Diana Kelly Levey

The Trick for Coming Up with New Ideas

October 5, 2017

I’m very fortunate that I’m located in New York City as a freelance writer. So when I get invited to a cool event like getting to tour a new Viking Ocean Cruise ship docked in the harbor of Manhattan, it’s a wise decision when I make time for something like this. As I boarded the cruise ship and walked towards the room where media were gathering before a formal tour, I already found myself curious and excited about different aspects of this ship, cruise ships in general, and the many details it takes to keep a ship running—from the mechanics to the people. During the 15 minutes or so I had to wait, I began excitedly writing down ideas in a notebook. Simply sitting in a completely different environment than I was used to jostled that idea-generating part of my brain and reminded me of why I love being a writer. (Especially a freelance writer who can tour a cruise ship in the middle of the week, right in the middle of the workday.) I took a lot of notes during the tour, met travel writers and editors, even running into an editor I worked with earlier this year and being introduced to her CEO. Not bad for a few hours away from my computer, right? Remember, checking email too often zaps your productivity.

Sometimes, when you’re a freelance writer or simply freelancing in some other industry from home, you become a creature of habit. (Here are some freelancers’ morning routines.) You might write in the same genre and for the same clients for months or years on end. From a financial standpoint, having those consistent gigs (also called “anchor” clients…pardon the reference in a blog that’s mentioning cruise ships) is a good thing. You’ll probably get faster at writing those articles and have a slew of great contacts in one industry if you write for a few select topics. That being said, at times, you might feel like you’ve already pitched everything you could to your editors.

This is why I encourage a change of scenery to help freelance writers get new ideas. Okay, not everyone is getting invited on private Viking Ocean Cruise tours. But, I encourage you make time in your freelance schedule for travel. At the very least, take an afternoon off and go to a nearby town to expose yourself to something you haven’t done before. This could be as simple as checking out a museum or historic landmark, and reading the plaques and learning more about that time in history. You could even try people watching in a crowded park you’ve never been to and wonder about the problems those people face, and the types of articles they’d read to fix their problems.

Jot down everything that comes to mind without judgement as if you’re a sketch artist creating a quick drawing. I still enjoy the pen and paper experience but however you like to brainstorm and take notes is up to you. (I need to type it up soon after in case I can’t read my notes.)

Like this idea? Google “free events in [YOUR TOWN]” and put a day on the calendar when you’ll block out time to attend something next month. If you don’t schedule it, you know it’ll never happen.

I was also fortunate to have free time last weekend and visited the American Museum of Natural History for only about an hour. I’ve been there a few times so I walked into a few exhibits I hadn’t checked out before and made sure I visited my favorite—the dinosaurs. I also went to Boston for a few days vacation that I planned in April and had fabulous weather, great food, and a fun time exploring the Freedom Trail with my history buff fiancée who hadn’t visited the city since he was a child. That’s another way of making an experience “new to you” again, visit an area you’ve been with someone who’s never been there and you’ll learn what they’re curious about and come up with new ideas.

Here are more ways I come up with article ideas.

If you like this type of advice, I get into more detail about how to take that freelance article brainstorming session and turn those ideas into paid assignments in my Freelance Writing Online Course. Learn more about the course “Get Paid to Write” here.

How do you come up with new ideas when you’re feeling like you’re in a rut and need to add some life to your freelance routine?

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