Generating Ideas for Magazine Articles (Part 2)

20 Jan

You know the old adage that you should “Write what you know.” Well, it’s an old adage for good reason. It’s natural to write about the things you know about and feel comfortable with — whether it’s a hobby you have, a place you visited, or a special expertise you possess. Let’s break down your knowledge into four specific areas (personal experiences, personal interests and passions, talents/areas of expertise, and experiences) and think about how they can help you develop marketable article ideas.

Personal Experiences

Personal experiences are among the best sources for article ideas. For many writers, such experiences provide the source of most of their ideas. And it’s natural that they are. When we experience something that we have learned from, or enjoyed, or have been inspired by, or that has simply made our life easier, we want to share it with other people. As writers, we find that our natural instinct is to sit down and write an article based on that experience.

As you look at the things you experience, consider two sources: the mundane things you experience on a daily basis and the bigger moments in your life. Both types of experiences can develop into marketable articles.

Ordinary, mundane moments — your commute to work, exercise regime, date night with your significant other — can become articles such as “De-Stressing Your Morning Commute,” “Soccer for Grown-Ups,” and “Fun Stay-at-Home Dates.’

Bigger moments — the birth of a child, failure of a relationship, summer vacation — can become articles such as “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Having a Baby,” “Be a Better Listener,” and “Disney on a Budget.”

Think back on your life and recall moments that were especially meaningful to you. They may be humorous moments (a fun vacation), significant moments (college graduation), emotional moments (birth of a child), life-changing moments (a divorce), sentimental moments (conversation with a grandmother), even small or seemingly routine moments (watching a sunrise).

These experiences — whether they taught you something, or entertained you, or changed you in some way — can develop into effective, marketable articles. They might develop into an informative piece on how to handle a certain situation, a descriptive travelogue on a specific trip, or a personal essay on a memory from childhood.

Any time you are writing about something close to you, that intimacy in understanding and feeling will shine through in your writing.

Personal Interests and Passions

What are you particularly interested in? What hobbies or special activities do you engage in? What causes or topics are you particularly passionate about?

If you love something, it’s a perfect subject to write about. After all, won’t you be more passionate in your writing if you are passionate about the topic to begin with?

Think about the many things that personal interests and passions could encompass. Do you love photography, or wineries, or reality television? Do you crochet, or run marathons, or grow blueberries? Are you passionate about single-parent issues, or health care reform, or breast cancer?

Those interests and passions can easily develop into the types of articles that magazines need.

Talents/Areas of Expertise

Another important area of “what you know” revolves around those things that you are good at — whether a physical talent or skill (such as running track or playing a musical instrument), psychological talent or skill (listening to and counseling others), or a professional area of expertise (teaching math or coaching softball).

The nature of feature writing is such that, once you have a byline in a publication, you are considered an expert. If you are a freelance writer, you are marketing yourself as an expert on a topic or issue. While you will back up your own areas of expertise with quotes and information from other expert sources, starting with something you are good at or know well is a great way to begin.

All magazines — both general magazines and those that specialize in certain nichés (such as hiking, teaching, music, or gardening) — need articles on specific skills, and they need skilled writers to write about those things.

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2 Responses to “Generating Ideas for Magazine Articles (Part 2)”

  1. kathryn Lang January 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Love these tips. I never thought about taking the ordinary or mundane and turning them into an article. Now I am going to look at every action of my day in a new light. 😀

  2. rhemajoy January 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Cheryl,

    Thank you so much for this very helpful blog. I am so glad you are using your gifts to help others like me, to develop theirs!

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