In our culture we have some firm ideas about what is socially okay and what isn’t. Walking around talking to yourself, especially with accompanying head shakes, gestures, and sighs, is socially unacceptable behavior. People will avoid making eye contact with you and might cross to the other side of the street when you come near, even if you have showered recently.
But that’s okay. They don’t understand that your creative genius is at work. You aren’t actually talking to the Little Purple Men from Planet Zyrp (hopefully). You are running writing ideas through your head, constantly.
One of the most cliched questions asked of famous writers is, “Where do you get your ideas from?” Gwendolyn Brooks, an author and poet, summed it up this way, “They’re everywhere. I’m inspired by the people and things around me.”
So as you talk a walk, look around you. What is your neighbor doing? Connect it to something you saw someone doing while they were stopped at a traffic light. Stop and wonder what that cat in the tree is staring at when he seems focused on empty space.
If nothing seems interesting around you, get in touch with your inner two year old and start asking “Why?” incessantly. And ask it out loud. The street is noisy? Why? Because there are people and cars? Why? Because they have places to go? Why? Why? Why?
Add the ever-helpful who, when, when, and where and you have enough material to keep yourself busy for quite a while.
If it takes mumbling follow up questions to yourself out loud to keep the juices flowing, then do it. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for ideas for your personal journal, fictional story, web content, blog, or ad copy. If you set your brain knob controls to “Open to anything,” you will get everything.
Do you want to write about anything and everything? If you are just starting out and finding your voice, probably. If you have a specific topic or idea you have to address, then set aside your curiosity about what the cat was looking at and focus on things that can enhance your piece.
Remember than an idea isn’t born full grown. As you write, more will come to you. You will start to wonder about more topic-specific ideas, like “How does someone in that age bracket feel about this?”
So if you are stuck without ideas, go out and make people think you are crazy. Some people insist all writers are anyway.