Where do ideas come from?

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life65 Comments

Still life of saddle shoes. Worn and taken by Aidan Zielske.

I sent an email to a friend yesterday that read as follows:

"Well, it happened. I ran out of ideas. Just like that. Knew it was going to happen sooner or later. Kinda sucks."

It got me thinking…where do ideas come from?

I've been blogging since 2005, minus a brief 3-month stint where I threw a little Internet hissy fit and decided I wanted to be a private person in the scrapbook world and pulled my blog down only to re-emerge in January with a vengeance for the art form of random blathering.

My blog didn't start out as a place to dispense scrapbooking, design or fitness wisdom. In fact, it began with pictures of aliens and Johnny Depp, and very little else.

Over the years, what has started out as a Sunday night in which I haven't a clue as to what I'll write about in the coming week has often turned into ideas hitting me like bolts out of the blue. Pure, inspired and without hidden agendas of any kind.

Of course, since losing that sweet job at Simple Scrapbooks magazine, this blog has become a part of my business, helping me to promote my classes and products to a wider audience with a very common shared love of scrapbooking.

Sometimes it's hard to walk the line between organic and marketing. But I try my best to find an honest balance.

One thing I find to be truer than any as far as blogging is that the content that emerges organically translates to the best writing. For example, writing about my quest to get in shape this year has felt very sincere and inspired, as it's coming from a place that is real and tangible.

In a sense, this post is my own response to, "What the hell do I write about today?" 

How about you? Your best ideas? Where do they come from? Are they few and far, or do you find yourself unable to keep up with them? Or are they just right? Coming exactly when you need them and not a moment sooner?

I need to make a list. For myself. To have ideas in the hopper. Sort of like keeping a list of things or stories you'd like to document but haven't gotten around to. Blogging and scrapbooking really do connect on that level, don't they?

If you have a great idea today, what will you do with it?

Cathy ZielskeWhere do ideas come from?

65 Comments on “Where do ideas come from?”

  1. #1

    If I had to blog on a schedule, I’d definitely need to keep a list of back-up ideas. But since I have the freedom to take a week or more off without posting anything, I just go with the flow.

    Ideas for blog posts? They just come to me, just like the stories I want to put on my scrapbook pages do. Often, they’re based on conversations I have with friends or family, or based on something I read, either in the news or on another blog. I have friends who blog according to a weekly schedule (SOOC – straight out of the camera one day, a recipe on the next day, etc.), but I am not that organized.

    Oh! My favourite blog posts are often lists of random thoughts, sometimes loosely connected to a theme, but often my lists are just brain dumps. Oddly enough, people enjoy reading those.

  2. #2

    Well, I think ideas come when your own life excites you. Your running/getting in shape posts came from a true excitement you were feeling about something new, like a new boyfriend you had plenty to say about it. When scrapbooking was fresh you had plenty to say about that too.

    Maybe you have hit a point where you need something fresh to blow into your life, reinvigorate you and get you writing again. Or you need to find a new fresh angle on what is already there. Maybe a road trip, just you and a good soul searching book.

    Those are the kinds of things I do when I’m trying to find my ideas and passion again!

  3. #3

    So ironic that this is your blog post. I stumbled upon the Six Word Memoir ( don’t know how to link this, so maybe just google it, sorry!) …… Anyhoo, it’s my own little daily Twitter post, just a random memory, of course, in 6 words exactly. it has sparked so many stories that I want to tell. My teenage daughter said to me ” mom, what’s with the mumbling and counting on your fingers!”. Now, she’s hooked, and we both look a little crazy. Oh my, but it’s fun. I think it’s right up your alley, Cathy Z!

  4. #4

    Cathy, I just had a baby and I have a five year old boy so there is a lot to write about there, but I try to connect their stories with things that I have done when I was growing up in good old Brooklyn. I bascially include little stories about myself and compare the past with the future. It helps that I also keep a blog for my boys.

  5. #5

    I have summers off (no, I am not a teacher) and I want to make the most of every minute. I start by leafing through an inspiration scrapbook that I have added to for years, in it I paste pics from magazines. It runs the gamut of decor, food presentation, jewellery, painting projects etc. I also make a list of things in the beginning of the summer I would like to accomplish. Most of my creativity takes place in the summer and I try to fill that need. Blogs such as yours inspire me to scrapbook my life – my latest passion. I am scrapping Grade 3 of my oldest adult daughter and started a month in the life. I am hoping you will have a recipe project soon so I can get that organized too. The internet is a remarkable place to find inspiration as long as you don’t get sidetracked. I am always looking for new blogs to follow.

  6. #6
    Margy Eastman

    Hmmm…I haven’t had a brilliant idea for a scrapbook page in a while. Actually, there’s a pretty respectable ebb and flow to my ideas. Unfortunately for me, I don’t write them down. They either make it to a page or they don’t. I suppose this explains why weeks go by with my scrapbook stuff covering the kitchen table, then other weeks go by when we can actually eat there. Food for thought for sure…

  7. #7
    Jennifer L

    I deal with this sort of thing professionally too: I teach high school students English, and getting them to figure out what they want to write about can be tough. We make lists, we marks the lists of what they like best, we freewrite, we ask questions. They all work, but they don’t all work for everyone.

    I love your blog posts, how well you mesh word with image to tell stories–and not just on your pages, but in your posts as well! Selfishly, the posts I love best of yours are the ones with scrapbooking and PSE tips. And your health journey this year–way to go!

    In my case, I made a list recently that helped me get super inspired to scrap: Jen Mohler’s idea for scrapping the 100 most important moments in our lives. I finished #1 yesterday, the time I was told in preschool I had to make an Easter bonnet instead of bunny ears because I was a girl and that was the girl project. That will be my blog post later today!

  8. #9

    Apparently, IF I have a great idea today, I will blog about it because my blog is pretty much just random diary entries, and some photos to satisfy a sister who’s far away…
    I’ll pay attention to those random thoughts today; maybe one of them WILL be great!!!

  9. #10
    Lisa Aukeman

    Cathy, I think it is the ebb and flow of everyday life that you are feeling at the moment. My ideas come from reading blogs (such as yours and many others in the scrapbook/photo/pioneer woman world) and “chewing” on them. This “chewing” leads me into other ideas that I can create with. There are definitely times that feel “flat” and that is OK. You/we have to be OK with that. Thanks for the great blog you provide me with to “chew” on!

  10. #11

    I’m a stream of consciousness blogger. Sometimes it works, sometimes notsomuch. I try to get over there at least once a week. Since I haven’t really kept up with the scrapbooking it helps me keep some sort of story going. So, I head on over and just think about what’s going on, and start typing. Seriously, I almost never edit, except to throw in a couple of pictures here and there. Maybe that’s why I have so few readers! LOL!

  11. #12

    I love that you can make a great blog post about having nothing to blog about 🙂

    I have a couple of ‘regular’ things that apear on my blog – my Project 365 photos post each day (they’re nearly 2 weeks behind, but they do appear one a day!) and I have a Weekly Wordle; if I’m doing a class then my projects and responses appear; if I’ve taken a holiday then my blog is a way to collect together my photos and jot down the thoughts and memories and snippets of history and geography of the places we visited while they’re still fresh in my mind; if I come across something that particularly appeals to me – cute, funny, moving, fresh, inspiring – then it goes on my blog; if all else fails, I just witter.

    I witter a lot. Witness this comment!

    But sometimes I have a stack of posts lined up – like at the moment, having just returned from holiday, I have a series of posts about the beautiful locations we visited. So when I came across a couple of funnies I’d like to share, there wasn’t space yet without posting way too many times in a day! So, these ideas get put into a draft post. When (if!) I find inspiration running dry, I pull up the list of draft posts and there we go 🙂

    To be honest, I don’t often struggle to find something to talk about….

    Oh, the other thing though is that I did Shimelle’s Blogging For Scrapbookers class last year – and it came with a workbook called A Year Of Blogging with ideas for posts for every day of the year. I’ve not needed to dip into it yet but it’s there if I need it. And the class is available in her archives so people can sign up any time. I hope it’s OK to mention her classes here…? Don’t mean to tread on your toes xx

  12. #13
    judy in huntsville [al]

    I love your blog – love the ideas you share about scrapbooking- love the inspiration you give me to get up off my tush – love the everydayness of it. [And LOVE that you DO strike a great balance between sharing your life and sharing your products!!!] I’m hyper organized so this year I made a kind of ‘blog schedule’ for myself in an effort to be more purposeful in my writing [and to reign in my topics a bit as well.] So I try too keep to my ‘schedule’ but if nothing comes to me on that topic at the assigned time – then nothing is posted – ha. And it’s okay – because, while it’s fun to know that others are out there reading what I write, my blog is primarily for me [for scrapbook stories / memories]…

  13. #14
    Sue in Grapevine

    Well, I hardly ever lack for ideas. I’m kind of known for being an idea woman – yesterday, my grad school DD called me for an idea of what to name her intramural volleyball team & I fired off 8-10 ideas. The one she picked was “Spiked Punch” – like it?
    BUT….I lack follow-through on most all of my ideas! I am a dreamer & plan out every step needed for the thing to come to fruition, but rarely put these elaborate plans into action.
    You DO things, you LIVE your dreams. Pat yourself on the back!!!

  14. #16

    I had been inspired by the book WRITING MOTHERHOOD. In it, they encourage you to start a list of things and then, when you need something to write about, you take one off of your list. I have also looked at the One Minute Writer blog from time-to-time. As for my own blog, I just document what is going on in our lives. Our (almost) 15-month old provides PLENTY of entertainment for this SAHM. Sometimes, I will jot down a note with the date so that I can write about it later. Wishing you best of luck to find some inspiration…. please know that YOU provide so many of us with inspiration and delight us with your wit, wisdom and words. 🙂

  15. #17

    ha ha ,,, I just signed up for Karen G.’s “Book of Stories” class. It looks as if it may answer a majority of the questions you asked for me personally.

  16. #23

    Maybe i need to keep a notebook, Judy. To jot things down that come and go and never get written about. Just like all the things I never scrapbook about!

  17. #25
    Kay Gregory-Clark

    3 thoughts:
    1. Had to laugh about your blog. Once, as a newspaper reporter, I had to do a weekly column. One week I was fresh out of ideas, so I did much like you did today: wrote about trying to come up with something to write about!

    2. I get far more ideas than I can process! Sometimes my muse works overtime. I also have a lot of creative outlets—blogging, scrapbooking, jounaling, essay writibng, photography, quilting, several kinds of needlework, sewing…& more. The problem is, I can’t keep up or do justice. The ideas come so fast I tend to jump from one project to another, more often than not leaving the current one unfinished in my enthusiasm to start on the new. I wake up in the night thinking of how to proceed. So my problem is not having the idea; it’s how to follow through with it & finish it!

    3. Inspiration: there’s SO MUCH! So many creative blogs & other interesting sites on the internet; magazines; books; shopping; observing my grandchildren; walking in nature; my dog; gardening; cooking; my husband….it just goes on & on. Take a break from thinking, too. Go for a walk—not a “run,” just a leisurely walk around your neighborhood. Don’t think about what you need to do; just be there. Clear your mind.

    Cathy, I find you one of the most inspirational persons, so consider this part of the creative phase. IE, give it a rest!!

  18. #26
    Denise Laborde

    My ideas come at moments when I can do nothing with them but jot them down or play them up big time in my mind. I have several notebooks where I keep track of them. I also use the Notes App or email to keep track of them. Sometimes when I finally get around to it, it’s lost its luster. That happens often which makes my notebooks idea graveyards.

  19. #28

    It’s OK to say nothing. With silence and a break, a plethora of ideas will come. There will be something you WANT to share. It’s great that you wrote about your stuggle. The seeds of what you are going to write about in the future are in you now. Be patient. You never know when you will feel overwhelemed with things you want to share.

  20. #29
    Stefani Meyer

    I think there is a big pantry cupboard full of “ideas” waiting to be accessed, and if you are in tune (sometimes it falls out on your head, sometime it takes some serious tugging and pulling) those ideas present themselves. Running helps me be in tune. I get lots of ideas when I’m out on the road (some good, some not so much). I do know from experience though that the more ideas you have that get acted upon, the more in tune you’ll be and the more ideas will come to you.

  21. #32

    that is interesting how you can go back to something, and it does seem to dusty, huh? I never think to use the Notes App on my iPod. Hmmm.

  22. #34

    I keep a list in Evernote. It’s my go-to place when the well runs dry. Then I just need to carve out the time to actually, you know, WRITE. Of course, I *do* have the problem of looking at the list and wondering what the heck I was thinking of. That’s when I make stuff up. 😉

  23. #36
    Jennifer Mohler

    I so believe that when writing about something organic and rings of truth that the writing is infectious!

    At BPS I introduced my new sense of inspiration in my class project for the Big Idea Festival: Life Changing Moments. I am now sharing my new found inspiration on my blog and am excited to have been handed back my creative mojo: 100 Moments that Changed MY World.

    I have been blogging about it now for the past week. The stories move me and have opened so many doors for my voice on my pages and blog.

  24. #38

    I always keep a notebook in my purse for when a random idea strikes. I have a horrible memory, so I know by the time I get home from an errand or from work, that idea will be gone.

    As a designer, lots of my ideas are visual. I’ll doodle patterns and images and sometimes that will inspire a blog post. And when I do get stuck, I search the internet (and A LOT on Etsy) for inspiration. I generally always find something that will get the ideas flowing again.

    Recently thinking of ideas have not been a problem – having too many of them are! I’ve been experiencing a bit of insomnia because I feel compelled to create the ideas in my head, even if that means I stay up til 3AM. But I’m taking it all in stride 🙂

  25. #39

    I definitely keep a moleskine in my purse too, since I don’t remember unless I write things down! Or I’ll put a note in my To Do Tomorrow app if its something I want to blog about in the near future. I’ve started doing more “issue” blogs than “what we did this weekend” blogs and really love it. Just the other day I sat down to share about something else and wound up writing about migraines (which I get regularly). Sometimes you let it flow, sometimes it’s planned. I like the combo of both. 🙂

  26. #41

    This doesn’t address your questions but, I just wanted to let you know that your blog never feels like marketing. Yes, you mention classes that you teach and tmeplates that you’ve designed that are for sale. But, the entries never feel like marketing to me. Love your blog!

  27. #42

    Thanks, Laurie. I think i try to make products that I love and use, you know? Its very hard to force or fake a scrapbook project. It just doesnt really work! : )

  28. #43

    I took your class last year and started “tweeting” my life in 140 characters or less. I kept the book all year and started a new one for this year. Whenever I need ideas to jump start my creativity, I just go to my book, read the old tweets, and look at the pictures I added. These are like short notes to me about the important things in my daily life. I also keep a Moleskine in my purse at all times for those random thoughts and ideas that seem to crop up at the strangest times (like when you are in the middle of having a mammogram!!).

  29. #44

    Love your blog, Cathy, and blogging about what to blog about is just what newspaper writers do too! I had a great idea today about making a scrapbook page about taking dance lessons with my husband. Now I have to take some pictures. For me, ideas come from what I’m doing ( teaching, taking spin class, dancing) BUT while I’m not thinking about anything. I have to write them down, ( i use post-its or whatever I have around and then I collect them in a notebook) before I lose them. I think exercise helps get blood flowing to the brain and then ideas can just pop in.

  30. #45

    You know, I find that finding a good idea is kind of like finding love. If you go out looking for it, its very hard to find, but if you just relax and trust that it will happen eventually….voila, there it is, sometimes where you least expected it.

  31. #46
    Donna C

    I don’t blog so I don’t have any suggestions there, but I would love to see you bring back the monthly ‘Design Do Over’!

  32. #47
    Lee Currie

    I’m at that place where I have so many ideas swirling around that I’m stuck. Sounds weird, eh? Anyway, I’m hoping to get unstuck soon. There’s a bunch of good stuff percolating. It’ll come out when it’s ready 🙂 Really LOVING the 100 moments idea – wish the first 50 of mine weren’t so tainted. Alas, there’s an idea … or 10 😉

  33. #48

    I often get ideas from my photos – whether for my blog or for artwork or for stories I want to tell. I’m a visual person, love photos, images, pictures, so in my blog posts I often have an abundance of those. But it’s the stories and the words of others that catch my eye too – giving me something to read while I’m exercising. I don’t blog a ton, but when I do, my posts are about artwork I’ve been working on, or something that I’ve caught in my camera lens I just have to share. Photos are my inspiration.

  34. #49

    driving in the car! I think I have more great blog post ideas when i’m driving down the road, because what else should I do pay attention to other drivers?? I think NOT! Of course most of those are posts just in my head they never get blogged.

    I think mostly things just come naturally things that are routine are the hardest for me although I have been known to try and keep up with things just to stay in the habit of blogging. I have to say I love reading your blog so get some ideas really quick perhaps you need to try a new running path or go swimming at a new pool with the grannies – ;o)

  35. #52

    I check your blog at least twice a day. Your stories are inspiring (no I’m not going to start running) but I LOVE ALL YOUR SCRAPBOOK PAGES and I would LOVE TO SEE MORE. I buy the digital layouts and sometimes I just don’t know what to do with them – colours etc. I WOULD LOVE MORE SCRAPPING please!!!!! I would be happy to see some of your earlier digital pages completed. I am new to this digital scrapping and need your help. Thanks for the great tutorial on Vimeo!!!

  36. #54

    Cathy – I think your blog is excellent.

    For me, the top three reasons I read your blog are:
    1. You have a great design style – simple, modern, elegant. My digital storytelling is better because I use your ideas.
    2. You’re a great teacher. I took your Me – The Abridged Version class last year, and I have your book Clean and Simple Scrapbooking. I find myself going back to the ideas in there often.
    3. You are seriously funny! Exactly like that, you’ll be writing about serious topics, and your dry wit and humour come through. I’ve found myself laughing out loud sometimes.

    One thing – I come to your blog to learn and to spend money. Ok – so not money on your site (but in your Designer Digitals store or links). I’m looking for cool new things that will make by digital storytelling better. Less fattening than a starbucks latte, and about the same price.

    So….ideas can come from so many places….here are a few links that might be worth checking out –

    http://www.problogger.net/31dbbb-workbook/ – a system approach to blogging
    http://www.copyblogger.com/ – all about content marketing
    http://www.smashingmagazine.com/ – mostly for web designers, but good design inspiration none the less

  37. #56

    I find my ideas are mood driven. Some days it comes easy and others it doesn’t, much like creativity.

    I have started a few scraps of paper to jot down ideas on but you can imagine that ends up in a mass of little bits of paper everywhere! A notebook is a good idea to keep it altogether.

  38. #57

    What about taking a leaf out of your own A-Z class (which I haven’t taken but imagine is an alphabetical riff on things pertinent to you like the Encyclopedia of an ordinary life) Pick a letter, go for a run (with the IPOD turned off!) and then maybe say “J” will lead you to “jam” which will lead you to remembering that your Grandmother made jam in industrial quantities and used to store it in the cupboard under the stairs and it was kind of a choice task to be the grandkid who got to crawl in there and select a new jar etc. You muse on it , blog it, tell a story, interest readers in the idea of taking your class…just a thought.

  39. #58

    I love saddle shoes! The photo made me smile. And I loved Simple Scrapbooks when it was in print. It’s really a shame this magazine folded, but sat least I can surf the net and find similar layouts posted by other people like myself who have a tendency to make simple, no frills scrap pages, but still want them to look fresh.

  40. #61

    No ideas to volunteer, but I did want to comment on something you wrote. I think you do a good job of balancing organic and self promotion. There are some blogs I don’t visit b/c every post is about selling me something. I find your posts to be witty, clever and refreshing. Thanks

  41. #62
    Nancy Peacock

    Hey Cathy, You should do a subject of the day.

    You already do a Friday regular.
    Do a recipe or food idea (with some of your gorgeous pictures) for eating healthier alternating with fitness updates and things you’ve learned (Monday)
    Do a Zielske family feature another day, or something funny from your childhood (Tuesday)
    Do a feature from your design stuff another day (even if it’s a repeat I love to see other configurations of how you can use some of your stuff) (Wednesday)
    Alternate Thursdays as a day off, or a day for random “Cathyness” which we all love!
    Don’t go away though, ’cause we’ll miss you BIG TIME!

  42. #63

    Great question!

    I personally think that ideas come from paying attention. There are endless topics to write about (I am much shorter on time than i am on ideas!), you just have to watch your own life.

    I find it interesting how some people have come into the bloggy world, lived in it for awhile, and then left for, say, Facebook or Twitter. Not judging. But for me, the way I process my life is by writing about it. Some of it goes in my journal, some on my blog. I don’t think I’ll ever stop blogging, even if it falls completely out of fashion. I like having a space to share some of my thoughts (with, of course, the approximately 7 people who read my blog…perhaps it is more the illusion of sharing than the reality of anyone actually, really reading).

  43. #64
    Jen D

    So glad to hear this doesn’t just happen to me!! I do keep a list (of scrapbooking ideas, not blogging ones- my blog is poorly neglected). But I find that list only helps if something on it inspires and truly excites me at that particular moment. Still, I do find that I go back to those ideas – some never get scrapped, but often I will go through my list of ideas or my folder of layout inspiration on Evernote and something will hit me. If not, I just read other people’s blogs for hours on end 🙂

  44. #65
    Carmen King

    I always have ideas (that seem to be pretty good to me) running around in my brain. However, just the sheer number would overwhelm me until I read this great book called “The Worn Out Woman,” by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray. In summary it says that we don’t have to act on every great idea we have and we certainly don’t have to act on them RIGHT NOW. It was such a freeing thought. I usually try to pawn my better ideas off on other people if I think they might do a better job at completing it or if they might have some personal interest. I also keep a list of some of the ideas I might want to attempt in the future – when I have more time/money/energy to get it done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *