Here’s one of the first lessons I learned as a journalist…
I was sitting in the state capitol in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. A debate was underway as to whether the Red Sox should stay at Fenway Park or build a new stadium in a different location. It was a hot button issue of huge interest. All of Boston’s TV stations, newspapers, and radio news shows were there to cover the story. But that meant the city’s press were together in a clump, waiting (and waiting and waiting) for an announcement. And as was often the case, we all chatted (or goofed off) to pass the time. I’d just begun my career and was an intern for a Boston TV station and was soaking up the experience like a sponge. And a veteran journalist offered me his best advice for my reporting career.
He said to pay attention to my own reaction to new information. That means listening to your brain when it says…
“Oh, wow! That’s cool.”
“Never knew that before!”
“How moving. Wow, that’s powerful.”
“I have got to know more about that.”
“Whoa, that’s fascinating.”
“I never thought about it that way before.”
Those are alarm bells, alerting you to story ideas and book ideas!
Because the truth is, we human beings are not that unique in our thoughts. And if you think something is cool or interesting, chances are you can fill a stadium with people who feel the same way. Those folks are your audience. So when you are moved or intrigued or wowed by something you are learning, chances are you have found a story idea… and one that others will also find interesting. You never know when it will hit you… while watching TV, talking to a child, reading the newspaper, visiting a museum, participating in a webinar, reading a book, watching a parade, overhearing a conversation, something a friend says, and a million other ways. Just keep an ear out for your own internal reaction.
I used that advice as a reporter and I use it now as an author. Train yourself to listen to the story alarm bells in your brain. The more you listen, the louder they get.
Happy Listening and Writing!
If you like this tip, stay tuned. Here’s a little secret… I’m going to be offering a nonfiction writing class soon. I’m gonna to show you where to find story ideas, how to rein in research to harness the power of storytelling, story structure, story heart, and how to polish that manuscript to a sparkly shine. My seventh nonfiction book is coming out this summer! I can’t believe it. SEVEN books! I’m ready to share every tip and trick I’ve learned along the way! Check back on this blog for more details or sign up for my newsletter and you’ll be the first to hear all about it!
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In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out Nonfiction Fest happening right now. I’ll have a post there soon on how to make your manuscript pop off the page! NonFictionFest is tackling a new topic each and every day all February long.