(Not So) Guilty Pleasures: Turning Digital Diversions into Idea Generation

Posted on March 8, 2013 by Kate C

We’ve all been there: Starting our work day as a freelance writer for hire with a little harmless web surfing… Maybe we were just going to check our email. Maybe we wanted to quickly add those vacation photos to our Facebook page. That’s harmless enough, right? After all, sometimes it’s hard to jump right into writing. Looking around the web for a few minutes can be a great way to start off the day and get ourselves in the mood for writing.

But, then, oops! That 15 minutes we planned to spend somehow turned into an hour and the guilt sets in. What a waste of time! Or was it? Believe it or not, online procrastination can be a writer’s best friend. Read on to explore three ways you can turn your guilty web-surfing pleasures into freelance writing gold.

  1. Stumble upon some new ideas – Sites like StumbleUpon and Pinterest are a great way to free up the creative side of your brain – the side responsible for your best writing. The very nature of these two sites encourages the free association of images and ideas. Once you have a StumbleUpon account, for instance, you can “stumble” through web pages that other users have “discovered.” You can move randomly through pages that match your pre-selected list of interests, or you can search within a very specific category, such as spirituality or alternative energy. On Pinterest, you can browse the pin boards other users have created with themed images they found intriguing. You can then re-pin the images you like most on an idea board of your own.
  2. Keep up with the news – You never know when a news story will be relevant to the content you’re trying to create. Follow trending topics on Google or Twitter to stay current on important issues. Subscribe to newspaper email updates. Buzzfeed presents the day’s hottest web topics divided into categories like politics, news, entertainment, music and even animals. By keeping your eyes open, you’ll always be aware of what topics people are passionate about. Focusing on those topics is a sure way to draw readers to your content.
  3. Stay in touch with friends – Whether those friends are your fellow freelance writers, or the movers and shakers in business or politics, following people on Facebook and Twitter can give you valuable insight into different cultures, points of view and ways of looking at the world. Choose a wide mix of voices. Follow the Dalai Lama’s Tweets, for example, as well as the Queen of England’s. A writer must be, above all things, open-minded—and there is no better way to keep your mind wide open than to expose yourself to a diverse array of ideas.

Web surfing can be addictive; anyone who has an Internet connection can attest to that. But it can also be a great place to find new ideas, inspiration and a fresh point of view.

Kate C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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