Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ideas Are Everywhere -- Part Two

Editor’s Note: While the title is changing, this post is the second part of a series. I’m taking a detailed look at writing the magazine article with some specific insights for each aspect.

Ideas are one of the most fluid and free-wheeling part of the writing process. I love to have new ideas—and they come constantly. Some times the waves of what I want to write spring into my mind so fast, it’s like standing under a waterfall. You can’t possibly catch everything—and like a waterfall,  you can only stand the spray for a tiny bit—before you get washed away.

Conversations with people can stir ideas. You may be taking a break at work and listening to someone’s story and decide a much-changed version of the story could be part of a novel. Or possibly from the conversation, you see your friend struggling with a personal crisis and discovering a unique solution to this crisis or handling it in a different way. You decide that experience could be the beginnings of a how-to article.  I’ve given only two examples of how we can find ideas from our conversations with others.

Other times we read the newspaper and learn about a new product. Because we read magazines and other types of print or internet publications, the idea comes to write about this product. You take this idea and pitch a magazine (more about this aspect another day) and you snag an assignment to write about the product. Reading stimulates your idea process.  Can you take the idea and twist it in a different fashion and reveal the product or service to a new audience and a different publication?

About fifteen years ago, I was reading the Orange County Register and living in Southern California. In the business section, a small news item announced Disney was printing Disney Dollars. I was fascinated with this bit of news and wanted to learn more.  As a part of the experience of being in Disneyland, they have Disney Dollars which are the same quality of regular currency. I pitched a numismatic magazine with the article idea and received an assignment.  In a matter of weeks, I was on the back lot of Disney — where no “guests” are allowed and interviewing one of the Vice Presidents about this new currency.  For me the process began with a small news item in the newspaper. You can find ideas in the same way.

Almost anything can stir ideas—family activities, walking through the mall,visiting a historic monument or _____ (you name it).  I’ve learned to always carry a piece of paper because ideas will strike me at odd times. I have to write it down or it will pass through my mind and be forgotten. (In general, I ignore the ones that come in the middle of the night).

OK, now you have an idea. What do you do with the idea? It will be key to whether you get it published or it disappears.  I’ve got more to say about this aspect—tomorrow.

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