“Mommy, Where Do Stories Come From?”

“Mommy, Where Do Stories Come From?”

As a writer, the question I’m asked most often is where I get ideas for my interviews and columns. Well, the short answer is a lot of places–blogs, articles, television. But to be totally honest, the majority of my ideas come from my own life. As a Catholic and a mom of four, I often ask, “What are the issues that touch my life? “What do I wonder about, struggle with or just find interesting?” “What am I passionate about?” 

Unfortunately, most of these ideas come to me at the most inopportune or odd times, such as when I’m trying to fall asleep at night, driving or watching TV with my kids.

Seriously. The other day I was watching a Scooby Doo DVD with my kids that featured a Day of the Dead celebration. I remember immediately thinking This custom could make a good article

Because of this, I keep a notebook and pen nearby at all times. I must confess that many a Faith-filled Family column  or article idea has been sketched out at stoplights. 

The Birth of Ideas

During a recent shopping trip it happened again. My eight-year-old son, Alex, saw a woman dressed in a burka, and he asked why she was dressed that way. I’m embarrassed to say I had nothing to offer past telling him it was part of her religious beliefs. Afterward, I wondered how many Catholics are so ill versed about other religions, especially Islam. I recounted the story to our staff during our discussion of a possible special issue on Catholic-Islam relations. 

Viewing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans

My love for sports has also given birth to a few of my articles–and some amazing experiences. I have had the opportunity to sit and talk with former Baltimore Ravens head coach Ted Marchibroda, walk on the hallowed ground of Lambeau Field with Father Jim Baraniak, the chaplain for the Green Bay Packers, and sit captivated in the stands of Baltimore’s Camden Yards with Msgr. Martin Schwalenberg, who told me tales of his years as chaplain of the Baltimore Orioles and his friendship with Brooks Robinson. 

Other times, stories are so obvious they just scream to be written about. In 2006, I traveled with co-workers Christopher Heffron and John Feister to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And in 2009, John Feister and I covered Pope Benedict XVI’s first trip to the United States

For my Faith-filled Family column, often all I have to do is sit back and take note as life passes by. 

So there you have it, a small glimpse into how stories are born. It’s not always glamorous, but it works. 

Your Turn

Let us know what’s going on in your life. What are the things you’re thinking about, struggling with or just find interesting? They may just show up in our pages. 


About the Author

By day, Susan Hines-Brigger is the managing editor of St. Anthony Messenger. By night, she and her husband, Mark, are the caretakers and social directors for their four kids: Maddie, Alex, Riley, and Kacey.
  • sharonl

    Good job, Susan! I agree that the topic of Christian-Islam relations would be beneficial to many people!

  • Christopher Heffron

    Nice job, Susan.

  • http://www.americancatholic.org Lisa Biedenbach

    Like you, I find stories and product ideas percolating while driving to and from work. A great use of the 40-minute one-way commute!

  • http://www.americancatholic.org Sandy

    Great blogging, Susan! And I agree, the best inspiration comes from everyday life…oh, does it ever come from everyday life! :)