Yesterday I mentioned how inspirational I found the Library of Congress Magazine. Apparently I’m not the only one who finds inspiration in this library’s amazing collection. Check out this post from Jann Alexander in which she discusses the inspiration she finds in the library’s print and photography collections.
If you’ve never spent any time poking around in the library’s online offerings, do yourself a favor. But not if you have a deadline fast approaching. Go write and then come give it a good look. You will find photos and engineering records of historic buildings, Abraham Lincoln’s papers, and even an Afghanistan web archive. This isn’t just about the archives themselves. Some collections also include a tab of articles or essays about the materials contained therein.
But this isn’t all that Alexander talks about in her post. She also discusses an archive of oral histories collected by Story Corps.org. Interviews range in topic from how someone found their calling to parenting, including a discussion between Chris and Gabe Lopez on being transgender and hoping his mother would still accept him. Gabe is now 9 years-old so this is a real eye opener about how young children dealing with being trans. The Story Corps recordings are technically podcasts with a new offering put up each week. Consider listening and see where other people’s stories take you in your own work.
Last but not least, Alexander recommends that writers find inspiration among the obituaries. I know that I’ve considered writing several bios after reading someone’s obit and discovering that they were a pioneering chemist, a code talker or more. In addition to straight up obits, Alexander also recommends Find A Grave. This is a national web site that includes obits and photographs. Sometimes the photo is only the grave marker but others include early photos, midlife photos and more. If you don’t have a name to look up, you can also look at popular searches, new listings and new photos, and famous graves.
Next time you find yourself waffling around without inspiration, check out one of these sites and, when inspiration strikes, be sure to say thank you to Jann Alexander for sharing her sources of inspiration.
Throughout the month of January, I’m taking part in Storystorm. The goal is to generate 30 ideas in 30 days. I’m writing this on Thursday the 12th and I currently have 22 ideas.
Early on, because I hadn’t been doing much idea generation, I was going good to come up with one a day. Yes, I was managing it but it wasn’t pretty. I’m so far ahead because the other day I came up with 9. And I have a second one to write down for today.
How do I come up with so many ideas?
One thing is to look for ideas all around you. I’ve been reading the Storystorm blog posts. They’re all informative and some have nudged me towards an idea. Sometimes it isn’t even an idea based on the post itself. Sometimes I look at the images and one will remind me of something I found researching the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 St. Louis World’s Fair). The next thing I know, I’m noodling over an idea based on that research.
When you write nonfiction, one idea can also lead to another. That’s what happened when I started thinking about the World’s Fair. An idea about Ota Benga (someone brought in as part of an exhibit) led to an idea about using people as exhibits and more.
My daily foreign language study led to an idea about words. Reading the National Science Association newsletter led to an idea about nanomaterials. I’ve come up with ideas based on recent headline news, things I’ve seen posted on social media and more.
While one idea may not lead directly to another, generating ideas on a regular basis seems to have freed up the flow. This is definitely a habit that I hope to continue after the month and the challenge are over.
That said, if I’m going to generate 300+ ideas in one year, I’m going to have to come up with some way to organize them.
I’m thinking . . . I’m thinking . . .
Making papier mache tea cups has managed to inspired not one but two ideas, one of which has nothing to do with papier mache.
Disclaimer — first things first, I should probably come clean. I love all the smarty pants answers that other writers come up with when someone asks where they get their ideas. My personal favorite is “a subscription service.”
So, where do I get my picture book ideas for PiBoIdMo? Here and there.
It isn’t a very helpful answer, but its the truth. Looking over my first fourteen ideas here is the “inspirational breakdown”:
1 story inspired by Halloween
1 story about a little girl who keeps getting interrupted
1 nonfiction piece inspired by my Education.com work
1 nonfiction inspired by a discussion with my son
2 nonfiction historic ideas
4 about animals
1 from a Friday Idea prompt (weekly prompt for illustrators)
1 idea that came to me while reading More Spaghetti
When you read over this list it becomes obvious that whatever I’m doing can be inspirational. I’m one of those curious people who sees something or hears something and thinks why? How? What made it that way?
That said, I am also behind by about 4 ideas. Why? Computer issues. Someone hacked my e-mail. Someone spoofed my e-mail. My internet provider was non-helpful until they finally became helpful. Then the mother board on my husband’s computer went bye-bye. I don’t tend to brainstorm really well when I’m stressed. Fortunately, we have the tech schedules to come out and replace the under warranty mother board today. Things seem to be calming down.
. . . Sorry, I have to go. Another idea based on another Education.com assignment just percolated to the surface! Ooo, ooo! And here comes one fueled by another book.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Maybe its because I write so many different things but my writing ideas come from all over. I get ideas for essays from my family and church. Ideas for Boy’s Life magazine come from my son’s scouting activities. But one of the best sources of ideas for me is my reading. Right now, I’m reading a National Geographic magazine. I’ve marked four or five things already and I’m not even to the feature length stories. Some pieces could easily inspire a piece of children’s nonfiction. Another, a science fiction story.
Read more about idea generation in my blog post that appeared on the Muffin yesterday, “Inspiration: Where Do You Get Your Ideas.”
Tomorrow I’ll post about goals and my word count for last week.