I’m of the belief that one can never know too many methods for finding ideas for blog posts. Just as it’s good to have a plethora of topics to write about, it’s good to have a number of methods you can use to find them. And I find that no matter how existing methods I may know, I have the urge to discover more. Whilst well-used methods rarely become stale, the very act of learning new ones can boost idea formation by a significant amount.
If it hasn’t been obvious already, I have a ‘thing’ for blogs that focus on blogging. Whilst a lot of it doesn’t appeal or relate to me, I find the blogs fascinating nonetheless and have learned a great deal.
Here is what I’ve learned. Much of it is well-known enough I doubt anyone remembers the source, but for those I know I’ve given credit. Whilst I’ve written this post myself, paraphrasing when appropriate, I put my comments in italics so I could add extra thoughts.
- Write down every idea you have. Every one, even those you think bad.
- Keep up to date with news outlets and other blogs, especially ones in your niche. This often leaves you with timely ideas but mostly importantly being able to write about a subject requires you to be in constant ‘contact’ with it.
- Look up what’s featured on StumbleUpon and other sites that are driven by trends.
- Browse sites that accept user questions.
- Think about who you’re writing for – who, in general terms, are they?
- Make use of surveys and questions.
- Read the comments you receive and take note of your own responses.
- You know those times you’re writing a post and want to expand on a point that’s only worth one sentence in the context of that post? Do it – in a new post.
- Look at the search terms people use to find your site. Look also at the terms people type into your blog’s search bar.
- Search terms from search engines may be dwindling, but you can find ideas simply by looking at what people have been reading on your blog.
- Start typing a phrase into the Google search bar but don’t click enter. See what suggestions you’re given for adding more words. If you have an idea for a subject but not the post itself, for example, you know you want to write about Jane Austen, you could type in ‘was Jane Austen’ and see how the search engine suggests you complete the sentence. (You will of course sometimes run into inappropriate suggestions, so be careful.) The initial idea of Googling a term was popularised by Wil Reynolds.
- ProBlogger: Use photographs for inspiration.
- ProBlogger: Take your last 5 posts, write the topics down and brainstorm anything you can think of that could spin off from them. This I discovered earlier this week; it’s a good visual alternative to thinking about how to expand on topics.
- ProBlogger: Have you changed your opinion on something you’ve previously written?
- Mark Traphagen: Learn to see ideas everywhere. Relate things you read to your subject, look for things others might miss. As an example, every time I see a nice scene I wonder if I could capture it in a photograph. Going out comes under this method too – there are only so many ideas you’re going to think up whilst at your computer.
To find ideas you have to look, you have to be open-minded, you need to be present, and you have to remember to live life.
Have you any methods to share?
Perfection, utopia, would be our undoing.
First Published: 1895
Date Reviewed: 21st January 2015
Gathering together various types of people, the time traveller tells them of his plans for a time machine and later his experiences of the year 802701.
The Time Machine was the first science fiction book to feature a machine for time travel. It’s short without seeming so, brimming with messages, and, almost shockingly, impossible to read without taking the author into account. It’s also a very, very, good book.
Told in the same sort of way as More’s Utopia, The Time Machine is report of a person who was at both gatherings and who provides the details and dialogues from those evenings. This means that you get both a first-hand account and the benefit of various opinions (even if they may not actually be benefits in the literal sense). You do not witness the time traveller’s adventures for yourself, however the story is engrossing all the same as Wells spares no details.
The messages at the heart of the story are about the future of humanity (the moral, emotional, sympathetic kind) and humanity as a society. Also studied is the eradication of the world’s woes, intelligence, and any sort of work. Wells, a socialist, looks at an extreme version of communism and speaks of the shocking consequences, but later draws back a little. It is interesting to note how the time traveller’s perceptions change the longer he spends in the future and how easily he fears a secondary people perhaps, simply, because he just happened to meet the others first. It’s ironic to watch how a man so bent on moving into the future suddenly realises he should have stayed in his own time – it begs the question of whether time travel should remain a fantasy.
There are no aliens in the book, no wars or fights for survival. The book is rather unique except for the very end of journey. It’s the case that you may have read a lot of futuristic science fiction, but you won’t have come across anything quite like this.
Of special note is the conversation leading up to the time travel discussion during which Wells looks at philosophy, physics, mathematics. Questions are asked, interesting answers as well as supposedly true (I’m no scientist) answers provided, and even if your takeaway will be the future, the physics makes interesting reading.
There is fun to be had in the conversation. The Medical Man says ‘our ancestors had no great tolerance for anachronisms’ which he might as well have extended to the present day. Someone points out that investments could be made in the past and the rewards reaped in the present. And there is the fine point made that we already travel in time when we remember past events from our lives.
The Time Machine delves into the future only to long for the past. It portrays a possibility that is as relevant to consider today as it was in the year the book was written, and it looks at the way misunderstandings can occur, even between people who do not exist. It is an excellent work that provides much food for thought and much to study and all this for only a couple of hours of your time – you could visit and return from 802701 in less.
Universally acknowledged it is, or at least may be, that once someone has reached the second half of a book, finishing it is that much easier.
I’m at page 740 of this soap opera of a book (credit to Maryom for that comparison) with 71 to go. I’m looking forward to finishing it and moving on, even if I decide to move on to Tolstoy and his agricultural ramblings, though I will say that overall it’s better than it was. Maybe that’s because I can sense some sort of proper ending for Squeers.
I’m still finding Nicholas to be awful, in fact I really don’t like him at all. He lets his anger get the better of him too much.
Mrs Nickleby is more over the top than ever but considering Dickens meant her to go on as long as eternity I’ve been letting myself just enjoy it. I loved the way she handled the neighbour, that quiet bit of happiness at being admired at loggerheads with propriety. I’m not sure whether I should be believing the line that he’s mentally ill or not, but he’s one person I think it’d be interesting to hear from again. That plot line needs a proper ribbon tied around it.
Yes, Mr Crummles, go to America and go away. Dickens tied that plot line up well enough the first time. And whilst I don’t want Mantalini to kick the bucket, it’d be nice if he went away, too. I’m still confused abut the sudden turnaround in Dickens’ thoughts for Verisopht when he decided to kill him off.
I’m glad Madeline Bray’s made an appearance (finally!), and hope she makes Nicholas wait for her hand. I’m not sure I quite believe the insta-love thing he has for her and almost wonder if Frank, who I assume has known her for longer, wouldn’t be the better choice. I get the feeling Nicholas would become too domineering in the years to come.
Still liking Kate. If she ends up with Frank, all well and good, though I do hope there’s a brand new character out there for her.
I’m seeing Smike’s end and wishing he had a better one. I read somewhere that there’s the thought that he loves Kate because Dickens couldn’t have him loving Nicholas, and I like that. He feels so much for Nicholas that the written love for Kate doesn’t ring true.
To sum, I’m enjoying it more but so, so happy, to be at the end. This has to be the last time I pick up a lengthy tome just because I like the alliteration of the title and because the film looks fun.
Which book were you recently happy to have finished?
I’m posting a little differently today. Normally I review a book before considering posting a ‘further thoughts’ piece, but when I came to write my review on this book I found I couldn’t; I ended up writing what’s below instead. As there are many, many spoilers in what I wrote, I thought I’d go ahead, post it now, and write a new review-like piece for later. This is technically analytical.
The Time Machine is an exceptional novella in which the goals of the writer are clear. Rather like Thomas More’s Utopia, the structure of the work is dialogue, conversation, between a traveller and his acquaintances, the clear purpose being to deliver to the reader the author’s messages. Whilst it is generally recommended that a reader read without thought for the writer, in the case of The Time Machine it is almost necessary to consider Wells’ background; without it you may miss the nuances of the narration. Whether or not you read the book with a view to studying it, you’re very likely to find yourself studying it regardless; it could be argued that, like Utopia, The Time Machine is as relevant if not more so than it was when it was first published.
“Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless […] There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change.”
Wells was a socialist and this shines through his prose. He uses the idea of hindsight, of ideas, to get around the limitations a linear story can place on the number of messages an author wants to include. What’s interesting is that despite the fact the time traveller presents one of Wells’ messages as an idea that was later shown to be far from the truth, it’s that message that is perhaps the most compelling of the lot. Wells sets the scene of the year 802701 – written in text, which makes it seem even further into the future. Life is thus: having removed war from the world, hunger, disease, the need to work, hardship, even the need for two different genders, society has become weak. Language is simple, the people rather like fairies in their manner, of absolutely no intelligence whatsoever (see below), and very easily tired. There is no sense of self, everyone is the same. The only fear left is that of the people below, which makes everyone sleep in one room together. The removal of dangers have rid humanity of the idea of family. The people eat extremely genetically modified fruit, play in the river, and sleep. It’s both utopia and, as the time traveller comes to realise in the context of his own time and dare I say we ours, hell. As Wells puts it, it is the ‘perfect conquest of nature’.
It is interesting, then, to take away the time traveller’s point that though we may loath hardship and wish to improve the earth, we are better off for our suffering because it makes us strive to work towards the greater good which in turn keeps us on our toes. And it is equally interesting to learn that this idea, this takeaway of the Eloi world, is not the impression he leaves with.
This change in impression is interesting because on the perceived lack of character we have only the time traveller’s word to go by. Indeed the Eloi sound a world away from us, but it’s possible that the difference in language and culture, as well as the heightened fight or flight response from the Victorian, may well have coloured his perception, even that last impression (see below). Fight or flight certainly colours his perception when it comes to the Morlocks of the underworld, when he makes fires to keep them away. We often change our perception of people and places once we get to know them and had the traveller spent longer in 802701 he may have discovered that the Eloi simply possessed a different sort of intelligence, one he had no grounding in to understand. It’s unlikely they did, given Wells’ reason for the story, but interesting to think about nonetheless.
So the utopia/hell is a lot more complex than first thought. The time traveller, as he searches for the time machine that has disappeared, discovers the deep waterless wells in the ground and comes to know of the existence of the Morlocks, the workers, a second evolution of humanity that lives without light and takes the bodies of those above as food. This, then, is the continuation of hardship, even if by this time the hardship is nature and not noticed by the Morlocks as hardship. Here Wells infers that somewhere something would have to give – that it would be impossible to have a perfect, fully-functioning world, without some level of work. Nowadays we might see work in the future as the domain of robots, but in The Time Machine at least, robots are not on the radar. It’s interesting to consider Wells’ new message that a perfect world is unobtainable.
Yet there is some potentially good news, ‘potentially’ because the time traveller doesn’t stick around long enough to find out for certain. The Morlocks may have some sort of intelligence – they must have knowledge of whatever it is that keeps the world moving for the Eloi. Wells thereby focuses on the way high society could become if everything was considered nature to those lower than them, a contrast of the general idea today that money can buy education whilst those without must work instead. Of course the lives of the Morlocks are not good, and Wells is far from suggesting that the future is bright, but he is obviously making a point he wants you to take on board.
Somewhat inevitably the traveller comes to see the humanity that remains in society. The devotion of an Eloi for the traveller himself upon a rescue. It might not detract from the messages, because if it did it would render much of the work pointless, but it is the most positive idea that Wells puts forward; beyond the destruction and the communism that Wells does not like the idea of, people retain a base level of feeling. It could be said that the traveller missed it because of the difference in culture and his overwhelming desire to find his time machine. (The worry over the disappearance of the machine is itself an irony that’s worth considering. Should the traveller have left time alone and not tried to meddle with it?) The supposed lack of interest the traveller believes the Eloi possess is also held to be suspicious. Maybe, just maybe, intelligence is still there, just that it differs so much that the traveller cannot comprehend it.
In sum, Wells wants to warn against extreme progression but is against suggesting that humanity could ever be entirely lost. There is some hope always.
Away from the messages, it’s worth looking at the place The Time Machine holds in literature. An early science fiction book, it is widely held to be the first book that explored the idea of time travel via a mechanism. It is both a book of politics and a damn good read in itself, and in an era, our era, wherein films don’t tend look all that far into the future except to be able to create space ships and aliens, Wells looked all the way to the ends of the earth. For a short book it packs a punch, even if it does go on a little towards the end.
Something that is interesting to note is the way Wells deals with gender but never race. This of course is where the novella is a little dated because it likely reflects the whiteness that would’ve been Wells’ world, yet it’s worth a short ponder because of the way Wells uses the area that would’ve been London and the fact that as the capital it would have been one of the more diverse places. Perhaps Wells saw a one mixed race as too obvious to comment on or, (likely?), he simply didn’t consider it, but given the way he mixes women with men, thereby showing a potential relative interest in women having a higher place, it is a surprise of sorts that race is not spoken of.
Of future thought, however, there is the fact of time. The time traveller is with the Eloi for eight days which is three hours of Victorian time. When he disappears he is not seen in the three years the narrator speaks of. Could it be that in three Victorian years the traveller, in the chosen future, had time to live out his life, or did three Victorian years register as but days? And is there a significance to be found in the way that in the future his laboratory is replaced with a sphinx, or in the fact the it is the door to the Morlocks? (I think I’m going to have a write another post on this at some point.)
Have you read The Time Machine? What did you think of it?
Salisbury Cathedral was undergoing restorative work when we visited, but the beautiful day made up for it when it came to taking photographs (this was the same day we visited Mompesson House. It’s a lovely cathedral in itself, but something we were surprised to discover was that it holds a copy of the Magna Carta, making it even more ripe for the budding historian or tourist. Of course I couldn’t take pictures of the document, and the cathedral interior was off limits, but exterior made up for it.
Have you any building/museum visits planned for the lighter days ahead?