Category Archives: Inspiration

Writing Exercises and Prompts

By Lawrence Wilson

Whenever I experience a lack of motivation, ideas, or energy (which sometimes occurs daily), I look over my collection of exercises and prompts to help get started.

Going back to my high school typing class, I did manage to type 40 or so words a minute without looking at the keys. Using this tool as a writing exercise, I sit quietly for a few minutes and then begin to type. Eyes closed. Letting any and everything that fires through the neurons wind up on paper.

If I don’t lose my place on the keyboard, it usually ends with a jumble of words and phrases that may or may not resemble a theme. It really doesn’t matter. It’s spontaneous, gets the mind and fingers working in synch. Most of the time, it gets deleted afterward. 

Another exercise is the six-word memoir. One of the more famous of these, “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” (Ernest Hemingway). My own: “Hearing the call, afraid to answer.” Or “I married up, she did not.”

Word prompts are much the same kind of mental exercise for writing. These can either be timed or have a defined word count. I try to make it to 500 words.

 I have just perused through some old prompts and found some that are rather good and could be developed.

‘Pitching a Frog’, for example. I don’t even remember what the prompt was, but it has the makings of an excellent short story. Another I found, ‘The Secrete Planet’. I called it “Orangetang”, a collection of all the citrus fruit drinks the astronauts couldn’t stomach and thus, jettisoned them so NASA wouldn’t find out. All prompts do not a story make.

Others have made it into the collection of my book, ‘Catching Chickens’. ‘The Door’, ‘Friends’ (the prompt was something about seeing a man on a ledge).

There are many sources of prompts and exercises available on the Web. Here are just a couple of them.

  • ‘The Author’s Publish Compendium of Writer’s Prompts’, http://www.authorspublish.com/writing-prompts-compendium/
  • Writer’s Digest Magazine has many links to prompts. In one contest, they provide the photo, and you write the first storyline.  The winners are published in the next issue.
  • As with anything else writing, all you must do is enter the keywords, “writer prompts,” and AI will find more than you ever wanted to know.

Keeping a Journal

By Terry C. Misfeldt

When we were younger it was thought of as keeping a diary. As we have gotten older, that diary is now considered a journal. With age, keeping a journal is one of the best ways to keep track of the special occasions and life moments you experience.

Like my grandmother who started her journal when she was 10 years old and kept it up until 10 days before her passing, i have consciously kept a journal for most of my life. The exception was 2019 when I chose to intentionally skip keeping track of minutiae and just live my life!

The Corona virus pandemic of 2020 has proven to be an excellent reason for keeping a journal. The panic of being close to someone who might be infected. The anxiety of being quarantined. Waiting for test results. Listening to information and wondering whether it is accurate or manufactured. Doubt. Emotions provide insight to what you have gone through it you have shared them in a journal.

You are not obligated to share your journal with anyone. It is your personal property. It can also be a legacy to your loved ones when you leave this existence for the other side. I am fortunate to have some of my grandmother’s journals and the secrets they have divulged about growing up in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Being able to decode her symbols, I was able to determine when my father was conceived.

My fifth grandchild recently joined our family and, in my journal, I have shared my emotions and feelings about my third grandson. Being able to go back and review dates and events enables me to reminisce about his birth when I am older and grayer with a mind less likely to remember details that are fresh now.

If you travel, journal about it. A friend of mine who has been a professional photographer during his entire career has traveled extensively. When he shared images with me about his trips, i encouraged him to create journal entries and share them with his followers. It created a permanent memory of his exploits for himself, his family, and those of us who have always admired his work.

If you consider yourself a writer and wonder what to write, journal. Keeping a journal provides inspiration for that great American novel.

COVID Motivation

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers I converse with regularly seem to lack motivation to write as a result of COVID-19. They are isolated from other writers, family members, and friends, so it is hard to write about anything without human interaction. So here are my thoughts for writers who lack COVID motivation.

  1. Dedicate time each day to writing. Just write! It matters not what you type into your document or scribble on a note pad. Write about your day’s experiences if nothing else. What is essential is that you are writing, whether it’s at 7:00 in the morning or 11:00 at night. Write!
  2. Find something to write about. Your favorite food and why you relish that delicacy. Your best friend and how you get along with that person, even if your best friend is yourself. Write about your favorite time of year or the season that inspires you, such as the colors of autumn.
  3. Correspond with someone you care about. Find a blank note card and send a friend who lives far away a message about why you miss them or what you treasure most about your relationship and your hopes of rekindling it when you can get back together again. Open your heart to them.
  4. Find a writing contest and enter it. There are many magazines and writing groups solicting entries in their writing contests. If you find one you feel qualified to enter, study the rules and write that winning entry. It may cost you a few bucks to enter, but the satisfaction of competing…and winning…can be motivating. And last…
  5. Set a daily goal and write your novel. If you want to write a 90,000 word novel, you can do it in 90 days if you set a goal of writing 1,000 words every day. Perhaps you write 500 words in the morning and another 500 after dinner or all of them at once. The key is to set a goal and keep working at it. It can be your motivation.

Character Descriptions

By Terry C. Misfeldt

How you craft descriptions of your characters is an important element in gaining and maintaining reader interest in your story. Character descriptions vary from quick sketches to detailed revelations that can include emotional states.

An example of a quick sketch would be describing a female character wearing a sleeveless top with colorful tattoo sleeves from shoulder to wrist on both arms. Main character? Perhaps, but more appropriate for a passing stranger in some scene.

The more detailed character description might be something like this: “The plump four-year-old towhead with sparkling blue eyes and out-turned feet plodded barefoot through the mud with his tossled hair clinging to the back of his sweaty neck. His bleeding hand was wrapped in his blood-soaked t-shirt that he held tight to his chest with his belly hanging over the waistband of his too-tight shorts.”

The point of the examples is writers need to create believable characters with precise descriptions. The scene in the second example is used more to describe what might be going on in the towhead’s brief existence, but you learn he is blond with blue eyes and is overweight for a 4-year-old.

Beware: You can divulge too much information about a character in a single description or scenario. This may force you to repeat traits or descriptions at other points in your story that could potentially conflict with your original picture of them.

Suggestion: Identify your characters and write character descriptions on each of them before you dig too deeply into writing the story. This enables you to sprinkle some of their traits throughout the story at appropriate times rather than all at once.

Observe people who may model the type of character you want to create. Take notes about how they move, what they wear, and, of course, what they look like. Writers call it research.

Cleaning Leads to Writing Inspiration

By Ruth Granger-Wellens

At the beginning of my Corona virus isolation, since I had so many hours of unscheduled time, I decided to tackle some huge cleaning projects that I had put off for, well, years.  When we moved 16 years ago, during a week long spring break, I packed all my nonessential “stuff” into boxes.  My “stuff” eventually was cornered, literally, in the basement, and I hadn’t touched it in, again, years. With all the time I had ahead of me, I decided to clear out the corner by going through boxes to see what I had.

Wow!  I am a saver, I will admit, but some of the items I saved were a puzzlement even to me. Letter and cards, some from high school friends, but more from college buddies became inspiration to write about occasions from long ago. I could put twists on some of the letters I had saved – maybe a story about unrequited love? Why was that card never answered?  What happened? Why did I save some of my correspondence in a special box with a ribbon around it?

I did read everything before I threw out the majority of it, but not before going through many emotions.  Of course, if I didn’t remember the particular event, fiction writing would come in handy.

Then the pictures were discovered.  So many pictures of friends, family, and even a few strangers.  I did hang onto some of them, but others I tried to look at through my son’s eyes and wondered what he would think when the time came, and he needed to go through my things.  I became a new me in part and actually threw out some pictures.  But others, of people wearing vintage clothing, hats, with solid, serious stances, became inspiration for writing.  Who is that stranger in the picture? Remember the dance performances and the drama surrounding them in college?  What was the occasion for this picture?  How did the subjects feel about the picture being taken?  Were they standing next to people they enjoyed or not? The pictures provide ideas for both fiction and nonfiction.

Then came the preciously saved mementos. I found a large red button that had made me an official member of the Beatles Fan Club.  Upon seeing it, I felt a memoir coming on.  So many memories and feelings to capture in writing.     

This deep cleaning created a win-win situation for me.  I not only came away with some inspiring ideas for future writing, but that corner in my basement looks great!

Inspiration

By Rhonda Strehlow

Inspiration

Someone once asked me where I get ideas for my books. Some have been in my head for years. Take the premise for my first book, Second Act. All 70,000 plus words are based on a sixty-minute encounter that took place more than twenty years ago.

It started like this: my sisters and I took a long weekend break in Chicago. We had just seen a play and had an hour or so before we were expected at a nice restaurant. The evening was gorgeous. We talked and laughed as we wandered down the street. I was carrying a tiny evening bag. Feeling free and silly, I was swinging the purse in circles when a blond gentleman grabbed my arm.

This is downtown Chicago. We’re from a town with a population of 499 in northern Wisconsin. My sisters and I freeze.

He says, “It’s not safe to swing your purse in this city.”

En masse my sisters and I back away from him and his large bald friend we hadn’t noticed earlier.

He smiles and starts telling us about Chicago, its history, and famous residents. Within minutes we were captivated by his insights and barely noticed when we reached the restaurant.  We invited them to join us. They pointed to their shorts and sandals and declined.

“Thank you…” I hesitated. “We don’t know your names.”

The blond man smiled enigmatically, hugged me, and walked away.

I gave the bald man a quizzical look.

He leaned in and whispered, “If I told you his name, you would recognize it.”

In minutes they disappeared into the crowd.

If you want to know what could have been the rest of the story, you’ll have to read the book.

Writing Challenge

By Terry C. Misfeldt

One week into July 2020 I decided to challenge myself on writing. I believed I could write 1,000 words a day, so I established that as my realistic goal. My rationale was two-fold:

1) If I wrote 1,000 words a day I could craft a 90,000 word novel within 90 days; and,

2) I could hold myself accountable by documenting how many words I wrote in my daily journal. I did not intend to count the journal words in the daily total.

Through the first 18 days of my challenge I have written 22,336 words for an average of 1,241. There was only one day when I did not write anything, and some days when I fell short of the 1,000 word goal. The most words in a day were 2,995. The key, in my estimation, has been accountability.

There have been days when I was motivated to sit down at the keyboard early and crank on the sequel to my novel, Shevivor. And there was at least one day where I did not want to go to bed without sitting down and cranking out something.

How did I determine what to write?

If I was working on the sequel, I went to bed thinking about the next few paragraphs and where I wanted to take the story. If I hit a snag or blockage, I worked on a chapter of my memoirs and found it easy to craft 1,000 words about one of my life’s experiences. In other words, I always had something to write about. And there were days when I wrote in two different stints when I was motivated to write.

Enough about me.

Challenging yourself to write involves setting a goal. It is less important to establish how much you want to write as it is to maintain a regimen that keeps you focused. If you can accomplish writing 500 words a day, make that your objective. If you find it difficult to commit to a daily schedule and believe you can write 2,000 words a week, that should be your goal.

You must set your own standard because, ultimately, you must hold yourself accountable.

Keep track of your achievements. It is how you measure progress.

A lesson learned long ago is that goals must be written, or they are never attained. They must also be realistic, so even if it is 100 words a day and that can be achieved, you can accomplish it.

Goals need to be timely as well. I have been focused on mine for 18 days out of at least 90 planned, so I need to infuse persistence into my regimen to complete what I have in mind.

You can do it, too!

Writing this piece alone generated 461 words toward today’s goal.

Help! I’ve Become a Fribbler!

By Gail Blohowiak

(fribble, fribbler, fribbling,etc are real words)

I have learned to fribble. I’m a very good fribbler.  Fribbling and writing are not compatible.  

My pandemic life is full of useful and useless items.  I try to focus on useful and productive items.  

 It seems that some weeks Zoom has taken up my life.  I Zoom with my two writers’ groups, my two book clubs, and two friends’ groups., and a critique group.  I Zoom a lot.  I even Zoom Happy Hour with a group of friends.  

Other times, I fribble.  I fribble a lot lately too.  

Fribble is those times when I go to do something productive and end up doing something unproductive.  

I make it to my office and open my document files with all the good intentions of doing edits. My motivation is lax and soon I check emails and FaceBook posts. I know I should silence my phone and iPad, but I don’t.  I attend each zing or new notification!  It might be a video of my youngest grand doing something cute!  I can’t miss this!  

 I get distracted by listening to the news on the radio of on the T.V. playing in the background.  I get distracted by the need for coffee, water, or a potty break.  

My intentions are exemplary!  However, I quickly descend into fribbling away another good hour or two until a Zoom meeting begins, until it is lunchtime until someone distracts me with a lawnmower, trimmer, or garbage collection.   

The mail is another distraction – I can now identify the exact time the mail carrier arrives at our mailbox and I can identify the hour the Fed Ex, or Amazon drivers drive our cul de sac.  I am vigilant with these tasks.  But, when it comes to editing or writing, I fribble! 

I never used to be a fribbler!  I was always focused on the job at hand.   I spent my time engaged in productive endeavors.  

Now, on the way to the kitchen for a refresh of coffee, I watch the birds at our feeder, or I count the seeds on the ground and wait for the squirrel or chipmunk to come around for cleanup duties.  This isn’t a true fribble. I now call this ‘being in the moment’.  It’s not.  It’s fribbling! 

If any of you reading this has suggestions or a foolproof cure for fribbling, please contact me via an email, text message, FB post, or Zoom Room.  I still have my notifications on.  I have not gone silent.  I will not add this to my lists of fribbling activities.  I will count it as an intervention to put me back on track to writing and editing.  Please Help! 

Copyright 2020. Gail Blohowiak. (920) 360-6235. gailblohowiak@gmail.com

Words, Words, Words

By Debbie Delvaux

What can truly be said about how we use words.
We use words to describe how to do things.
How to tell someone that they are beautiful.
How to say what we are thinking.
How to tell the world that we are upset or mad.
Some scholars use words to make us think.
Some high officials use words to intimidate us.
Some people use words to express how they feel.
Children use words to tell us how they feel about their own private world.
Sometimes we hear words that we don’t want to hear and have to face the fear we see in front of us.
Sometimes there are no words that can be said in the time of a loved one’s passing.
The best of words that can be said is love, beautiful, fantastic, caring, nurture, and happiness.
We all long to hear someone say I love you.
You have a son or daughter.
You have even hired.
Or even will you marry me.
We in a sense are all wordsmiths.
We use nouns, adverbs, adjectives, and phrases, thoughts to say what we are thinking.
We are all humans and from all different races, creeds, and ethnicities.
All our knowledge is made up of what we were brought up to believe in.
So go out there into the big world and do your best and above all.
Use your words wisely.

Writers Are Readers

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers have a tendency to also be avid readers. Yes, folks, writers are readers!

We read to explore new worlds without leaving the comfort of our favorite chair. We can cross the plains of America in a covered wagon with a cup of coffee and a doughnut in our hands. We can be enthralled in a steamy romance while lying on a beach blanket.

Why do we read? We get ideas for writing from reading what others have written. We can study character development. We can create exotic worlds from seeing how other authors develop their fantasy planets. We consider sentence length, grammar, punctuation, and style from the words in those published works.

Sure, we read for entertainment or knowledge and sometimes just for something to do. We find authors we love and crave their next book. For me those are writers like Kevin J. Anderson, Brian Herbert, James Lee Burke, and Jeff Shaara…each of whom writes for a different audience. Their work can be inspiring, and writers need to be inspired!

As writers, we also read to learn how other writers grab your attention and keep it as they develop a plot through various crises to a climax. Part of why we read involves a never-ending search for new authors whose work we will either love or despise. Those we dislike usually have but a chapter or two before they lose us.

And no writer wants to lose their readers…for whatever reason! So we read.