Every Writers Dilemma: How Do You Decide What to Write About?

The sources of inspiration are all around us, in the headlines of the daily newspaper, in conversations, and listening to what questions people are asking. But how do you find those little inspirations that cause the flood gates of creativity to open wide?

I asked this same question to my favorite writer's forum. So, how does a writer decide what they are going to write about? I needed to know what inspired them to write, and how they chose the topic.

Were my sources of inspiration any different from another's inspiration?

I discovered that the key is to be true to your heart and write about what interests you, discover your passion and you will you be able to write and succeed. Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction those sources can vary, so let's break it down and examine some common methods for finding inspiration.

Ideas for that fiction you want to write.

For some writers the inspiration for that story can come from stimulating the creative thought processes, stirring the creative juices in a number of different ways. Here are a couple of methods, I like to use the latter one; events and dreams from my life, but I have tried the first method as well.

Examine a picture or photo

This used to be an old exercise that we used in school. Look at a picture and form a story about the scene that you see. For example, let's say the picture is of a log cabin in the woods surrounded by a thick forest. Immediately you begin to ask yourself questions, like, "who's house is it?", "why is it in the woods?" Just a couple of questions and you are off and running, or typing rather.

Use events from your life, or dreams, in a story.

I use dreams, my own, as well as other people's, and life moments and events, twists of fate that you could never imagine, are the best because they are original. You can go along and make plans in your life but it never turns out exactly the way you plan it; there are events that take place that change the course of your path ever so slightly, or quite dramatically. If you can't think of any of your own twists, try reading a story in the newspaper or magazine, these are two great resources for tragedies and twists that you can use for your story.

In one of my own stories I used a case of synchronicity that actually happened, to add to the events in the story. There was the time when I needed a new desk for my office badly, and in addition I was thinking about moving out of my apartment when the lease expired; well, a month later when I was able to begin looking for a new home I came across the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood, and in the spare room there was an old wooden desk that was offered to me if I agreed to rent the house.

Seeking the Non-Fiction article Idea:

Read a headline; just read, read, and read.

Just the other day the newspaper was saying that there is going to be a jump in prices for coffee in the New Year. This news springs to mind many questions; How to fit the extra cost of coffee into my budget; Time to go cold-turkey? Maybe they will come out with a "coffee-patch" to gently wean us from the stuff. Maybe I should switch to Coca Cola? See where I am going here? All these questions get the mind stirring, cranking out ideas. Let's use the coffee idea again, how could this affect the coffee industry if consumers started cutting back on their favorite java? You decide that this is a great idea and are going to run with it. You contact some of the big coffee chains like Star Buck's, Tim Horton's, and Second Cup, and talk to the managers and buyers to see how the price increase is going to affect their business, how is it going to affect the consumer, etc. You Google and find out that there is actually a New York Coffee Exchange, and that there are two markets for coffee ? the cash market, and the futures market, that statistics from 1999 in the United States show that coffee drinkers spend on average $164.71 per year on coffee, and that in 2000, 54% of the adult population of the United States drinks coffee daily, and in addition, another 24% of the population drinks coffee occasionally. You can probably write a very interesting article about something as "not so simple" as coffee. What average person knows this much about the cup of coffee that they have come to depend on every day? I certainly didn't.

Listen to what other people are asking; perhaps the answer they are looking for can be the topic of your next article.

Here is where those on-line forums can help you out; if someone can't find the answer to a question, perhaps finding the answer is the article that you are looking for? Or, turn it around; maybe you have a question that you can't seem to find the answer to ? research it and write an article so that it assists others who may be asking the same question.

What are your interests? Cats, dogs, fish? Maybe you are passionate for muffins but you are sensitive to wheat, or you know someone who is sensitive to wheat. What are the alternatives to wheat? Who supplies these products?

Maybe your cat has a problem with hairballs and you have tried all the remedies on the store shelf, but she is still coughing up hairballs all over your new carpet, and then you try a home remedy that works ? ta da! A new article! Maybe two new articles if you can find a great new carpet cleaner that removes those pet stains in your new carpet!

My mom keeps asking me how long tropical fish live. She has a Gourami that has lived for at least 2 years now and she is curious about the life span of her favorite fish but can't seem to find the answer in any book she has purchased. Is someone asking you for an answer that they can't find anywhere?

Ideas for articles and stories are everywhere! Life is full of problems and adventures, suspense and romance, it is all around us. Probably the most important advice that I give you is to just be AWARE; be alert to what is going on around you and in you, and write from the heart.

Cindy DeJager owns Rosetta Stone Press. She lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She enjoys reading books (of almost any genre) and her passion is writing.

Rosetta Stone Press

In The News:

Submit a Guest Piece  The Student Life
Tom Cotton: Send In the Military  The New York Times
Visas for Hong Kong  The Wall Street Journal
How to Edit Your Own Writing  The New York Times
The Myth of Henry Kissinger  The New Yorker
The Enemies of Writing  The Atlantic
Unit 4: Informational Writing  The New York Times
Doctors Are Writing Their Wills  The New York Times
Public Writing and the Junior Scholar  The Chronicle of Higher Education
10 Books For Freelancers  Business.com
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