I get this question a lot in the musical realm. Where do I get Ideas for songs? It seems that all you need is a good idea and you’re just golden. My suggestion: forget about finding good ideas. Write songs about whatever ideas you happen to have. Even if they’re bad ones. Because writing bad songs teaches you as much or more than writing good songs.
Commit to the process, and the ideas will take care of themselves.
Oddly, those kinds of questions have surfaced in the blogging realm as well. I’ll get there in a minute. But I thought it would be interesting to share a little trivia with you: I write prose because I couldn’t find a book on writing songs.
When I was in college, I decided that I wanted to start writing songs. I had this lofty vision of the creative process. And by lofty, I mean that in the most literal of terms.
I grabbed a notebook and marched up to the top of the nearest mountain. Bear in mind that in Georgia we define the word “mountain” a little differently – think really big hill. But it was still a solid 30 minute hike to the top, and I was pretty exhausted. Didn’t get much writing done. Not to mention that it kind of helps to have a guitar or something when writing songs.
One positive thing did come out of that little episode. Afterwards I went to a local bookstore and looked for books on songwriting. They only had a couple, and they looked kind of lame. But they had shelves and shelves of books about writing. One in particular jumped out at me: Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande.
This excellent little book gets into the mental side of writing like nothing else I’ve ever read. Brande recommends two habits to form at the center of your writing life.
1) Write every morning – Get up very first thing when you get up in the morning and write. Write fast and write furious. Don’t worry about editing – the fact that you are writing so early will help you sneak past that inner voice that tells you you’re no good. This is a little different than the “brain dump” thing I’ve talked about before. You’re trying to write something usable here. At first your writing will be of the “it’s so early why am I doing this” variety. But over time it will evolve into something more valuable. After you’ve done this for several weeks, go back and read it. The writing style and the voice will point towards the kind of writing you want to pursue. If it’s recounting episodes from the day before with lots of dialogue, you might make a good fiction writer. If you write a lot about events from your childhood, you might be suited as a memoirist. If you’re looking for a good entry point into the world blogging, or any kind of writing, this might be the place to start.
2) Write on schedule – In addition to writing in the morning, the practice of writing at predetermined times is important to the budding writer. Whenever you are making your plans for the week, find two or three blocks of time, maybe a half hour each. During these times, sit down and write. Treat these like you would any other appointment. You have to make them. The first couple of times you might just twiddle your thumbs through this time and that’s OK. But eventually you are trying to become a person who writes whether you feel like it or not.
These two practices, writing in the morning and writing on schedule, will put you well on your way to a writing life. I promise that the question of where ideas come from will quickly vanish as you dive into the process. By doing these practices, you will soon be sitting on a wealth of ideas.
So give it a shot. The beauty is, if you try this approach and fail, this process could help you realize that writing is not for you. Crossing that off the list can help you find something else useful to pursue.