April 30, 2015

April is for A-Z by Susan Barclay

If you haven't heard of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, it's high time you did! The brain child of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out, the challenge is in its sixth year, with well over 1300 participants. 

Basically, the ideas is this: during the month of April, write 26 posts, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. April 1 is A, April 2 is B, etc. No posts on Sundays. You can write to a theme or you can write about whatever comes to mind. You can plan your posts ahead of time or fly by the seat of your pants. The idea is to get your creative juices flowing, to visit other bloggers who are participating, and for new readers to come your way.

This is my fourth year of A-Z'ing and the first where I actually had the work complete by April 1. That freed me up (in theory) to visit more blogs than I had before and to enjoy and reply to the comments left by readers of my blog, Notes from Innisfree. This year my theme was 'living with less', aka de-cluttering/simple living.

I find the challenge a great way to keep my writing fresh and to give myself a break from my routines. In February, I talked about methods I use to stimulate ideas and creativity. A-Z fits by acting as a writing prompt and allowing me to read blog posts from different viewpoints or on topics I know little about. Another great thing about it is the opportunity to add new followers and meet new friends. At the end of the month I never regret writing my way through the alphabet. 

Next year I hope you'll join me. Let's A-Z together!

For more of my writing visit my personal blog (click above link) and my website, www.susan-barclay.ca

April 29, 2015

Doing it Afraid - Ruth L. Snyder

How do we keep our writing fresh?

The typical answers that come to mind are:

  • Read books (Good books inspire; Poorly written books instruct)
  • Go for a walk in nature (This revives our spirits, gets the blood pumping, and helps us think more clearly.)
  • Keep a writing notebook (Throughout our days we see, hear, and experience things which will be helpful in our writing. Capture ideas before they evaporate: a quote, a description of a scene, how someone looks/acts, a topic that captures the imagination.)
  • Take time periodically to write down everything that comes to mind (This is called a brain dump. You'll find that you are able to both record what you're thinking about and make more space for new ideas.)

Lately God has been challenging me to take more risks with my writing. 

I don't like risks! 

I like to be in control. I like to feel safe. I like other people to like me. I like congratulations and awards.

I don't like to make mistakes. I don't like to do things when I'm not sure of the outcome. I don't like to be wrong. I don't like to be corrected. 

Simply put - I'm proud. I'm sinful. I'm selfish.


God wants me to be obedient. To follow Him into the unknown. To put aside my selfish desires. To reach out to people I may not understand or naturally love.

What does this mean for my writing?

  • Taking every opportunity God brings my way
  • Trying new topics
  • Learning new things
  • Being transparent
Sometimes I feel like I'm jumping off a cliff, but my feet are probably still planted on firm ground. I have a long ways to go! But I'm taking the first step - saying, "Yes, Lord."

Just imagine what God could do if we all gave Him complete control!

Anybody want to go cliff jumping with me?

April 28, 2015

New Toys Mean New Joys by Bruce Atchison

Have you ever noticed that purchasing something new, or even second hand, can stir your creativity? At the risk of sounding like a materialist, I've found that having some sort of new technology is one way of firing up one's creative imagination.

June, 1993 was when I finally had access to a real computer. I bought a Vic-20 in 1984 but I'd hardly call that a computer when compared to the IBM clone. By today's standards, it was primitive. The PC only had 100 MB of hard disk space and 2 MB of memory. It couldn't even run Windows 3.1 because that program required a minimum of 4 MB of memory.

Also, a friend gave me an amber monochrome monitor and I bought a dot matrix printer from another friend. Even so, it was a huge leap from writing by hand. WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS allowed me the ease of cutting and pasting text as well as correcting it with the spell checker. Additionally, I wrote my first three memoirs with that word processor program.

My first digital camera was likewise a boon. Though I had a good quality 35mm camera, I had to wait to get the film developed before I could see if the photo was good or if my thumb got in the way. With a digital camera, it's easy to load the photo onto a computer and edit out boo-boos. Additionally, it's immediately obvious if the photo didn't quite work out.

Even better, cell phones have cameras which take photos and video. I've used mine to snap great photos which later appeared in my blog posts. As long as the battery is charged, I can even make notes to myself of great ideas I had while away from my PC.

Even my electronic music compositions were inspired by new equipment. It would take far too long to list the ways here but suffice it to say that whenever I bought a new keyboard, it inspired new music. Better still, I can edit it and burn CD-R copies of my albums. I've done that as well as designed the labels and tray cards.

The same process applies in the spiritual realm. When I learned about the heavenly Father's providence and true character, it gave me a much happier outlook on his role in my life. Far from being a disciplinarian who set impossible faith goals, he lovingly led me to accept my disability as his tool to sculpt me into the person he wants me to be. Because of this new understanding, I'm much happier than I was in that cultic house church. John 9:3 is now my life verse because I understand why I wasn't healed of my sight impairment.


April 27, 2015

What comes first…the seed or the dirt? by Melanie Fischer

Without the dirt there is no where to plant the seed. Without the seed there is no how to produce more seeds in order to plant.

Do we writers need inspiration in order to write, or do we need to write in order to become inspired?
In my experience, it is when those moments of complete un-inspiration are combined with the
discipline of showing up that the Lord has blessed my pen the most. In the times when I have threatened to quit, begged to stop, stomped my feet or stuck out my lip in a pout, but put my fingers to the keyboard anyway, that suddenly—lo and behold—something turned on.
The farmer toils in his field, then one day stands back to see what has come from his works. This is
what encourages him to plant again—but not until the work is done first. It is the physical act of sitting down and writing that gives us the opportunity to look back on what we actually wrote. This often becomes the fertilizer for the next piece.

There is a practical fear—what if the farmer plants the field then it is struck by a drought? What if the writer sits down at the computer and the mind is struck by a drought? All that hard work gone to waste. “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7, 8. Stay in the word, live by faith, pray without ceasing—that is what allows our works to sprout, even when the land dries up.

To address the fear that our works will be unoriginal and will all look the same, consider a handful of wildflower seeds. They look similar—until you plant them. As they grow, they develop and become unique and individual. Once the writer starts writing, the story will develop. It isn’t until the seed is planted though that we see what it is destined to become.

So…how do I keep myself and my writing fresh as new articles are produced? I look back at the works which were created in those moments of un-inspiration; those moments that the Lord reigned upon my crops just because I showed up to plant them. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6.

Waiting for inspiration in order to write would be like a farmer refusing to turn on the sprinkler system until it rains. In order to write we must write. If this is what we genuinely feel called to do, let's make a plan of when to do it, show up, then do the work, even when we are not in the mood to do so. Plant the seeds and they will grow.

What is going to come first? The seed or the dirt?

Melanie Blogs about Purpose at: www.hungryforpurpose.com/blog

April 26, 2015

Spring Miracles by Marnie Pohlmann

A tiny seed breaks open, reaching tentatively yet tenaciously through soil and around rocks. Pushing, stretching, seeking sunshine and warmth.  Once it was small, insignificant, buried by the weight of life, but in spring, it grows – transformed.

A small butterfly flits about, seemingly uncertain of her flight path or where to land – or perhaps dancing a winged ballet, celebrating new life.  Once she was crawling and plain, then hiding in the dark, but now she is beautiful – transformed.

A little black tadpole struggles to survive in a stagnant pool, just one of many, but he sprouts legs and learns to leap into new adventures, perhaps to be kissed – transformed.

Reflecting on how writers can keep our writing fresh makes me think of frogs and other miracles of spring.  Not just in our writing do we need to seek freshness, but also in life.  When concerns weigh us down until we are buried in circumstance like a seed beneath the dirt; when restraints in health, finances, or time bind us in darkness like a caterpillar in its pupa; or when fear of danger lurking all about keeps us drowning in sorrow, like a tadpole in a stagnant pool - in those times, God gives us strength to struggle through the heaviness, the darkness, and the mud, by His power bringing transformation.

When we are feeling stale or need a new viewpoint in life, we can use our God-given natural gifts of creativity to make changes that will refresh. The surest way to change from stagnation to new life is to stretch toward God, allowing His Spirit to free us and lead us to new heights.  Bury yourself in God’s Word.  Cocoon yourself in prayer.  Grow new legs as He teaches you and transforms you.  It may be a struggle, but fresh words can blossom, giving flight to new ideas and leading us into new adventures. I believe growth in God always leads to freshness in writing.

Other practical writing ways we can creatively change include breaking out of our norm to stretch our gifts beyond circumstances that weigh us down.  Write for someone else - tell a child’s imaginative story, especially if it makes no logical sense.  Help a senior write a letter.  Provide a press release for a non-profit organization’s fundraising event.

Or we can leave our regular audience, not changing our message, but changing with whom we share our message as we flit about.  Write a children’s version of your non-fiction essay, or a blog for single professionals rather than your usual followers.

We can even leap into a new style or genre.  Write a poem, even if just an acrostic to celebrate a new baby’s name.  Write a devotional based on a scene from your fiction novel.

We don’t have to be good at what we try; we just need to be willing to experiment with creative change, to rediscover the joy of playing with words. Our writers’ groups or contests may be safe places to share the results, or we can keep them private. It is the effort that is sure to bring new growth that will revitalize our writing, and our life.

No matter the genre of our writing lives, we need to be growing.  While here on earth, we are to become more Christ-like, and together become the beautiful Bride of Christ.

So be like a seed, or a caterpillar, or a tadpole.  Struggle through the dry, dark, dangerous times and be transformed by God’s miracle in you.

Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech … being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:12, 18b NKJ)

Photos – a few frogs from my collection - someday I will share the story of how I came to collect frogs – it’s all about transformation :)

April 25, 2015

An Intermission By: Vickie Stam

Ten years ago I escaped to Prince Edward Island with a wonderful friend. It was a much needed intermission; a break from life's daily routine. It was my first time traveling on a plane. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. 

We sat five rows from the front. Great seats really, but I remember a feeling of anxiety wash over me the moment I sat down and realized there was very little room between myself and the seat in front of me. I stared at the back of that blue vinyl chair and took in a deep breath. The walls felt much too close. I leaned over the empty seat beside me and gawked down the narrow path that led to the back of the plane. 

I wondered if it would have been better for us to sit in the back. I thought I might feel less confined if I could look ahead and see a greater expanse between myself and the front of the plane but we were well past the planning stage. Five rows from the front was where we had to stay. It wasn't long before a young woman took the aisle seat next to me and I was soon challenged to leave my anxiety behind. "Relax and enjoy the ride," my friend said. 

When the plane took off I closed my eyes. My stomach flipped. I ended up chewing the flavor from my gum in record time. I felt no desire to look out the tiny window nor did I have to. I was getting a glimpse of the world through eyes other than my own. The white fluffy clouds were described as something similar to soft cotton.

In the end, I survived the ride and came back from PEI feeling refreshed and ready to pick up my daily routine right where I left off. 

When I'm writing, I always take some time away from it -- my own intermission, you might say. I never finish writing a story without some sort of break. I find when I let it go for a few hours or even a few days, I come back to it feeling refreshed.

Ten years ago I took a break, experienced something for the first time and learned that it was okay to pick up where I left off. 



April 24, 2015

Fresh Inspiration by Tandy Balson

Like new growth appearing in the spring I await new inspiration for writing.  Will my words burst forth like the budding leaves on the tree in my front yard?  

In nature the new growth is preceded by a period of dormancy.  I don’t normally take the time needed to rest, reflect and nourish my creativity.  Last week I did just that.

My daughter and I went on a Caribbean Cruise to celebrate her birthday.  Internet was far too costly on the ship, so no email was checked.  Other than journaling the events of each day I did no writing.  Many hours were spent sitting in the sun reading a good book.

I came home refreshed and full of ideas.  Will I write about the two little monkeys I held and how it felt when one decided to climb onto the top of my head?

How about being terrified to try snorkeling and my daughter holding my hand in the water until I was comfortable?  And oh, those tropical fish!

The deep turquoise of the sea was calming and nourished my soul.  A trek through a tropical rain forest to stand behind a waterfall was incredible.  I held a fresh cinnamon leaf and learned how our popular spice is made.

These and so many more thoughts are now taking shape, anxiously waiting to flow through my fingertips and become stories to share.  

I can see the lessons learned from the flight delays and luggage that was damaged.  The laughter and the heart to heart talks all enriched me.

A break from writing while experiencing new adventures was just what I needed to infuse me with fresh inspiration.   I can’t wait to get started!

April 23, 2015

Out of Focus by Lynn J Simpson

"I challenge you not to hit the Delete button," my friend Richard said, leaning across the table. Glancing at my five other dinner friends, I could see them nodding in agreement. I looked down at the napkin laid neatly across my lap, white and blank, like the templates of my word programs. Not even a speck of a crumb.

I'd just been lamenting to my friends that I had writers block since mid-March. Since the day I decided to do an entry on my photography blog stating that I would be taking a break from posting photos as I needed to focus on my writing, I couldn't seem to keep words on a page, hitting the backspace button faster than I could type. Ha! Stopped shooting pictures and my writing stopped too, like a lens cap does to a camera. The picture was just not getting through.

I must confess though, I was beginning to get very critical of my photography. My pictures did not
seem to be as sharp as I wanted them to be, the clarity and depth of field out of reach of what my mind saw and what actually showed on my computer screen. So I would play with the tools to sharpen, to balance the colours, to crop and scale. And then have a picture quite different than the one I actually took. Good enough, I'd think, and post to the blog.

But feeling utterly disappointed with myself.

Yet the comments came. Comments on how I will be missed, that my photography was 'inspiring' and 'full of talent.' And how my words following each post that brought comfort and encouragement would be missed too.

Inspiring even though completely different than what my mind saw, what my critic said it needed to be, to be worth publishing.

Maybe it is time to take that lens cap off and let the picture lead itself, instead of me getting in the way.

And maybe it is time, like my friend Richard advised, to stop hitting the Delete key, and just let the writing flow. To get out of my own way and just let it be. And maybe, just maybe the first few shots at writing again will be out of focus in places. But that is okay.

'Cause I have the tools to bring it into focus again.

April 22, 2015

In Being Still, I Write—Alan Anderson

Psalm 46:10:  “He says, Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”

Mark 4:39:  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet!  Be still!  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

For most of my sixty-one years I have been known for presenting a calm demeanor.  Many, many times during periods of duress or trial or sorrow, people around me have said I look and act so calm.  My perceived calmness was almost to the point of apathy.  Most people, including my family, did not know that since my childhood I taught myself to internalize my emotions.  My external “calmness” was but a mask.

Beginning in my early high school years I wrote down my feelings through poetry and short stories.  I did really well in my spelling and composition in such subjects as English and Language Arts.  My teachers encouraged me by giving me good marks and even commenting on my writing.  These comments did nothing to help me be still.

Even now after being a follower of Jesus for almost forty years I need to be reminded to “be still” to be “calm” to relax.  For most of my “Christian life” I have been involved in ministry and work focused on caregiving in one form or another. Presently I am involved as a Spiritual Care professional in healthcare.  In callings like this one needs to be calm and take time to relax. 

I have experienced and witnessed deep sorrow through coming alongside people in emotional and spiritual pain.  Their stories have also made me more thankful for the great and joyful things in life.  You see, when “being with” people it is all about their stories. In being with people you hear some amazing story tellers.

Through listening to the stories of others I have learned, at least to some degree, to be a lover of stories.  I have also learned to be aware of my own story.  For me this means to be still, to be calm, to not allow the calamities, cares or concerns that may be all around, to overwhelm me.  I’ve been there and done that, so to speak.

In being still, I write.  I am at a point in my life where my insecurity as a writer is waning.  You might say it is about time!  I am able to allow other people and especially other writers, to read the words that come to me.  In being still I am finally able to listen to God.  He calms the storms in my life by making me aware of his abiding presence.  This calmness, this wonderful stillness, allows me to write.

The opportunity to post on the Inscribe Blog on a monthly basis is an honour.  It is like “coming out” for me.  Being part of this Inscribe group gives evidence to me of how far I have come. I'm not well known by anyone but I definitely feel like part of the group.  

The journey has been worth it!  In being still I can listen to God.   In being still, I feel part of an encouraging group of writers I love.  In being still, I come to grips with the courage to say I too am a writer.  In being still, I write!

Personal Blog: scarredjoy@wordpress.com

April 21, 2015

Does Atticism mean from the Attic? ..... Jocelyn Faire

There is a time for every Writing activity under heaven.
A time to write and a time to refrain from writing,
A time to read and a time to close the book, 
to read the world at large,
A time to listen, and a time to Be still and know that I am God
A time to try harder and a time to cease striving
A time for antonyms and a time for synonyms
A time for atticism and a time for simplicity
A time for writers argot and a time for common lingo
A time for questions, and a time for answers
A time for conundrums, and a time for the ho-hums
A time for letters and a time for numbers
A time for wide awake and a time for slumbers
There is a time to hold, and a time to be held
And a time to behold our God.
At times the words come slowly, at times like a rush
In season and out of season we ponder, and
There is a time to write, to right the confusion of life's ups and downs.    

When I find the season dry or when I try too hard,  I need to spend a time on soul refreshment ... usually in the form of Beauty.

Much of the stress and emptiness that haunts us can be traced back to our lack of attention to beauty. Internally, the mind becomes coarse and dull if it remains unvisited by images and thoughts which hold the radiance of beauty.
(Beauty: The Invisible Embrace—John O'Donohue)

Think of creativity as a spark, it needs a large stockpile of experience to ignite. If you do not open yourself up to life, then your creativity will just be a flash, and never a real fire.* (unknown)
* from the book 1001 Ways to Creativity by Arcturus Publishing 2013 

1. concise and elegant expression, diction, or the like.
2. the style or idiom of Attic Greek occurring in another dialect or language.
\AHR-goh, -guht\noun
1. the special vocabulary and idiom of a particular profession or social group: sociologists' argot.
2. a specialized idiomatic vocabulary peculiar to a particular class or group of people, especially that of an underworld group, devised for private communication and identification

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking out of My Head? Grief as an out of Body Experience
She blogs at:  http://whoistalking.wordpress.com

April 19, 2015

Joy in Fresh Perspectives by Joylene M. Bailey

I like to spend time with children. A child's perspective is always fresh, in a way that we forget as we become adults. I like to try to figure out how a child would see a situation. How would they understand it? How would they describe it? What does it look like from their eye-level?

I'm reminded of the time, after visiting the doctor to have some plantar warts taken care of, I said to my four-year-old, "Ooh, that doctor really did a number on my foot!"
To which she replied, "What number was it?"

Another time at an extended family dinner the adults were deep in conversation about selling arms to China - a topic in the news at the time. I glanced over at two wide-eyed horrified children. They were clutching their arms to their bodies, while their imaginations conjured up piles of human arms being packaged up and mailed to China. And what on earth did China need arms for?

It's an art, being able to see things from a child's perspective. But an art that brings a freshness to any writing. And that kind of freshness brings me joy.

There's a story I need to write - someday. I can't do it right now. It's still too painful. There's nothing there. The words won't come. 
But I don't see this as writer's block. I know God will tell it through my pen in due season and I am content to wait for His timing.

In the meantime I choose joy, and I will write about other things.

Joy blossoms from a thankful heart.
It says, "God, I see what you did there. Thank you!"

Joy in the gift of writing.

Joy in the act of writing and all that it entails.

Joy in creation and creativity.

Joy in fresh perspectives.