I've got exactly one hour.
Why do I only have one hour you might ask?
Well, it's pretty simple.
I've just arrived at a beautiful place in Portugal and I want to see the sunset.
And the sun is going to set in about an hour.
So until then I want to have written this post.
And published it.
The most interesting part about it?
I don't have any clue what I'm going to write about.
I've just decided that I'm going to do this.
So this is an experiment.
And I'm going to figure out what to write as I write.
I don't know if this will work.
But a lot of people say that you're going to figure out what to write once you start writing.
I'm not sure if that's true.
But I'm going to figure it out.
And until now, a couple of hundred words into this post I still don't really know what this post could be all about.
So maybe it'll be about coming up with ideas on what to write about.
So a meta post.
That's what I'm going to write about right here.
It's a good enough idea.
I still have close to an hour.
So let's do this...
Here are some of the things you could do to come up with ideas ...
I'll try to come up with as many as possible while writing...
# IMPROV WRITING
Ok. This is an easy one. Because that's what I'm doing right now.
Improv writing seems a great idea to come up with ideas what to write about.
And you now what?
It seems to work.
This is not staged or anything.
I really just googled when the sun is going to set.
Now that I'm thinking about it, I might even add make a screenshot of my Google search where it shows when the sun sets here.
Wow, I'm amazed.
This stuff really seems to work...
# TOP BLOGS
What I do quite often when it's already late at night and I still didn't write anything then I usually just hit my favorite blogs. Just to look for inspiration and things that trigger a thought.
When I'm totally clueless I usually head on over to Seth Godin's blog.
And then I scroll through his archive and read the headlines of some of his posts.
And then usually around the 20th or 30th headline or so I come up with something to write about.
Sometimes good ideas. Sometimes bad ideas.
But it doesn't really matter.
If its something that triggers a thought I just start writing about it.
Alright. So here's another thing I usually do when I don't know what to write about...
# MEDIUM QUOTES
Medium has the pretty cool feature where people can highlight things they liked in a post and then share it on Twitter.
This is super useful. At least for me.
So whenever I have a popular post, which basically only happens when I post something in a large publication, then tons of people highlight stuff.
And many times the stuff that people highlight can easily be extended into a post.
So what can you do if you don't have any popular posts where people highlighted the good stuff?
Head on over to other people's stuff, take a look at some super popular posts and take a look at what people highlighted in there.
But don't read the post.
Just take a look at the highlights and see if something triggers a thought, an idea or something you'd like to write about.
Ok. I'm running out of ideas here...
Ah ok, got another one...
I don't talk to so many people during the day. I also don't attend any useless meetings. Or have to do small talk during the day. Or scroll through Facebook or Instagram much. And the reason is pretty simple.
I want to limit my information intake. So I'm still able to somehow process the stuff that happened during the day. So that at the end of the day I can still remember most of the things I talked about with someone.
And there's almost always one piece of that conversation that can easily be extended into a bigger idea. That's how a lot of my ideas are born. By conversations with people. Or thinking about the stuff that happened during the day...
# EVERYTHING IS MATERIAL
At the end of the day you can basically write about everything. Everything can be an inspiration. That dog on the street. The cleaning lady in an overcrowded mega city somewhere in Asia who found nail polish on the streets and started painting here nails, that conversation you had, heck, even the conversation you didn't have. Especially that conversation you didn't have. And that thing you didn't do...
It doesn't really matter. I could even start writing about the room that I'm now in. That room in a small beach town in Portugal that's full of old furniture from a couple of decades ago that reminds me of medieval times.
Or the look on the faces of the people walking on the beach. The happiness. The sadness. The inner wars that were fought. Some of them were won. And some of them were lost. The scars of their youth. Of their past. Their present. And their future. The hope in their eyes. The sadness in their eyes. The beauty and the ugliness of their souls. The fulfillment of their hearts. The emptiness of their hearts...
Books can be a great source of ideas, too. But for me this usually doesn't work that well. It only works if I have a lot of time. And unfortunately these days I don't really have that much time reading books.
I know. What writer doesn't have the time to read? Doesn't everybody say that to be a good writer you have to read a lot?
I don't know. Maybe that's true. Maybe it isn't. I'm not a good writer so I don't really know. And for some people it might be true. For some people it might not be true.
As for myself, I usually get confused if I read too much and my ideas aren't so clear anymore. So I prefer to just write. And occasionally also read a bit. But to me it seems that producing and consuming can't really be done effectively at the same time.
To be able to keep producing you've gotta have a clear mind. And to me reading is distraction. But also inspiration. But that's probably just me. And you might be different. We're all different. And it doesn't really matter how you come up with ideas. Or how you're getting inspired. Which brings me to my next point...
# THERE'S NO INSPIRATION
Inspiration doesn't exist. The only way to get inspired is to sit down ind consciously decide to start writing. To start creating. To start and finish. That's the only way.
And I'm surprised how well this works. Whenever I sit down and do my thing to come up with ideas and start writing it works. It works for me every single time. Just like right now.
It's almost 5pm right now. And I didn't really do much other than moving into this place right here, going for a run at the beach, then eating some stuff and watching some series online. That's all I really did.
I wasn't inspired at all. I just decided I'm going to write this right here right now. Without even knowing what to write about. And then I decided do give this improv writing a try. And it seems to be working quite well.
I decided to start writing about 15 minutes ago. I didn't have any clue about what to write about. And now I might already be at 1000+ words. And I'm confident that I'll be able to go and see the sunset at the beach. Now that I think about it I might even take a picture of the sunset and then use it as a picture for this post.
Yes, that's it. That's a lot better than posting a picture of the Google search. But then again, I won't be able to post this here before I head to the beach. Either way. When you see this post and saw the picture you'll know what I decided to do.
Probably one of the best ways to come up with ideas is when you have a time limit. The bigger the pressure, the more focused and the better the results will be. Ok, the results won't always be better. But sometimes they won't be too bad.
My most popular post on Medium of all times was called 5 minutes. It took me 5 minutes to write it. Because I had a super spontaneous meeting with a friend in Bangkok and I couldn't miss that meeting.
It's incredible what we can achieve with time limits. But the problem is that artificial time limits don't work. Only real time limits work.
So how could you possibly limit your time then to come up with ideas faster and ship more often? Well, this brings me to my next idea...
# EVERY DAY
Ever since I started writing every day I'm so much more productive. Not just productive. But I ship a lot more than I ever did before. I'm not necessarily delivering only quality content all the time. But I get better at delivering and shipping.
And most of the time my stuff is not so good. But sometimes it's good. And that's already enough. Enough to get started. And every once in a while I hit a home run. Maybe once a month. And all the other stuff is just so so. But you know what?
It doesn't really matter. Because what matters is that shipping something every day takes away the fear of shipping. It takes away the fear of failure. Simply because when you have to ship something very single day it's impossible that you'll only be putting out great stuff. No one can do that.
And that's what's so great about shipping something every single day. It takes away the fear. The fear of failure. The fear of delivering something that might not be so perfect. And pretty much every other fear...
What should I write about? Will people like it? Will it be successful? Will people hate it? Will people hate me? What day of the week should I write? What time of the day should I publish? And on and on and on.
For me shipping something every day was a complete game changer. Because I stopped asking myself all of these stupid and useless questions. I didn't have the time. Because I had to write. I had to start. And I had to finish. Over and over again.
And I'll do it again tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow. And the day after that. And hopefully for as long as I can write and think...
P.S. Here's the picture I took when I went to the beach: beach.jpg