Need Writing Inspiration? Think Celebration!
by LuAnn Schindler
Writers discover inspiration in the strangest spots. Actually, stretching intellectual limits beyond the typical-article-idea mill will result in increased sales. It may also mean you guide your creative juices in a new direction and work in a new genre.
One of my favorite ways to increase the bottom line and develop timely stories and articles includes perusing lists of monthly holidays and celebrations. Some are sponsored by organizations promoting an idea or cause while increasing awareness; others are fun days that may only be celebrated by a handful of observers.
But, for writers, these celebrations are the perfect fodder for a researchable and marketable idea, and sometimes, they allow me to write something for fun...and still get paid!
Need examples? Let's take a look at some of February's celebrations. The second month of the year isn't just a time to celebration Valentine's Day or the Super Bowl.
- Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month - Sponsored by House Rabbit Society (HRS) and Petfinder, the group encourages the adoption of rabbits that have been rescued. Possible story angles: interview someone who adopted a rabbit for a local paper, create a list article showing why rabbits make wonderful house pets, write a children's story about an adopted rabbit.
- National Cherry Month - Why not write a health article touting the health benefits of cherries? Have a great cherry recipe? I do. I had my recipe for Cherry Pie Cake published in a cookbook. Or what about settling the argument about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree in an article or prose piece for a children's magazine?
- Just Say No To Powerpoint Week (February 7 - 13) - Pen an article for a local newspaper showing the pro's and con's of using PowerPoint in the classroom. Or submit an editorial piece of work to a business magazine that shows how the presentation software is misused in the business world. Or, why not write a how-to list that shows the best methods for creating a presentation for an educational outlet.
- Cowboy Poetry Week - (February 23 - 28) - Know any cowboy poets? I do, and let me tell you, they have many funny stories about rural life. Interview one for a writing magazine. Or better yet, try your hand at penning the poetic form.
- National Condom Day - February 14 - The American Social Health Association recognizes this day for promoting healthy choices. How about a factual article with relevent examples for a teen magazine. What about a comparison of condom types and brands? Sounds like an good article for both men's and women's magazines.
- National Tooth Fairy Day - February 28 - Use the tooth fairy to explain why dental hygiene is important. For a children's magazine, why not compare and contrast mythical do-gooders (the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc.). Write a personal essay about when you figured out how the tooth fairy made the money-for tooth trade.
Don't feel limited to writing something in your usual genre. Use these creative and informative celebrations to build a lucrative database of ideas!
Labels: celebrations and holidays, Finding Inspiration, Inspiration, LuAnn Schindler, writing inspiration
Beating Writer's Block
by LuAnn Schindler
Stuck in a rut and unsure of how to get the creative muses to delight you once again? Try these surefire sensory tips that will let the words flow.
- Move it. When I lose concentration or when the words don't come easily, I move to a new location. Sometimes, I take my laptop and move from my office to the kitchen or bedroom. Other times, I saunter out to my deck and take in what's happening outside. And yet on other occasions, putting words on paper instead of typing, makes all the difference.
- Look around. Pictures may be worth a thousand words. Or maybe even an entire novel! Those times when I can't seem to get a handle on a character trait, I look through my photo albums and look at what's going on. Another visual attack on writer's block is to visit a museum. You'll be amazed at how details stand out.
- Read it. When I find a publication I think I would like to write for and I can't come up with a topic that will translate into a sale, I peruse the newspaper and look at every advertisement. I've come up with several articles from ideas generated off a 2x2 ad.
- Listen carefully. Working in complete silence does not bother me, but when I'm developing ideas, I like music to blare in the background. I have an eclectic mix on my iPod, and it generally takes a couple songs to pump up the volume - and the possibilities.
- Taste it. Trying to come up with specific details? I'll grab a piece of fruit and slowly note the details of what I'm tasting. I usually amass a sizable list of words I can add to what I'm working on.
How do you beat writer's block?
Labels: Finding Inspiration, Inspiration, LuAnn Schindler, writer's block
When Life Throws You A Writing Bone
Today, I started working on articles about different music artists and how they got their start in their careers. This made me stop and think about the many great writers out there that have gotten their start in the writing world and what led them to this wonderful craft of ours.
Many times I have heard this statement: "If you wake up and all you can think about is writing, then you should be a writer." This does ring true, but many people are fearful of how to get started. Believe me, I'm no expert. The many women here at WOW!
that have gotten published in print other than the World Wide Web know from experience how hard it is to find the right niche and get your story read. There are many years of experience that are tied up in the articles you read everyday on our site. These ladies are not only dedicated to getting their messages heard and read, they are also dedicated to helping others get their messages heard and read as well. Each one of them with their special gift.
Each one of these women can attest to the ways that they were "thrown the bone of writing." Each story unique and different. You can find that not many people start out writing in the same way, but all of us had the same thought and intention when it was realized. To be heard, to be heard and read through the form of a printed material. Like the messages that are sung my many great music artists, our words are designed to work the imagination. Some through stories, some through ideas to help with every day life.
Think about what got you started in writing. How unique or different may it be from someone else's story. Was it a turn of events? A dream? An author that just took your breath away and helped you decide that you had a story?
For me, my bone was thrown to me by my literature teacher in high school. I was attending Cibola High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was my Junior year (11th grade), and Mrs. Saunders was the type of teacher that loved to give us writings from well-known authors that didn't quite appear as popular as many of their other great stories, but still had a message. The one tale that really set me on my path was Oedipus Rex
by Sophocles. As many know Antigone
was the big play that all of us remember quite well, but Oedipus
got put on a back burner so to speak. This was due to the type of story and what happened in King Oedipus's life. Mrs. Saunders took us on the normal journey through the story as many great literature teachers do, however she came up with a clever idea. She wanted us to change the story, she wanted us to show, in our own way, how Oedipus's life could be different. Many students groaned and mentioned how much they disliked writing but, for me, it was like a light inside my head flicked on all of the sudden and I had all these ideas whirling and spinning so quickly I felt I couldn't grab a hold of them. I wrote down all that Mrs. Saunders wanted us to do, I even wrote down notes of my ideas hoping I wouldn't forget some of them. I left the room smiling unlike many of my classmates, who looked at me strange. A good friend of mine asked me what I was smiling about, and I explained to him that I was actually excited about the assignment. He laughed and walked away shaking his head, then turned and told me I was weird. In my head I knew otherwise, I knew that I found one of my true passions, writing.
That night, I sat down with my door closed so no one in the house could disturb me and began to write. I started off with the initial idea that I wrote before class let out. Before I knew it, I had written 35 pages--front and back--on notebook paper. It was like I couldn't stop. I even created additional characters for the storyline. I came up with new children for the king. At dinner, my father wandered in and asked me what I was doing, and when I told him, he smiled and closed the door only to return with my dinner on a tray. He kissed me on the forehead and told me how proud of me he was and left quietly to let me continue to write. By 2:00 AM, I had written over 100 pages that went with the storyline. Mind you, the assignment was only for 4 pages. Scratching my head and knowing I needed rest for school the next day, I had to decide how I was going to take and break down this story I created. Thank goodness the assignment wasn't due until the end of the week. This gave me time to make sure I was able to give Mrs. Saunders exactly what she wanted from us. But, at the same time, it brought me to my first journey of writing--and wow, what a journey.
It saddens me to think that I actually almost walked away from this passion, this drive that has kept me going for so many years. When it came time for graduation, I actually chose a different path initially for college; I went into business. Yeah, right! But, after the first year and a half, I found that my heart just wasn't into it. Oh sure, I took the knowledge that I had and was able to apply it to many great jobs, but, unlike with writing, my heart just wasn't in it. I felt a part of me was missing. Now and then I would write some poetry, but it still didn't feel quite the same. It wasn't until late one night--after I had gotten married and had our second little boy--when a story came to me in the middle of the night. It was as if that bone had been thrown back at me. I got up and began writing. I couldn't stop, the story just flew from my fingers, I was driven. I didn't want to stop, I wanted to get the story out. At the time, we had one of the first home computers, a Commadore 64, I had been using to write on. My husband found me the next morning still at the computer typing away. He smiled at me and left me to my work. Throughout the day I stopped long enough to take care of the children and do some of the normal house chores, but the minute I was done I went right back to writing the story. I had to get it out, I had to get it finished. By dinner time that evening, I had finished the story.
Today, I wish I still had that drive, to sit and write all day, to get a story and run with it, but other bones have been thrown in my path once again. However, I have found other great ways to continue my passion with stolen moments at work and at home. When it is quiet and I feel the need, I steal the moments and run with an idea.
I know that some day my true passion of getting one of my stories published will come true. I know that there is a publisher out there that will accept me and my story. Until then, I will continue to write because after all I am a writer.
So if you have been thrown a bone in writing, grab onto it and hold on tight. With all your might, strive to keep your passion alive and write. If you are like me and can't seem to get your story published, that's okay, find other things that you can get published and work from there. Eventually, someone will open their eyes and help you to achieve your ultimate goal of being a published book author.
So now I throw this question to each of you. When did the writing bone get thrown to you? What or who tossed you that first bone?
Mrs. Saunders, if you are out there and if you are reading this, thank you! Thank you for awakening my passion in this wonderful world of writing!
Labels: Carrie Hulce, Finding Inspiration, how I got started in writing, writing passion
Five Ways to Survive a Dry Spell
by LuAnn Schindler
Having a difficult time generating new ideas? It happens to all writers at some point. But when the creative juices simply don't flow, and the postman keeps delivering the bills, a writer must be proactive to survive a dry spell. Here are five tips to help you find sources of income when the well runs dry.
- Reuse old queries. In a perfect writing world, every query a writer mails would be snatched up by a publication. But in the real writing world, some queries aren't the right fit for a publication at that particular moment in time. Every three months, I go through my queries that didn't make the cut, add new research , tweak my approach, and target a new market. In a notebook, I track each query I submit and add information about potential experts to interview, new research, and any notes I will need later. This visual reminder shows me that I am working toward a writing goal and keeps me motivated.
- Turn a sidebar into a story. Since a sidebar is a short burst of information, it's possible to turn the sidebar or the main idea into a full feature article. Look at sidebars you've submitted and consider a new angle.
- Attend conferences or workshops. Spending time with fellow writers is an excellent way to network and discover new ideas. Don't be afraid to mingle and ask questions.
- Keep track of editor changes. Lets say you queried a publication in the past and were rejected. Now, a new editor heads the publication. Resubmit a query. Just because one idea didn't spark one editor's interest doesn't mean the new editor will reject it.
- Look at editorial calendars. If there's a market you're interested in, check its editorial calendar and see what issues are coming up. Sometimes, an idea for a new article pops to mind when viewing themes for upcoming issues. Then, write a query and hit send.
Generating new and fresh ideas - even from old stories - will help generate cash during a dry spell. And, it will spark your imagination.
Labels: Finding Inspiration, generating new ideas, LuAnn Schindler
Yikes! That's Gross!
by LuAnn Schindler
I'm always on the outlook for inspiration. Today, I'm subbing for a junior high English instructor at an area school. I've subbed for her several times, and I always peruse her bookshelves. She has four bookshelves filled with YA novels. Checking out the titles gives me a glimpse at what's hot amongst YA readers. It's important, especially since I'm working on a YA project.
But finding YA trends isn't what's gross. While perusing her shelf, I came across a book titled "Oh Yikes! History's Grossest, Wackiest Moments"
by Joy Masoff. Inside these pages, there are snippets of odd, gross, wacky moments throughout time. Did you know that bullets can pass through a suit of armor? Were you aware that forks were called split spins during the early 1800s? How many calendars are in use in the world today? I had time to peruse the book, and I made a list of notes for articles. I even discovered that the author has a book titled "Oh, Yuck!"
that has interesting science tidbits.
What a unique source! You never know where you'll find inspiration for articles or a storyline.
Labels: Finding Inspiration, LuAnn Schindler
What does it take to enjoy ALL your writing?
For the past couple days, I haven't been enjoying my writing and I blame my lack of time for my creative work.
I seem to just churn out assignment after assignment while the querying machine is working overtime and I'm giving my Web site a badly needed overhaul. Meanwhile, my creative projects remain buried, my journal is gathering dust and I feel exhausted. But I convince myself it is okay, because I'm able to bill for my time. I'll catch up on these other projects later.
In this economy, it seems foolhardy not to keep up the marketing and the queries to stay in front of every editor possible. But during the time when I love being paid to write, I forget to spend time on the writing that gives me joy. I scurry about, working to prove that I should be hired and that I am worthy of the next assignment.
Just like making time to exercise or spend time with friends or family, creative projects (in my case creative writing) help to give me the fuel for other projects. Instead of excluding these projects as a waste of time because of the bottom line, they need to be embraced during the week and nurtured.
Obviously, we have responsibilities to handle throughout our week, but creativity and fueling our own passions will keep us healthier and happier in the long run.
Are there times when you aren't enjoying your writing? What is it that you blame? How do you get around it? What are some of the things that inspire you to write?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach and the moderator/main blogger for CoastalCarolinaMoms
. She is also a freelance writer, columnist and blogs for wilmaville
. She will be writing in her journal later today. She promises. Really. At least after she finishes this one article....
Labels: Creativity, Finding Inspiration, freelance, freelance writing
Finding Inspiration At Another Kind of Fair
by LuAnn Schindler
By the time you read this, I will have been away from my computer - and writing world - for nearly 36 hours. Thank you, Blogger, for letting writers / bloggers set a time for a blog post to appear.
And even though I have been away from my computer for one and a half days, I'm finding inspiration and plenty to write about while attending the State Fair. My stepson is active in 4-H and FFA and is showing a heifer from our dairy farm. Not only have I gotten several ideas for stories after watching him prepare for this experience, but I found more unique ideas before I even left home. I printed a daily schedule of events and found more than 15 possible story ideas.
Here's a small sampling:
Like cheese? We naturally do since we ship over 6,500 pounds of milk to a processor each day. But never in my life did I consider a career as a cheese sculptor. A gentleman will be sculpting something - hopefully from a block of cheddar - in the Ag Hall today from 10 A.m. - 9 P.M. Unique, right? How many other artists use mozzarella or asiago as a medium?
A craft beer and wine festival is held from noon til 11:30. My grandfather made wine (and beer and several types of liqueurs) from home and won several honors at this fair. What has changed since he won the honor for the first blue ribbon chokecherry wine 30some years ago? I intend to find out!
Kids aren't left out either! Throughout the day, kids can take part in a make-n-take craft project. What a great opportunity to take photos and put together a craft package for a kid's magazine!
Master Gardeners from around the state are offering a panel discussion. If you're into gardening and landscaping, here's a chance to network and develop story ideas.
There are cooking demos, florist demos, wild horse gentling demos, chainsaw carving demos...the possibilities are there. It's a matter of timing my route around the fairgrounds so I don't miss out on a possible article.
I hope you consider events taking place at your state's fair. You never know how many story ideas you'll walk away with.
Labels: Finding Inspiration, LuAnn Schindler, state fair
An Abundance of Riches
"Just the knowledge that a good book is waiting at the end of the day makes that day happier." -Kathleen Morris
Have you ever suffered from the "problem" of having too much good stuff to read? For my birthday tomorrow, my young daughters have each wrapped two books that I bought for myself at the book store. Simultaneously, I received an e-mail from my local library advising me that several books placed on hold are now ready for pickup (and a few more are "in transit" too). Not to mention that my in-laws sent several wrapped books, probably legal thrillers.
So now I find myself with so much waiting for me to dive into! Here's some of what's on deck:
Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories, and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It
I own most of SARK's previous books. They always inspire my creativity.*
Time to Write: Professional writers reveal how to fit writing into your busy life
by Kelly L Stone
I have read so many books about writing, and this looks like yet another good one. Annette also interviewed
the author in a previous issue of WOW! Women on Writing.
Money, and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Wealth, Health, and Happiness
by Esther Hicks
Other books by this author are very interesting and helpful.
Feel It Real!: A Guided Approach to Bringing the Law of Attraction into Your Life
by Denise Coates
I saw this one while on vacation, and it's getting lots of good reviews.
*When You Are Engulfed in Flames
by David Sedaris
The latest from a favorite humor writer.
by Ann Patchett
Bestselling author Ann Patchett's commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College.
Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now
by Gordon Livingston
Not sure where I heard about this one, but it looks good.
Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir
by Natalie Goldberg
I'll always check out Natalie Goldberg's stuff.
* * *
May you be blessed with some good reading too!--MP
Labels: books, Finding Inspiration, Marcia Peterson, reading
Call a Friend
I'm collecting stories
about how successful writers get their ideas. Here's another good one for non-fiction writers, particularly columnists, from Fran Lebowitz:
"When I was writing two columns a month, sometimes it was difficult to come up with ideas. I had certain friends that I have a humorous rapport with, and I'd talk to them on the phone until something came up. I made no bones about it. 'Hello, I have to write a column,' I'd say, and start talking. It was a way to hear my own voice back. I often found it useful in a pinch. Certain people inspired me or provoked something in me."--MP
Labels: Finding Inspiration, getting ideas, Marcia Peterson, women writers
More On Filling Your Writing Well
By Jill Earl
Last month, Annette wrote a post, Fill Your Writing Well
, encouraging writers to take time out to go gather sensory details to help us create vibrant characters and settings. She offered ten ways to help you get started, such as people watching at a sidewalk cafe, attending a live music event, and stretching out on a blanket in the park under a tree. It was fun to go through her list and see how many activities I’ve done, and keep in mind ones I want to try in the future. I have a couple of suggestions of my own below.
1) Special events
With weddings, graduations and other social events in full swing during warmer months, you’ve a perfect opportunity to do more people watching and listening in on conversations as you hit the buffet line or waltz with your significant other. And you never know what might happen while you’re doing the 'Cha-Cha Slide'.
Ever thought about taking your camera out for an impromptu shoot around the neighborhood? Try it and see what images you catch. Take a couple of shots of a pair of cheeky squirrels chasing each other around a tree, their claws scrabbling on the bark. Or how about the squealing kids watering down each other more than their lawn?
3) Farm visits
Whenever I can, I go to a local pick-your-own farm for fresh produce, during cool summer days and especially during fall. I like going in June to pick strawberries and blueberries, smelling their sweetness lingering on my fingers as I drop them into my container. In the fall, the tang of apples surrounds us as we pick and snack on the crisp beauties. I’m dazzled by the vivid greenish-blue of broccoli and run my hand over their bumpy heads. In the market, I admire the bright colors of the preserves and relishes as I select which ones come home with me to perk up meals. And I chat with other pickers as we exchange recipe ideas.
Those are some ways I’ve restocked and refreshed my image well, while enjoying life outside my writing space.
Now, it’s your turn.
Labels: Finding Inspiration, Jill Earl, writing inspiration
An Active Process
I'm collecting stories about how successful writers get their ideas. Here's a good one for non-fiction writers:
"You can't sit there and wait for ideas to smash into you. It's not a passive process. So much of being a nonfiction writer is forcing yourself to find things to write about. It's an active process of looking at something in the newspaper, or some thing that's going around, and thinking, 'How do I feel about this?...Can I get anything out of this?...Can I push myself a little further on this topic?"
- Nora Ephron
Great advice--and stay tuned for more suggestions from the experts!--MP
Labels: Finding Inspiration, getting ideas, Marcia Peterson, women writers
I'm From...Finding writing topics
by LuAnn Schindler
When I was a high school English teacher, one of my favorite activities to kick off the school year was when each student would write a poem that was titled I'm From....
followed by a single word that described his or her personality.
The poem followed the following format:
- Stanza 1 listed foods or drinks that we liked or had specific memories attached
- Stanza 2 listed tangible items that are significant
- Stanza 3 described the area where each person lives - either the house or the area in general
- Stanza 4 offered a look at people who have made a difference in each person's life
- Stanza 5 contains a list of phrases that each person grew up hearing
My model for the students looked like this:
I'm from German chocolate cake for my birthday, pickled cherries, any Swedish dish (as long as Grandma Larson made it), sliced tomatoes, and tall glasses of iced tea laced with a lemon wedge.
I'm from my Josie and the Pussycats diary, a football autographed by the Husker football team, an emerald ring passed to the oldest granddaughter, and an extensive collection of 45s.
I'm from an oak-lined, middle-class neighborhood in small town Nebraska, where people left their houses and cars unlocked, where we'd play outside until the moon glistened in the evening sky, and neighbors were friendly.
I'm from god, my parents, sister, favorite aunt, and impressionable teachers.
I'm from groovy, far out, peace, and if so and so jumped off a bridge, would you follow?
Throughout the year, we would return to the writing exercise and pull one of the topics for a brainstorming session. Eventually, the topic would evolve into another story, poem, or sketch filled with details.
I wrote with my students and shared my writing as a model. My simplistic poem produced an essay about a favorite teacher that eventually was printed in an anthology, a poem about playing games as a child, and a sketch about a birthday party.
Inspiration is everywhere. Pulling particular pieces of our lives together to shape a story or other writing form is easy if you know where to look. Give this exercise a try and see what old memories and new pieces you produce!
Labels: Finding Inspiration, Inspiration, LuAnn Schindler
Another dose of inspiration
by LuAnn Schindler
I'm working on some queries this morning, and I'll show you how I came up with some of the ideas I'm pitching. Inspiration is everywhere!
Sometimes, you need to step outside your comfort zone and write. When I taught creative writing for a local community college, I could write a couple poems during a class period and work on revisions later. Poetry was easy for me and I wrote a lot of them. Of course, now most of those pages are in three-ring binders and need more revisions. Later in my writing life, I became more interested in newspaper and magazine writing. I like telling a story through nonfiction. I haven't written a poem in five years. It seemed like the muse had disappeared. But recently, I stumbled upon a contest for a 50-word narrative poem. I opened my binders and found a selection that I thought told a solid story in limited words. But I still revised some here and there and submitted it. Stepping back into the poetry shoes wasn't an easy fit, but it opened a shoebox full of ideas. And hopefully, the contest judges will appreciate my efforts, too!
Yesterday, when I was cleaning my office, I found an old notebook from my teaching days that I used for brainstorming. When I opened the pages, I discovered a list of topic ideas using a method I used when I taught writing and when I first started freelancing. It works like this: Across the top of a page, I write 10 topics I'm interested in. Underneath each of those, I list 10 subtopics. Then I use the subtopics as the headings on a new sheet of paper and list 10 more subtopics. You can keep using the subheads as new headings until you run out of ideas. I literally had hundreds of ideas in this notebook. As I was flipping through these pages, I found a topic that I just had received a press release about, did a bit more research and drafted a query. This morning, I'll be emailing it to an editor at a national food magazine.
The new phone books arrived the other day. I was flipping through the yellow pages because I needed to find someone to fix my vehicle. On my way to the automotive section, I found an ad for a new air conditioning business. Since the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer heat will soon be upon us, I called and asked about tips for preparing the air conditioning unit for summer use. Then, I wrote a short article and sent it to the local paper. If you leaf through the pages, all kinds of article ideas stand out.
And sometimes, you just need to take a break. This is a hard one for me to do because if I'm not writing, I feel like I'm wasting time. But, a break - an afternoon outing with friends or family, time away from the computer and email, reading a book, exercising, cooking - can reignite the inspiration. The tricky part will be giving yourself permission to relax and take some time off. Hey, there's a possible article idea in that thought!
Labels: Finding Inspiration, Inspiration, LuAnn Schindler, Query Letter
Finding Inspiration - Again
by LuAnn Schindler
Need help finding inspiration for stories or articles? Here are four additional ways to jumpstart your creative muse.
Sure, you don't want your inbox flooded with junk email, but by subscribing to various e-newsletters, you should be able to find a wealth of information that leads to inspiration. I have been trying to break into the food writing market. I subscribed to several cooking newsletters from reputable sites, including Chef 2 Chef and Hungry Girl. The leads, and in some instances, the discussion boards, have offered a bounty of ideas. I even started writing a food blog that includes a specific food for each entry and shares the history of the delicacy and recipes.
Travel writing can be a tough market to break into, but consider traveling the area you live in. Consider how your travels fit other genres, too: restaurant reviews, human interest stories, a historical overview of an event or place. Visiting new or even older establishments in your town or state can spark all kinds of ideas. In a town I formerly lived in, there is a manufacturing plant that makes the yard flags that utility companies use to mark water lines, utility lines, etc. They are the largest manufacturer in the world. A quick phone call and a tour of the plant led to an article that was featured in a regional magazine and a large pay check.
Is there a college or university located near your residence? Check out the website and sign up for press releases. When you consider the variety of events that occur on campus, you have a good chance of finding something that sparks your interest for an article or story. A faction in the local university's agriculture department led me to an article about the poultry industry.
Consider nonfiction as a spark. I like to look through the history books when I visit bookstores, and while thumbing through a book about jazz, I discovered a singer from my home state. After digging a little deeper, I found out she grew up in a small town not too far from where I resided. That inspiration led to a story about this jazz singer and also opened the door to additional articles with the magazine who bought the singer's bio.
Inspiration is everywhere. The power of observation and curiosity can lead you to your next story.
Labels: Finding Inspiration, Inspiration, LuAnn Schindler
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.
Labels: Finding Inspiration, Inspiration, LuAnn Schindler
Finding Inspiration, Part Deux
The last time I blogged for The Muffin, I wrote about places to find inspiration. Today, I'm going to offer four more ideas of obvious--but not always utilized--places to find new story ideas.
Consider people you know. Are they an expert on a topic? Make of list of the experts in your life and brainstorm for ideas. A teacher from a neighboring school district is an expert chess player. I asked for his help for a story about teaching chess to kids and--checkmate! I sold a story, along with two sidebars and photos, to an area newspaper.
Take a look at current fads and trends. What's hot in your community? For that matter, what is hot in a particular area you are interested in? A local school funded a 24/7 learning initiative and purchased Apple laptops for all 7 - 12 students. As a former classroom teacher--and a current substitute--I find anything relating to education an interesting topic. I interviewed students, teachers and administrators from the district and had a two-day, four-story feature in an area newspaper.
My daughter works for our state economic development office and she's always giving me good ideas or tips concerning government publications. I checked out the www.info.gov
website, and after surfing for a short time, I found a site where you could check out historical buildings in each state. That's when I stumbled upon an early 1900s single-room jailhouse close to where I lived. That article was published in a regional magazine.
I like cheesecake. No, I REALLY like cheesecake. I've made them for fundraisers, for extended family, and sometimes, for us. After making oh-so-many cheesecakes, I've come up with several methods to avoid having the cheesecake top crack. I wrote those methods as a short "how-to" article and sold it to a cooking website.
My favorite way to keep track of ideas is to use Post-It notes. But every writer should have some kind of idea notebook. I have a small memo pad that I keep by my nightstand. In my purse, a notebook with a sturdy cover--purchased from the $1 bin at Target--lets me jot down ideas as they come to me when I'm away from my desk. I keep a small notebook in the glove compartment of the car, too. Because you never when --or where--the inspiration bug will hit!
Labels: expert resources, Finding Inspiration, LuAnn Schindler
I used to be a disciplined writer. No, let me rephrase that. I was becoming a disciplined writer. A novice, I decided to seriously pursue a writing career only earlier this year and struggled with carving out writing time in the beginning.
By the end of summer, I'd finally found my rhythm. Each morning, I put my oldest child on the school bus, grabbed a steaming cup of hot cocoa, pressed pen to paper, and wrote until my two year old woke from his dreams. I learned to set my own deadlines and hold myself accountable for reaching them. I even mastered my remote control by turning the television off so that I could maximize my writing time. As a matter of fact, by September, I'd carved out three "writing sessions" a day and was juggling multiple manuscripts. And to top it all off, I sent off three manuscripts by the end of October.
So what happened, you ask?
Yeah that's right--well, sort of. You see it wasn't just one sneeze that took my highly disciplined and well run writing routine away. It was a series of violent, malicious sneezes that conspired together to wreak havoc on a bulging disc in my back. That bulging disc sent sharp pains into both my legs. Within a week after they began their violent attacks, I was laying flat on my bed on pain killers and Ibuprofen, surrounded by ice packs.
Two weeks and one MRI later, I tried to return to my writing but could not because of the constant pain in my lower back. Writing became a painful chore that I started to avoid. Of all the things I thought would get in the way of my writing (such as my nice warm bed, watching Law and Order reruns, or mopping the kitchen floor), I had never imagined that my own body would betray me. It robbed me of my energy, my patience, and most painfully, my creativity.
Now, one month and one heck-of-a good chiropractor later, I sit here, typing this blog, pain-free and extremely grateful. My injury taught me that the privilege of being able to do what we love the most--in my case, writing--should not be taken for granted. Though I'm finding it difficult to fall into my old routine again, I'm determined to take it all in stride. No longer am I focused on how many manuscripts I can complete per month. Instead, I'm committed to enjoying the journey of becoming a better writer and reigniting my urge to be creative.
By Kesha L. Grant
Labels: Finding Inspiration, Kesha L. Grant
More on finding inspiration...
What influences you the most when you sit down to write?
This is a question I come across time and time again – especially in the inspirational or Christian genre.
been asked. “The well must run dry at times.”
You would think so. I mean how can a person have the strength to continuously pump out one story after another with some sort of inspirational message in it? I guess those people who specialize in this genre don’t really think about it. I know I don’t sit at my computer every day and say, “Okay, I’m going to be motivating today!”
It’s honestly not something you need to think about. You simply need to listen and to pay attention to everything around you. I compare it to seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Get down and investigate, ask questions, be curious, and, most of all, find beauty where you never thought there could be.
Most of the people and situations I’ve
written about have been…well…simple things. You know, an every day person who does extraordinary things that would normally go unnoticed. I write about people who’ve
touched me so deeply my heart overflows. How about writing about how you, or someone else persevered over adversity, beat the odds or “made it”? These make the best stories because people can relate to them. They inspire because they are about every day people: People we know, people we strive to be, people who are told they “can’t” but do anyway.
There is enough tragedy and negativity in the world today and, unfortunately, these feelings are contagious. But do you know what? So is happiness, love and peace. Think about what happens when you throw a smile at someone as you pass them. Even the sourest of faces will return a smile.
So, dear writers, you can see the well will only go dry if we let it. All we need to do is look around. There’s inspiration all around us. And as long as I’m writing, I’ll be sure to keep making deposits into that well so other people’s thirst for hope will always be quenched.
Labels: Chynna Laird, Finding Inspiration
One of the things often asked of writers is where they get their ideas. And the answers are as varied as the authors.
Today I was chatting with another writer who is a truck driver. Together she and her husband take turns driving across the country. She prefers to drive at night. Says she thinks better. The other day she was telling about how she watched the sunrise in Colorado. How cool would that be:-)
Another writer mentioned she gets a lot of her ideas from things her kids say. I have to agree. My kids are a wonderful source of ideas. They look at things so different than I do at times. That freshness keeps things interesting.
Just by looking around us, we can find so many ideas. An old oak in my front yard became a "hanging tree" and a ghost/western/mystery was born. A rainy day and a car accident became the start of a romance story I'm working on. And, a Discovery Channel show on how carousel horses are made gave me the idea for a smuggling mystery.
Just by asking who, what, where, when, why and how we can come up with more ideas than we'd ever have time to write. Plus, it's such fun to brainstorm ideas. Even if you never use them.
So for today, share with us your favorite place/way to find inspiration?
Labels: Finding Inspiration