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Friday, June 06, 2008

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!

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