Under the Fig Tree
My Endorsement

Where to Get Material for Writing and Speaking


There are more stories to tell than there are story tellers and there is no shortage of material for the story tellers to use.

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Sometimes I am asked where I get material about which to write and speak, assuming I do not have a text to expound.

The answer is that I gather it all the time from multiple sources and with all of my senses.  I am a hunter-gatherer for interesting bits of information, insights, and ideas. Then, I collect it, try to organize it, and wait for it to be needed.

I did think of an acronym for MATERIAL and, while it is not exhaustive, it might propel some ideas for you. So here it is.

M - Meet people.

People are your best source of great materials. Their lives, stories, and thoughts can inspire, inform, and illustrate. Meet them daily. They are everywhere you go.

A - Attend.

By that, I mean, pay attention. Do not be mentally or emotionally absent when you are physically present. Experience the moment you are in with your eyes,m ears, hands, and heart.

T - Take notes.

Don't trust your memory to retain every thought you have or everything you see or read. Write it somewhere that is semi-permanent in a way that you can retrieve it.  You can use paper, a notepad on your phone, or even an email or text to yourself. But take notes.

E- Exercise.

There are two kinds of exercise that I recommend for gathering, considering, and assimilating material.

  1. Exercise writing daily. You remember things and get new ideas as you write.
  2. Exercise physically. Take breaks to walk. Many great thoughts are formed while people are physically active and the mind is allowed to be free to think.

Practice reading and reflection at least daily.

R - Read'and Reflect.

Here is another two-part recommendation, but they are related.

Writers and speakers need to be readers. If you do not read well, listen to audio books, lectures, speeches, and documentaries. In your mind, dialogue with them and catalog what you learn.

Then, reflect on what you gather, but also, reflect on life itself. Dedicate some "think time" into your life. Without reflection, all you write and speak might be shallow and hollow.

I -Investigate

This has gotten so much easier than when I was in college and graduate school. Information is at our fingertips. The only thing that prevents us from beginning a good investigation is a lack of curiosity. Start online, but be willing to venture out, visit locations, interview people, and dig.

A - Ask questions.

There is nothing like an inquisitive mind to attract good material. Ask and ask some more. Ask people to tell you their stories. Ask specific questions and ask open-ended questions. Ask and keep asking.


When you ask, listen. When you don't ask, listen. Listen to those talking to you and listen to the voices around you. Look and listen in a world where we are too likely to want to be seen and heard. Be a fly on the wall and observe life all around you. You will find enough stories and ideas to fill volumes of books and hours of talks.

Start with these ideas and add to them.

You will never, I mean never, I guarantee, never run out of material.

There are many stories to be told and you are just the person to tell some of them.