So Many Topics
The image of the writer staring at the blank screen or empty page and helplessly waiting for inspiration for something to write about is a concept you are surely familiar with (and quite possibly has happened to you on one or more occasions). In actuality, writers are like explorers who gaze out at an entire hemisphere of undiscovered and unchartered territory. The task then is to know where to look and how to find subjects for your writing.
Getting Ideas from the World Around You
Charles Reich, the author of the 1970s bestseller The Greening of America, wrote that being a writer “meant being a thinker and even a philosopher, exploring and loving — a quiet calm person who was open to life, open to all the influences and experiences that came his way.” There is no better way to mine the world for subjects to write about then simply being “open” to the world around you — the sights and sounds, the people you come into contact with, the conversations you overhear, the news on the Internet or broadcast over the television or radio.
The newspaper is a great source for potential topics to form the basis of an article. Papers with wide circulation provide material that may appeal to a national audience, but don't forget your local paper as a source for articles — especially human-interest pieces.
Keep your eyes open for political, sporting, cultural and other events you might want to attend and cover. Visit places of interest but don't dismiss the most mundane — a neighborhood park or schoolyard or shopping mall. Even standing in line at the deli counter of the supermarket may provide fodder for your next article. The thing is to keep your eyes and ears receptive to what is around you and as Reich implores, “be open.”
Getting Ideas from Inside You
Sometimes, however, it's not what is “out there” but what is stirring in your own mind that may be the basis for an article. To explore what lies “within,” make a space in your life for some “down time” when you can just think and let your mind wander and see where it takes you. Don't be dismissive of any thought that comes. Jot them all down and evaluate them later. One or more may be the next article you write.
If letting your mind just meander doesn't seem to work, consider those subjects you know something about — things that interest you like a hobby such as stamp collecting or having a passion for fine wines. Perhaps the subject may be work related, such as a high-school guidance counselor who wants to share tips for students seeking entry into colleges.
When using your own experience as a springboard for an article, remember that it is not a personal essay or memoir you are writing. The focus must be on providing information and material of interest to the reader and your own experience should only be anecdotal.
Do not feel limited to writing only about what you know. There may be something that you want to learn about that will take you on an adventure of discovery and that you can share with the reader. This is where getting the facts and research becomes very important, as you will see in this chapter.