Potential Solutions)
Discuss any major problems or issues you can identify within your industry and thoughtfully propose solutions. If you've tested these solutions yourself, even better! This will be particularly useful if you can come up with practical and cost-effective answers to the challenges other businesses in your space are facing, and will help position you as an expert, one of the major reasons people decide to write a book in the first place.
17. Commit a Random Act of Kindness Every Day for a Month and Write About the Experience
If you've spent any amount of time on Facebook or YouTube over the past few years, you've undoubtedly seen viral videos of people committing random acts of kindness. And for good reason: Sharing stories of random acts of kindness can be so inspiring that others around the world are compelled to follow in kind. While newspapers thrive largely on bad news, there is still a huge demand to learn about selfless acts and be reminded that good people are out there. The more creative you can get with the content medium for translating this book idea into a true work of art, the better.
18. Take a Spontaneous Trip and Write About Your Experiences
Another way to gain new experiences is through travel. Michael Palin managed to reinvent himself (from being part of the comedy team Monty Python) as a travel writer and videographer. You may not have the resources to devote your life to travel, as he has been able to. However, I am sure you could create a book sharing your experiences and the lessons you learned, no matter how modest your trip is. As a starting point, check out this post from Shannon O'Donnell for creating a lifestyle of traveling the world and doing freelance work remotely.
19. Record Talks or Workshops You Give and Have Them Transcribed
Do you have the opportunity to give talks or hold in-person workshops to teach people about specific subject matter? This could be work-related, or it could simply be a subject for which people recognize you as being knowledgeable. Unless you are an off-the-cuff speaker, you have probably already prepared a lecture or resources that'll serve as the foundation for this book idea, which will in turn widen your audience and potentially lead to more paid speaking gigs.
20. Have Your Webinars and Videos Transcribed and Compiled
Have you built a library of webinars or video content for yourself? There's so much value that's delivered through video content and it's rarely transcribed into written form to be used elsewhere. If you transcribe your videos and fill in the gaps to complete each thought and make the finished work highly relevant, you have the potential to reach an entirely new audience with this easy-to-implement book idea.
21. Write About the Answers to the Questions You're Asked Most by Friends and Co-Workers
If you haven't yet noticed the most common questions people ask you on a daily or weekly basis, now would be a good time to start recording those queries. Every time somebody asks you a question, write it down. After a while, you may see trends. If your friends and co-workers want answers on particular topics, then it's highly likely that others are seeking the same answers as well. This is the process by which I wrote one of my most successful blog posts. Every day I had visitors from my website asking me to share business ideas with them, so I created an exhaustive list featuring more than 100 of the best business ideas, and that post has helped thousands of people over the past year. This approach could even apply to a stay-at-home mom. What questions are your kids always asking? There is a great book idea here for creating something fun, educational, and relevant to children. If you aren't fielding a lot of questions yourself right now, head over to Quora, see which questions are ranking well within your areas of interest, and then weigh in on the ones you feel qualified enough to answer.
For more creative writing inspiration, check out these 43-plus book ideas on CreativeLive.