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This month we have expert advice from Simon Whaley on how to get six articles from just one idea and Ten Top Tips will help you find the ideas used for the six articles. There are loads of Student Successes to give you an incentive to keep trying and Useful Websites is all about citizen journalism.

Ten Top Tips for Finding New Ideas

One of the most common panic-stricken emails we get in student services is about finding ideas for assignment two. If you’ve ever hit this wall you know how they feel – so do I! So, below are ten tips to help you get the creative flow moving again.

1. Probably the most obvious – read as widely as you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s a newspaper, novels, non-fiction books or magazines – they all contain information that might spark new ideas. We’re always amazed when would-be writers tell us that they don’t read other people’s work!

2. Song lyrics and titles can be a great source of ideas. And it means you can combine work with pleasure.

3. Listen to other people’s conversations in bars, cafes and restaurants, or on the bus, train or tube. You’ll be surprised how frank people can be when talking to friends and what interesting snippets you can pick up.

4. Travel really does broaden the mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s an exotic holiday or a day out at the seaside. Not only will you be seeing new sights and having new experiences but the change from daily routine will boost your creativity.

5. Dare we say it… but watching TV and films can be useful. There’s lots of rubbish out there but you might just see something that gets you thinking and writing. You can’t pinch plots and storylines but you can use basic ideas and then give them a new twist.

6. Talk to people – and listen to what they are saying. Too many people are so interested in talking themselves that they don’t listen to what they are being told. It doesn’t matter whether it’s face-to-face or in an internet chat room – but you’ll get all kinds of different views on the world that you might be able to turn into copy.

7. Browse the Internet and let yourself roam from link to link, going where your enthusiasm takes you. But it may help to put a time limit on this kind of general surfing or you could find yourself with no time left to write.

8. People watch. Look at their body language and mannerisms; how they are reacting to the people they are with; whether they look confident or are worried and uneasy if they are on their own. Put two and two together and make five! You might not get a story out of it but you could get some great descriptions for your characters.

9. Give yourself some personal space. Clear your mind and allow yourself to day-dream (if it was good enough for Wordsworth, who are we to argue?) Do whatever it takes to make yourself relax. Stop writing shopping lists in your head or thinking about picking up the kids from school – just let your mind wander and see where it takes you.

10. And don’t forget to network. Think about joining a writers’ group (or a reading group if the former makes you feel nervous). Go to writers’ conferences and literary events. You’ll hear professionals talk about their work and may even get a chance to chat to them. Even if it doesn’t bring immediate results it may make you feel less isolated as a writer and inspire you to continue.

And a final word... when you have a good idea don’t forget to jot it down immediately. Good ideas don’t grow on trees and it’s all too easy to forget your thoughts when there are so many distractions all around.