Writing Toward Home

Writing , Ideas, and Encouragement

Month: August 2016

Wordplay Wednesday: List-Making

Wordplay Wednesday:   List-Making

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I am a great list-maker. I create detailed grocery lists only to leave them in the car or even at home when it is time to go to the store. I make lists of things to do, books to read, projects to attempt, stories to write, menus for dinner, errands to accomplish and so on. The lists mostly end up like the one for my groceries—not available when actually needed. 

One could be tempted to assert that for me creating a list is a waste of time, however I disagree. I think that in my case the physical act of creating the list is the salient  part of the exercise. By writing it down, I actually engage my brain and the list is then internalized and remembered. Not perfectly, mind you, but accurate enough.  I tend to get 95% or more of the things on my grocery list even when it is left behind at home.

When I was teaching, I would make my lessons plans for the week and rarely look at them again after entering them in the plan book. The act of thinking through my plans and writing them down was the important part, not looking back over them. There was rarely a need to do so. Plus, I often found that if I did vary from the plans, my “seat-of-the pants” thinking and resulted in serendipitous moments that were actually better than the original. Because I had taken the time to plan, my mind was able to make subconscious connections that seemed random, but really were not.

So, this week I am advocating that try making lists and discover what comes to mind. You will find that as you write ideas or down, other things will pop into your head that may not seem relevant. Write them down anyway. Often the things that come unbidden from the recesses of our minds carry a lot of power. I find that sometimes those ideas have just been waiting for a chance to emerge and get some attention.


So what kind of list should you make? There are many options. I am going to offer several, but you may come up with others.  For this activity you can either set a timer or determine a certain number of items to list. Having either the time or the number parameter gives the exercise a bit of structure which helps with the thinking process.

Make a list and then choose an item off your list that has some power. Make a story, poem, essay, memoir, collage or art piece. Keep your lists in your writing. notebook and return to them often.

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Things I love              


Things I fear              


Favorite places


People I admire



Make a list and see where it takes you. Happy Writing!




Wordplay Wednesday: The Passionate Writer

Wordplay Wednesday: The Passionate Writer


Today we are going to talk about passion. No, not  the steamy romance chick-lit  version. Instead we are going to explore how passion can help you discover topics for your writing.  So grab your writer’s notebook  or a piece of paper and a pen. You are going to answer some questions that will lead you to your passions. Strong  emotions, desires or interests are what drive great writing. 

Set a timer for 15 minutes. Spend about 5 minutes per section. You can always come back and add more ideas later if needed.


When you were a child, say 6-10 years old, what did you like to do? What were your hobbies or pastimes? What games did you play? What activities did your family do together? What did you want to be when you grew up? Who was significant in your life? What were you afraid of?


When you were a teenager, what music or groups did you listen to most often? What did you do with your friends?  What relationships created lasting memories? What clubs or organizations did you join? How did you decide on a career or calling? What significant event shaped your teenage years? What place made a lasting impression on you? What worried you?


As an adult, what do you do to relax and unwind?  What is your ideal vacation spot and activity? What sports do you play or watch? What TV shows do you enjoy? What groups are you a part of? What political, social or religious convictions do you hold? What inspires you? What makes you joyful? What makes you angry? What moves you to tears? What do you fear?


Look back over your list. Do you see any patterns emerge? What memories did the questions evoke? You should have fodder for many writing projects. You can find memoir, poetry, essays or even fiction lurking in your list.

Choose an idea, opinion, or event  that has power bubbling beneath the surface and start writing! 

I will start my list here and post a piece of writing on Friday.



 What I liked to do: play outdoors, climb trees, hike in the woods, read, write, play board games, cook with my grandmother, go camping, Girl Scouts, play piano, draw, paint, make art with Dad, sing, astronomy, play school, walk in the rain, play with dolls, ride my bike, jump rope, catch fireflies, catch lizards and bugs. I wanted to be  a writer, an artist, a teacher,  opthamologist, a mother. I was afraid of the dark and the nameless whatever that lurked under my bed and in my closet at night. I was afraid of Halloween and scary movies.

In just that portion  there are so many stories waiting to be written.  As soon as I started typing images, faces and memories started flooding my brain. I will be coming back to this list again and again.

I hope you find many story seeds in this exercise as well.  Choose one and get started.

Happy Writing!


Wordplay Wednesday

Wordplay Wednesday: Finding Ideas on a Bookshelf


This week I am offering a new suggestion for discovering story ideas. I landed on this new source at the writing retreat I attended two Saturdays ago. This one came, as great notions often do, by serendipity and a wee bit of wool gathering.

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We spent a productive morning writing in response to prompts and sharing around the table. After a lovely lunch filled with great conversation, laughter and a bit of poetry, we were given an hour or so to spend by ourselves to write, plan, collage or think. There were some suggested exercises, articles and poetry in our retreat packet to read for inspiration, but we were free to spend the time in any way we chose.


While some folks took walks or moved to other areas of our retreat space, I stayed at the table and worked with a couple of the exercises. I have an idea for an article or essay that I have been wrestling with for quite a while. I did some free-writing that helped me clarify some points and that also raised other questions.  Then I took the same theme and created a word map. After 45 minutes my brain needed a break so I made myself a cup of tea and grabbed some dark chocolate from the snack table. I sat and let my mind wander a bit as I gazed around the studio.


For a book-lover like me it was a paradise: Two entire walls, from floor to ceiling, were covered in large, crammed bookcases.  I had noticed them earlier of course. I always enjoy perusing other people’s book collections to  compare reading tastes.  The morning had been so busy I had not much opportunity to take particular notice of titles. Now I took a good long look at the shelves.

I recognized many favorites and also quite a few I did not know. Soon the unfamiliar titles had my imagination brimming with possible stories. I turned to a clean page in my writing notebook and began jotting down interesting titles to use as possible story ideas. Soon I had filled an entire page.  There are some intriguing possibilities lurking on that piece of paper.


My challenge to myself and to you is to find a new writing idea by simply scanning book titles at your local library, bookstore or perhaps a friend’s bookshelf.

Below are a few of the titles I wrote down:

Untethered Soul

Carnival Evening


The Watcher

 We Are Taking Only What We Need

Random Acts of Love

Infinite Possibilities

Unlikely Pilgrimage

Try one of these titles as an idea for a poem, essay, character sketch or story.

I would love to read what you come up with.

Also, if you find any great titles, send them my way!

Happy Writing!


Wordplay Wednesday on Thursday…

Sometimes in the midst of  life  computer issues happen and blog posts get delayed.

So we have Wordplay Wednesday on Thursday. Here goes:


Wordplay Wednesday: What is Sacred?



Last Saturday I attended a Summer Writer’s Retreat at the home of a local poet, author, and writing teacher. It was lovely to spend the day with like-minded folks who spend their time stringing words together to create stories and poems.


We were asked to bring a sacred object with us: something that connects us to the divine and helps us know we are not alone in the world. We used our sacred objects to introduce ourselves to the group. There was a wide array of objects among the fourteen writers around the table: a painting, a musical instrument, a letter, an antique purse, a candle and a number of photographs The stories that accompanied the items were of special people, places and life events. Many moved the group to tears and the tissue box was passed around the table several times.


My prompt for you today is to write about something that is sacred to you. A sacred object in this context means an item that is meaningful in a very personal way. It  may have religious significance or be of a more personal nature.


What is your object?

Why is it special?

What memories does it carry?


Spend some time with this exercise and see where it takes you.




My sacred object is something that sits next to my computer on my writing desk. It is actually a small basket with a lid containing a number of things that help remind me of my place in the world.


The basket is round and made of hundreds of tiny colorful beads woven with wire. It was made by a woman in Tanzania and given to me by the parent of a former student. The women in Tanzania make baskets as a way of supporting their families. It reminds me that people all over the world are more alike than different. We all want to care for our families, do work that matters and participate as co-creators with God in whatever way we can.


Inside the basket there is a buckeye, a piece of seashell, two stones and a rubber bracelet.


I have had the buckeye since the summer of 1976 . It was given to me by my grandmother when she came to spend the summer with us after my grandfather died. She was the single most influential person in my life. Jessie Collins was creative, adventurous, funny and outspoken. She sewed, cooked, painted, created ceramics, knitted, crocheted, gardened and baked. She was my role model and encourager. When I wanted to climb trees and outrun the boys she never told me I needed to act like a lady. When I wanted to learn to cook, crochet or whatever she patiently mentored t me even when my attempts were disastrous. She never discouraged me from whatever I wanted to pursue.


While buckeyes are supposed to represent luck, mine is a symbol of creative daring and a reminder to be authentic even if not everyone approves. It also reminds me to be an encourager of others. Thank you, Granny.


The shell is a piece of a conch I picked up on a solitary beach retreat several years ago. To me the ocean and the beach are reminders of God’s incredible creativity and His immense power. He is the original Artist and Author. I am made in His image and therefore called to use my gifts to create in ways that will honor Him and point others to Him. The fact that the shell is only a fragment reminds me that I can be used and beautiful even in my brokenness.


One of the stones also came from the beach. It is a small oval that was worn smooth by the tides and ocean. It is my “worry stone.” When I stuck in my writing I roll it in my hand and let my mind relax until my “block” is resolved. When I am worried or anxious I rub it while I say my prayers and give my anxieties to God.


The other rock is a small purple and white piece of a geode. It is the stone that amethysts, my birthstone, come from. It was given to me by a student on the last day of school the year I retired. She knew how much I love rocks so she brought it to me as a farewell gift. This particular child was one of the most creative and original students I ever taught. She had a joyful personality that I will always remember.


The piece of geode reminds me of my long  teaching career and all of the terrific students I had the pleasure of teaching. I am proud of my “first act” as an educator. I loved being a teacher. Now I am engaged in a new vocation as a writer. I want to pursue it with the same dedication and zeal that I had for teaching.


The rubber bracelet is from a creativity conference for children held at my church last year. I volunteered as a group leader for the younger participants. The conference had sessions on story-telling, writing, map-making, song-writing, poetry, creative dramatics, and art. The premise was to introduce children to professionals in those fields who could inspire them to use their creative gifts in uplifting ways. The bracelet says “Allies In Imagination”. It reminds me that while I often feel isolated as I write in my studio, I am actually connected to many creative allies and friends who provide encouragement and inspiration with their creative gifts of painting, doodling, poetry, and photography. I am not alone. I have a tribe.



What is your sacred object? How does it connect you to your gifts and to the world?

I would love to hear about it. Thanks for reading!

Happy Writing!




Wordplay Wednesday

Wordplay Wednesday:  Reading as Inspiration


Often I am asked where I get writing ideas. My response is usually that I have so many ideas that I have to tell them to take a number. In reality I get ideas from many sources which I will enumerate  over the next few weeks.

Often my inspiration comes from reading. Recently I read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,  by  Elizabeth Gilbert.  It is a joyous, enthusiastic book filled with her philosophy and advice on pursuing a creative life. I read it with a pen and a stack of index cards close at hand. When I came across a phrase, word or quote that resonated with me I jotted it down on a card. I ended up with at least 30 cards.

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This week’s prompts are all taken from Gilbert’s book. Choose a prompt, set your timer for 10 minutes and see what  happens. As always, keep your hand moving until time is up. If your writing has energy and momentum, keep going!

A wild and unexpected gift from the universe

A whimsical rant

The usual rules do not apply

An emotional minefield

Miraculous turn of fate

 pen-writing-notes-studying girl

Happy Writing!


Last week, I challenged you to think like a teenager and invent  new, cool meanings for some archaic words. I promised to give the  actual definitions for the words this week. Here they are:

Ascercomic –a person whose hair has never been cut

Fanfaronade-swaggering, empty boasting

Hamartia- a tragic character flaw

Afreet-  a powerful Jinn in Arabian mythology

Bindlestiff- a tramp, hobo

bardolatry a humorous, excessive admiration of Shakespeare

Erf- a plot of land

Gobermouche – a gullible listener

 Nugacity- frivolity

Mollitious- luxurious

Pyknic-   having a stocky physique

Shamal- a hot, dry wind

Martlet-  a fourth son

Bannock- a flat cake

Did you find any inspiration now that you know the definitions ?


Can you find a writing idea lurking in your reading material this week?

I would love to hear about it!


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