I started a compost pile in my desk after I’d been in Toastmasters a year or two.
After giving speeches about my kids, neighborhood projects, sportsmanship, and the world’s moral decay, I was running out of topics. There was a fuzzy idea banging around in my head that parents should butt out of youth sports and other activities – something about letting kids be kids, and not putting so much pressure on them. I started clipping out newspaper and magazine articles of dads punching coaches, coaches punching umpires, and kids suffering from repetitive motion injuries. I’d toss them into a file folder in my desk and forget about them for awhile.
Since I had a folder for putting things in, I started writing down anecdotes of goofy things my kids did. Into the folder they went. I found a couple stories about bullying, the writers guidelines for Toastmasters magazine, and an online article about the different leadership styles of men and women. Into the folder. An article in Writers Digest about writing essays seemed to resonate with the topic of speech writing. Into the folder. A poem from a magazine, notes about a bizarre incident when a homeless guy confronted me in the public library (he said the FBI was rounding up redheads), and a Yahoo! Sports story about softball players selflessly helping an injured opponent score the game-winning home run. Into the folder.
Every few months, I pull out my folder and shake it out onto the floor. Then I get down on my hands and knees. Since I collect scraps about topics I’m interested in, it’s not surprising that I’ll often find three or four items that create the spine for a speech, magazine article, or short story. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s a start.
The rest of the note cards, clippings and online articles go back into the folder. New fodder will join them from time to time, and the pile will compost away until I’m ready to dig in once more.