Where Can I Find Ideas? Part 1

Where do you get ideas?

I get asked about this a lot. Where do you get ideas? Ideas are everywhere, we just have to be aware of them. Every time I see an interesting person, my mind starts revving up and suddenly I’ve got an idea. I come up with ideas for their background, their job, their relationships and what they’re doing in the place I found them. I write it all down in the notebook I keep in my purse.

If you’re having a hard time gathering ideas, here are a few tips –

  • Be observant everywhere you go.
  • Eavesdrop.

Be observant everywhere you go

If you start looking at everything around you through the eyes of a writer, soon you’ll find yourself floating in ideas. Really look at people or things. Apply the 5 Ws – who, what, why, when and where. Add ‘how’ if you want to.

  1. Who is this person? (make it up, don’t ask them)
  2. What are they doing in their life? (or here? today? this year? etc fill in the blank)
  3. Why are they doing the thing you listed in #2? (Is it their job? Are they being blackmailed? Are they running away?)
  4. When do they have to accomplish this task? (is a bomb ticking?)
  5. Where do they go?  (to work? to buy something illegal? to escape?)
  6. How are they going to do it? (do they have a gun? is the item in their pocket right now? are there code words?)

You can see how easy it is to get carried away, but let yourself get carried away! You may have the makings of a great mystery on your hands. All great writers were something else first. None of them were born writing. You must act on your desire.


My mother taught me not to do this, but I’m giving you permission for one exception to the rule. Only eavesdrop on strangers. Don’t do it at home, or your friend’s house, or your boss’ office. That will only get you in trouble. Eavesdrop among strangers.

Where do I get ideas?

While standing in line, waiting for the movie to start, a doctor’s office – any public place like that. Don’t eavesdrop at your gym, a party or anyplace you’re liable to run into these people again. (That’s my disclaimer.)

What are you listening for? Snippets of conversation. They don’t need to make sense to you, you can’t know the context. A lot of our conversations with each other are carried on from earlier times – no updating needed. Just listen and write down what you hear. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.

One time I was waiting in line at the movies and the one of the films playing was Pompei. A couple behind me were deciding which movie to watch. I really wasn’t paying much attention until I heard this –

“Pompei? Hmmm, I wonder what that’s about?” a woman said.

“Uh … Pompei?” her companion replied.

Now, that’s great stuff for off the cuff conversation in a story. You could substitute anything for ‘Pompei’ – a news item, a notorious movie star by name, etc. It depicts a woman who is either preoccupied with something else, or something of a dingbat. It could also be a man who says that line – you’re the writer, you choose!

The point is to collect these snippets here and there in your Writers Notebook, which you are carrying around with you all the time, right? Right!

Next Thursday we’ll cover –

  • If you don’t already, begin people watching.

Where do you get ideas? Are you working on a short story for next Tuesday?

More later,


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The World Without Books

The World Without Books

There was a time when we didn’t have books in every nook and cranny of our homes and offices. There were no publishing houses, no Kindles or Nooks, no trashy bodice-rippers hidden under pillows and worst of all – no authors! But there have always been those who had stories in them, bursting to be let free. They were called Storytellers. They traveled and told stories in exchange for room and board. A storyteller would also carry news, perhaps even letters from town to town. People were hungry for news of the world and for new stories. It was like having the newest blockbuster finally coming to your theater.

Before books could be made, we first had to have an alphabet, and then a library of words. We needed people who understood that alphabet and also knew how to use the words on paper to tell stories. That person needed ink, a pen and sheets of paper. (And then we needed people who could read and afford a book. That’s a different subject altogether.) Telling a story and writing a story are two very different things.

When telling a story you’ll use different voices, facial expressions and body language. You might even get up from the fire pit and walk around – slowly or quickly depending on the story and the audience. When writing a story, you only have words at your disposal. It’s harder than telling.

You can consider this an exercise:

  • Tell a short story (between 1000 – 1500 words) using only words on paper.
  • You must make the reader believe he or she is sitting at that fire pit, under the spell of the Storyteller.
  • You can choose your subject, but please keep it clean.
  • And try to imagine what kind of story this pretend Storyteller would tell.
  • Share it with us next Tuesday, August 2. I’ll be sharing mine.

More later,


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Word Study – woolgathering


Gathering wool, by Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929)


As a writer and an editor, I work with words all the time. In fact, I love words. I specifically love different words. Like Serendipity. Or woolgathering. Where did these words come from? Do they still mean the same thing? You can find out a lot about a word just by looking it up in the dictionary. But sometimes there’s more. And sometimes there isn’t.


  • v. to engage in woolgathering. (Gee, that’s helpful, isn’t it?)
  • n. idle or absent-minded indulgence in fantasy; daydreaming (Now we’re getting somewhere, by why ‘woolgathering’?)

Word History for woolgathering 

The word comes from the 1550s, meaning “indulging in wandering fancies and purposeless thinking,” from the literal meaning “gathering fragments of wool torn from sheep by bushes, etc.”

Now, it’s starting to make some sense. I’m sure, as sheep got caught in the bushes, they left tufts of hair, here and there, in no set pattern. That picture gives us the word ‘wandering’. But I have to disagree with ‘purposeless’. Many times it’s just this kind of daydreaming that gives us the most relaxation, new ideas about stories, and could lead to a nap. These are all good things.

Let’s visit Merriam Webster. 

  • indulgence in idle daydreaming (That’s much more helpful than Dictionary.com)

Word History from MW

Woolgathering once literally referred to the act of gathering loose tufts of wool that had gotten caught on bushes and fences as sheep passed by. Woolgatherers must have seemed to wander aimlessly, gaining little for their efforts, for in the mid-16th century “woolgathering” began to appear in figurative phrases such as “my wits (or my mind) went a-woolgathering” – in other words, “my mind went wandering aimlessly.” From there, it wasn’t long before the word woolgathering came to suggest the act of indulging in purposeless mind-wandering.

Interesting, eh? I wonder if we can somehow manage to use this word in an actual sentence today? Did you? I’ll tell you if you tell!

More later,


woolgathering. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/woolgathering (accessed: July 23, 2016).

“Woolgathering.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed July 22, 2016. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woolgathering

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Sunday Scripture 2 Samuel 7:22

Sunday Scripture

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Friday Five – My Favorite Books

Friday Five My Favorite BooksOut of the thousands (millions?) of books a person has read, how can we decide which is favorite? And why is it a favorite? What are the standards for labeling a book ‘Favored’? These are mine –

– I can remember passages from it. I can still see scenes from the story in my mind. Even if it has been decades since I’ve read it.

– Most of my favorite books are so because I love the story and the writing. Some books I read again just before I start to write because they inspire me.

– The standards? It should still be with me. (I’ve moved a few times in my 57 years.) I’ve bought multiple copies because I keep loaning it out. (And then moving.)

It’s probably a bit shabby from much use. Books should be well-loved, not museum pieces.

These are my five favorite books

  1. Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. If you have never read this, you need to click over to Amazon, or run to your local bookstore or the library and start reading this right away. It will keep you reading long into the night, and will change your perspective on some Christian things forever. (Not in a bad way.) Do you want to live for Christ? Read this book. I’m deliberately not telling you what it’s about because I don’t want to ruin it for you. Of course, you could Google it real quick and find out – but if you want the True experience, resist the urge and start reading it without knowing.
  1. From Sea to Shining Sea by James Alexander Thom. This is a hefty book, and one I’ve read many times. If you love history, you should be reading Thom. His books bring life to history and in this particular book you’ll be going along on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Haven’t you always wanted to be one of the members of the expedition? This is the next best thing.
  1. The Gresham Chronicles Books 1-3 by Lawana Blackwell. So, I’m cheating a little bit by putting 3 books in one slot. They have to be read together. Ms. Blackwell has a gift for creating loving, realistic characters. She doesn’t insult her readers by explaining their idiosyncrasies either, which I deeply appreciate. She lets us find them on our own. The cover may look like a ‘typical romance’ book, trust me, they are not. No bodice-rippers here.
  1. I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins I just read this book a few months ago, so how does it end up on my Favorite Five list? It’s that good! This is another book where I hate to divulge any information about it, because reading it is an experience. If you know what that experience is beforehand, it’s not quite as exhilarating. Just go for it!
  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Everyone should read at least one classic. I’ve read this book over and over, loving it more every time. Jane is one of the strong women of literature; she overcomes every obstacle and faces life head on. She has every reason to hate the life she has, but she chooses not to. So many things we can learn from her.

What are your favorite books?

More later,


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Schedules, planners and dust

Planning blog calenderEarlier  I talked about having my blogging schedule all planned out, just to have the Life Dump Truck back up into my life. Since then, I’ve been trying to remember to bring that schedule back into the office. I don’t know why it was out of the office; the positive thing to focus on is that I knew right where it was!

So, now I have it sitting before me. There are six major topics and lots of specific topics under those. Now, I just need to write them. Actually, I think that will be more fun than making the schedule in the first place.

I also did a deep dusting in one of the rooms of my home. (Sneezing has been the order of the day.) And I found a list I’d been looking for. Although I love organizational tips and equipment, I, myself, am a pretty unorganized person. Ironically, this list was for some organizational ideas. Go figure. It’s now thumbtacked to my bulletin board … just waiting for me to work on it! I have many things waiting for me to work on them. Mr. S. says I don’t do a good job of prioritizing my time. He’s right, I don’t. I’m directed by my mood and undisciplined. If I feel like drawing, I draw. If I feel like sewing, I sew. How can you prioritize creative things? (I’m actually going to try to answer that question at some point.)

So, here I sit with my planner open, my blog open and I do believe it’s time to get this little show on the road!

More later,



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Now you can Follow!

spending-time-quotes-The-way-we-spend-our-time-defines-who-we-are.If you saw Pearl’s comment about following, I finally figured it out. When you land on my blog, after a few seconds you’ll see a small, gray rectangle pop-up on the bottom right of the screen and it says “Follow”. Click on it and you’ll be added to the list to receive my posts in your email.

I always do this on blogs I like, because once I leave them, I generally forget to go back. I know there are techy-type solutions for this, but I am not the techy-type. This works for me.

Today, a quote on ‘time’ rather than ‘writing’. Why? Because currently, I’m just not a writer! I will be again, very soon, but right now I’m a student, a wife and a Grandma. I’m babysitting my 3 month old granddaughter until she is just a little older and can go to day care. Right now, she needs one on one attention and a day care can’t give that. This is 40 hours a week for me. Add to that two college classes and general stuff to do at home like laundry and dinner and I’m done! I’m way past done.

But what a joy it is to spend this time with my little one 🙂 She is precious, and so happy all the time. (most of the time) 🙂 This is time well-spent. I’ll admit I’m glad when her mama gets home from work, but about an hour later, I miss her. She will grow up fast, and this time right now is too important to pass up. And here is a picture of my little sweet granddaughter –


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