How Do I Get Ideas About What To Write About?
Just in case you wonder why I write so much:
There are various ways I can introduce this article. One, I can say that time is short. There are far too many books I want to read that I will never get to. And there are far too many articles (and books) I want to write, but time will be working against me.
Another way to preface this piece is as follows: I am not sure how many folks will be interested in an article like this, or how helpful it might be to others. Perhaps would-be writers and bloggers will be the keenest, and they may gain a few useful tips here.
Or I can just say: thanks – I am glad you asked. There might be some folks who have wondered about this, and might like to know how a steady stream of articles appears on this site. With 5500 articles posted in the past 15 years, that averages to one a day. Some days there can be 2, 3 or 4 posted.
Some might find this to be a bit much, but in my case it is the easiest thing in the world to be a writer – certainly in terms of finding subject matter. There is never a shortage of things to write about, and I am almost never stuck for something to talk about and turn into an article.
Inspiration and ideas for a new piece are easy enough to come by. Five main sources usually do the trick. Let me speak to each briefly. One, my morning Bible reading so very often triggers me to write an article. Reading three or so chapters of Scripture a day almost always will result in some passage causing me to reflect on and consider writing about.
And a morning prayer walk following my Scripture reading will usually further consolidate that, giving me more ideas and insights as to what I will say and how I will say it. Often the insights and ideas readily come to mind, and my biggest problem is to worry about remembering everything that has popped into my mind until I get home and jot them down.
Increasingly this has become a main source of inspiration. Reading 3 or 4 Bible chapters each morning should normally take 10-15 minutes max, but I am finding this time easily stretching out to 30-45 minutes, or even an hour. That is because it seems like every other verse just leaps off the page, grabs my attention, and makes me think that an article can be found there.
At the moment I am reading through 2 Kings. While some believers might wonder what is so spec about some dusty Old Testament book like this, I am having a delightful time in it. It seems I can barely read a few verses without something really standing out.
I will either copy and paste a verse or two into one of the many sections of my personalised concordance, or open a new Word doc and paste it there, with the aim of writing an entire article about it. So my mornings are getting longer as the Word of God grows ever more alive and inspiring.
Let me say just a bit more about this before moving on to the other sources. I realise that if I wanted to be far more popular, get much more attention and promotion, and have a lot more folks drawn to what I do, I should just do plenty of stuff on politics, the culture wars, and so on.
But I am sensing more and more that while I will indeed keep doing that, that doing much more on biblical, spiritual and theological issues is my direction forward. Those sorts of posts and the like are never as popular or well received. But they are in many ways more important. And if that is what God wants me to do, I shall do it.
Two, the morning news also provides plenty of fodder for my pen – or keyboard. Not only are there plenty of headlines that can spur on an article, but there are various news sites as well as news feeds that provide much of that for me.
What is happening in the world around me usually leads to a new article, and often the two (spiritual/biblical reflection and the daily news) are brought together in a single piece. They nicely go together and supplement each other. So some pieces might be just a political or culture war piece, some might be a spiritual or devotional piece, and some might be a combination of the two.
There is a third source which can be mentioned: previously started articles that await completion. I actually have a folder of articles in which I have begun new pieces but for various reasons have not yet completed them. That is always a place to go to if I still need an idea for something to write about.
And guess how many articles are now in that particular folder! Believe it or not, there are 1009 of them there – with more being added almost daily. So if nothing in the world or the Word inspires me to write an article, I can always go to this folder and resurrect an older piece, complete it, and post it.
There is also a fourth source of inspiration: books I have been reading. That is obviously a very fertile ground from which ideas for articles come from. If it does not lead to a new piece, it may well result in a new book review. You will find 572 book reviews already on this site, but many more of course could/should be done, as I have far more books than that that deserve a good review. Just today in fact I received a new book in the post which I intend to review very soon.
A fifth source involves things that thoughtful friends will send my way. Whether via email or the social media, folks are often sending me things they think I would be interested in, or should be aware of. Sure, with so many folks kindly thinking of me, I may get a number of the same things sent my way, and some I was already aware of. But I always appreciate it when folks contact me and alert me to things. Thanks for thinking of me!
Of course other things can be mentioned. I might get inspired by something I saw on television, or a movie I watched, or a conversation I just engaged in, or maybe even a dream I had. There is no end to what might trigger my mind and lead to more articles.
And sometimes all these things will come together in a morning, and I end up with a number of new articles started. I will read one or more things in Scripture that really make me want to start a new piece; and on my prayer walk more ideas might come flooding in for a piece; and in looking at the social media or news feeds I may feel strongly compelled to respond to something I have seen there; and so on. So some mornings might see any number of new pieces initiated.
In other words there is never a dull moment in terms of finding a topic to be discussed. I can assure you that I have more than enough things to write about. If I did not eat or sleep I could write and post a whole lot more of course. But that might not be too good for my health and wellbeing!
Now, if you hate writing – or hate reading for that matter – then a piece like this will have fallen rather flat. But some folks now and then ask me how I do what I do. Here I have offered a few clues just in terms of how subject matter arises.
Future articles will be needed to discuss other aspects of this ministry. And it is a ministry, so things like the call of God, and spiritual covering by prayer warriors, are also part of the mix for making something like this possible and successful.
So if you are thinking about doing the same – be it setting up your own blog site or perhaps trying to write for others – these are some of the things that have helped me in terms of knowing what to write about.
4 Replies to “How Do I Get Ideas About What To Write About?”
Recently George Gilder said in an interview something like, ‘I write to stop the voices in my head.’ I suppose he was only half-joking!
Thanks, Bill. I found this interesting because it’s exactly the same for me planning and writing sermons. I have notebooks full of ideas and of sermons begun – possibly (probably?) more than I’ll ever have time to preach. But I preach them to myself and learn and grow from them,
Thanks Bill, I for one am amazed by the sheer quality and quantity you produce so regularly. Your tips are helpful as I transition from professional in my field to pastor. Much appreciated.