500. Five Hundred Ideas

I can’t believe I’ve come up with five hundred subjects for articles! And the ideas are still coming. I think I’ll write this one about how I come up with ideas. I know that some people who have to write are sometimes (or often) stuck trying to come up with ideas. If that’s a problem you have, or if you know people (children, for example) who have that problem, maybe my method will help you.
First of all, knowing I’m going to write makes me notice more. I went to London alone in 1983, and I took a journal with me. I resolved to fill up the journal during the week I prepared for the trip, and during the week I was there. The time I spent in London was precious. I experienced London the way I wanted to experience it – observing and thinking. Friends told me what I should be sure to see in London, and I did see some of it, but most of my time there was spent the way I spend time here. When things and people were different, I was suprised, and enjoyed the ways they were different. I used my journal the way some people use cameras,
and now, sometimes I take it out and read it. To remember.
Sometimes a parent, child, or teacher says or writes something that gets me thinking. When that happens, my feelings can range from relief (“Whew! I’ve got something to write about!”) to impatient excitement (“I’ve
got to hurry home so I can write about this!”). Even on days when I’m not as excited about teaching as I usually am (so far, those days are few and far between), I go to school to get material.
If I start an article and realize that it doesn’t feel as if it’s going to work – if I feel that the time is not right, or the idea is not right, I put the idea aside or throw it away. If I get tired, or lose some of my inspiration, I stop. I know, by now, that something is going to get me going again. And later, something invariably does.
And what if I feel like writing about an idea that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with parenting, teaching, or children? So far, that’s been okay. Article #499 (“Besides Words”) didn’t start out having anything to do with the subject of this book. I was thinking about ways I’ve related with adults in my life, and I was fairly confident that somewhere along the line, I’d figure out what the
idea had to do with parents, teachers, and children. Actually, most of what I think about ends up having some connection with those people.
Article #500 is just about done, and a friend has already inspired article #501. So volume two of my book is done, and I’m ready to start volume three. As for my column in The Wellesley Townsman, the timing is getting a little silly. I’m writing this article in April of 1997, and it will probably be published in the Townsman in June of 2003. I think I’ll take a few days off.

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