58. Where can you find things to write about?

This post is mostly self-serving. As I get deeper into my Daily Themes writing experiment, I have to be a bit more disciplined in surfacing topics to write about. Recognizing that the entire exercise is more about training myself than it is about trying to satisfy a particular audience (for any of you who have read any of these posts… Thank you!), the topics I choose are selected primarily on the basis of “will I enjoy thinking about this for 30 minutes?” That is a pretty low bar for me, as I consider most things worth a half hour of consideration.

That said, for my own purposes, I thought I would try to codify the process of finding a topic for conversation.

  1. Use free moments to reflect. Much of the time I uncover a point of interest on the subway or while standing in line for a cup of coffee. These are windows that I would have previously spent staring at my phone. Now I try to dedicate them to thinking about what’s going on that’s interesting.
  2. Read more. It’s nearly impossible to disassociate reading and writing. At least for me. The easiest way to stimulate the old brain is always reading more.
  3. Listen more. You rarely come up with new things to think about when you listen to your own soundtrack. Asking other people what they’re thinking about is often an efficient way to trigger new thoughts.
  4. Find new ways to read and listen. Obviously very related to #2–3, but to find things to think about you have to not only listen and read more. It’s also important to find new channels for reading and listening. That, for example, is why I’ve been trying to Slack with people over the past few weeks. It’s a new way for me to listen. Outside Twitter, I have not had as much success finding new avenues for reading. I will keep looking.
  5. Frame apparent insights as questions. If I start out with a point that I’m trying to make, the stream of thought often runs dry more quickly than if I try to reframe the observation as a question. Questions build on each other more easily — at least for me — than do points of view. This layering, when allowed to play out, often yields more interesting perspectives.
  6. When all else fails…
    - Go to Google Trends and play around for a bit
    - Look for big movers in the stock market on a given day
    - Check out Our World in Data
    - Read (some of) the latest issue of The Economist
    - Read some Shakespeare and / or some scripture

Note to reader: This is day 58 of 92 in my commitment to write for 30 minutes each day from October 1 through the end of 2015. Previous posts can be found here.

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