Using SCAMPER to Generate Article Ideas
This is a guest post by Brad Painting. If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here.
One of the great things about freelance writing is that you can invent your own projects and put your creative juices to the test. But what if your creative flow seems blocked, as writers so often lament? Writer’s block is actually just a matter of not asking yourself the right questions.
Imagine that you have just written the article “5 Easy Steps to Greening Your Home” for a popular home magazine. You put forth your best information, and the editor was thrilled, but now you are wanting for ideas. How can you create a new piece without choosing an entirely new topic and doing heaps of research?
The SCAMPER technique is just the solution to this dilemma.
Editor’s note: SCAMPER is a problem solving technique created by Bob Earle and popularized by Michael Michalko in his book Thinkertoys.
SCAMPER is an acronym for a set of actions that force you to ask yourself certain brainstorming questions. The letters of SCAMPER stand for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Magnify, Put to Other Uses, Eliminate, and Reverse. You can perform any of these actions on any component of any product or process.
Our product is the theme of an article. We could technically split the title “5 Easy Steps to Greening Your Home” into 6 components for every noun, pronoun, and adjective, but it may help to use the two components, “5 Easy Steps” and “Greening Your Home”. Let’s take a walk through the SCAMPER process.
Substitute. Replace one component with another. Focus on professional services, like HVAC cleaning, rather than do-it yourself jobs. Or write about the unique challenges of an apartment as opposed to a house:
5 Professional Services for Greening Your Home
5 Easy Steps to Greening Your Apartment
Combine. Merge two components into one. You can fuse a new component with an existing one, or combine two existing components. Can you add qualities to the act of “greening” or to the object, “your home”?
5 Easy Steps to Green Your Home and Your Lifestyle
5 Easy Steps to Green and Add Value to Your Home
Adapt. What components exist that are similar to current ones? Maybe much of your information also applies to commercial buildings:
5 Easy Steps to Greening a Small Business
Magnify. Try playing with the size of a component. Inflate “5 Ways” to “20 Ways” or “Home” to “Neighborhood”. Alternatively, zoom in on one aspect of the house, such as refrigerator-efficiency:
20 Ways You Can Green Your Home
5 Ways You Can Green Your Neighborhood
5 Ways to Improve Your Refrigerator’s Efficiency
Put to Other Uses. Towards what other markets can you tailor the article? Do these steps lower energy consumption, shaving down utility bills? Try writing from a financial rather than environmental standpoint:
5 Surefire Investments in Your Home
Eliminate. What happens when you throw away a component? Is the topic too specific to appeal to enough readers? See what happens when you eliminate some words and tie up loose ends:
5 Ways to Be Green
5 Must-Do Home Improvements
Reverse. Imagine reversing the order of components. Linguistically, this can lead to some creative outcomes, such as an ironic spin on your article:
5 Ways to Throw Away Household Energy.
SCAMPER will not always produce unique or viable topics, but the idea is to generate possiblities so that you can pick and choose. One thing to consider when fleshing out possibilities is whether you can make an article unique enough to warrant an exclusive-rights license. If you would consider a certain adaptation plagiarism when done by another writer, you should not sell it as a unique piece yourself. You can, however, make small changes to increase your sales of usage-rights. If nothing else, SCAMPER will give you the assurance that you have exhausted the possibilities for an idea.
Brad Painting is the author of the vocabulary site Word a Day Wonder, a site that embeds vocabulary in amazing facts.
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