Where do ideas come from? Most writers get lots of them, and ideas are truly the backbone of writing. You need great ideas to write that query, create that book, impress that client, and land that job. Being able to create lots of ideas fast is a skill that’s in demand. There are a few reliable ways to generate ideas for your writing:

1) Carry around a notebook. Every time you get an idea, jot it down. You may get ideas from your daily walks, from questions clients and friends ask you, from things you read, and from the things you see. Become sensitive to questions. They are often the best hint that an idea is about to develop. If you find yourself reading something and thinking to yourself “I wonder…” then you have an idea. Stay alert for questions that people ask you – “How do I…?”  “What do you think…?” These are often great ideas for articles or short fillers.

2) Brainstorm. I like to brainstorm on big pieces of paper, using lots of colored pens. Brainstorming is nothing more than just writing down all the ideas you have – even the silly ones – to see which ideas are best.

3) Collect. Paste newspaper clippings, photos you like, pictures cut from magazines, and stubs into a scrapbook. Browse through once a week or once a month – this is a great way to generate ideas for personal essays and articles.

4) Put together two things that don’t belong. In many ways, there are no completely new ideas. But, you can put a fresh spin on things. Flip randomly through a list of words and pick one word. Then, close your eyes and run through the list again, randomly stopping on a word. Now, put your two words together and create a poem, story, or filler about it. Trying to make two very different words fit together is a good practice for thinking creatively.

5) Look at what you have already written and try to find new approaches. This works really well with articles. For example, if you have written an article about choosing a digital camera, maybe you can write an article about setting up your camera or taking pictures. Maybe you could write a personal essay about the first time you used your camera. Maybe you could write an article for a children’s magazine about how kids can choose their first camera.

Today’s leads:

1) http://db.texaspress.com/jobbank/ — The Texas Press Association has a job bank.

2) http://www.vpa.net/jobs.htm — Jobs at Virginia newspapers.

3) http://www.allfreelancework.com/ — You need to register, but it’s free to do so. Jobs range from low-paying to decent gigs.

4) http://www.aquent.com/ — This recruitment company offers creative staffing and marketing solutions to businesses. Their page has a job search function, or you can send in your CV and register with the company.

5) http://www.freelanceq.com/ — This site allows you to register for free and will troll the web for you, looking for freelance work opportunities that meet your search criteria. A handy tool for job-seekers and a neat way to find lots of opportunities.

6) http://www.sologig.com/ — This is another website that has you register before you can get any gigs. It is not a bid site, but I notice that most employers do not post the fees they want to pay – you apply for the job and “negotiate” with the employer about fees. This can work against you, especially if lots of other writers apply. This isn’t a freelance bid site, but the results may be similar. Still, some of you may like it.

7) http://www.writeradvice.com/markets.html — This web site has lots of great resources, plus markets for writers.