Where I Get All My Writing Ideas From

A bunch of people brain storming in a meeting room with a cork board and post-it notes

Where do you get your ideas from?

I personally can’t say. I know when they have the most odds of showing up, but I don’t exactly know where they come from.

But as fate would have it, my friend would ask me this question on a particularly eventless morning, and that would be the tinder for this post. So Wan, if you’re reading this, that’s how I get my ideas.

Maybe this post will answer that question proper. Or maybe I’m just writing this because I need something for this week. Either way, let’s take a quick tour through my Idea Central and see if we can source for its… uh… source.

“The irritating question they ask us—us being writers—is: “Where do you get your ideas?”

And the answer is: Confluence. Things come together. The right ingredients and suddenly: Abracadabra!

Neil Gaiman

1. My brain nags me into submission

Sometimes my ideas come in the form of a never-ending reminder. Like how your phone alarm yanks you from sleep when you’re deep in dreamland.

One minute you’re living in a castle and fighting dragons, and the next, there’s an incessant beep tearing the walls down and pulling you back to the cold, godless mornings. No matter how you try to fight it, you can’t stay in Dreamland.

That’s how my brain works. Scrambling an egg? “Hey Stuart, you should totally write about your failures.”

In the middle of a workout? “Just dropping in to remind you of your failures!”

Busy sacrificing a goat to the altar of Wordsmithia? “You should start drafting that post on failures!”

I won’t need a notebook either. The idea haunts me for weeks, even months, until I relent and finally get on with writing the damned thing.

This is what Stephen King calls a ‘good idea’, because according to him, the good ones stick around.

Unfortunately for me, these ‘good’ ideas seldom turn out that way. It could be my execution that’s lacking. Or my marketing. But it is one way to get ideas.

2. I tap into past experience

The best ideas are the ones that combine external stimuli with who you are as a person, resulting in a Frankenstory only you could stitch together. Just as Neil Gaiman so eloquently put it: ideas come from confluence.

The catch is that you have to actually live your life in order to facilitate said confluence.

This is why my life for the past decade has been sketchy at best. If there’s ever a choice between stability and chaos, I’d always chosen the latter. Because screwing up always makes for the best writing fodder.

Sure, jumping on a plane to Myanmar without signing a contract sounds like a silly thing to do, but it did give me tons of stories to write about.

3. I take the time to think and nothing else

I actually allocate time to sit down and generate ideas. Sometimes I stare out the window without actually doing anything, but it’s these idle periods where the Lego blocks in my mind join to form a larger block of nothing.

You were probably expecting a Tie Fighter or a Batmobile, weren’t you? Nope. All the Lego blocks do is form bigger blocks. But hey, I could throw said blocks at random characters in my mind and have them bleed out. That makes for good stories too.

This brainstorming practice comes from James Altucher, who recommends that you write down 10 ideas every day. It could be plots for your novel or ways to earn money. His reasoning for the number ’10’ is that your brain starts sweating after idea number five, and every line you crank out after that is the CrossFit equivalent for your mind.

I don’t know if I’ve gotten any better at generating ideas, but I’m always surprised at the things I come up with when I force myself to reach the dreaded 10.

4. I see the same thing from different perspectives

There’s a reason why so many writers enjoy writing under the influence. Because Logic is unwelcome when you’re amongst other acquaintances like Creativity or Fun. Also, Logic is close friends with your internal editor, and nobody needs that negativity in their life.

That’s the reason why creatives are partial to altering their consciousness. I myself have noticed a tremendous difference in the way I think when experimenting with *cough* certain substances *cough*.

But you know what’s even more surprising? My mind falls into similar wavelengths when I’m meditating, especially when I pass the 20-minute mark.

Of course, as is always the case when your perspective is altered, you don’t necessarily get to bring back your ideas to this world. You’ll need Logic for that. What a crappy tradeoff, huh?

But these ideas do leave an imprint on you, so all’s not lost. All it takes is something like the smell of your fabric softener or a childhood song to trigger the thoughts you’d accessed in these alternate realities.

5. I use the trusty ol’ notebook

I don’t just have one notebook. I have several. But the one that I use most has to be my Obsidian app because it’s the most accessible way for me to record ideas in a jiffy.

I may have a few great ideas scrawled on a piece of paper somewhere, but I can’t recall where. That’s the downside of analogue mediums. I’ve tried keeping a dedicated idea book, but that goes largely unused, mostly in favour of whatever’s closest at hand when I’m inspired.

Annoyingly enough, my best ideas always arrive during the most inconvenient of times, like when I’m sacrificing a goat. Who keeps a notebook around then? And how are you supposed to write or tap your phone screen when your hands are smeared with blood?

Siri works miracles in these situations though, provided my phone is within audible range.

6. I keep my eyes peeled

I follow your blog. I’m subscribed to your newsletter. I’m on alert for interesting YouTube videos. Big names, small-timers, daily posters, weekend warriors—I keep track of people from varying fields and platforms because I’ll never know which of these external stimuli will serve as the launchpad to my next Frankenstory.

And I don’t stop there. I read these channels’ comments to see what the general talk is among fans. One random question on YouTube could very well be the spark for your next cornerstone article. So consume without prejudice.

7. I leave a void for my mind to fill

Sometimes, there’s just no saying where ideas come from. And that’s the fun bit. Besides constantly honing your craft, you also have to not try every once in a while.

I do this by sketching with words. I write scenes I’ll never use, just because. I journal in third-person. I try my hands at rap. I write one page of a screenplay.

Sometimes, my best work comes from not working at all. For instance, look at the Top Posts section on the right (or bottom if you’re on mobile). When does Just Some Writerly Things The Writer In You Will Understand ever sound like a good idea? Yet it’s my best-performing post ever. And I flew through that post without even caring about ‘providing value’.

The universe works in mysterious ways, and so does your mind. And if you allow them both to form the almighty confluence, who knows what could happen?

And that, my dear reader, is the idea I’m going to leave you with. May you pay it forward and come up with something that keeps the wave going.

Till then, perhaps you could answer this question. Where do you get your ideas from?

Subscribe to my newsletter so that you’ll have an extra avenue of ideas. You’ll also get a free guide on how to grow your WordPress audience, for free! Did I mention it’s free?

123 thoughts on “Where I Get All My Writing Ideas From

    • Wow. I’ve heard of tuning in to music to get into a certain mood, but it’s awesome that you get direct inspiration from songs. Hmm, I wonder if I can apply that to my own work. Thanks for sharing your methods!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I like the ‘just sitting and thinking of ideas’ one. My favorite one is either when I go for a walk or just lie down to rest. Quieting my mind seems to work wonders. I used to do one idea a day for 40 days of lent last year. Might do it this year, too. It was fun. 10 ideas, though? Sounds like a lot!


    • Yep! I just came across Julia Cameron’s similar advice, and she labels it ‘media deprivation’. I think we all can stand to benefit from not being bombarded by information all the time. I might very well up my silent moments in my day too. Thanks for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great idea! It can definitely help with writer’s block, even if you’re not necessarily working on a specific project. Plus, it’s always helpful to have a stockpile of ideas on hand for when you finally get going.


  2. Pingback: On Blogging and Buddies | Motherhood and Martial Arts

  3. These are some great ways to be able to get writing ideas, I like to search the National Day Calendar for themed writing pieces, scroll social media and read other blogs for inspo! Thank you for sharing.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can relate to this so much Stuart! I was on a plane trying to think of my grandma and her health and how much I need to try to sleep when my brain was haunting me to write. Family came first but it never left my head. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That was such an interesting article to read! As I mostly write about my trips and travel in general, I am never short of ideas – though I sometimes lack motivation to write – but I love the “writing 10 ideas each day” thing, I’ll probably try it as well to see where it takes me!


    • Yeah, on the flip side to this, there’s always: “Ideas are easy. Execution is hard.”

      I think Stephen King mentions that too. That he has more ideas than he knows what to do with. So I’m totally with you on lacking the motivation to turn the ideas into an actual thing, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! It hits the mark pretty much on everything. I have not as yet sacrificed any goats but occasionally I sacrifice the patience of others as I ramble out ideas to anyone who unwittingly stumbles upon me as I am thinking out loud. I find if I actually speak out my ideas, I get a better sense of whether they are worthwhile or not. My husband is a wonderful sounding board – he will look up and say, ” are you really going to write about flies in 1857?” (or whatever else I came up with) and then I know it is a silly idea and worth going for.


    • Ha, I love that your green light comes from your husband’s doubt. And I totally get your feelings about a sounding board! Sometimes, even when the person doesn’t know about the topic, the act of me expressing the idea alone gets me to think deeper about the different angles I can tak. Love your thoughts on this. Thanks for sharing!


  7. Wow! Thanks for sharing your writing ideas so generously. I wish I had the bandwidth to absorb them all. Then again this is turning out to be my least productive month for writing, swamped as I am with Life knocking hard and even bashing down my door. O well. Guess I’ll just have to ride past this til my next writing wave comes. But at least now I have a place to come to for marvelous ideas on how to get inspired for my next blog post. As always, appreciate you for serving us so selflessly with all these self-help goodies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Is there anything particular that’s troubling you this month? You all right over there?

      Anyhoo, I’m sure you have your wealth of sources for ideas too, and I hope to hear about them when you’re in a more relaxed place!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks man! It’s a busy work month as I wrap up another short-stint teaching contract — lots of marking and end-semester admin work. So ya it’s troubling in a way. Still Feb will come so hopefully I’ll be done by then. Say I’m not sure why in the past fortnight I’m not receiving triggers in my email in-box when you upload a new post. Any chance you can troubleshoot on your end? On mine it still shows I’m your email subscriber so I’m not sure what’s going on in the ether!

        Liked by 1 person

      • No idea why that’s happening either. Haven’t changed anything on my end. But there are two e-mail subscriptions on my site (one’s for the exclusive newsletter that’s after every post; the other’s for WordPress notifications which is on the sidebar) so perhaps you’re not on the WP one? No need to join the WP one though as all it does is notify for new posts.


  8. Grand blog post Stuart. As usual I admire your blogs and newsletters I receive on my email.

    I get my writing ideas from a variety of sources and the point that resonates with me here it is point 6: “I KEEP MY EYES PEELED” and that is the major source or the big bang of my blogging ideas because I watch YouTube videos related to fashion and men’s style to see and learn something new about fashion and if that video picked my interest you can bet I will be thinking and jotting down my ideas use my own words of course and paraphrase my writing like this post I wrote few days ago which is getting lots of traffic comments & likes “OUTCOMES OF DEVELOPING SELF CONFIDENCE AS A STYLISH MAN” , I really didn’t put out much content and research here but the Readers seemed to like it.

    Also, I love that you use multiple books such as the Ol Notebook you mentioned here and I believe that having a notebook as a Blogger enables the mind to revisit those ideas even after time has passed and once you are fueled with energy get back on the wagon and start writing again. Lastly, as Writers we need a quiet space like looking outside a window whilst our minds are connecting things to write about the silence brings a new idea to life and carrying a notebook whilst thinking is for sure a good idea💯👏


    • Wow, great comment as usual. The notebook thing is funny though. I find that when I go back to my old ideas, I would have forgotten the exact idea I had in mind, and I would interpret them differently. So if I really want to write something that’s ‘true to the idea’, I best do it within a day. Or else who knows how I’ll interpret the message in the future, lol.

      That’s so cool that you’re finding your groove for your content. At the end of the day, personalised data is the best way to gauge what works for you. My best practices may not work for you, for instance. Here’s to continuous ideas!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you Stuart! I actually get my ideas from your 1&2. Sometimes it annoying how the brain keeps on nudging you until you’ve submitted😒😂.
    Beautiful work by the way.😍


    • Haha yeah. There are those frantic times where your danged brain won’t let you rest till the idea’s out. There’s good and bad to that. The good is that you don’t need to think so hard for the next idea. The bad is that it’s not always that good, lol.


    • I’m always super grateful for comments on humour. It doesn’t come easy for me, but it’s good to know that I’m well on my path to writing like Sedaris! I love Notion! Used to use it a lot. But the productivity app industry is evolving so fast that I’ve found some cool alternatives as well. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Same! Which is why I believe in notebooks, despite what Stephen King says. I’ll judge later if it’s a good idea or not. Much better than forgetting the idea and beating myself up, lol.


  10. Love the idea of coming up with 10 ideas everytime you sit down to brainstorm! Everytime I try to make time for myself to do just that (because I’m not very good at doing it throughout my daily drudgery), I feel aimless and like I need to finish it fast to do something else. But this is an actual tangible goal to work toward that could provide fodder for later.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do sometimes force it through the 10 ideas method. Quite interesting to see what I come up with when I have nothing else to produce. But yeah, my best ideas are the ones that are unforced.


  11. Good topic. Just goes to show you how unique we all are. My ideas come from experience, while in the shower or walking the dogs (nothing like scooping poop to spark the imagination). One hit me the other day. I realized the pen I was intending to use was put away with in ink it (15 years ago). The idea hit me between the eyes, ho do you clean out an ink convert full of dried ink.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whoa, I can only imagine what’d happen to ink in a converter after 15 years. Thankfully, there weren’t many boutique inks with all the fancy properties then. Your headache might’ve doubled. But yes, sometimes these events help with idea generation too, particularly the bad ones :P

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for sharing this post, Stuart. Like you, it’s hard to define where these ideas come from. Indeed, I know many of them are from past experiences because I’ve managed to slip many personal experiences into my stories. People have to do what works best for them, but I am more of a pantser who loves the freedom of not knowing where my story is going when I sit down to write. Of course, I may have an idea of going from point A to point Z, but I often try to figure out the other plot points as I go along.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m actually the same, particularly for fiction. But even for my blog posts, I sometimes start off thinking I’d head in one direction, then end up writing something completely different. Weird how our minds work sometimes. Not that I’m complaining though. I like the charm of discovering as I write too.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. This is a good post. I enjoyed reading through it. Your choice of words is very unique.

    I agree with most of your sentiments, especially the one about having ideas during inconvenient periods.

    For those who get their ideas when driving, I would like to suggest that you park your car and jot down the ideas otherwise you may lose them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I enjoyed reading your comment. Such a treat to be told I have a unique choice of words.

      Siri is a wonder during driving. I just say ‘Siri, note that [insert idea here]’ and it’ll record my idea no problem. I appreciate technology for that.

      Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by!


  14. I was expecting a bat-mobile but never mind. lol

    love your great imagination and whatever works.

    “One minute you’re living in a castle and fighting dragons, and the next minute, there’s an incessant beep that’s tearing the walls down and yanking you back to the cold, godless mornings.”

    Great post as always Stuart.
    My daily life mostly shows up and shows me the way or by the stroke of luck a light bulb goes on and i just have to share what’s there! 💗🙏🏼


    • I love the lightbulb bit. I call that a notification from the muse, and I’m super appreciative whenever I don’t need to work for an idea. Sometimes it’s necessary to wring my brain for ideas though, and that’s when it can get a touch dreadful, lol.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Notification of the muse is a great one too. soooo grateful for those times but yeah I hear ya on the touch dreadful writing part. When I’m writing this manuscript, I come up against that., ugh. 🤪,


  15. This made me chuckle. Thank you. I heard Neil Gaiman being interviewed and he was asked the dreaded question and gave that answer. Confluence is a good way to describe the process. Always enjoy your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I think I know which interview you’re talking about. I used to watch his Masterclass and all his interviews for inspiration when I was writing my first novel. It helped tons. And thanks for your lovely comment. I enjoyed reading it too!


  16. “sacrificing a goat” Heh heh.
    “Because screwing up always makes for the best writing fodder.” So, so true!
    “the Lego blocks in my mind join to form a larger block of nothing.” Ha! Well played.
    “every line you crank out after that is the CrossFit equivalent for your mind.” Ooooh. I like that.
    “the most inconvenient of times, like when I’m sacrificing a goat.” Hahaha. I totally felt like that was for me. “when your hands are smeared with blood?” Ewwww… Lol.
    I actually had a bang-up idea via a dream. I jotted it (with my other scraps of ideas) in an email draft. It sounds fun, exciting, and thrilling. Only problem is, I have no idea how to write thrillers. I guess I’d need to read some, or a lot of them, first.
    Another charming post, Stuart! :)


    • This is how video game developers must feel when players discover the Easter eggs.

      I totally forgot about dreams, and it’s so cool to hear that you get your ideas there (though dreams are also similar in that sometimes the ideas you get in Dreamland stay in Dreamland).

      You should totally write that book now that you’ve mentioned it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Weirdly enough, the more I try and generate ideas, the more ideas I get. I only ever get rusty when I stop regularly coming up with new ideas. And yes, I get so much inspiration from other people’s content, for sure!

      Liked by 2 people

    • The best is when the ideas come in the form of single words. I’ve written entire short stories out of random words before. Like, for some reason, the word ‘time’ could include an entire plot for me. Not often, but it does happen!

      Liked by 2 people

  17. I can identify with these! My least productive is the brainstorming ones though, they always feel so forced, never easy to just flow and write, and the end product is never as good as the ones that just pop into my head. Good post!


    • Love that we’re all very different people with our own approaches to the creative process. I find that forcing it sometimes means the work is less inspired. But when I leave enough time before rereading my own content, I don’t remember which pieces I enjoyed writing and which I didn’t. Which stands to reason that I should ‘just write’ when in doubt, lol.

      Liked by 2 people

  18. I recently discovered Neil Gaiman, and I have been captivated by his kind of person. What a guy.

    And James Altucher’s technique for generating ideas is the perfect “gym for the brain.”

    Thank you, Stuart, for all the wisdom you put out. I have been a faithful follower of your work since I started writing on WordPress.

    And for capturing ideas, I recommend using “Evernote” or “Notion” [for the digital savvy] — and a little fancy notebook that can fit anywhere [your back pocket or the side of your bag] which you can quickly pull out anywhere to jot down thoughts and prompts.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He is an interesting character, isn’t he? Most successful writers I know live pretty sad lives, and they neglect many other areas too. With Gaiman, I find it easy to respect him because he has an interesting life besides his writing success.

      I’m humbled by your kind words, and thank you for reading my work!

      I used to be a Notion geek too, but have since hopped onto Obsidian. Can’t go wrong with any of these programmes, for sure, especially since we’re connected to our devices most times.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. When it comes to stories, majority of the ideas have come to me in my dreams, though this has reduced since the last year. Interestingly, these story-based dreams complete with plot increase when I play chess, and stop when I don’t. The trade-off with these is that I’m often left scrambling for the ending, because I never get to see it.

    As for the blog posts and other things, I rely on my experience, waiting for some idea to hit me, or waiting for some trigger. But one thing which I do not do is to use the lack of inspiration for not writing. Because once I start doing that, my writing will come to a screeching halt, and I don’t want that.

    As for AI generated ideas… Okay, I kind of don’t like that. True, there is nothing wrong with that, but how long when the AI takes over your blog, and you are just a creator in name only?

    Anyway, thanks for sharing how you get your ideas, Stuart!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I totally forgot about dreams, so thanks to you and Betsy for bringing this important point up. It’s somewhat similar to meditation (and drugs) too, as you really get some funky ideas when Logic isn’t around.

      Yeah, I totally get the not writing bit. The more you do it, the more you will do. I’ve been in some writing ruts and boy did it feel like crap. Thank goodness for morning pages and journalling. That way, I can at least write something without having to wait for ideas.

      I actually think ChatGPT is interesting, and am looking forward to how it progresses. Am suspecting that people who rely on it 100% might get a backlash in the future when it’s detectable though.

      Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I really do hope they would create a computer like Courage the Cowardly Dog. I suggest you check out that show if you don’t know what it is. I think we are on a right path with the development of chat GPT.


  20. Really enjoyed reading this post! The Youtube comment section has definitely become a gold mine for me. I often find myself scrolling the comments for the majority of the video. Haha midnight inspiration is tricky, that’s why I end up jotting down incoherent scrambled words even when i feel like sleeping because I know for sure I won’t remember it the next day with my unmotivated, tired morning self 😂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Right? Sometimes it’s not the videos themselves but the follow-up questions that stimulate the mind. Like Redditors like to say: “The real tip is always in the comments.”

      In some ways, I’m always grateful for the scrambled jottings, even if they don’t make sense. Better to have something to think about than to just have a blank page, right?

      Thanks so much for your kind words!

      Liked by 2 people

  21. I’d say the ideas come from experience but it’s difficult to pinpoint specific triggers. I’ve not thought too deeply yet … but now you’ve planted the seed …
    I wonder if it’s as simple as saying I’ll do X and it will work. I suspect the ideas are more elusive and unpredictable


    • Ideas are definitely a finicky bunch. Grasp too tight and you risk losing them. Don’t bother with them and they might not even care to grace you in the first place. I’ve since learned to be mindful of my thoughts. Anything even remotely interesting gets recorded down. Better that than an empty slate!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Agree, persistence definitely helps..and writing down those ideas that pop up at the most inconvenient times..is the quality of your ideas different if you go to a different location/travel?


    • I think travel makes it worse, because there are so many things to worry about, like do I have enough money, or how do I get to the airport, or where should I visit today so I don’t waste time.

      Does travel help with your ideas?


      • It does if it is a complete change from regular everyday life – for me, that change in perspective and looking at things from a different point of view helps with new ideas..the stress factor and more things to worry about are definitely there :)


  23. Great advice! I find the best ideas come when I’m driving, which is sort of like the sacrificing a goat timing in its inconvenience; I do use the audio recorder on my phone to help save ideas for me in those moments. And post-its are my notebook, which is a horrible idea on my part; they’re too small and they are easily lost. A friend recently gifted me a gorgeous writer notebook, so I’m reminding myself to put thoughts there for now when the computer is not handy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you use an iPhone, the pairing between Siri and Notes is invaluable. The amount of notes that I’ve dictated to Siri when my hands weren’t free can be a blog post by themselves.

      Tell me about the small pieces of paper—in whatever form. I’m sure I have a novel idea somewhere. I just can’t remember where.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I love reading things like this. Makes me realize I’m not strange or untalented because I use several ‘methods'(and I use that word loosely) for getting ideas. I like the one about writing 10 ideas every day, I haven’t tried that but I like the sound of it. Feels like a new section to add to my bujo. I personally browse other blog sites and the internet at large for alot of my ideas. Like you, however, many of my aha moments come at the worst times, when I can’t write it down and my memory is crap. Thanks for another awesome post.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m curious to what ideas you’ll brainstorm for! I enjoy the 10 ideas thing because you can basically generate ideas for anything to do in your life. And some of the ideas can be pretty actionable too. Makes me feel like my subconscious has so many more answers than Google does. Thank you for your awesome comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Stuart! Thank you for sharing so many actionable tips and wisdom…with humor. I smiled the whole way through as I read…and I think the James Altucher advice is terrific. Ten ideas, eh? I can imagine the brain sweats after five…but I’m with you. The brain needs a workout and the push for a little more? I like it. And I’m going to try it. Big smiles and thanks! 😊


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