One of the books I read during this time was Writing Articles that Sell by G J Matson. The book was one of five smallish books that came as part of the writing course. It was a book I read and re-read, and it proved its worth.
I've just come across an extract from it that I copied back in 1993 in which he discusses the need to keep cuttings or clippings of articles and newspaper notes. These clippings were useful not just for article ideas, but as backup material for when you did write articles. Evernote serves the same purpose for me now, though I don't write much in the way of articles anymore. And of course it's vastly more easy to catalogue and search. I do write blog posts, of course, and the 'clippings' are useful for that too.
Anyway here is Matson talking about his cataloguing system:
This [initial] classifying was a crude arrangement, and the titles of the various folders, as near as I can remember them now, were Anniversaries, Natural History, Stage and Cinema, Religion, Celebrities, Unusual Experiences, History, Geography, Science, Art, Literature, Domestic Law, Handicrafts, Customs, Political and Miscellaneous. As soon as a folder became uncomfortably full, I divided the cuttings again, this time into foolscap envelopes. Thus Natural History was divided into Ants, Dogs, Elephants, Grouse, Mice, Rabbits and so on.
A few of the subjects, selected from my collection at random, may be of interest: Air Mails, Antipathies, Basket Making, Bibles, Careers for Boys, Chiropody, Corks, Dew Ponds, Duels, Entertaining with Table Napkins, Foolhardy Feats, Giants and Dwarfs, Handwriting, Horse Brasses, Icebergs, Jest-books, Keeping Cool, Lighting, London Oddities, Marbles, Miniatures, Newspapers, Noses, Olive Harvests, Pacifism, Peat, Queen Elizabeth I, Refrigerators, Rings, Safe Deposits, Seaweed, Teasels, Unclaimed Fortunes, Valentine Day, Wassailing, Yom Kippur and Zebras. It will be seen from these examples that the range of subjects covered is a very wide one. It is because I collect cuttings on every subject I possibly can. It pays me to do it – and it will pay you.
What a marvellously diverse list! I had both folders and foolscap envelopes in my much less organised system at one point, so I must have paid some attention to Mr Matson, though I can't say I ever went quite so wide in my choice of subjects. I think his point was that you can write about anything if you have the background information to get you started.
These days, we'd probably categorize Foolhardy Feats under The Darwin Awards. And if you don't know what a Teasel is, it's apparently a tall prickly Eurasian plant with spiny purple flower heads. It seems a slightly curious subject to write about, but perhaps they were more common in gardens back when Matson's book was written.