In 2014, I was invited give a TED talk—at TEDxMonterey to a room full of folks eager to hear about the latest insights, eye-opening innovations, impressive pursuits. I was joined on the list of presenters by a NASA space scientist who has discovered hundreds of distant planets, a charismatic marine biologist from Sri Lanka who studies humpback whales, a Naval captain who focuses on systemic strategy and complexity, a developmental psychologist, a tech innovator… All I do is tell stories. What the hell was I supposed to talk about?
So I told stories. More accurately, I told them how I FIND stories.
For me, the idea is always paramount. I’m often asked about the writing process, but that ignores the first step: What are you going to write about? Good writing begins before the first line is ever written. It all starts with subject matter that captures readers' attention, a story or angle that is simply too clever for an editor or publisher to pass up, something that just might make a student actually enthusiastic about writing.
I’m a bit of a literary jack of all trades, mostly because I enjoy experimenting, challenging myself. I’ve written more than 30 books for kids and adults, newspaper articles, magazine features, poems, movie screenplays, blogs, you name it. It keeps me fresh as a writer, if rather exhausted and often humbled. I tend to pursue whatever piques my interest—a broad range of subjects that includes just about anything (from sports car racing to civil rights) and anyone (from Dr. Seuss to Dr. Joyce Brothers). But each started as merely the germ of a notion.
My hope is that by learning about how these stories came to me over the years, it might offer some insight into the spectrum of creative possibilities. So here I offer 10 paths to a good idea: