Monday, November 17, 2014

Getting Ideas

A problem many newcomers to journalism in all its forms have is where to get ideas? Ideas are all around all you have to do is catch them and refine them.

                  Ideas can come from your own life or the lives of friends and family or from complete strangers. They can come on your way to work, to the grocery store, while walking or cycling. They can come while lying in bed or in the shower. Ideas can from virtually anywhere.
                  I remember once reading an article in Writer’s Digest about Joyce Verrette,  who got the idea for her bestselling novel Dawn Of Desire from a dream. The idea for The Scarsdale Diet, another bestseller, came from a few lines in either a newspaper or a magazine and turned into a best seller Herman Tarnover and Samm Sinclair Baker. Other writers had read that same article and ignored it. T.v., the Internet, even movies can be another profitable source of ideas.
                  An old standby for more than one magazine was to sit down with a newspaper and go over it. They’d get hundreds of ideas. I managed to get a few ideas myself this way. Thanks to reports in some regional papers, I was one of the earliest to report on the quagga mussel and the round nose goby, both invasive species to the Great Lakes.
                  Other ideas come from personal experience. Over the course of 15 years (1995-2010) I was on and off caregiver for my parents when first my mother and then, after a 5 year break, my father came down with probable Alzheimer’s. That led me to article on Alzheimer’s for Canadian Living in 2008. Naturally, when I received the assignment, my father’s condition worsened making writing it even more of a challenge than I expected.
                  Some ideas come from going about your everyday business. I recall one writer, who regularly passed equestrians, I believe. One he stopped to talk to them and eventually turned it into a specialty. While out cycling one day I saw a river otter and another time, while walking my dog near my home, saw a beaver. I turned these sightings into a couple of news items on returning species.
                  My interests have been another source of ideas. I turned my love of postcards into a few articles and my love of trains led to numerous articles over the years and eventually to becoming a contributor to Trains Magazine for a while before bowing out.
                  So open your eyes and ears and be ready to jot down an idea or two or three. You’ll be surprised at what you might come up with.