When my editors would assign me a story, I could do it no problem. My head would spin with ideas and angles and potential questions for interview subjects.
But when I was asked to come up with my own story ideas and present them to my editors, I would literally freeze up. What was there to write about? Did I have any press releases on my desk that might work for a story? Was there a story I did previously that I could follow-up on?
Those are certainly valid sources of potential stories, especially at a daily/weekly newspaper.
However, as a writer, my goal was to think outside the box, to find the stories that others didn’t have and hadn’t thought of. That was where the panic came from. Was I somehow less of a writer if I couldn’t figure out story ideas? Was I doing something wrong?
I can say definitely not. Figuring out where to find stories is perhaps one the hardest things a writer can do … until you realize that stories are all around you.
So, I can hear you say, there are no stories around me! What can I possibily have to write about? Well, since we just finished the holiday season, let’s use that as an example.
Did you try something different this year? Maybe you tried a concierge service or shipped your gifts while you flew to visit family. Maybe you found a great online source for toy ideas?
Any of these could be a story idea — if pitched to the right publication and written in the right tone and interest.
Now, make a list of some thing you did different this year, think about how you might be able to use that to jump start a story and then start your research. Who knows, you may just have found your next big assignment!