Topic ideas, find your inspiration

Topic ideas: where to find your inspiration

Jan 26, 2013
When thinking of writer inspiration, you may instinctively envision a person landing a great topic as they go for a jog or sip on a cup of tea-truly romanticized scenes of the 'writer in thought'. But in reality, its obvious that these situations don't always produce ideas, neither are they necessary for inspiration. Sometimes a jog is just a jog and tea is just a tea.
Though like most things, good topics take work - planning and strategizing. And usually a really good one will be the results of your hard work and effort, not to mention time and frustration. So in order to get the ball rolling. one of the first things you can do is pinpoint exactly what will help you get those creative juices flowing.


For the most part, we observe things all the time with little or no thought; the way people speak or interact with one another, natural beauties of the world, inquisitive children as well as the arrangement and order of the things around us. And depending on your discipline or specific subject of interest, brief observations can function very well as means of accessing untapped writing topics. Some simple tips to assist you in the observation process are as follows;

Identify exactly what you will observe

Its helpful to at least have a ballpark idea of what you want to write about before you start observing. Maybe you know the subject matter for instance, but just need help in selecting an object of focus. For example, if writing about parenting you may choose to observe children in their natural element or if writing about food you may decide to visit a nice restaurant for ideas.

Grab a pen and paper (or a touch screen notepad) and take brief but useful notes about what you see

If you don't want to seem like a prowling researcher, you may want to use a smartphone to take notes. Otherwise you can simply try your best to make a mental note of what you see to record for later.

Review your notes and take a moment to think about what you observed

Your thought process may go something like this - What does that word mean? I've always wondered about that. How does that thing work anyway? I wonder how many people do this everyday? Am I the only that has noticed this? Thats very interesting.

Work to further define your key observations by conducting some basic research

After your thought process has subsided a bit, the next step is to act on your points of interest and begin to conduct some basic preliminary research. Preliminary research is a powerful tool used to generate and narrow topics. A little bit of investigation, such as looking through a dictionary or encyclopedia, or doing a quick internet search, can provide you with invaluable information on a particular concept or idea and also be a helpful push in the right direction.

Casual reading

This one technique can be an enjoyable and relatively easy way to go about looking for a new topic. Reading will not only improve your writing and comprehension skills but it can also give you countless issues to ponder over and consider when crafting your new project.
The key is to stick to titles in your general subject area if possible. Though inspiration is unpredictable, and can come from just about anywhere, if exposed to a particular subject matter frequently its hoped that your new ideas will be connected to it and therefore speed up the topic selection process. *Similar to the observations, if you're looking to write an article about interior design, you'll want to keep your ear (or rather eye) to articles and publications related to that.
But remember to make it casual. Rather than formalizing your reading into a research task, try to calmly look over some titles that you find interesting throughout your day-maybe one or two at maximum. This is mainly because to make your reading into a job may take away the 'fun' and 'inspiring' aspects of discovery (also your mind may feel a bit constrained).

Freewriting & Brainstorming

The most common and probably most widely used methods of generating topics are the freewriting and brainstorming techniques. Since brainstorming for instance, is such a common technique you may decide to take another approach to recording your ideas. For example, perhaps you can brainstorm at odd times-not just when you decided that its time to 'brainstorm.' One way to do this is to keep somewhat of a writer's notebook or journal handy. Whenever an interesting idea comes to mind you can easily start a brainstorming list on the topic.

So what's the difference between brainstorming and freewriting?

Well they are both considered prewriting strategies but one is a bit more organized than the other. Brainstorming is often done in the form of a list but may also be used in the forms of clusters and web diagrams. With these methods instead of a simple list the brainstorming subject matter is actually placed in the center of the paper and ideas are generated around it-this is what is known as graphic organizer. In this way several ideas are based off of one-single idea; which is the main focal point of brainstorming.
Freewriting on the other hand, is just that-a free range of writing. It usually takes the form of a paragraph or page of text in which the writer simply writes whatever comes to mind. Though this task should be focused somewhat on the subject at hand in order to be a bit more useful. After writing for a few minutes or so, usually not filling up more than a page or two handwritten, the writer then looks back on what was written and circles any interesting points or areas to further examine.

Final thoughts

In addition to the above mentioned techniques, current events or newspaper headings may also be interesting to review. Though some of the stories may not add anything new in particular, the special human-interest stories that are often showcased in certain sections of the newspaper or in magazine articles may trigger certain thoughts or emotions about a particular topic. This, likewise can be used as a source of inspiration and contemplation for your writing endeavors.
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