Last night I interviewed Davis Guggenheim and Lesley Chilcott for an article on their upcoming documentary, “It Might Get Loud”. The duo previously collaborated on the Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Truth” and Barack Obama’s biographical video at the Democratic Convention.

You’ll have to wait to see the film – and the article – but something Guggenheim said really resonated with the writer in me. In discussing the different formats and cameras used in making the movie he said, “It’s the storytelling that tells you what to use.”

Sure, he was talking about film-making. But I think the same philosophy applies to writing. Nine times out of 10, the material tells me where to begin.

Maybe it’s a fantastic quote from one of my sources.
For a package on rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina: Jim Kelly might as well be at the pulpit as he sermonizes eloquently about the need to create housing for New Orleans’ poor, elderly and disabled residents. Tall and confident, he has faith that New Orleans will rise again. “There’s a line from Ephesians – one body, one spirit, one hope,” he says with conviction. “That’s what we need here. Affordable housing is in critical need if we’re going to truly re-inhabit our community.”
Read more here.

For an article on development in Hollywood: Former Hollywood resident Darin Beebower remembers when Tinseltown wasn’t on the A-list. “When I’d get home from work guys would be asking me if I wanted to buy drugs,” he recalls. “You were kind of concerned when you walked out the door.”

Or a great anecdote or vignette that sets up the article perfectly.

For a story on foreclosures: When you fly over Cleveland at night, you can see why it’s called the Jack-o-Lantern effect. In neighborhoods across the city many homes – and sometimes entire blocks – are dark. In the light of day, you see the impact differently. Street after street of boarded up homes with untended lawns and shuttered businesses with unkempt storefronts. Read more here.

For an article on a NASCAR ad: Capturing the action, intensity and emotion of NASCAR racing is a challenge. Especially when you’re dealing with 40-some cars and speeds in the neighborhood of 200 mph. Just trying asking drivers involved in a crash for another take. Ain’t gonna happen. Then there are the high expectations of race fans who’re spoiled to death by incredible in-car and in-track camera angles and crave the high drama of watching their favorite driver head for the checkered flag. Oh, and did we mention you’re trying to get all this in a :30 commercial for NASCAR on ESPN?
Read more here.

Sometimes, I’m just struck by something clever or funny.
For an article on hillside development: With available flat land getting scarcer and more expensive, some residential developers reckon there’s gold in them thar hills.

For an article on getting frisky in public: These days, PDA is most closely associated with personal data assistants, which can be annoying enough when constantly displayed in public. But if you’re old-school, like me, PDA stands for something else sometimes off-putting: public displays of attention.

I didn’t have any of these ideas before I started interviewing. These ledes simply presented themselves – just as Guggenheim said. There’s no trick beyond listening – and letting it come to you.

And when this doesn’t happen, we’ve got a process for this, which I blogged about here: Beating Writer’s Block.

Interested in learning more? We provide individual coaching sessions and team workshops on this subject and others. Learn about them here.