Writing FAQ: where do you get your ideas?

“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans,” said John Lennon.

In a similar vein, when it comes to writing, I often find that writing ideas happen when I’m busy doing other things.

Master Isolated Images, freedigitalphotos.net

Master Isolated Images, freedigitalphotos.net

One year, I was asked to write a series of short devotionals with assigned Scripture texts from the book of Judges. As I read the story of Samson, I noticed that his mother’s story took up almost all of Judges 13, but her name is never given. Then in Judges 14, Samson’s Philistine wife appears throughout the chapter, but her name is never given either. That made me wonder, how many other unnamed women are in the Bible? I started searching, and then went on to write Remember Lot’s Wife and Other Unnamed Women of the Bible.

It wasn’t that I was searching for a book idea at the time, but the idea found me while I was working on something else.

The idea for Sacred Pauses came to me while on vacation a few years ago. Last week, I got a sermon idea while watching the movie, Man of Steel. I’ve sometimes solved a writing problem not by working on it or even thinking about it, but by setting it aside to take a shower or clean up the kitchen and coming back to my work with a new idea.

So where do writers get their ideas? From reading, observing, and thinking about things, of course. As gifts of God borne out of silence and prayer, yes. But just as often in random and unexpected ways when we’re off doing something else.

If you’re involved in writing or other creative work, where do you get your ideas?

Check out these related links:

6 ways to enhance your creativity

Why we have our best ideas in the shower

Where Neil Gaiman gets his ideas



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7 replies

  1. God’s living art in nature often inspires me because I don’t just see it, I experience it on so many levels that go past my normal guarded self. Or sometimes someone will say a phrase that somehow makes me more aware of God’s presence, and in that awareness I often get inspired.

  2. I find that I get my best ideas when doing other things, but in order to get my brain thinking in the direction I want, I have to dedicate time and energy on an almost daily basis to the task. It’s a tough balance between discipline and inspiration, in the realm of dissertation writing, at least.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with you….most of the time when I really sit down to write, I dont get many ideas, but when I am doing something else, so many ideas come buzzing that I have to leave the work and sit down to write.
    But whenever I am looking for a great idea, God does put in something worthwhile in my head! 🙂

  4. It’s great to hear the different things that can inspire us and spark an idea. Your comments also remind me that the idea is just one part of creative work. There’s also writing it out–living it out–so here’s to both the idea and working it out. May you be blessed with both today!

  5. Like you all have shared, ideas come to me in random places and random times. I’ve also found that if I don’t jot them down in a notebook (or Evernote), I forget about them. Then I spend hours later trying to remember the really cool idea!

  6. so true and I agree with the first line as that’s what most of us are doing really

  7. Months later, I am also now using Evernote – a great tool for jotting down ideas and note-taking. Thanks, Sharon, for the tip!