I’m convinced I’m a writer because I’m a curious person. It makes sense to me that someone who is not curious, would simply not go to the concerted effort of unearthing new facts – or mulling over old facts – on topics both large and small.
Every writer has to decide on a method for picking topics to write about. If you are writing from home with young children in the house, here are some ways to narrow your focus:
- Pick topics that are close to home. It wasn’t until I started writing with kids that I really began to understand what it meant to live, not just in Maryland, but on the East Coast. Of course, we all know that the first European settlers settled here. What struck me after I had kids and started taking them around to museums and other sites, was that all sorts of early innovations in science, engineering, health, education — you name it — happened here. That meant, for me, that hundreds of story ideas were within a day’s drive. While my kids were young, I decided to focus on the history available to me here.
- Pick angles that are close to home. You may not want to write for parents, but you will certainly learn everything from the ground up. You might as well write some pieces that way. You’ll accumulate more knowledge, or find a passion, through repeat visits to sites, or visits to related sites. As your knowledge base grows, so does the number of angles available to you.
- Become an online research savant. Many local libraries have remote access privileges for patrons. Different libraries have different resources. It’s worth driving to a different location to get a library card, then using that card to access those resources. You may also be able to get online privileges at University libraries, although most of them require you to be onsite to use many of their databases. If you are interested in history, see which organizations take non-professional members. Many of these organizations have resources available.
- Know who to call. As important as online resources are, the right person to call real-time can also be a lifesaver. Historical societies, special-purpose collections, archival sites — all of these have people who are knowledgeable and ready to share what they know. Taking the time to find who to call is almost important as making the actual call.
- Combine gigs. Not every outing with your kids needs to be for something you’re writing. However, many outings with your kids are custom made for gathering information and getting some images. For about a year, I had a column for a parenting magazine. The whole idea was to take my kids to different places and write about the experience. My kids got access to parts of places they never would have otherwise. We often got a special tour before we took some time for ourselves. They loved that they were “helping” me write an article. All-in-all, it was fun for all of us.
The bottom line? I have more than enough to write about, and I have three curious kids.