Ideas are Everywhere — And They’re Yours for the TakingPosted: September 30, 2007
What shall I write about? That may be the most asked question in my house. The second is, usually, “What should I make for dinner?”
Deciding what to write about is not due to a lack of ideas. Exactly the opposite. Writers can’t go anywhere without tripping over ideas, hundreds of them. The problem is choosing just one. So many ideas, so little time.
When people ask where I get my ideas, they are, I think, actually wanting to learn where they can find something to write about. Maybe they haven’t learned that ideas are everywhere, and maybe they don’t know the difference between an idea and a subject. Travel, for instance, is a subject but not an idea. An article about “Visiting historic sites with children” is an idea that several editors might be interested in seeing.
Any writer could take that idea, put his or her own unique spin on it, and come up with an article completely different from what another person would write. Thousands of ideas like that are out there, waiting to be spun into compelling articles. You have to limit yourself to the ones that jump out at you, the ones you find so interesting you have to make them your own.
Here are a few places where ideas have jumped out at me and turned into saleable articles: An airport newsletter, the Sunday newspaper, an antiques show, a young child’s classroom, the Yellow Pages, the county archives, a college classroom, and a flower show. These publications, Airport Services, Collector’s Weekly, Momentum, Memphis Business Journal, Downtowner, and Memphis Home & Garden all bought one of those articles, and Grit bought several.
The whole point of this is to show that ideas are everywhere and so are the markets. When you find an idea that interests you, turn it into an article an editor may buy. The trick is to be alert and open to ideas. Ask yourself, “Would this make a good article?” and “Who might want to read about it?” An example: The Yellow Pages article was a business story about a vinegar factory, so a good market for it was Memphis Business Journal, which is read by business men and women..
Look for potential markets in Writer’s Market or Writer’s Handbook, or one of the Internet sites with market listings. A Google search for “Writer’s Guidelines” plus a word or phrase closely associated with your idea can also turn up possible markets. The magazine section of your local library can be another source for ideas and potential markets. If you live near a college or university, you may find that their libraries often have more magazines — and ideas and potential markets — than your local library. And most will give writers free access to browse their holdings.
You can take any idea you find there or elsewhere and use it. That’s because ideas can’t be copyrighted. (Neither can titles. You could even use “Gone with the Wind” as a title for an article — or a book — if you wished.) If you trip over an idea today, you may want to grab it and run. It could mean a byline in the near future, plus a check with your name on it.
Please leave a comment.