Between blog posts, paid assignments and volunteer projects, it's hard to know how many stories I write each year. But that's why we call it The Word Factory! Still, the volume prompts a lot of folks to ask where I get the ideas for all these pieces.

Sometimes, they're assigned. But most of the writing I do is based on ideas I come up with on my own. They come from a variety of sources:

  • Torn from the pages of real life: Life is a full of story ideas, so I frequrently write about things I've experienced in my own business or personal life, like this piece on networking, and inspired a story for Duke Corporate Education.
  • Ripped from the headlines: I read a lot of stuff every morning from print and online editions of newspapers/magazines to email-subscription newsletters to Facebook and Twitter), which leads to posts like this one on good gossip that ended up as an assignment for
  • Focused on best (or worst) practice: When I encounter someone who's done something great or colossally stupid, I look for the learning and blog about that.
  • Steeped in my own work: I even get inspiration from the work I'm doing for clients, like this story on interviewing inspired by acclaimed film director Albert Hughes.

On the seriously off-chance that there's no there there, I use this handy trick to generate ideas.

Do these tips help? What do you do to come up with topic ideas?