Don Murray on how he recognized a subject and wrote a column:
I hear a line, a fragment of language that holds conflict, contradiction, surprise, something — or see an image that sticks in my eye. This is not a thesis statement. My ignorance is essential. I do not write what I know but what I need to know.
I hear what I am writing and can create the first draft with the screen turned off. Voice is vital. It tells you what you think and feel, as well as how to write it. I imagine my reader standing beside me as we have a conversation. The reader leads me, asking the questions I must answer. If I say nothing that surprises us by the end of the first third of the draft, I start a new column on a new topic. After I write a draft, I read it, hearing what I have said so I can dance to the music of the draft.
Equal parts listening and writing.