You Can Write About a Topic Again and Again and Again
Learn why it’s OK to go to the well over and over, and how to do it successfully
When I recently prompted Wise & Well writers to dream up story angles for a special report on depression, I figured we might end up with eight or 10 solid story ideas. The topic is of course covered widely and deeply, frequently and sometimes thoroughly. But as a publication, we had not delved into it beyond some random surface-scratching.
I did not expect the special report to swell to 18 stories. Each writer who was motivated to pitch something had their own unique story to tell, their own area of interest and/or expertise or personal experience, their own angle that nobody else came up with.
And the more ideas we brainstormed, the more I realized the series would still not offer up “everything you need to know” about depression, but rather “a lot of what you need to know.” Each aspect we covered had me thinking of an aspect we did not.
Anyway, this brainstorm bounty reminded me of a writing strategy I learned in the early days of the World Wide Web (like, yeah, the ’90s):
Any interesting and important topic can be revisited any number of times, by any publication or any writer, with any number of angles, made fresh and relevant by including the latest developments, an emerging trend, reference to a newly published book, the musings of an expert gleaned from an interview—or simply by virtue of the fresh enthusiasm and wonder of a writer new to the topic.
When I was writing for Space.com from 1999 into the late 2000s, I wrote news, feature and reference articles about black holes and asteroids (among many other topics) on an almost weekly basis. Then every year or two I’d step back and do a deep-dive overview of each, summarizing what we knew and how the science had changed of late. I never ran out of new ways to cover these objects, nor everything from Pluto to solar storms to dark matter, over and over and over. New discoveries, clever angles, fresh interviews with experts, and voilà: a new story on the same old subject.
For many years thereafter, as a media executive overseeing the launch and rapid growth of several new publications, I encouraged our writers and editors to apply the strategy across science, technology and business publications. We published hundreds of successful news, feature and reference articles that were nowhere near the first of their kind, but were the first for those publications, often the first for those writers, and very often the first for millions of readers (and yes, I do mean millions—every month).
Now that I’m back to writing and editing in the health and wellness space, I use the approach on topics as wide-ranging as aging, exercise, nutrition and meditation. It worked superbly on a recent, highly popular, 15-story Wise & Well special report about Extreme Heat and Human Health. And now it has driven the important series on depression.
How to do it
I’m going to explain exactly why this strategy works, and how you can apply it to your story ideation on a regular basis.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial