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Using Your Feeds for Story Ideas

After a couple months of incredible productivity, I hit a dry spell. There was plenty I should be writing about, but shoulds don’t motivate very well. So I went hunting.

I’ve written about the many resources available for story ideas, but here’s a trick I do to get me back on course. I call it “trawling”. It begins with my feeds.

I have collected a very diverse list of feeds over the past two years. They range from high tech to general resources, wild politics to conservative thoughts. They are just blogs or websites that appealed to me for a variety of reasons, but mostly they offer inspiration in some form or fashion.

I fire up my feed reader and go down the list. When I see a feed story that catches my attention, using the Firefox Internet browser, I open the story in a new tab and continue down the list. This is probably what you do, too, but there’s another aspect I use to catch story ideas.

As I click the Open in New Tab from the Right Click menu, I think about what the story might tell me. I think about what was in the title or excerpt or first couple paragraphs that caught my eye. I think about what kind of article I would write about the subject if I were to write about it. Remember, I haven’t read the story yet. I’m just looking for possibilities.

Example of notes I take looking for story ideas to write aboutI keep a small note pad next to me and make a small note about the story idea before I proceed to the next feed post. It is usually a word or two, a little shorthand I’ve developed over the years to remind me of what I was thinking about at the time.

The key is to not stop, but to just keep going on to the next.

When I’ve trawled down the list far enough, with 10 to possibly 60 tabs opened, I’ll then look at my notes to see if there are any story ideas there worth investigating. If there is, and I need one or more of the posts I’ve just opened to highlight in my new article, I’ll keep that post open. I close the rest of them to focus on my story idea. I then go to work with new energy, motivation, and inspiration.

If my notes don’t get my heart racing with inspiration, then I move to the opened tabs. If there is some piece of information worth sharing with you, I’ll add it to my blog and move to the next one, continuing to trawl for story ideas.

Somewhere in all those tabs is inspiration. I know that. I can feel my writer’s instinct telling me that there is a story in there. It’s just a matter of the hunt, poking in the dark reaches of my brain with the information I’m seeing through my eyes.

Sometimes an idea comes from reading a post that has nothing to do with what I’m reading. There was a word or phrase that caught my attention and then I ran with it. Sometimes the post itself becomes the story. Other times, just a highlight of the bigger story. More often, it has nothing to do with anything. Some conscious or unconscious stimulus pulled the chain of the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling in a dark dusty room in my brain and passion was reignited.

By the time I’ve looked at 6-15 posts or articles, I usually have found inspiration to keep on going again. I move through the writer’s block into production again.

I keep all these little notes in a folder, the paper kind that kids get at the beginning of the school year with funky designs on them. I like the silver reflective ones so they will stick out from the pile of paper that can collect on my desk if I’m really busy. Next time I run out of ideas for blog topics, I poke through the notes. If nothing rings my inspiration bell, I’m back to the feeds for more trawling.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen


  1. Posted May 7, 2006 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    There are plenty of fish, as they say. The feeds are a great source, I just don’t like feeds from sites like digg or fark, a lot of good stuff is hidden deep into the comments, it’s better to “be there”.

    Another great source of news is your blog’s backstage. My daily experiences usually end as a post. Remember the little story about the thief who stole my content?

    Here’s another one… a bloodsucker was using my posts, disguised as a search site, framing one of my blogs with his big, ugly add. Now I’m using a cool WordPress deframer plugin, and all the little worm gets is HIS bandwidth wasted.

    It’s usefull for me, it’s usefull for a lot of people, get me visits and everyone is happy but the parasite, who provided me with a great content for a post, for free.

  2. Posted May 7, 2006 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    I follow the same procedure, more or less, to find inspiration for my future posts.

    I also find great inspiration in real life. Since my blog is about usability & accessibility issues, I often find myself contemplating over a badly designed logotype, sign or store, eager to blog about it.

    Bad thing is, I often forget my ideas. I’m all “that’s it! it’s gonna be a great blog entry” but then whoosh! it’s forgotten. I should make a habit of scribbling it down when it’s still there.

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