Saturday, May 17, 2008


Finding Inspiration - Part Four

by LuAnn Schindler

Need ideas? Here are four additional ways to generate ideas.

Look at the covers of popular magazines, and it appears that "lists" are popular: the top 10 gifts for Mother's Day, 15 ways to spice up your life, 5 tips for packing for summer vacation. Think of an area you have experience with and create a list of tips. As a former classroom teacher, I put together a list of five tips to keep children actively learning during the summer and sold it to a website.

Opinions are a good place to generate articles, letters to editors, or op-eds. They even make great fodder for letters to companies - either praising or offering advice. I've written a fair share of op-eds and letters to the editor. But I want you to consider letters to companies for a moment. Two years ago, I wrote a letter to the company that made my favorite spaghetti sauce and explained why I preferred it to the competition. I wasn't expecting anything in return; I just wanted to share why I liked their sauces. Imagine my surprise when I received a one year's supply of coupons for this product. At $2.69 a jar, that resulted in a savings of $139.88. One more example involves a soft drink company. When I worked in corporate America, the product I preferred was sold out for three weeks from the only vending machine in our building. I sent a letter to the company asking why the machine hadn't been stocked. Yup, 52 coupons for a 20-ounce soda = $56.68.

Talk to friends who write. Talk to friends who don't write. When I'm stuck, I talk to my parents, both former classroom veterans, who dabble in writing. No matter what path our conversation takes, I'm always inspired with a new idea. They have a beautiful but spoiled Snowshoe Siamese named Nash. My parents rescued him from an animal shelter they volunteer at. I wrote a story about Nash and the shelter and submitted it to an animal magazine that runs this type of monthly feature.

When I was taught, one of my favorite writing prompts was to have students find a quote and then write about it. Quotes are a good place to generate ideas, especially if you can put a twist on a well-known quote. I recently read this statement: "The more you love music, the more music you hate." I wrote a personal essay about my appreciation of music but came to the realization that as I've grown older (or maybe wiser), I appreciate small snippets of silence since they provide restful relaxation. Quote sites abound online or pick up a quote of the day calendar.

Read, read, read. Most importantly, read something new. It is 60 miles from my house to the closest bookstore, so when I do get the chance to stop there, I always peruse the magazine racks and pick up one or two I've never read before. With the comfy chairs available there, in addition to a wide selection or flavored teas and cappuccinos, it is easy to take some time to look at a new market. Even the local library has an amazing selection of magazines that delight all age groups. I find time to stop there, too.

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