I do most of my writing when I’m not writing.
Having said something so clearly contradictory, I think I owe you an explanation. The mechanical act of writing – what I’m doing as I tap out these lines – is obviously done whilst I’m at my computer. However, by the time I begin the keyboard finger-shuffle, I’ve already figured out what I’m going to write. Not just the topic, but much more. I know what I’m going to write about, the introduction and (broadly) how I’m going to develop the piece. The hard part – generating ideas and developing them – has already been done. What’s left is the easy bit; the actual writing down of things I’ve already thought through.
Where do ideas come from? Answering this would take me into the realm of speculation, well beyond my knowledge and experience. So I admit complete ignorance and leave it there. In any case, I’m more interested in finding ways to get new ideas, rather than figuring out where they come from.
So here’s a more relevant question: are there certain activities that assist in generating new ideas? For me the answer is a resounding affirmative: it is while I’m on my early morning walks that I get them. A writer told me that walking was valuable not so much for the exercise, but for the ideas. I didn’t believe her until I found the same worked for me. The ideas appear to come from nowhere (I refrain from using terms like subconscious, that I’m not sure I understand). I could be thinking about something and then, out of the blue, I get this notion which is completely unrelated to the prior thought. It could be just a phrase or a sentence, the mere inkling of a piece, but I can usually tell whether it’s worth pursuing or not.
Once the nascent idea has my attention, I start thinking about how I might develop it. I find it best to do this right after I get the idea, else there’s a good chance that I’ll lose the context in which I conjured it up. Consequently, I end up doing a lot of my idea development while still on my pre-dawn perambulation. The development phase also acts as a filter – if the idea is hard to develop, it probably isn’t very good. As a rule of thumb, if I haven’t found a promising development in five to ten minutes, the idea is probably not worth pursuing. However, just to be sure, I jot it down in a phrase or two (on my mobile, which always accompanies me) and come back to it a few hours or days or even weeks later. Often the second look confirms that the idea is good only for the garbage bin. Very occasionally, I go on to develop these further. My mobile memo pad is full of ideas that never took off.
I’ve stopped trying to analyse where the ideas come from – I’m just grateful that they do. My AM ambles are a double benefit: exercise and ideas. So, if you’re suffering from bloggers block you could try some strategies for overcoming writer’s block. On the other hand, you could try a morning walk instead. Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking.