One of the many lessons I learned during my ad agency days was the importance of a good “swipe” file. Never heard the term? It’s simply a file (or box) where you threw ads, articles, brochures – anything you liked or thought was particularly effective. When you were given a tough assignment, you’d sift through the swipe file, and often, what you saw would trigger a new idea or a new direction.


I continue to use a couple types of swipe files. If your organization publishes a newsletter, one of them can help you ensure that you have a steady stream of content.


Anytime you read something of interest (or, more important, that might interest your readers), cut it out and toss it in your swipe file. Perhaps it’s a magazine article, maybe a story from a newspaper, maybe just an interesting fact – it doesn’t really matter. You can even throw sticky notes with article ideas in there.


Once you’re ready to work on the next issue, scan through your swipe file, and you may be surprised how many good story ideas come to mind. If you get good enough at it, you’ll never want for a story idea again!