The single most effective way to maintain a flow of ideas

I love to read. Books and articles, for me, are the key to filling a giant blank journal in my head.

A number of years ago, I was sitting at my desk with a huge book in my hands - I think it was a version of the MS Access Bible. A co-worker walked by and asked me if I liked what I was reading. He happened to be a fairly pompous fellow, so I braced myself and replied that I did like it. Then he asked me if I understood it. (Really?) Yes, I understand it. He seemed amazed and commented that he prefers Shareholder Agreements. I told him I could read those too and he walked away without really commenting.

That Access book and the two or three others I had piled on my desk at that time weren’t the most interesting reading I’ve ever done. Sometimes it took me a few tries before what I needed to do finally worked. But the reading I did gave me so many ideas. It gave me ways to make my projects work better and do more for our office. I was able to glean ideas by reading about functions in those books that I didn’t already know.

I’m still getting ideas from the content that I read, but these days I do the majority of my reading in an RSS reader or Kobo rather than a software brick, er, manual. I’m currently subscribed to 171 blogs, many of which are news blogs and that is how I keep up-to-date with what’s going on in social media, tech and gadgets.

What that means is that I have roughly 3-4,000 posts each week that I flip through to either discard immediately, scan to determine value and discard, or spend a tad more time reading. It’s a lot of reading, but it’s worth it because it’s professional development. I don’t need to know all of it, but I need to know a lot of it.

Essentially, other people’s work gives me inspiration for my own. It generates ideas and thoughts and opinions. I can’t think of a better way to have a continual flow of blog ideas than to read others’ blogs. There is always something you’ll have a comment on or disagree with or support and want to add your own perspective. That’s one of the great advantages of social media - the ability to have discussions that are in-depth on our own time and terms.

So, next time you’re stuck feeling unsure about what to write, go do some reading.

What other strategies do you use to keep ideas flowing?