Monthly Archives: September 2014

Prompt Disguised as Stealing

Okay, this one’s not what iStealingt sounds like (in spite of the misleading pic). I was skimming through my WordPress reader after selecting the tag “creative writing.” I was on the lookout for prompts and other ideas, but it seems like the only thing to read is other people’s fiction. So here is the idea I had: The reader only shows the first few words of each blog post, many of which were written from a prompt they found somewhere in a book or on the web. Perhaps some of the writers are in creative writing classes, and they got the prompts from a professor. Based on the first few words of their story/poem/essay, what do you imagine the writing prompt to have been? You will most likely have no idea what the parameters were originally, but come up with some based on the result that you see in someone else’s writing. Now, be careful to remember that this is just an exercise in creativity, just like the one I posted the other day about using the classics as a jumping-off place. If you come up with a good story, don’t ever be tempted to take credit for someone else’s words. Make sure you only write original material.

Plans for My Non-Reader

I am going to make him read 30 minutes every day, and I am planning to have him spend 10 minutes in 3 different books, until he finds a book he likes. At the end of the week, if he hasn’t been grabbed by something, I’m going to have him choose his favorite book so far (even if he doesn’t like it very much) and finish it by reading 30 minutes a day until he’s done. (I would just wait until he finds a book he likes, but I’m afraid that may never happen, and I don’t want to start a habit of not completing things he’s started.) When he’s done with that book, we’ll start the cycle over again. I The Readerhave all kinds of good books in the house, so hopefully something will get his attention. Last night, he was reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid and actually laughing out loud from the other room, so maybe that series will be a keeper. He’s a great reader, but he still detests reading, and I hate that for him, especially since he’s going to have to read so much in high school and college. I’m okay with him not being a life-long reader. His dad isn’t a reader, and we get along fantastically, and he is still a very intelligent person, and my son is too. But it would be nicer for both of us if he enjoyed it. Have any of you all done anything differently that worked for your kids?

Keep Plugging Along

The other day, I visited The Impractical Parenting Almanac and read a nice post about how to overcome writer’s block. The author had a bunch of great suggestions, and I commented on the post to let people know another way that could be helpful. Here is my comment:

Blank PageWhen I get writer’s block, I will slip into first person and write about the fact that I have writer’s block and the things I’m struggling with in the story. Then I will start in on, “well, I could go this way with it, but then I will have such-and-such problem, etc.” It usually works itself out in the end. The act of writing is what keeps me moving forward. Even if I end up deleting all of it, I still usually get a good idea or two from it. It’s like thinking on paper, and then I can go back and decide what I liked and what I didn’t, without having to worry about remembering what I was thinking about.


Using the above method, I am usually able to knock down about 1000 words in one hour. I just keep plugging along. Even if I only keep half of what I wrote or solve only one major problem, I figure I’ve accomplished a lot more than if I just sit and think and stare at the blank page. Quick question? How many of you all are writers yourselves? And do you write mostly fiction or non-fiction?

Prompt Disguised as an Argument

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJesse and I were in the car the other day, headed to the city for my last day of radiation. We were in a sort of grouchy mood. (It was very early in the morning, not to mention the fact that the world is falling apart around us. Stupid thermodynamics. Not to mention the state of the nation.) Trying to make Jesse laugh, I said, “Hey, I have an idea! Let’s have an argument all the way up to the city and back, so we can know how the rest of the world feels to have strained relationships on top of all of their other problems. Then we can spend the rest of our lives being happy that we don’t have to worry about our relationship.” At first, he wasn’t amused, but then I started in complaining about his sister. (He’s an only child.) After that, we started coming up with all kinds of fictional ideas about which to argue. It was so much fun! So I thought I might share it with you all as an imaginative writing prompt or acting prompt. You will need a partner for this one though. Have fun – and let the words fly!

BTW, this exercise is also a great stress-reliever!

Serving Others While Waiting on the Lord

God’s Will For Your Life

I remember asking the Lord once, “God, what is it that I should be doing with my life?” I had images of using my unique set of skills to serve Him. Perhaps a ministry that would be truly mine because I was the only one who could do it in just such-and-such a way. Do you know what He answered back to me? Two words, soft and undeniable, settled onto my heart: “Serve Me.” Wow, was I ever falling short.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this moment in my life. It was the first time that God had ever spoken to me directly. (I think because it was the first time I had ever asked Him a direct question…) It certainly changed my way of thinking. Until that point, I had known lots of Christians who were waiting to serve because they were waiting for the right doors to open up for them. They knew what they wanted to do with their lives, but didn’t know how to get from point A to point B. The fact is, we aren’t always called to do what we want. And when we are, we need to take baby steps before landing in a full-blown ministry.

But I need to find something that I can be good at…

Perhaps you are a music director in your community. However, there’s no opening for a choir director at your church, so you can’t find a way to serve. Well, I believe that’s a very limited way of thinking. A problem with some Christians today is that they aren’t looking to serve; they are looking for an easy way to feel good about themselves. Or worse yet, they want to be recognized for their service, like a true Pharisee.

Were you born to lead?

Maybe you are a born leader, but we need to learn to follow before we can learn to lead. Have any of you ever had a manager that didn’t understand your position? Perhaps they had been hired directly out of college and thought they knew everything about everything when in fact they knew nothing because they had never been in your situation? It is impossible to understand true leadership until you have spent some time following.

History Lesson

Here’s a short story from my own life. The last thing I ever wanted to do was accompany. I’ve always said how much I hated it! I did it for a while in college, because it paid. When it came time to accompany the students in their sophomore recitals at our local community college, I was so nervous I wanted to bolt. I actually remember thinking, as I sat at the piano bench, “What are the absolute worst consequences if I just get up and leave right now?” I decided I would never be able to show my face there again, so I stayed.

However, I now accompany the congregation every week during church. And until I found a church of my own, I served others by playing in churches when their pianists were unavailable. It wasn’t easy at first, but it was something I could do while waiting to know what God wanted for my life. And now, the truly funny thing is that I actually enjoy it. Anyone can vacuum or pick up trash on the streets. The idea is to do something while waiting to find your niche.

Challenge yourself today.

Are you doing anything for God? Is your neighbor, who never graduated from high school and who volunteers at the church by cleaning toilets once a week, pleasing God more than you are?

Note: This post is directly tied to Still Waiting on God? and Not Real Good with Words, so if you want to dig deeper into the topic, click through to read more.

A New Writing Idea for Visual Thinkers

(Or a Prompt Disguised as Playing Games)

Ok, so this post is mainly for children who play MineCraft, but it would also work with Legos, clay models, or other types of artwork.

Ian and I are on a mission to write an eBook together so he can publish it on Amazon and earn a small amount of money. I told him I was sure he would sell at least ten copies of the book. (If not, I’ll make it happen. Moms are magical like that, lol.) If we charge $1.99 and he earns 70%, then he will make at least $14.

Fourteen dollars is a lot of money in his world, and even though he doesn’t like the whole physical aspect of writing, he still enjoys brainstorming, coming up with a plot, and even composing sentences – as long as I’m the one doing the actual writing. Although, when we get down to it, we will take turns writing the sentences down. So expect a novella where every other sentence is much shorter than the rest, lol.

We spent Sunday afternoon coming up with a setting, a main character, the major conflict, and a few minor conflicts. We did a little bit of world building and story set-up as well. As soon as we think of a good resolution, we’ll be ready to start writing. (We did write a couple of story sentences along the way, when we happened to think of a good way to get our point across.)

Ian Video GameHere’s where the fun begins. Right after we started brainstorming, Ian ran into the living room and switched on the television and Xbox. What? I thought we were going to write a story? It turns out, he had every intention to help me, but while doing so, he wanted to be crafting his story in 3D. Not just his story world, but he used some of the events of the game to help him brainstorm events in his story as well. For instance, he suffered from an explosion (via creeper), and decided that the villagers would nurse him back to health.

Now, I know there are TONS of children (and adults) who play MineCraft, so this could be a fun project for them. And if not, perhaps you or your child like to draw, paint, or make 3D models from construction paper, tin foil, what have you. The idea is to do whatever it takes to open up creative pathways in your thinking patterns while you brainstorm story components.

One little caveat with Ian’s idea: He will have to change the names of his monsters and main characters and other little details to mask the fact that he is really writing fan fiction. I’m sorry, but I don’t think he can get by with publishing a book that contains creepers, Steve the adventurer, and mining for redstone. Oh, and let’s not forget villagers that barter with emeralds…

While Kindle Worlds does have a few licenses with a few companies to enable people to publish fan fiction and get paid for it, MineCraft is not yet one of those options. We are following them on Twitter though, so if it ever does happen, we’ll know, lol.

An Answer to the Endless Question

So, some of my best inspirations come from comments that I have made on other people’s blogs. Last weekend, I was reading a blog that I have been following for quite some time, and after commenting on her post, I thought I would share my thoughts on the matter with you all as well. This post will make the most sense if you read the original post, but in case you don’t, the writer was talking about her son going through a phase of doubt concerning his religion. This was my response:

My son went through that Insomniaphase too. And I went through it as well. I have two ideas. Number one, as you say, it is okay to doubt. God gave us a brain for a reason, and he wants us to use it. It is not unreasonable to believe in a Creator. Quite the contrary, as your son will discover. Especially as he learns about the intricacy and complexity of biology, chemistry, etc. God wants us to ask intelligent questions. He has all of the answers to help us have faith in Him without feeling stupid. Secondly, the Word of God is powerful and claims to speak for itself. The Word is God (John 1:1), and He is certainly capable of making his own defending arguments. So my suggestion is this: you’ve already told your son that it is okay to doubt. Now, get him reading the Word of God every day, and encourage him in the fact that, if God is truly the Author of His Word, it will be obvious to him. His doubts will melt away in the bright warmth of the truth. It has certainly helped my son, and it helped me as well, in my time of doubt. I had my son start in the book of John, and read through Acts and the Epistles. He is almost finished. Not sure where we’ll go next, as he is still too young for some of the issues addressed in the Old Testament. And as an added benefit, his reading skills have greatly improved as well!


By the way, I would recommend visiting her blog and checking out the video she embedded at the end of the post we were just discussing. I have felt exactly like the young man in the video, for years on end. It wasn’t until I really got into the Word and started talking to God like He was a normal person that I really began to feel any assurance. I told Him that I knew He was God, and I knew He was good, but other than that, I was lost as to which religion was correct. I think the idea that all religions are correct is just silly. They are too exclusive to be inclusive, and there was a distinct method of our creation and there will be a distinct way that we spend eternity, and I just wanted to know the truth about my own existence. I figured if there was anything I ever had to get right in life, it was this. Anyway, I just asked Him to help me to find the truth. I knew He wouldn’t send me to hell just because I was under-educated, if my own religion turned out to be a bunch of bologna. I knew He would respond to a truth seeker, and He did. 🙂 I have never trusted Him so much in all my life.


The inspiration for this post came from a friend’s blog. While commenting on her post, I thought of a new creative writing exercise, and I thought I would post it here as well, in case any of you find it useful:

I hate reading female leads, LonelinessI think because they are always so stereotypical. I almost stopped reading Mocking Jay because she got on my nerves so much, and I did put Allegiant down and never picked it back up for the same reason. The female lead was depressed and whiny. I don’t hang out with girls like that in real life, so why would I want to spend my free time doing so?

Anyway, here’s an idea: one could brainstorm a personality trait list for the stereotypical female, and then turn it on its head when writing character. Come to think of it, that might make a good writing prompt for any character that has an associated stereotype.

I Can’t Sleep

I wonder how much of my life has been spent tossing and turning, trying to go to sleep, only to fail for hours on end before drifting off from total mental and physical exhaustion? I have no idea why I am having so much trouble sleeping lately, except that my mind has been going, going, going. You would think that I would be so tired of thinking by the end of the day, but ideas seem to multiply themselves like rabbits. I guess I could watch TV before going to bed and numb my mind down to nothing, but I really don’t want to. What I want to do is write, and what I don’t want to do is lay in bed and become frustrated. So, even though I have a pretty busy day planned tomorrow, I am going to stop torturing myself by trying to sleep. If I am tired tomorrow night, I will just go to bed earlier, so there. Maybe then I’ll be able to sleep like a regular human being.

So, I had a different post planned for in the morning, but here is what I am thinking about right now. In fact, I wrote parts of the following portion of this post from my phone, in bed, about 10 minutes ago:

During church service Sunday morning, we sang “This Is My Father’s World.” Our song leader mentioned that he always thinks of that song when he spends time outside hunting. I usually think of “I Sing the mighty Power of God” or “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

I love spending time outside because it reminds me of the Creator. It puts us closer to the mind of God, helps us The Creationunderstand Him a little better. He loves beauty. He loves serenity. He loves painting new masterpieces in the sky for our entertainment. He enjoys watching the industry of the animals and the interaction between the plant and animal world. In short, He loves His creation. He loves us.

I am afraid that the more time we spend indoors, and the more we surround ourselves with man-made things, the less we will remember our Creator. And, until I started going to the city every day, I would sometimes go for days on end without ever stepping foot outside. Our lives revolve around technology (I say, as I sit up late at night typing instead of sleeping). I remember once or twice last winter, I wanted to know whether it was snowing. But instead of getting up to look out the window, I picked up my phone and looked at my weather app. I know better, but I am still hopeless! I really need to make an effort to spend time outside every day, remembering my Creator and talking to Him.

Do you think there is a disconnect between humans and nature?

Do you think it’s important to spend time outdoors?

Do any of you all make it a point to go outside on a regular basis?

Free ways to teach writing and spelling

Ok, so this year we finally took the plunge and purchased curriculum from Institute for Excellence in Writing. I did it because having a curriculum is easy, and I truly believe that their ideas will help Ian learn more about writing in the long run.

However, up until this year (5th grade), I had not invested any money at all into a writing curriculum. Here is what we had been doing:


When I spell today, I am not thinking back to some memorized list from the third grade. I can spell because I read a lot. If I misspell a word, I usually know right away because something looks off about it. Reading well-written compositions also help when it comes to writing. Students learn what good writing looks like.

Copy and Dictation

I would generally have Ian “write” a paragraph from scratch about his day, or about his video game, or whatever he had just been doing. Basically anything simple that he wouldn’t have to think too much to come up with. He would dictate it to me, four or five sentences, and I would write it down. Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Afterward, I would have him copy what I wrote onto a separate sheet of paper. Then, the next day usually, I would dictate that same paragraph to him, and he would write it down on another fresh sheet. I would always help him with spelling, and cover any spelling rules on the spot if anything came up. I would also show him other words that use the same rules for reinforcement. This exercise is also great for suggesting alternate ways of writing a sentence or correcting grammar mistakes. As your child becomes a better writer, suggest more and more changes, but don’t overdo it because you won’t want to discourage him. Basically, using this method, you could probably get through your entire K-12 without ever purchasing writing (or spelling) curriculum, as long as the teacher is a competent and confident writer. That being said, you would still want to eventually move on to things like essays, business letters, and resumes. I haven’t looked into myself, but you can probably find examples of all of these things online, along with tips for writing them. For help with streamlining a research paper, look here.

Writing stories together (see Creative Writing and Flying)

A new twist on writing stories together is fan fiction. I recently downloaded a MineCraft novel on my Kindle and began reading it to Ian. Now he is hoping to write one of his own and publish it as an eBook. He has never wanted to write anything before, so this is cropped-img_4390-copy.jpgvery encouraging to me. You can find lots of fan fiction online, but most of it is poorly written. Also, you have to watch out for inappropriate content, so be careful before just turning your children loose on these sites.

Spelling City (for students using word lists)

For help with hand writing (print or cursive), see my blog post here.