Techniques for Cultivating Creative Writing Ideas by Deborah Lyn

Make cultivating ideas part of your writing process. Creative writing needs inspiration—motivation will follow quickly to get that personal essay, story, or novel written!

“To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play.” And
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein.

Whether we write fiction or non-fiction stories, growing our list of project ideas is vital. As our list grows and our process expands, we’ll foster descriptive writing techniques. We will use sense words—sight, sound, smell, taste & touch to enhance our writing.

So let’s get playful!

The “What If” game is great for exploring ideas outside the box.
“What if I could…?”
“What if my hero…”
“What if I had made a different _______________ choice?
“What if someone found out…?”
Continue to ask “What Ifs” to use now or later for inspiration.

Be curious with “Why” questions:
“Why a story instead of a poem?”
“Why set it in the country rather than a metropolis?” Rural vs City dwellers
“Why not write from a different perspective.
•    How would my favorite author describe this?
•    How would a four or five-year-old describe this scene?
•    Describe a scene from a fast-moving train or flying in a single-engine plane, or better yet, a helicopter.

•    Use story structure basics, then branch out to make it original, even inventive: A character struggles to overcome a problem, and meets with eventual success.
    -Jane Austen used this format to create great original variations. She borrowed and created new.
    -Heidi is another example: orphaned children journey to find a home
    -It’s a Wonderful Life, classic Christmas movie
    -Cinderella: cruelly and unfairly treated, in the end she’s the heroine

•    Try using TV listings, or movie synopsis as prompts to stimulate ideas
•    Magazine and online images can be great writing prompts, for story or free writing
•    Folktales retold your way
•    Coming of age struggles, confusion, and solutions
•    Contemporary prince or princess in love with a commoner
•    A school for superheroes to rescue ______________
Keep building your ideas list.
It’ll be hard to keep-up with the rush of thoughts!

Good practice points for a satisfying writing life:
•    Don’t wait for inspiration. Do something you love, it will spark ideas.
•    Set aside your best time to write for 20-30 minutes, make it an appointment and keep it.
•    Let go of perfectionism! It defeats playfulness.
     -Change things up—write by hand, write on scraps of paper, be messy, break rules, whatever works to stay playful!
     -Forget mistakes. You can fix them easy enough on the next draft.

Just Write!
Try Stuff, First Get It Written, Revise the Next Draft

See post: WOTM: 9.17.2021 Read Well, Creative Writing Resources, by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at:   

Visit her caregiver’s website:
Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love on Amazon

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Terry Whalin said...

Deborah Lyn,

What a great series of action steps and possibiliies for every writer to cultivate more ideas. I like what one of my writing mentors told me years ago: "Writers are swimming in an ocean of ideas." The key is to capture those ideas (like in a notebook or computer file) and take action on them.


Karen Cioffi said...

Deborah, what a useful list of tips on how to generate writing ideas and bring them to fruition. As Terry mentioned, writing ideas are all around us, some almost hitting us over the head. All we have to do is keep our eyes and ears open and capture them.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I just watched an amazing PBS special: American Experience: New York City. Gasp. It was full of history I didn't know, quotations from poets including Walt Whitman, even stuff about 9/11 that I lived through and still didn't know stuff it included like how vast amounts of paper contributed to the fires (and--from pictures--the mess) and there I am, too late! I didn't sit down with my pencil and, yes, paper! These are amazing series. I highly recommend them. But they are three hours per episode. You probably won't want to go back to rewatch one just because you forgot your paper. Ahem.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson'

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

PS: Twitter cut me off until Wednesday. Apparently they didn't like the idea of my removing old (ancient!) people who don't follow me nor interact with anyone else, judging from the stats on how long it's been since they tweeted. They really need to fix those algorithms. So, you won't get my usual Twitter-share! Sorry.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I've played what if with my characters but stopped with that. These are wonderful suggestions. Thank you for posting them.

deborah lyn said...

Thank you very much for your comments!
Wonderful encouragement for me and all writers :)

Mplcreative said...

Writers who are stepping into the craft often ask published authors one question--where do you get your ideas? Those new writers think there's a special pot of things to write about that only well-known writers have access to. They miss the fact that ideas are all around them.
Your article brings up this fact and gives all writers ways to connect with topics and ideas to write about. Bravo for your article.

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