Use the CASH acronym and 2 steps to turn lightbulb moments into workable drafts
We writers get random ideas throughout the day that make us think, “This would make for a great article.”
I’m sincerely hoping that you, dear writer, do not allow these “seeds” of inspiration to drown in the torrential rains of emotion, responsibility, and life dilemmas that pop up after this thought surfaces. I’m not going to write an article about how you should write all these seeds of creativity down, because, hey, you know that right?
Not grabbing an idea and holding on for dear life until you can process its possibilities more deeply is writer-suicide. So, a quick reminder. Write those ideas down.
But, what should you do with that idea once you have written it down? Is the seed “to be or not to be” a great article in the making?
No one knows for certain, but I have some ways that can help you put flesh on those bare-bone ideas. I can show you how to clothe these germinating thoughts and, if they make it to your “must write” list, my techniques can also make your articles more marketable to publications.
To help you gather resources and ideas think of the acronym CASH:
- Actionable Steps
- Science and History
Let’s run through an example of what happens after you have an idea.
After you write down your general topic of inspiration, it’s time to hit Google for the research. When you’re researching information, don’t forget the importance of well-known publications. No one wants information from someone who is not educated or authoritative on a certain topic.
Take some time to read and collect URLs and articles that relate to the topic in different areas. No one knows everything about everything. And sometimes we know things but don’t realize it until we hear it again from someone else.
Use the four parts of the CASH acronym to cover your topic from all four angles in your research. If you have no time to read them at the moment, then copy and paste the links to these articles at the bottom of your document so that they’re there for you when you sit down to compose.
Once you are ready to begin writing, read the articles, and pull out
bits and pieces from each section that you think will be of interest to the reader.
To show you what I mean, let’s say that I’m inspired to write a Valentine’s Day article about how to create a romantic meal using foods considered to be aphrodisiacs. I’ll use the acronym CASH to gather “food for thought.” (Get the pun?)
Here’s what I pulled from each of these subtopics.
I googled the history of culinary aphrodisiacs and/or different cultural practices that revolve around foods embraced for their seductive powers.
For example in Vogue’s article titled “Love Potions: A Brief History of Aphrodisiacs,” it states that many foods believed to increase libido were those that were “suggestively shaped or textured” such as sea cucumbers.
PBS’s article titled “Learn Why These 10 Foods Are Edible Aphrodisiacs” mentions that pomegranates were also often considered a food that inspired sexual feelings due to their many seeds and the fact that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, supposedly planted the first pomegranate tree.
I googled scientific data. People love facts, figures, and research when deciding whether or not to embrace an author’s claim.
Mental Floss’s article “10 Aphrodisiacs Around the World” discusses the role of stimulating the central nervous system has on human arousal. It mentions the herb ginseng “which impacts the central nervous system, gonadic tissues, and the endocrine system.” It also discusses the possibility that chili peppers and their uncomfortable afterburn cause the body to release endorphins, the same hormones “released during exercise and after sex.”
ABC News cites that oysters enhance human arousal as they contain zinc “which stimulates blood flow.” Dark chocolate’s rich antioxidant properties also produce the same physical response.
The controversy (or counterclaim surrounding your proposition)
I googled the controversy over whether foods can actually make you more aroused. Good writers always present the “counterclaim” to their readers. This shows that they’ve studied all the sides of a topic and makes them seem more informed and knowledgeable.
For example, in Vox’s article titled “Why aphrodisiac foods don’t work, and why we keep trying them anyway,” the author spoke to sexologist Megan Stubbs. She states that “[she tries] not to rain on people’s parades but there is technically no such thing as true aphrodisiacs” and that “[no foods] have been scientifically proven in good medical research to be effective for the treatment of sexual problems.”
However, remember when you search out the opposite of your claim, you should always bring the reader back to the point of view that you want to forward as a writer. In this particular instance, I could google studies on “the placebo effect.”
For example, if I still wanted to sell the reader on the idea that they should consider including foods believed to be aphrodisiacs, there are numerous medical studies that show the actual physiological changes that occur in the body simply because a person is told to expect certain results, or because they believe doing certain things will have a corresponding effect.
A Medical News Today article discusses this effect as it relates to studies of people taking placebos believed to relieve pain. Their studies showed there were “measurable changes in the neural activity of people experiencing placebo analgesia [including responses] in the brain stem, spinal cord, nucleus accumbens, and amygdala.”
In other words, if one serves oysters and chocolate for dessert and believes it will make him or her feel more amorous, the possibilities of this occurring are quite likely.
You’ve collected all the important research you may use for your article, but the most important point is giving the reader something to do with your knowledge. This is the point where I research and study the “nuts” and “bolts” I will hand over to the reader.
If, for instance, I continue on with my topic of aphrodisiacs, I want to give them the best foods to use. So perhaps I google something along the lines of “Best Aphrodisiacs” or “Top Ten Aphrodisiacs.” For example, Cosmopolitan has a great slide show of these foods in their article titled “20 Aphrodisiac Foods That Can Affect Your Sex Drive.”
After looking this over, I want to make it easier for the reader. I want to give them easy steps that they can follow and use. So, perhaps I can create a balanced meal and dessert that they might serve or google recipes that contain come of these common ingredients and provide links.
Now, that I’ve done the research and used CASH, I’ve given myself a lot of ways to approach my given topic.
So, I linked the articles related to CASH, pulled out interesting facts and figures, and collected what valuable actions the readers can use as a takeaway.
For example, after reading through these articles and collecting information, a plan forms. I decide I’ll open my article on aphrodisiacs by citing ancient practices or historical background on how food was used in the past to create amorous feelings or incite seduction.
Next, I will allude to and explain the controversy over whether foods can actually engender these feelings. Remember, if you are writing about a controversy surrounding an issue, you want to lead the reader through the controversy to acknowledge that your point of view is the right one or at least embrace the “what can it hurt to try” philosophy.
Then, I’ll list and explain some important foods that coax one into a seductive state using the scientific research I gathered, such as what aspects of these foods, such as vitamins and the like, produce feelings of relaxation or stimulate the arousal response.
Finally, I’ll offer suggestions for possible meal ideas or recipes that they can create using these foods.
The Bottom Line:
Using the CASH research strategy is an invaluable brainstorming technique that can give you many options on how to add body to a “skinny” idea. It can add a scholarly touch to your finished article. Just so you know, publications love it when you “pepper” your information with various sources that are informed, interesting, and written by experts in the field.
It can also create a myriad of possibilities for how you may choose to organize information. For example, noting historical and cultural facts surrounding an issue usually provides a great introduction.
Bonus: Throw in a Quote
As a teacher, I use acronyms to help my students remember information. But it’s so darn hard to make an acronym with “Q.” So don’t forget the power of quotes as well when brainstorming.
- Quotes can also give you inspiration on what points to consider or include as you write.
- Quotes can act as proof or support for the points you make.
- Quotes from historical figures, experts, or writers can combine with the scientific research you have collected and be used to add an extra academic slant to the article.
- Quotes can often provide great ways to both introduce and conclude your article.
With this wealth of avenues to sift through, you should be writing great articles in no time. Speaking of which, I think I just need to go ahead and write this article on aphrodisiacs. After all, I’ve done all the research.
Try this strategy and see if it works for you. As always, I wish you continued success on your writing journey.