Randomizing Writing Topics

I came up with a quick hack today that I think is useful, so wanted to share it while it was fresh in my mind.

I have a fairly long list of ideas for blog posts, which I refer to when considering what to write next. My typical workflow has been to run through them and see which one I think is the best or that I feel the most strongly about at the moment, and then start writing about it. However, in practice, I run through the list and at some point either give up or lose enough focus that I stop wanting to write.

So my idea was to create a script to take the list and generate one writing prompt that I could run with. Hopefully any idea on the list is good enough to be advanced at any time or should be discarded. When I have only one idea that I can work with, I can focus on that idea only and not need to worry about other possibilities.

The list was a plain-text file that was separated by lines that had a bunch of equal signs on them. I went and quickly manually cleaned up the list to ensure that:

  • every entry was separated correctly,
  • long entries were split into multiple ideas,
  • and old entries were removed or clarified

From there, I created a no-frills script that goes through the list and prints one of the ideas at random. Here is a sample of the script.

I think this will be a useful technique when I have a bit of downtime and want to do some writing.

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