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How to Find New Ideas for Articles and Stories

Updated on October 28, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I teach creative writing to adults and I love helping my students improve their writing skills.

Leave the Fog of the Blank Page Behind You

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Writer’s Block Can Happen at Any Time

It is so frustrating when creative ideas cease to flow. As a fellow writer, I can reassure you, you are not alone. Writer’s block happens to everyone occasionally. There are days when no matter what you do, the blank page (or screen) in front of you remains just that: blank.

Help is at hand. With time and practice, there are tricks you can learn to overcome these dry periods. If you have deadlines to meet and you rely on your writing for income you will appreciate the tips below.

5 Sources of Writing Inspiration

1. Write About What You Know

2. Look For a New Angle on an Old Article

3. Read Your Local Newspaper

4. Stand Outside Your Front Door

5. Socialize

Holiday Snaps Spark Memories

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1. Write About What You Know

I can hear you groan at what has become a cliché. However, “write about something familiar” is said so often because it is a good way to get your creative juices flowing. Still not sure how to begin? I suggest you look at a family photo or a picture from your last trip away. Study the detail of the photo for a few moments and then write down the answers to these questions.

Who is in the picture? What is their relationship to you? Where was the shot taken? Why were you there? Did you enjoy it? What did you like (or not like) about the occasion?

As you write, other memories will come back and you may find you now have the ability to write about something completely different and the unblocking exercise has worked. Or you could choose to write about the picture by forming a story or article around your answers to the questions.

What Inspires Authors to Write?

2. Look for a New Angle on an Old Article

Many topics are “evergreen”. This means the subject never really goes out of fashion. For example, you wrote something 5 years ago, but the content of the article is still of interest today.

Your original article may have described how to reduce the stress of moving house by planning ahead. You could produce a new piece with minimal effort by updating the older one. By this I do not mean “copy and pasting” your previous work. Your writing should always sound fresh and relevant. How can you do this?

First refresh your memory of the topic by reading your original article. Do not start writing the update just yet. Take a short break. Have a coffee or do some gardening. This will allow you to mull over what you have just read. When you return to your PC, write down the key points of the old piece, but do not refer to it as you write.

Now you want to make the new article sound current. Have you moved home recently or is there a celebrity house move you can refer to? Add some personal details about how stressed or relaxed you (or the star) found the experience.

Your new piece should contain the original helpful tips about moving, but reworded to make it different from the old. The hard facts about creating a stress-free removal are softened by items added from your (or the famous person’s) personal experience.

Look at everything as if you were seeing it for the first or the last time.

— Betty Smith (American author 1896-1972)

3. Read Your Local Newspaper

A good source of inspiration for writers is the news. There is so much happening in the world every day. TV, radio and national broadsheets are only able to report on a tiny number of these events. Your local newspaper may be parochial but it can focus in on the detail and give a more subjective slant on the news. This gives you the opportunity to be controversial and capture an audience as you give an opposing viewpoint.

A good neighborhood news story can capture the zeitgeist better than the bland statement of facts put out by national networks. Use a local issue you feel strongly about to add emotion to your writing. Readers connect with writers who are enthusiastic and passionate.

Relax and Get Inspiration by Reading the News

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4. Stand Outside Your Front Door

If reading the local rag is not really your thing there are alternatives. You can use your own power of observation to get some ideas based on your locality. Get up from your computer and open your front door. What do you see? Are you in a busy urban street or are your looking out across acres of grassland? Perhaps you live in an apartment and your front door only opens onto a deserted corridor?

When was the last time you spoke to a neighbor? The mailman? The pizza delivery guy? Can you imagine yourself in their shoes? What kind of problems are they dealing with in their lives? Would they react differently from you to adversity? How? Why?

Go back to your desk and start writing.

The best way out is always through.

— Robert Frost (American poet 1874-1963)

5. Socialize

Non-writers sometimes assume that authors live isolated lonely lives. Of course, some do but most live in the real world and use their personal experiences to enhance their writing. Do not be shy, staying at home will not improve your creativity. Socializing is a great way to understand how people interact.

If you are quiet and have a small circle of friends then join a class and learn a new skill. Meeting new people will put you in touch with what matters in your community. You may find like-minded aspiring authors who can share tips with you on how they put words on the blank page. Being a writer is a great excuse to socialize, but do not overdo it! Once you have some new ideas for topics to write about, then you must get them down on paper. Successful writers have a clear goals and are disciplined in how much time they spend at their craft.

Watch This If You Have Writer's Block

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  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 2 months ago from Northeast Ohio

    Beth, great tips in this hub. It can be applied anywhere, even for over here at Hub Pages (and their niches.) I'm going to consider your ideas and put them into good use this fall.