[MMW] 22 – How to come up with ideas when you’re blank – Once Written Twice Buy

[MMW] 22 – How to come up with ideas when you’re blank

It’s morning…

When I sit down to write this newsletter, it’s 9:07 and I have a blank sheet of virtual paper in front of me.

  • No words here
  • There’s no outline
  • There’s no subject line

That is the worst place to start from.

What should I write? Where do I find my ideas?

It all begins BEFORE the situation

A blank-page situation only happens when I did no preparations

Preparations should be done the day before at the latest. And some things ideally earlier than that.

Preparing includes several things.

In an ideal situation, you keep a journal of ideas. You outline one idea the night before. And you feed your brain with lots of impressions.

I’ll get back to the latter in another newsletter.

Let’s first look at what kind of ideas you should put into your journal.

10 places to find ideas for emails

Here I’m talking emails in general. List emails. Not necessarily newsletters.

(You can read about what I call emails and what I call newsletters here)

1. Everyday events

If it was good enough for Seinfeld to become the best comedian in the world, it’s good enough for me.

It works so well in emails because it’s something people can relate to.

They cannot relate to you jumping out of a burning house, saving 3 kittens on your way down. But they can relate to you breaking a nail while tidying up your kitchen.

2. Memories

The topic you’re writing about doesn’t have to be from today or yesterday. It can be a memory.

They pop up all the time, don’t they?

You smell something that reminds you of an event from your childhood. You hear a sound that reminds you of that vacation years ago.

Share your memories in your emails.

3. News stories

Do you follow the news?

I don’t. But then I see a number of memes about a topic and I go and investigate.

If it’s good enough for a thousand memes, it’s good enough for an email as well.

4. Articles

Do you read articles?

You’ll find them on:

  • Quora
  • Medium
  • Reddit
  • LinkedIn

There’s your inspiration!

If it stands out to you… If it makes you think or feel something… it’s great for an email.

5. Books

You read something…

And it strikes a chord with you.

Use it in an email. I do it all the time. Because thanks to Nefnef I read a lot on the balcony.

6. Movies


People who say you should work all the time are wrong.

When we relax, we’re open to new inspiration. And you can get a lot of inspiration from movies.

Especially the good old ones.

  • "Back to the Future" I, II and III
  • "Terminator" I and II
  • Indiana Jones (I, II and III)
  • Die Hard (I, II and III)

Movies from before the world went crazy. (Cue Netflix memes)

7. Stars


I’m not much into people. So I don’t know what Megan and her prince are up to. But there are still stars that I care about.

Losing Bowie was a blow.

And there’s this French author that I was allowed to interview but never did… now he’s dead.

Same thing about the French heir to the throne (if there had been one). I dreamed of interviewing him, but never got the courage.

There’s mail fodder there.

8. Songs

Closely related to the stars, we have songs.

Maybe you hear something that inspires you.

It can be the words. Or it can be the context.

Like here… I live in Haifa. All of my neighbors play Middle-Eastern music (as it should be). Except for one.


I hate reggae with a passion. Ugh!

Breathing in deeply and slowly again

Sorry… got carried away there, but yes, there are ways you can find inspiration for your emails in songs.

9. Tweets

My favorite social platform is Twitter.

I don’t care if Elon is a good or bad person. Neither do I know. (Told you I wasn’t into people.)

I love the platform, because writing well there is an art.

A skill to learn.

And I love reading what people share there.

I find inspiration from tweets for my emails.

If your favorite place is elsewhere, go there for 15 minutes a day and read with focus.

Focus on finding inspiration.

10. YouTube

Oh, yes!

Okay, some people are addicted to YouTube.

For them, it’s like snapping a chocolate cookie. You don’t just eat one. You eat the whole bag.

If that’s you, then limit your YouTube time with a timer.

And then find inspiration in the videos you see.

Keep notes

Make sure you keep your inspiration notes somewhere where you can easily add to them. And easily use them when you need them.

I use Notion for this. But you can also use other tools like Zoho Notes or Apple Notes.

When you open up to inspiration and take notes when you get something, you’ll never stare at a blank screen.

You’ll spend your screen time typing… and then you can relax and get new inspiration.

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