We self-employed professionals and creatives are always generating new stuff. We write blog posts, develop courses, and generate copy for our websites and emails. Some of us create unique work on behalf of our clients. To become prolific at this constant stream of creation, you need lots of ideas.

This isn’t necessarily true for folks in other lines of work. I’ve often found that when I include “writer” in my self-introduction to a new acquaintance, a question they ask is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Heron catches gopher

The first time I was asked this, I knit my brows and responded, “Everywhere!” in a tone suggesting that was a silly question. (My apologies to that first one who asked.) I came to realize the question wasn’t silly at all.

Perhaps it is because I am descended on both sides from families filled with engineers, mechanics, and makers that I am a non-stop observer of details about people, places, and things. That habit naturally — at least for me — leads to seeing connections between what I observe and wondering about how those elements came to be.

If I see a heron catch and eat a gopher in the park (as I did one day), I’ll notice how patiently the heron waits for the gopher to emerge. I’ll count how many people nearby are also watching and note how they react. I’ll ponder the chain of events that might have caused a fish-eating bird to switch to a diet of mammals. Any one of these thoughts might spark an idea for a blog post.

I could write about how many people don’t have the patience of a hungry heron when there’s something they want. Or about folks who see something new and walk on by because they’re too focused on their old ideas. Or how adaptable we all must be in a constantly changing world.

The award-winning science fiction author Orson Scott Card said, “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. The most important training, though, is to experience life as a writer, questioning everything, inventing multiple explanations for everything. If you do that, all the other things will come…”

I’m with Orson. Observe, question, imagine as you go through your day. Prolific writing and creating can be the result.

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