Anyone who has created something physical or conceptual knows that you need good input to create a great output. And writing is no different.
To come up with ideas, let alone develop them to the level you can publicly write about them, you need to read, listen, and be attentive to things around you. This is where ideas come from, but even more than that: that is the source of raw material that will impact your creation. The more raw material you collect, the richer your writing is. Whether you agree with it or criticize it, embrace it or dismiss it, any input you collect along the way affects the content you are creating and helps you shape it consciously or unconsciously.
Like most raw materials, the things you read require processing. Processing ideas will ultimately make them usable for you. Processing, in that sense, does not mean changing or manipulating the raw material but instead reflecting on what you read, forming an opinion, and gaining new insights.
The best way to process the things you read and generally come across is to write about them — write to yourself. Expressing your thoughts, even associative, unorganized thoughts, in writing has a huge benefit. It helps the ideas you read about sink in and new ideas — your ideas — to emerge and flourish. You can always revisit what you wrote, refine it, generate another set of insights, or just recall your previous thoughts. The insights you write down become raw material by themselves. They aren’t polished or coherent enough to be published, but that is not their purpose. They are just there to capture a snapshot of what you think about what you have read.
When you process the raw material you collect in writing by capturing your thoughts and insights, you can also share them with friends and colleagues. While the written account is not meant to be public, it can be the basis of a meaningful conversation with people you trust — a conversation from which more profound and coherent ideas can grow.
Make it a habit to talk with people you trust about the insights you generate by processing raw material. Refer them to the same sources and ask them to reflect on what they read and what they make of it. Exchanging thoughts and insights is the basis for potential fusions by which groundbreaking ideas can emerge.