Saturday, August 4, 2007

1 list, 7 items, 135 ideas for writers

So much of tapping creativity is indirectly related to writing. More often, the things that fuel our creativity are the techniques we use to figure out what we should write about in the first place. Lists are a great way to do this.

Lately, lists have been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere as a way to create great link bait for social media sites like Digg or StumbleUpon. For writers looking to get their own ideas flowing, however, lists can provide tremendous amount of fodder - if you are making the right lists.

I once found a story of a man who, while still in his 30s, had accomplished a tremendous number of feats. From scuba diving along the Great Barrier Reef to skydiving, to learning 5 different languages. His secret was that, at age 15, he made a list of the 100 things we wanted to do before he died. He held onto that list and made his life's goal to accomplish everything on it. Before he was 40, he had already accomplished 67 of those things. He said that this approach to life had given him some exciting moments, but had been most beneficial in helping him learn about what it is that truly brings him happiness.

I have used lists for years and found them to be a handy starting point for my writing. Along the way, I have learned a few things about myself. I've also created some pretty interesting journal entries from them, too.

So I offer this list of lists for you to start. When you can't think of what to write about, make one of these lists.

  • 100 things to do before you die
  • 5 people you meet in heaven
  • 3 most important moments of your life
  • 7 life lessons you have learned so far
  • 10 favorite CDs
  • 6 character traits you hope your children have
  • 4 things you'd do as president (premier, prime minister, etc.)
While each of these lists carry an implicit: "What" or "Who" reasoning, the big question that makes these lists valuable, however, "Why?" With each list, add and explanation of why each item appears on the list. When you do this, certain themes should start to surface. These themes are likely to reveal your ultimate motivations for writing in the first place. And, if you are lucky, you may even come across some very interesting juxtapositions, too.

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