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Writer’s Thoughts #04 – Idea Generation

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Ismail Kamdar

Channel: Ismail Kamdar

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Episode Transcript

© No part of this transcript may be copied or referenced or transmitted in any way whatsoever. Transcripts are auto-generated and thus will be be inaccurate. We are working on a system to allow volunteers to edit transcripts in a controlled system.


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Salam Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh Welcome to episode four of writers bots, where today, I want to share with you some of my ideas for how to generate ideas for your books. So Hamdulillah. So far, the first two episodes got quite positive feedback. And I see quite a few of you are benefiting from this. So we're going to continue the series for a while. And one of the topics that been coming up in the comments is, how do you decide on an idea for your book. And this is not easy. It's not easy to come up with the idea for a book. And I know I have 1000s of abandoned ideas, like if I had to open up my drafts, and maybe we do that one day,

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you will find literally dozens of incomplete manuscripts, ideas that I came up with for books that I just never finished.

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And a lot of people I know who want to be authors, you know, they have this idea in your mind, I want to write a book.

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And when you ask them a book about what, I don't know, I just want to write a book. So how do you generate ideas for books? I mean, we find people are on opposite ends. Yeah, right. Some people can't think of an idea for a single book. And there are others who have written dozens of books. I know people, one of my teachers has written close to 100 books. So clearly they doing something that we're not, where do they get the ideas from? I want to share with you six ways that I generate ideas for both topics. And hopefully, this will help you to generate your own ideas as well. But to begin your story, about 10 years ago,

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more than 10 years ago, I was teaching in high school. And one of my students told me he wants to write a book about Salah. So I asked him, What exactly do you want to write about? So he said, I just want to write a book about the importance of Salah, and how to pray salah.

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And I told him, there are already hundreds of books available on that topic,

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it wouldn't

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really benefit you or anyone else. If you had to write a book on the topic,

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it would make more sense for you to choose a book that's already been rated on that topic by a great scholar of Islam, and promote that book to others when they ask you about it, then to just write about it all over again. And this is a principle I hold to when it comes to writing books. I don't like to take a topic that everyone's already written about dozens of times over and just, you know, copy and paste or just rewrite the same thing in my own words. Now. I mean, if you're going to write a book, you need to bring something new or unique to the conversation.

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Either tackle a topic or a problem that nobody else is tackling, or that very few people have tackled. Or if you are going to tackle a topic that others have already covered, then bring in a new perspective, bringing a new layer in other dimension, aside to the topic that people didn't think about before, right. So, for example, the topic of Salah gonna write a book on the virtues of Salah they already hundreds of books on the topic How to Pray Salah every month has hundreds of books on the topic,

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a book on how to have kushco, how to have concentration in your Salah in the modern world. Well, that's something people can benefit from today, which might not necessarily be covered in classical works. I mean, there may be classical works on how to of course, you were not dealing with contemporary problems like phone notifications and the internet, you know that the low attention span that people have today. So that may actually benefit people, too. That could be a unique angle to write on it today. So that's my first point. My first point is

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if you are going to write a book, make sure you are contributing something unique to the to the discussion. It's not just a

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What's the word for it, it's not just a repetition of what has already been written. You see, this is a major problem many of us have, we just want to have a book with our name on it. So instead of actually writing something beneficial, we just copy and paste a few pieces. And you know, we say okay, I've written a book.

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But all you've done is taken somebody else's research and presented it, you know, under a new name.

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So how do you come up with a topic for a book, that's the number one make sure it's something unique, but neither six things that I do that helped me to come up with topics for books. Number one is writing every single day, even when I don't have a topic to write about. And we discussed this in the previous video, where I said I have a habit of writing 1000 words a day.

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And I know of some authors who like to read

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I was at work today. And one of the benefits of this habit is eventually an idea clicks in your mind. Because if you are sitting for an hour or two every day and writing, eventually something that you write is going to click in your mind that hold on. This is a good topic to go deeper into, I can write a bit more about this. I really liked this topic, I think people are going to benefit from it. And that's when you get into the state of flow. And what started off as a one hour writing exercise becomes a full on book. So what I find is that when you have a habit of writing every single day, eventually, some of those writings evolve into books. So for example, my book on Omar bin Abdulaziz

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Rahim Allah, it started off as notes for a Joomla cookbook.

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The Joomla one point well, I turned it into a blog post, the blog post went well, I expanded upon it and wrote an entire book on the topic. But the point is, I started by writing notes for myself, just on lessons I learned from from the life of Omar bin Abdulaziz. That's what he started as notes. Same with my book on self confidence, it started as notes to myself on how to build my own self confidence. And it evolved into a book. So tip number one, write every single day, eventually, something that you write, you're going to find something that you write, you can expand upon it and turn it into a full on book.

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Number two, do some research. And by research, I mean, research, what are questions that people are asking and finding difficulty?

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Regarding finding answers to it, I So go online, go on social media, go out into your neighborhood, meet with people listen to their conversations.

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See, what are the questions that are coming up that people can't find satisfactory answers to?

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I know that, you know, some of my favorite books that I've read are actually written in this way. Right? So for example, two years ago, the book slavery and Islam by Dr. Jonathan Brown, was originally this way, right that people were asking all these questions about slavery in Islam. And so he did the research. And he put together this amazing book on the topic. And I know of many other books like this, where people were asking people wanted answers, some researcher realized that no one's written in English on this topic, in a way that's comprehensive, and they took it upon themselves to do it. So if you're stuck on the topic, go on social media, and read through people's

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conversations and try to find common themes, what what are the questions that are popping up over and over again, that nobody seems to have a good response to? And maybe you if you are skilled in that field, if that's your area of expertise, if you have the necessary tools and the knowledge? Maybe you could answer that question. Maybe you could write a book on that question. Like, for example, I'm currently researching and writing on the issue of Islamic masculinity. Why? Because every time I go on social media, this is the question that's popping up. What does it mean to be a Muslim man? Now, what are the qualities of a Muslim man? This is a question people are asking. And

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we do not have enough books in English on this topic. I've only been able to find two books on this topic, one, a translation of a classical work and one contemporary work.

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And it's not enough, we need more research on this topic, because what's happening is because boys cannot find Islamic resources on this topic. They are turning to non Muslim sources who are giving them bad advice or giving them wrong advice. So we need to take control of the narrative and make sure that the advice is all in line with Quran and Sunnah, that it's all coming from within the tradition. So I decided to research this topic. And hopefully, you know, my new blog series on severity is based on that research, and hopefully, that will evolve into a book one day.

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Number three, and this is linked to research when number three, try to solve a problem.

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Some of the best selling books of our time, are books written to solve a specific problem, because if there's a problem that millions of people are trying to solve, and you have the solution, and you can write a book that

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solve the problem, well, then you have a million customers and you have benefited on billion people.

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Finding a problem that you know how to solve and then writing a book to solve the problem is one of the easiest ways to settle on a topic for your next book.

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So take some time to think about it, what are things that I am good at, that I know how to solve, the other people are struggling with, you know, maybe know that so for example, my first self help book on time management. I found that many many people

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We'll be asking me for advice on time management. So there was something I was good at the many others were struggling with. So I wrote a book on a topic and 100, I benefited 1000s of people

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do the same. Think about take some time to think, what is a problem? That 1000s If not 10s of 1000s, if not more than that are dealing with, that I can solve.

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And let that be the topic of my next book. Right. So number one, write consistently every day. Number two, research, what are the topics people are bringing up that they don't have adequate responses to? Number three, find the problem in your community that you have a solution to, and write a book explaining that solution. Number four, number four, this is a number four is a brain activity I do when my brain feels congested, and I call it the mind dump. So what this means is, when I don't know what to write about, I've got too many thoughts in my mind, I just dump it all on page, I just start writing everything down every thought in my mind, sometimes it may be a bit more

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streamlined. So I might do a mind dump of 100 ideas of topics to write about in the future, right, or 100 questions that are clogging my brain, or 100 100 problems that need to be solved. So what happens is one, you just writing all these things out you getting out of your brain, you are clearing up space in your mind to start thinking new thoughts, you start thinking deeper, because you're getting that out of your system and onto a page, which now leaves your brain open to think of other topics. But also what it does is somewhere down the line, you writing out a list 100 200 even if just 50 things, but somebody down that list, you go and say hold on. This is a good topic, hide,

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you have a list of 50 things you have rambled about on a page, out of those 50 things, you find one, one thing that you can turn into a book. So maybe you write out a list of 50 problems in my community that need to be solved. And you realize that out of those 50 problems, you actually can think of a solution to one. So you start now working on what the solution is. And before you know it, you have your topic for your next book. Or maybe you are making a list of 100 questions about Islam that are boggling my brain. And from that list of 100 questions about Islam, you realize, there are a few questions that you actually have the answers to, you just need to write it out to

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satisfy the question. And there you go. You've got topics with few blog posts, or a few articles, or a few research papers, or even a few books. But what a mind dump does, it allows you to look at your thoughts. Because when you look at your thoughts on a page, you may realize you already have the answers. When it's just stuck in there in your mind bouncing off each other. It became it can be overwhelming. They have all these thoughts in my mind all these questions with no answers. But once you start writing them down, you realize you might actually have the answers or the means to answer them with just a bit of research. So this helps open up, it helps clear your mind it helps relieve

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stress. It helps to get you thinking deeper, but also helps you to discover topics for future books. Right. Number five, the fifth thing I like to do when I'm stuck on a future book topic. So just say I finished writing a book or preparing an online course. And I don't know what my next project should be, should be about. One of the things that

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I like to do at that point, is take a break. Now I know this sounds counterproductive, that I want to write a book I'm going to take a break but hold on taking a break allows you to recharge it allows you to refresh your mind. It allows you to get new experiences, it allows you to subconsciously work on the idea.

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It takes the pressure off you and so you're more able to naturally arrive at the idea for your next book if you're not in a pressurized situation. So a few months ago, when I wasn't sure what book or or cost to work on next, I took a trip to another country and went to Turkey. And I spent some time just walking around in a distant land that had never been to before visiting Masjid that had never been to before visiting historical sites had never been to before meeting people I never met before. And I came back with a lot of ideas for lectures for books for articles of online courses, I came back with a lot of ideas.

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And sometimes it doesn't have to be something that big sometimes if I'm stuck and I can't think about what to write next. I literally just take a walk in the park like let's just go to the park and sit on the bench and look at the look at the trees and do some zikr and you had me sit alone and

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idea, images come to you. Let me write about this next. Because sometimes you just have to take the pressure off you that instead of stressing about what my next book should be about, relax, take a break, and allow your subconscious to figure it out.

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The sixth and final step that you could do for generating ideas for your next book, is to socialize.

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One of our problems is authors is we spent too much time alone, right? I know I have this problem, I spent too much time alone, just sitting in front of my laptop, writing and researching and typing away.

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And socializing is one of the best things you can do, firstly, for your own health, because every human needs social circles in your social life, but also for learning about what people want to read about. So because I'm an author, when I'm socializing with people, they will always ask me, you know, what are you writing about now? Or they may say, you know, I've got a good idea for a book. And sometimes it's a good idea. Sometimes it's not. But the point is, when you're socializing, and you're talking to people, you may stumble across ideas that actually work, you may stumble across something that, that hold on, it actually is a good idea. Right? So you may just be hanging out with

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your friends, having coffee, and one of them brings up a topic and nobody's able to answer the topic and you think yourself, hold on, I could write a book on this topic.

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There you go, you've got your idea. So idea generation, it's not a it's not a science, it's not something that you just do, you know, X plus Y equals Z, it's nothing. It's nothing straightforward. It's,

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it works with the creative side of your brain. And the creative side of your brain doesn't work in a scientific way, it's all over the place.

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And you have to get used to the process when you're trying to come up with an idea. When you're writing a book, you may use the logical side of your brain for structure content and research and writing and editing. But at the idea generation phase, you need to really just let your creative side flow. And a few ways to let your creative side flow. Number one, is to make sure you're writing every single day that allows your creative thoughts to just flow onto paper every single day. Eventually, one of those is going to be a good thought to write a book about number two, do your research. If you don't know what to write about, go out there and do research, find out what are the

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questions of today? What are the big problems of today? What are the topics people want? Want to read about? Do your research? Number three, try and solve a problem? What are the problems that people are seeking solutions to? And do you have a solution, if you do write a book about it, people will buy that book to solve their problem. Number four, if you have too many thoughts in your mind, too many ideas, do a mind dump. Just write all your thoughts, all of your ideas down on paper, look at them. And pick one. Pick one to be your next project. Number five, if you're tired, if you burnt out, if you're stressed out, if you're overwhelmed, if you over pressurizing yourself, take a break,

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take a break. Stop thinking about books, stop thinking about writing, stop thinking about what your next project is. Just go out, have some Halal fun, do something relaxing, allow your subconscious to develop your ideas, take the pressure off your mind. Because creativity requires fun. It requires

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a lack of stress. It can't You can't be creative when you're stressed out. So take a break and your idea might just come to you while you're relaxing. And finally, number six, spend time with other people.

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I know as an author, most of us are introverted, we like to be alone. Spend time with people, it's good for your health. It's good for your development. And it's also good for getting ideas for future books.

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So yeah, that's it for today. idea generation is just the first step of writing a book, you need to come up with an idea. See if it's if it's something people want to read about, see if there's enough research out there for you to actually put together a book on the topic because sometimes you think you have an idea for a book. But you just have an idea for a blog post. It's not that deep that you need the entire book to explain it. So make sure that it's it's an idea that's long enough to write a book about. Take time to do your research, to organize your thoughts to write it down. And inshallah within six months to a year, the next book will be out. But take the pressure off your

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mind. Don't Don't look at idea generation. As a science that has to be done in a specific way. You may come up with other ways to to generate ideas that I never thought about because it's a creative process. And creativity is not a science. It is really an art form. So just when it comes to idea generation, be as creative as possible. Come up with other ways to come up with it.

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is and you don't share them with us if you have a different way for coming up with ideas for your next book that I didn't mention you shared in the comments maybe I could benefit from it maybe that could help spark the idea for my next book

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so hope you found this beneficial until next time Joseph Allah halen was Salam alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh