Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Stealing Inspiration (Or At Least Preserving It For Future Use)

Some time in grade school, I began collecting newspaper articles that interested me. I collected magazines, too. In high school I branched out into rudimentary scrap-booking, but the contents still revolved around newspaper and magazine articles. Some years later, I learned that clipping and keeping pieces of journalistic writing is a common habit among writers. I had no idea. I just wanted any news-type of story I found interesting within easy reach.

As an adult, my office is overloaded with articles, all of them fascinating to me and quite a few of them quirky. I have a clipping from years ago, complete with grainy black and white picture, of a species of worm in Australia that can grow to five feet long and has at least three hearts. I have the sad and mysterious story of a mom and dad who traveled to Europe, grieving the daughter who had disappeared without a trace, only to find her name and the date of her disappearance included in graffiti on a wall in Germany. They never learned why. I have a copy of the first picture of a wolverine taken in the wilds of Michigan in over a hundred years: wolverines were deemed extinct in the state until that picture turned up some time in 2003 or so. My collection of articles includes information about monastic retreats, home cures for about a zillion ailments (try Vick's Vapo-rub on your nail fungus!), tales of monster sightings, the ghost that was sold on E-Bay, and a bunch of behind-the-scenes stories on the making of Band of Brothers.

This collection is not organized in any fashion, but I can usually put my hands on the article I want within a few minutes of deciding I need to look at it. My husband, bless him, just shakes his head and ignores me. But what these clippings do for me is excite my imagination, provide a spark, crank up the "what if...?" story-writing engine deep within that sometimes goes into sleep mode but never completely shuts down.

We all get our inspirations somewhere. Sometimes I find the daily newspaper offers weirder things than I could possibly dream up on my own -and then I grab the nearest pair of scissors and add to my collection.


  1. Oh, I totally agree with this. I started finding articles (newspaper at first and then magazine as well) that inspired stories back when I started writing. Most of the folders that contain the paper drafts of my stories also have the original newspaper article as well.

    My newspaper clipping habit also helped later on when I became an academic librarian (back in pre-computer days before the now very useful newspaper databases). But that's another story.

    Good to hear that others have this habit.

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  3. Add me to the newspaper and magazine clippers. I can't resist an intriguing story or article or picture. I file them away for future use, perhaps. You never know.