Writers, the best ideas don’t come from a store

Finding information is all the rage with the ease and power and fun of technology. Any time we need an answer to a question, if no one knows it off the top of their heads, someone will shout, “Google it!” and multiple devices light up with action.

4amWriter.com, writing, coaching, story coach

When I worked with a small group of teen writers recently, I was never more aware of the tendency to Google instead of imagine than in those two hours. Every time we talked about how best to write something, a kid was at his phone, seeking out the answer.

I finally had them surrender their phones, and they looked like lost puppy dogs. Forcing them to use their imaginations, I asked again for their best ideas and

It. Was. Dead. Silent.

So hooked on the internet are we that many people have forgotten what it’s like to simply wonder—and be comfortable wondering. Some questions don’t have definitive answers, and some events could have multiple possible outcomes. When we look to the internet for information, we are limited to someone else’s interpretation. Even facts can be skewed to suit the mood, need, or desire of the person supplying the information.

Possibility – Exploration – Adventure – Choices – Originality — no such thing if we only look at someone else’s line of thought. The internet can be valuable, but not when we forsake our creativity for it. You, as the supposed creator of the story in your hands, are shut out of the crafting entirely when you don’t use your imagination to its fullest potential. 

Your own imagination can’t be found anywhere else but inside you. Your best ideas are inside you. Ideas shooting from other people, that’s what can be found in a “store.” Information on the internet or in other kinds of research material is available to everyone else, not just you. Store-bought information, stale like store-bought donuts.

Your imagination, because it is one-of-a-kind, is full of special meaning and provides amazing opportunities for your work. It isn’t concrete, and it’s probably difficult to pin down at times, but that’s because it is full of energy, life, voice. Your imagination is the stuff that gets us asking “what if” and seeking out new ideas or strengthening the old ideas.

But more and more, I see people losing faith in their muses, or whatever you want to call your creative center. Too many writers don’t finish their stories. Too many writers are afraid their work isn’t good enough. Too many writers refuse to seek real-time help when they need it most.

The internet creates a problem with such writers because I think it acts like a crutch. Our “need for speed” contributes to some writers being out of touch with raw imagination. Creating on our own is infinitely more difficult and time consuming than it is to search and find on a techy device.

Fear of the blank page is another reason the internet steps in. No one likes the feeling of not knowing what to say or do next, so sidearmed with a .22 caliber iPhone can help take the pressure off our mute imaginations.

Writers don’t do themselves any favors by reaching for the technology before consulting their own creative centers. Not only do they lose confidence in their ability to craft something on their own, but they end up crafting something that isn’t their own, something that never would have come out of their souls in the first place.

This week, reach for your muse before the technology. Work out your creative center fifteen minutes every day, either free writing or building on a specific project. Don’t use the internet or any kind of research tool during this time. Let creation happen strictly between you and your muse. Check back here to let me know how it goes for you!

Have a writerly day!



30 thoughts on “Writers, the best ideas don’t come from a store

  1. “Store-bought information, stale like store-bought donuts.”

    That’s a perfect way to describe what’s going on. I’ve noticed the same Google-dependent behavior among adults in social situations. A question arises, out come the phones– and discussion/conjecture are gone. I like facts as much as the next educated person, but you’re right. People need to chill it with the store-bought information, and remember to look within first.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My age is probably showing—I use my phone and computer to look up basic facts and “how to,” but not for creative inspiration (well, except for knitting patterns which are mostly found on the web these days 😉 ). I’ve never found my writing ideas or “brick wall-smashing aids” on the ‘net. I am guilty of thinking my stories aren’t good enough, and that will have me setting them aside more than I should. When I get past this latest crunch at work and can better face my computer for non-report activity, I will spend more time with the characters!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really don’t think it has anything to do with age. Information is at the tips of our fingers nowadays, how can anyone not be tempted to simply “Google it!” But I do think our society has become lazy as a result. 🙂


  3. I like this, Kate. It’s so true–the world today is so reliant on our phones. Imagination is the fun part of writing. If we substitute Google for that, we are missing out on the best part of the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Like JM, I’ve not turned to the internet for creativity, but I rely on it for a whole lot of other things. Which means I’m taking time away from just allowing my mind to think creatively. You raise a great point: we need to give our imaginations time to let loose. I like the idea of a fifteen-minute window to just let it go and see where it leads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Carrie. I love working out my creative center with no worries as to whether I’ll come up with anything worthwhile. When I don’t have that pressure, I find that I actually am a better writer when it is time for me to get serious with my work. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! It was fun back in those days when someone would ask a question and we’d have to think about it for a while – maybe even discuss different possibilities. It’s scary when people stop thinking and imagining.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love working with younger kids for this reason–7-12 years old especially–because for the most part they haven’t succumbed to the need for a phone or social media. They’re still connected to their imaginations and I get such a kick out of listening to them spin their tales. Restores my faith. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Isn’t this the truth! Such good advice for me as a writer, for me as a mother, and for me as a teacher! (I’m actually seriously concerned that none of my students actually know how to read a textbook…)

    This has inspired me to do better. I’m in the murky middle of a new manuscript and it’s.so.hard. I find myself trying to distract myself with googling something like, “what is a beta-blocker?” and getting lost in all connecting links instead of doing the hard work of actually thinking. Thank you, teacher 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The average newspaper is written at a 6th-grade reading level. If your students are having trouble comprehending a textbook, that is very worrisome!! But it wouldn’t surprise me, especially when so many sources of information are verbally-based (Youtube videos or podcasts or audio books, etc), where we don’t have to read to learn things. Could this be a trend …?


  7. Very true thing, Kate!

    This post reminds me of a Rocky movie I saw years ago. Where he ditches the new age training methods and gets back to the nitty gritty basics of his business by finding that which is already inside of him and using it to its best effect. Of course, your presentation is much more polished.

    Great stuff, as per usual.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can write stories or blog posts via a computer, but I have found that when I’m in need of fresh ideas or if I’m stuck, I have to get up from the computer and walk around my house, talking out loud, basically brainstorming. I don’t brainstorm well on the computer. I wonder if the computer creates a barrier between me and my Muse, I dunno.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s quite possible. I cannot write books on a computer. I writer all my books in longhand! First round revisions begin on the computer as I enter my draft in. 🙂


  8. Brilliant post, Kate! I only ever use the internet to check facts when my writing involves something I don’t know about e.g. how a cross box works. But even then, I blend fact with my imagination. I currently hand write in my journal every day – one short poem and 200 words of my next novel. I agree with you – technology kills creativity. It’s useful for publishing, but you can’t rely on it to create.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! And jot things down as you observe them. I fell out of that habit after I had kids. But I used to go everywhere with a pen and notebook, just jotting down my observations. Funny how we take certain things in. Thanks for swinging by and commenting!


  9. the .22 caliber iPhone is so engaging! Nevertheless, I believe the seeds of a counter-revolution are being planted by articles such as yours. Real world engagement, learning, human imagination, is gonna be sexy again! Glad to discover your writing this morning. Regards!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose a .22 caliber iphone could be useful, right? I love seeing people out and about actually having conversations with each other, rather than focused on their separate devices. I never understand the purpose of going to a restaurant, sitting with other people, but not talking to each other! Thanks for swinging by and commenting!


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