“Fear wells in me.
But nothing seems good enough to defend.
So I am going away, I’m going away…”
Those are the closing lines of one of my favorite Dave Matthew’s Band (DMB) songs (“Warehouse“). Earlier, while on my daily walk, I stopped to look at the warehouses and abandoned buildings along that route I’ve passed so many times.
Stopping to look at the buildings triggered the song “Warehouse” in my head, which triggered thoughts about the days when the song meant the most to me: my high school and university years. That band and that song had a big impact on my life. A flood of thoughts followed.
Each of those thoughts and memories gave me potential ideas to write about:
- Stopping to really look at things
- Abandoned warehouses and the what-if questions that they spark (what if there are people inside, what happened to the businesses? The owners? Their families?)
- Music and its ability to evoke memories
on & on
There are a lot of specific places that can inspire ideas, but that thought chain started by simply taking a focused look at something as ordinary as a warehouse. This reminded me that you don’t always have to go somewhere grand for inspiration. In fact, sometimes you don’t have to go anywhere at all to tap into the endless supply of ideas in your mind.
There’s much inspiration and ideas that come from within. The key is to be more conscious of your thoughts. To see and hear and feel them, but just as an observer, without judgment.
observe, don’t judge
Decide to be more observant of your thoughts, rather than letting them ramble without purpose. Look for the nuggets that may spark ideas and creativity to fuel your writing.
I strive to not make any judgment. If I have a thought and start judging it, or myself, instead of inspiring my creativity, I spiral onto less productive train of thought. That’s not the train I want to be on. So I just observe and then….I capture.
Ideas are beautiful and exciting. They’re also plentiful when you’re in the habit of creating regularly. But how do you capture those ideas? Without a way to capture them, they’ll likely be forgotten.
I keep a small notepad by my bedside (most of my ideas come when I’m attempting to fall asleep). I sometimes use my phone, too. Most phones have a memo app. You can enter text or record. I’ve even emailed myself ideas. I transcribe ideas into my journal. It doesn’t matter how you capture them. Just do it.
All of your ideas are useless without action. If you felt the inspiration and captured the idea, next, make a choice to either leave the idea alone or write about it. It’s a simple decision. But making that decision helps build consistency with idea generation. I try to write about the ideas as quickly as possible. When I let an idea sit for too long, it loses its luster. Whatever was bright and shiny and exciting about it at the time of conception is just gone. You may not need to write quickly, but at least make a decision on the idea quickly.
rinse + repeat
You have to keep doing this to get better and keep the ideas flowing. Eventually, you won’t even feel you’re consciously doing it. Keep observing, keep capturing, and of course, keep writing.
So try consciously connecting the dots of your thoughts. They’ll lead you to the very edge of that creative wellspring where there’s an abundance of ideas. From there, each drop can inspire and ignite that creative spark to get you in writing flow. If you’re feeling blocked or out of ideas, give it a try. Consciously observe your thoughts, notice where they lead.
Just go for a walk. And observe.