Idea-Mining for Writers, 102

As many authors are fond of stating, "Ideas are all around!" when asked to be more specific. Well, in a way, that's true. Ideas ARE all around. You just have to know how and where to look for them. If anything, you will have to read like a writer.

Reading like a writer means focusing on items that catch your attention, make you wonder, or make you angry or happy. So after you've read the paper or a magazine, don't throw it out or put it aside yet. If that paper or magazine belongs to you, go back and mark or clip stuff that caught your attention and held it. Perhaps you read the entire article or skimmed it for information that mattered to you.

Chances are that you may have come across a sentence or paragraph that stated an idea much too briefly in passing. But there was something about it that engaged your curiosity and for a few seconds, raised questions. Perhaps you felt that it was too bad that the author did not explain his or her idea just a little further. Pay attention because this may be just the idea that you can develop into an article, story or book with more research.

At this point, consider clipping or highlighting that idea trigger and save it. You can do this by pasting or taping it on a blank notebook page and writing your questions and ideas below it.

Books, journals, pamphlets, fact sheets and even references are full of interesting stuff that can spark ideas. Of course, you will not be able to clip or highlight all of them, but no matter. Jot the idea trigger down, along with the name of the source and page numbers, if possible. If you need to refer to that source again, you will be able to locate it by looking at your notes.

And while you are at it, remember to take a look at your own published and unpublished articles and book manuscripts. As you reread, focus on seemingly little things that could have been expanded a bit more. For example, maybe you can grow that unpublished article into a book!

Another good source is that magazine or book subject that you've only been mildly interested in, but didn't look at again. Even if you're not "into" subjects such as RVs, astrology or mechanics or skiing, you might find it useful to at least skim magazines on those topics. How can one of those given topics be connected or related to your favorite activity or interest? And who else might be interested in it, or at least have problems understanding it or its implications? And be sure to peruse magazines such as Mother Jones, Utne, Harper's, and Atlantic Monthly. You'll notice stuff that may or should concern people, but isn't getting a lot of attention --- yet.

By the time you're finished, you will have accumulated a number of ideas to write about. I can almost guarantee it! Happy hunting, reading and writing!

Dorothy Zjawin, a published writer, has included more ideas in her website,

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