FINDING SUBJECTS AND MATERIAL
"What shall I write about?" is the first question that inexperienced writers ask their literary advisers. "If you don;t have anything to write about, why write at all?" might be an easy answer. Most persons, as a matter of fact, have plenty to write about but do not realize it. Not lack of subjects, but inability to recognize the possibilities of what lies at hand, is their real difficulty.
The best method of finding subjects is to look at every person, every event, every experience?in short, at everything?with a view to seeing whether or not it has possibilities for a special feature article. Even in the apparently prosaic round of everyday life will be found a variety of themes. A circular letter from a business firm announcing a new policy, a classified advertisement in a newspaper, the complaint of a scrub-woman, a new variety of fruit in the grocer's window, an increase in the price of laundry work, a hurried luncheon at a cafeteria?any of the hundred and one daily experiences may suggest a "live" topic for an article.
"Every foot of ground is five feet deep with subjects; all you have to do is to scratch the surface for one," declared the editor of a popular magazine who is also a successful writer of special articles. This statement may be taken as literally true. Within the narrow confines of one's house and yard, for instance, are many topics. A year's experience with the family budget, a home-made device, an attempt to solve the servant problem, a method of making pin-money, a practical means of economizing in household management, are forms of personal experience that may be made interesting to newspaper and magazine readers. A garden on a city lot, a poultry house in a back yard, a novel form of garage, a new use for a gasoline engine, a labor-saving device on the farm, may afford equally good topics. One's own experience, always a rich field, may be supplemented by experiences of neighbors and friends.
A second source of subjects is the daily newspaper. Local news will give the writer clues that he can follow up by visiting the places mentioned, interviewing the persons concerned, and gathering other relevant material. When news comes from a distance, he can write to the persons most likely to have the desired information. In neither case can he be sure, until he has investigated, that an item of news will prove to contain sufficient available material for an article. Many pieces of news, however, are worth running down carefully, for the day's events are rich in possibilities.
A third source of both subjects and material is the report of special studies in some field, the form of the report ranging from a paper read at a meeting to a treatise in several volumes. These reports of experiments, surveys, investigations, and other forms of research, are to be found in printed bulletins, proceedings of organizations, scientific periodicals, and new books and ebooks. Government publications?federal, state, and local?giving results of investigative work done by bureaus, commissions, and committees, are public documents that may usually be had free of charge. Technical and scientific periodicals and printed proceedings of important organizations are generally available at public libraries.
With all these resources and a little imagination, any writer can successfully find ideas and subject for his articles and litterary work. Go ahead and do your homework, might not be the easiest thing but it will pay off in the long run!
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