Top tens

Many publications love “lists”.  If you’re creative and imaginative, you can write these with a little thinking and research.  For instance “10 best sporting moments”, “10 worst TV shows”, “24 Mistakes You Can Make With a New Lover”, and so on.  It doesn’t have to be “10”.

How do you work up your own ideas?  Follow my advice, given previously:

NOTEPAD  You must carry a pen and notepad with you always (not usually, but always).  I carry a tiny (11cm x 7cm) Spirax notebook which fits into a breastpocket oeasily.  Attached to it is a Papermate Pacer pencil, tied to the notebook with a 20cm of fishing line!  A notepad is great, but without a writing instrument it’s useless.  I carry a tiny $99 micro tape-recorder on my keyring, and use it when an idea hits me while driving when I can talk but can’t write.

THINKING TIME  Think about possible ideas while alone (showering, driving, sunbaking, exercising, etc).

HOLIDAY TIME  This is not for everyone, but I find that being relaxed and in unfamiliar surroundings always stimulates ideas, especially when reading unfamiliar publications.

PEOPLE  Any one of the people who pass through your life can lead you to a story, or, is a story him/herself.  Start a conversation, ask questions, be curious, be interested.  Get a name and phone number, and call later.  To make the “people” tool work you must believe: everyone is a story.  You’ll find it true.

BRAINSTORMING  You need two other people who are also interested in ideas.  Get together over a meal or a drink.  There’s only one rule for brainstorming sessions: never criticise anyone’s idea, no matter how crazy or feeble, but always build on that idea.

WORDS  All ideas must be expressed in words, and most words can represent an idea.  So, why not start with words?  Wander through your thesaurus and dictionary — and feel the many ideas that will pop into your mind.

YOUR KEYBOARD  Open a new file in your computer and start typing.  Type “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” or copy-type an article you admire.  But keep typing.  Eventually you’ll find yourself writing out an idea, rather than merely typing.

YELLOW PAGES  People who are in the Yellow Pages want to be phoned.  They will be just as happy to talk to you, a freelance journalist, as to a potential customer.  Everyone knows media exposure can help business.

OLD IDEAS  There are no truly NEW ideas.  Most good ideas are old ideas with a new twist.  So, regurgitate, re-circulate and re-use old ideas.  Get an old magazine, and imagine how you can revive some old story.

THE MEDIA  You must be a consumer of the media (radio, television, print, the internet).  Worldwide, the media feeds off itself.  Journalists follow-up on each others’ ideas every day.  You must learn to do it too.

Anyway, here’s some ideas for “lists” (and substitute any number you like for “10”:

  • The 10 best wedding plans
  • 10 traps women fall into during affairs
  • 10 secrets of guilt-free laziness
  • My 10 best moments while eavesdropping
  • 10 ways to be snob and succeed
  • 10 ways to stay out of debt
  • 10 methods of defeating backache
  • 10 clues to prove you’re a hypochondriac
  • 10 ways to impress with small talk
  • 10 things to avoid writing down
  • 10 best gourmet foods on a budget
  • 10 worst driving faults
  • 10 actions to do in a jury room
  • 10 ways to apologise and come out a winner
  • Life’s 10orst hatreds
  • The 10est lines from movies
  • 10 ways to borrow when the bank says no
  • 10 best suggestions about what to say when someone dies
  • 10 most satisfying ways to let off steam
  • The 10 men/women I most like to look at
  • 10 best holiday spots in Australia
  • 10 things never to say if your husband is balding
  • 10 things not to say when you hate your best friend’s new love
  • The 10 best comic books today
  • 10 ways to avoid losing in a divorce
  • My 10 favourite two-ingredient recipes
  • The 10 smartest, 10 dumbest things I said
  • 10 happy thoughts to inspire
  • The 10 talents I most admire
  • My 10 best taxi trips
  • 10 encounters with ghosts
  • 10 best ways to stay attractive
  • 10 favourite things that honest people steal
  • 10 useless diets I have tried
  • 10 ways to gamble and stay safe
  • 10 best pick-up lines for women to say
  • 10 ways to have a happy life
  • 10 things you must own in your lifetime
  • 10 mistakes never to make

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