Not too long ago, my maushi-ajji (my grandmother’s sister) invited our family for lunch. All of us were excited, yet a bit nervous. Maushi-ajji can be intimidating. She is especially particular about time. Hates it when people are late.
So as we got into the Uber cab with sufficient time left on the clock, all of us breathed a sigh of relief. Little did we know that this happiness would last only for a little bit…
Approximately 13 minutes into the ride, the driver did something unthinkable. He stopped at a petrol pump to fill fuel. Apparently, the fuel tank was empty. This was going to cost us a good 6 minutes. Amidst my anger, I couldn’t help but think – “Could he have planned this better?”
A similar thing happens when we publish our writing regularly. Our ideas may not keep up with our publishing frequency. Our ‘ideas tank’ might get empty.
But can we plan in advance?
In this article, we will cover 3 different strategies of keeping our ideas tank full.
1. Intentional Morning pages
My first go-to strategy for finding ideas is ‘Intentional Morning Pages.’ But what exactly are ‘Intentional Morning Pages?’ And how are they different from the usual ‘Morning Pages’?
Morning pages is a practice invented by Julia Cameroon, where you start writing your thoughts on paper without any specific agenda. You don’t try to control your writing in any way. It’s like sitting in a car and driving without any destination in mind.
The instruction that you give yourself is – “Write whatever comes to your mind.”
You don’t filter anything out. The only rule is not to stop. If you don’t know what to write about, just say — “I don’t know what to write about.”
Morning Pages posed a challenge for me
While the ‘Morning Pages’ practice is great, it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t depend on it to get the job done completely. Morning pages broke my mental blocks and gave my ideas and yet I often found myself going astray and not returning to the topic of Marketing. I felt the need to have a method that would push my writing to a specific destination.
And that’s why I invented ‘Intentional Morning Pages’
Okay, that’s not true. I am pretty sure it’s a common practice, but I haven’t seen anyone who has described it in the same way.
With Intentional Morning Pages, you don’t completely let go of the agenda. You are driving a car that is tentatively going in a specific direction. You still have the freedom to choose different roads. You can go fast or slow. But, the moment you find yourself going off track, you remind yourself to go in the tentative direction that you have chosen.
The instruction I give to my mind is – “Write whatever comes to your mind. But gently start moving toward the topic of marketing.”
I am asking myself questions like –
“What have I recently learned about Marketing?”
“What about Marketing is making me angry these days?”
“What Marketing related topic am I inspired to write about?”
Somewhere down the line, a good idea emerges… which can easily become a Linkedin post or an article.
2. Reacting, instead of writing from scratch
Blank pages are scary. Why is that? Because there are no constraints. None. Nada. Nil. When we face a blank page, our writing could potentially go in thousand different directions. This lack of constraints creates confusion. And before we know it, our writing is derailed.
Is there a better way?
The alternative is to create constraints. There is a way using which your writing can get a clear specific direction. And this happens when we choose to react.
Here’s how it works
A few days back, in the writing community, a member was quite distressed. Despite her best efforts, she was not able to feel confident about her writing.
Her concern was – “I think I have nothing new to add through my content. Whatever has to be said on the topic has already been said. How do I create content that is not garbage”?
This question gave me a prompt to work. My response was somewhat long. I had to answer the question thoroughly and nudge her in the right direction.
It was a messy response
And yet, it worked. My response gave her the confidence to start shipping her work. But that’s beside the point. The long response that I wrote became an article that I could use later. Magic, no?
Would I have been able to create this article from scratch? Unlikely. Her question, however, pointed me in the right direction. It naturally put a constraint, using which I could generate a response that later became an article.
What questions is your audience asking?
Could you tap into the questions your audience is asking you (or others on the internet) and write detailed responses, which could become articles or podcasts?
(I learned this approach from Sean Dsouza, the author of The Brain Audit. Thank you, Sean!)
3. Map your mind
Our mind is like a really busy fish market in India. It’s chaotic. It has multiple ideas, and we don’t know how to tap into them. We can feel those ideas but can’t quite see them clearly. The solution is mind mapping.
A mind map brings clarity
A mind map helps you break your big idea into smaller pieces. It helps you traverse the journey from the big idea… to the smallest, executable piece of content.
The idea here is simple – Take your big idea and break it down into tiny pieces. The tiny pieces can be further broken down into more pieces. There is no limit. You could go as granular as you want. And each of these pieces could become a content piece.
This is what one of my mind-map looks like –
And no, you don’t need a paid software for this… the free one works just fine.
So if your big idea is “To lose weight, don’t follow fancy diets. Use simple diets.”, then the sub-topics would be –
1. How to use the foods that you already eat as a part of your diet
2. How to calculate macro-nutrients
3. How to ensure that you manage your eating at parties
Your point 3 could be further broken down into 3 different pieces –
1. How to use a nutrition calculator during parties
2. How to ensure that you eat what you want at parties without feeling embarrassed
3. How having a meal before going to the party is a great idea for your weight-loss journey
Maybe even these points can be further broken down.
You get the point.
To keep getting ideas for my writing, I depend on 3 main strategies – intentional morning pages, reacting… instead of creating, and mind-mapping.
Oh, by the way, we did reach a little late. And surprisingly, my maushi-ajji was not angry. Or was she doing a good job of hiding it? To this day, I haven’t been able to figure it out. The vegetable dish that she made for us was spicy, though.