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At some point, every writer is asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” Despite having no trouble finding topics to write about, I still find myself stumped because the honest answer—ideas are everywhere—just doesn't satisfy people. Are you an “ideas” person who has more ideas than you could ever have time to write about? I know the feeling. For most writers, the problems tend to be time, organization, and execution more than inspiration.

After all, ideas are useless if you don't put them into writing. Still, you do need them. After all, it's when you need them most that the dreaded writer's block strikes.

So how do you prepare for those times when you desperately need a topic and find yourself stumped?

Prepare for the Block
Prepare. After all, remember the six Ps: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. I don't mean to take the joy and spontaneity out of writing since I too love to improvise. Nonetheless, a backlog of ideas helps take the stress out of writing when a deadline is looming. So how do you create a backlog?

Record your writing ideas—all of them. Notepad, smartphone, electronic tablet, or whatever your preference is, put those ideas into words. Even if they seem silly or irrelevant to what you usually write about, record them anyway. Do not censor them. Ideas have a way of evolving if you give them a chance. So when you're feeling stumped, turn to your list.



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When All Else Fails
Sometimes the list may not be enough though. Perhaps you've burned through your list and are stumped for new ideas. Or maybe for some reason nothing on the list seems to resonate with you or develop into a full article or story. Whatever the reason, you need an extra spark to get the ideas flowing again. Don't worry. It happens to all of us.

What do you do? Take a look at the following list. Some will be more helpful than others depending on what kind of writing you do, but at least one of these is bound to jump-start your creativity.

1. Forums. Online forums are great places to spark fresh ideas since you can find forums dedicated to the topic you write about. If someone asks a question on a topic of interest, use your potential answer to generate an article. The same is true of sites like Yahoo! Answers and other question-answer forums.

2. People. Sometimes it's best just to get away from the computer and spend time around life's best source of inspiration. Have lunch with a friend, go to a local coffee shop or library, or do some window shopping—anything to be around people. Talk to them, observe them, and eavesdrop on their conversations. Who knows what you'll find?

3. Books, magazines, newspapers, etc. Read about topics you love. Your passions will always inspire you. Perhaps you'll find an article that didn't cover a subject as thoroughly as you would like. Write your own covering what was left out. Review a book you loved in your blog.

4. Exercise. This also takes you away from your desk. The change in scenery and the increased blood pumping to your brain can provide an inspiring boost. I've come up with some great ideas while working out. Try it.

5. Art, movies, music, etc. Some arts will inspire you more than others, but it never hurts to experiment. Visit an art museum. Try listening to a different music style or see a movie you wouldn't otherwise have watched, anything to break the routine.

Obviously, this could go on as we each have our own ways of keeping the creative juices flowing.

So what about you? How do you break out of writer's block and generate ideas?