September 28th, 2009
Newer nonfiction writers often ask their grizzled peers where we get our ideas for all the articles, blog posts*, columns, personal essays, and pitches we’re endlessly cranking out – often on deadline. In an era where computers and phones are exploding with content, links, and commentary galore, this may seem like an odd question to ask. But I thought it would be fun to answer anyway.
On any given week, I’m responsible for turning in at least one career column and three work/life balance blog posts. Then there are the half-dozen or so stories I’m pitching each month to my regular stable of editors, as well as new ones I’m trying to woo. Meaning if I’m not constantly cultivating fresh story and blog post fodder, I’m sunk.
My top sources of content inspiration:
Blog aggregators. YPBLOGS – the Young Professional Blogs Aggregator — is my blog clearninghouse of choice. One, the 225+ Gen X and Gen Y bloggers featured on this site often bring career and work/life balance issues and trends to my attention. Two, all the cool career-oriented bloggers are doing it.
HARO. HelpAReporter.com is the Swiss Army Knife of reporting. Besides being one of the best ways to find sources if you’re in a deadline fix, this e-list gives you a sneak peek at some of the stories other journalists are researching at any given time. And while idea pilfering is pretty unbecoming, sometimes you can riff off someone else’s idea to come up with a brand spanking new story angle of your own.
Google alerts. If you’re not relying on Google’s handy bots to tell you who’s saying what about your pet topics on any given day, it’s time to start. Again, I’m not advocating simply pilfering or rehashing someone else’s brilliant post or story idea. But a Wall Street Journal article about working moms that raises your hackles can make a great springboard for your own post, column, or reported piece.
Twitter and Facebook. I can’t even open Fritter (or would that be Frittbook?) without finding half a dozen links that scream blog fodder during any given hour.
Friends, readers, and real life. I love when I’m at a party and someone tells me about some bizarre work situation they’re experiencing and it’s all I can do to not blurt out, “YOU! MUST! LET! ME! INTERVIEW! YOU!” Likewise, colleagues and readers frequently email me their unique, off-the-wall ideas. If you write about a topic long enough, this will happen to you too. I promise.
So how about you? What’s your holy grail of content fodder?
*No cracks about the infrequent posts on this here blog. Details on what the heck is up to come soon.