Fecund lines

Where do ideas for written pieces – short or long – come from? Here are some sources of mind-stretching inspiration…

Shower thoughts

This Twitter feed is full of ideas ironic, humorous and just plain off the wall. Some examples:

  • It’s weird that a microphone, a phone, and a megaphone aren’t just different sizes of the same thing
  • It’s amazing how many superheroes are also great at sewing
  • Saying “you’re one in a million” is the same as saying “there are about 7000 people just like you”
  • Maybe dogs bring back the ball because they think throwing is fun to you
  • Taking candy from a baby is actually a responsible thing to do
  • Rhinos are just fat unicorns
  • The worst part about having a really clever password is not getting to brag about it
  • If humans could fly, we’d consider it exercise and never do it
  • A different version of you exists in the minds of everyone who knows you
  • Shoutouts to all the cowboys who rode off into the sunset at the end of the movie, only to set up camp ten minutes later when it gets dark
  • You can only buy used mirrors
  • Most people are buried in suits, so a zombie apocalypse would be the world’s largest formal event
  • When a bird is buried, the worms have their revenge
  • Fire engines are actually water engines
  • It will be an interesting day when the aliens land and Mr Universe really has to defend his title
  • Narcissus would probably be thrilled to hear that he has a flower and a psychological condition named after him
  • There’s some real irony in spelling phonetically with a ‘ph’ and not an ‘f’

Crap Local News

Another Twitter feed consisting of bizarre headlines and news stories:

  • Singer struck by plank at Dundee restaurant
  • Scared of using dental floss? Here’s how to overcome it
  • Man forgot he tried on a hat
  • Chicken gangs run riot
  • Dog blows up house with can of deodorant

Out of context

Take a line from a book, newspaper article, tweet or other source that makes perfect sense in context, but none outside it. For instance:

  • Did we learn anything from Northampton?
  • I keep thinking about the pangolins
  • I was destined only to have chocolate hammers


Creativity and constraints

What inspires creativity? Time and again we return to the same answer: constraints.

Setting limits on structure, length, even the words we use forces our minds to focus on the task and make the most of what we have. For instance…

  • Write a story consisting of exactly 50 words
  • Use a recognised format such as a haiku (fixed number of syllables) or limerick (rhyming scheme and metre)
  • Write a piece describing a purely visual scene (such as the night sky) without using any words referring to vision

Any such exercise requires ingenuity, not just to work within the constraints but to make them work in our favour.

This approach was advocated by, in particular, by the French Oulipo School. This article (ironically, somewhat badly written) explains some of their methods.