. . . For big projects, save scraps others would toss.
Roy Peter Clark shares his methods for collecting project ideas:
". . .To save string, I need a simple file box. I prefer the plastic ones that look like milk crates. I display the box in my office and put a label on it, say, "The Plight of Boys." As soon as I declare my interest in an important topic, a number of things happen. I notice more things about my topic. Then I have conversations about it with friends and colleagues. They feed my interest. One by one, my box fills with items: an analysis of graduation rates of boys versus girls; a feature on whether video games help or hinder the development of boys; a story about decreasing participation by boys in high school sports. This is a big topic, so I take my time. Weeks and weeks pass, sometimes months and months, and one day I'll look over at my box and hear it whisper, "It's time." I'm amazed at its fullness, and even more astonished at how much I've learned just by saving string. . .
. . .The trick for me is to grow several crops at the same time. Fertilize one crop, even as you harvest another. In my office I have several boxes with labels on them. . AIDS, the Holocaust, racial justice, the millennium, World War II, literacy. These are topics of inexhaustible interest, capable of generating a lifetime of reporting, storytelling and analysis. Each one, in fact, is so huge, so imposing, it threatens to overpower the writer's energy and imagination. This is the reason to save string. Item by item, anecdote by anecdote, statistic by statistic, your boxes of curiosity fill up without effort, creating a literary life cycle: planting, cultivation, and harvesting. . ."
Here is a suggestion from Roy's WORKSHOP:
-Review your writing from the last couple of years. List your big categories of interest and curiosity. For which of those topics do you want to save string?