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Throw Yourself an Idea Party
by Kathryn Lay

Ideas, a writer’s lifeline. Most of the time we have more ideas than we have time to put them on paper.

But occasionally, I want to work on a new idea; needing to put aside current projects and focus on something fresh. Or I just want to replenish my idea files.

It’s time to throw myself an Idea Party. It might be all at once or spread out over several weeks. It’s time that I step back from writing for a half-day or an hour and give my creativity a jolt.

Do you need an idea? Try some of these party games:

1. The Party List

Spend an hour making a list. Think of topics for article queries, fun titles for short stories, recent events or situations that can be turned into essays or how-to’s (or how not-to’s). What questions have been on your mind lately that you might research an answer? What weird dream could be turned into a story or humorous essay? List childhood remembrances, fears, favorite pets, friendships lost and found, disastrous dates, the strangest kid you remembered in school, your most poignant holiday memory. The list goes on…

2. Hide & Seek Some Magazines

Spend an hour looking over piles of magazines. Slip into a quiet spot at the library and thumb through magazines: Children’s, women’s, general interest… whatever they have available. The more I absorb, the more I have come up with offshoot ideas or see a phrase that leads my thoughts to a story, article, or book title. You might find an article that leaves a question unanswered. Find a way to answer it. Or a story that reminds you of something that happened to you. Maybe a photograph has a story waiting to be told. Or an article is so interesting you just have to learn more about this topic.

3. Field Tripping

Go on a field trip. It doesn’t have to be far. Spend time alone at an amusement park, a local tourist attraction, in the midst of a big city or a quiet country getaway, a historical site or a popular teen hangout. Watch and listen to other people and write down their conversations, movements and reactions. Describe the settings you are seeing. Study someone from a distance and make up a story about what they are doing or are about to do.

4. Ring Around the Rewrite

Pull out your own published pieces. How many ways can your resell or reslant your own work. Has it been awhile since some of those pieces were sent out as reprints? Now that you’ve stepped back from them, can you think of additional ideas that go in a new direction? Did your personal experience that you wrote about right after it happened lead you to other events you’ve not written about yet?

5. Pin the Tail on the Dictionary

This old idea standby is still a fun and interesting way to create ideas. Close your ideas, open the dictionary and plop your finger onto a word. Even better, pick 2 words and try to find a way to put them together. A children’s story resulted from the words ‘mirror’ and ‘blind.’ It won first prize in a contest and went on to be published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy magazine. The words ‘ostrich’ and ‘dragon’ became an idea for a children’s novel.

Whether you use an idea notebook, 3X5 cards, or a file on your computer, you’ll find that idea parties will get your creative thoughts flowing again.

© Copyright 2004, Kathryn Lay

Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through rlay15@aol.com

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