When inspiration strikes: How to generate story ideas

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Every week, I send in story ideas to my editors at the Crimson White newspaper as part of of my job as a staff writer. I am also busy being a full-time graduate student and a part-time graduate assistant in the Department of Journalism at the University of Alabama, so I sometimes (often) come up with ideas on the fly. After several months of brainstorming for story topics before our weekly budget meetings, I picked up a few tricks. Inspiration always strikes at the strangest locations and in the most unexpected moments. Below I listed a few ways to make inspiration work on your own timeline.

  • Go outside

Working in a professionally-oriented environment like the office, the library or Starbucks, can encourage writers to focus on tasks. Even sitting in front of the laptop at home promotes the mindset that we should finish the work on our to-do lists, send e-mails, finish writing stories and of course, make more lists. Going outside helps shift our concentration from work to more abstract things, including trends in society and the “bigger picture” in life. Nature especially fosters the reflective type of thinking that in turn helps inspire us.

  • Event calendars

I really cannot stress this enough. Event calendars. Event calendars. Event calendars. Universities, churches, restaurants, bars, city government and news sites all post upcoming events. If your paper is short on content, you haven’t written enough or can’t find anything to write about, these handy calendars can be a lifeline.

  • Something beautiful

Similar to going outside, exposure to items of beauty boosts inspirational thought processes. Art, for instance, requires viewers to look beyond physicality to conjecture its deeper meaning. Get your creative juices flowing by visiting a museum alone and leave in a pensive state. Find a comfortably quiet nook, and write down your thoughts.

  • Read good writing

A basic pillar of being a better writer is to read good writing, but it can also spark ideas for future stories. See what other people are writing about and what readers are reading. What stories made it to the front page? This also serves as a way to evaluate your content – to find out if it is on par with other writing.

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