How I am generating ideas to write about, and how I am processing them

If you want to become a great writer, you need to become a great reader. Reading is the most powerful action you can take to generate ideas to write about.

Writing is magical. Ever since I created a writing habit, I became a better thinker, I can communicate my ideas in a clearer way, I created an audience, and ultimately landed my current job among other amazing things. Starting to write online has never been easier, as there are multiple easy-to-use services to set up a blog or a newsletter. Once you have done that, getting your writing out there simply needs a single click on the publish button. Theoretically. A lot of people who would like to start writing online are struggling with finding ideas to write about.

Everyone has stories to tell. Everyone has stories to write about. No matter what you are passionate about, write about it and share it online. Do not worry about that your post might get lost in the void of the internet and no-one is going to read it. You are always writing for yourself in the first place, to document what you have learned, experienced, or discovered. Whenever you solve a problem or master a challenge, write down your experiences. Chances are high that you are not the only person among 8 billion people faced with that problem or challenge. During the process of solving that problem or mastering that challenge, you probably went online and searched through the internet, looking for help, for people who already solved that problem. Documenting your learnings and sharing your experiences not only help you to strengthen your thinking, make you a better communicator, it also provides the chance to be discovered and help out someone else.

While this process already creates loads of ideas to write about, there is one action during that process you already took that turns you from a writer into a great writer, reading. In The Written Word, author of The Psychology of Money and Partner at The Collaborative Fund, Morgan Housel, gathered thoughts about writing. One of them goes like this: Most good writing is a byproduct of reading. You'll never meet a good writer who doesn't spend most of their time reading. Not some. Most.

I deeply agree with that. Everything I write about is a result of having read countless articles, blog posts, and books. Reading exposes you to new ideas, themes, and perspectives that can inspire your own writing. Although you might write within a specific niche, by reading a diverse range of books and articles, you will discover topics, characters, or narrative styles that will influence your writing. You open up to see how other writers approached similar topics, subjects, or genres. You gain valuable insights and techniques that you can adopt for your own writing. It helps you further understanding a specific topic you would like to write about. Reading is the key to great writing. It is the key to creating ideas to write about.

The first time you discover an idea, you feel enthusiastic about it. When you read articles that surround your idea, chances are high you come across certain parts that very much resonate with you. That specific feeling gets you even more pumped to start writing, as you suddenly have found an idea that makes you excited to write about. This is indeed one of the best feelings ever.

While reading is the core action that leads to new ideas to write about, to me it is part of a process. Whenever I am reading something, no matter if it is a book, an article, or a blog post, I capture highlights. To capture highlights while reading I am using Readwise (this link gives you an extra free month, meaning a two-month free trial, in case you want to give it a try). When I am reading books and I stumble across a sentence or a pragraph that struck a thought, I grab my iPhone, open up the Readwise app, and use its highlighting feature via the camera to capture that sentence. Within my Readwise account, I then have all my highlights neatly structured after the books from which I took them.

The same principle works for articles and blog posts too. Besides Readwise, the company is also building Readwise Reader, which is a reading app to read blog posts, RSS feeds, newsletters, ebooks, PDFs, and more. With its browser extension, I can add any article I stumble across online to my reading queue. Reading the article within Readwise Reader gives me acess to a beautifully designed and distraction free interface. To highlight something within the article, I simply mark the sentence and click on highlight. Thanks to the browser extension, I get the same highlighting functionality right within my browser, in case I would like to read the article right away and save the highlights to Readwise. Once I highlighted a paragraph within the article, the article alongside the highlight gets added to my Readwise account where all of the articles and the highlights get neatly structured and organized.

After I finished reading an article or a book, and after capturing the highlights that are important to me or inspired me, I export the highlights and add them to my note-taking system (which is currently set up in Capacities). I create a document, give it the title of the article or book, and add the highlights to it. As a next step, I go through each highlight and process it. By that, I mean reading through it again, and writing down everything that comes to my mind. By doing that, I am actively processing what I read and highlighted, I get the chance to rethink what I highlighted, make connections to notes I have previously took, and directly write down the ideas I want to write about.

When the time has come and I start writing about a previously noted idea, I can visit the backlink section within my note-taking app where I will find all the notes I took and are pointing to my new writing idea. This always helps me to kick things off. Since this workflow also makes sure I am revisiting my notes constantly, reading through leads to even more writing ideas.

It is a loop. A loop that is initiated by reading. A lot of reading.

Regular, thoughtful reading is essential for you to discover new ideas, learn from other authors, understand audience preferences, and ultimately generate compelling content for your own writing. The more you read, the more your own creative well is filled.

Till next time! 👋‌‌‌‌

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