differ widely in how they write. My method
would drive some crazy. Take what you can use;
flush the rest. I'll write this piece slowly,
a bit at a time. So come back occasionally if
you want more.
(For more about my writing,
see my blog: www.freelancewriterblog.blogspot.com
I Get My Ideas (7/21/07)
have a chatty muse.
she bugs me relentlessly, feeding me ideas
rapid fire while I'm driving, cooking, lifting
weights or mowing. While I'm writing one
manuscript, she taunts me by offering juicy
morsels for other articles or books or
never stifle her. (You don't want to offend
your muse!) Instead, I'm never without paper
and pen, a recorder, or a computer file to
capture her musings. Ideas accumulate
much faster than I could ever shape them into
articles or books. I'm sure I'll die
with hundreds of ideas that never see the
not complaining. I can't recall any instance
of writer's block in a lifetime of writing.
Not one. My most difficult decisions involve
what ideas to cut. (Remember, I write
almost exclusively nonfiction. Writer's block
may be more of a fiction-specific disease.)
my muse is chatty because I feed her so well.
I'm more reader than writer, more learner than
teacher. In every conversation with both
the "small" and the
"great" (I find everyone to be my
intellectual superior in some way), I'm driven
by insatiable curiosity.
read a wide variety of well-researched,
well-written biographies and other factual
books on a wide range of subjects. A healthy
diet makes for a healthy muse. A healthy muse
is a chatty muse.
readers may take offence to my giving the
glory to my muse rather than to God.
Actually, I consider it more offensive to
attribute all my ideas to God, as some do.
Since some of my "great" ideas are
proven idiotic by later reflection or sound
criticism, I hesitate to ever say
dogmatically, "God gave me this
get me wrong. I believe that God is the source
of all wisdom. But I also believe that we
often err in distinguishing God's ideas from
our own. The prophet Jeremiah blasted people
for declaring "Thus saith the LORD"
when He'd not spoken. Thus, I shy from
routinely saying, "God told
me," when the idea may later prove to be
more ignorant than inspired.
I pray constantly for God's wisdom, humbly
thanking Him for the great ideas, but
attributing initial ideas to my muse with a
little "m", which encompasses the
ideas gleaned from others, my own reasoning,
and the promptings of God's Spirit.
don't just research for my present project; I
read for a lifetime of writing. So whether I'm
reading a biography of DaVinci, a weighty tome
on investing, or a technical journal on
ethnomusicology, I index it for ideas, quotes
I underline or put a mark beside the
paragraph. Then, in the back of the book, I
jot down a reference:
p. 76, contentment"
103, saving money"
may be months or even years before I put these
in my illustration databases, both at www.character-education.info
www.youth-ministry.info , where I keep
over 3600 illustrations. As I harvest the
illustrations from a book, I put a check mark
beside each reference so that I know it's in a
I copy and paste ideas from e-mails and online
reading to files in my computer.
love collecting illustrations as much as
anything I do. I've become a useful resource
to educators, pastors, missionaries and
fellow-writers. While some may begrudge the
time spent typing in illustrations or summing
up people stories, I see it as a way to get
much more out of my reading. We remember so
little of what we read. By taking time to
harvest the good stuff, I remember multiples
more than if I'd merely read it and set it
aside. And what I don't remember, I can always
find in my databases.
I begin writing an article or book. As I
write, I draw from my databases, computer
files, and the back of unharvested books for
my illustrative material.
Finding and Crafting People Stories (8/10/07)
will remember my stories long after they've
forgotten my witty sentences or ten point
outlines. I spoke on the importance and use of
people stories at a character conference in
St. Louis and wrote an article based on
that seminar here.
Inviting Criticism (7/22/07)
goes with the territory. I'd rather get
as much criticism as I can before a work is permanently in print. I finished a
second draft of my present book on money
management seven months ago and sent it out to
over forty readers of many types -
professional financial planners, professors,
school administrators, young people,
successful businessmen, relatives, etc.
Maddox (left), former business analyst
with Coca Cola, was one of 30+ readers
who gave invaluable input.
after seven months of input, just last week I
went head to head with a financial planner on
some statements that he deemed either
misleading or entirely unfounded. He was
right. Yet, nobody else had even noticed! His
comments saved me from getting nailed after
publication and more importantly, kept me from
publishing error. Glad I didn't stop
getting input after the first 25 readers!
readers felt it should be kept in a movie
script format. One argued for traditional
dialogue. Others didn't even notice. All of
this input is invaluable. One
pointed out the the name of one of my
characters could be construed as copying the
name of a financial analyst on cable news.
was amazed at how every reader contributed a
different type of input. It's not like I had
one confusing chapter that everyone said
needed to be changed. Their comments were so
varied, yet so on target.
readers obsessed over words and sentences.
Others pointed out confusing passages, or
suggested that I should have said more about
this or that. Some offered illustrations from
their personal experience to expand the
content. Some found nothing at all they would
change, but excitedly offered ideas for
marketing the book.
learned so much from this input!
research mode. Ratty clothes, unkept
hair, books everywhere - you gotta love
not proud of it. Not recommending it. It's
just me. I'd much rather stay on task for a
month straight than clean up at the end of
each day. Hunkered down in my
bunker, I lose myself for entire mornings and
I do a first edit on a chapter or article, I
run everything by my wife, Cherie. If we
thought exactly alike, one of us would be
proud husband! Cherie graduates with her
Masters in Professional Writing.
is a fast reader, getting the gist, the
overview. I read slowly, obsessing over
minutia. Cherie reads novels. I read
nonfiction. Cherie reads newspapers and
magazines. I glanced at a newspaper once or
twice. That was enough news for me.
dreams up catchy titles and headings. My
titles are boringly functional.
can see why we're so invaluable to each other.
Her edits save me from a multitude of sins.
has her Masters in Professional Writing and we
love reading books about all aspects of
writing and talking over the applications to
our own writing. She's also the Secretary of
Writers Association, giving us great
opportunities to mingle with other writers.