Monday, July 15, 2013

Writing Prompt + Holy Spirit = Opportunity



Writing prompts can help get the creative juices flowing.  However, if we’re open to the Holy Spirit, they can also lead to unique opportunities.  Let me give some examples.

The photo accompanying this post shows a prompt that our Quirky Quills writing group used recently.  We each had to pick something to add to a still life and then gave ourselves 15 minutes to write about it.  It seemed like a motley collection of objects, but when we read out our pieces, it was amazing what everyone had written.  There were poems and stories about racial tensions and prejudice in the United States, women forced into prostitution in the Middle East, and an amusing piece about Peter Jackson revisioning Gone With the Wind to include hobbits.  I couldn’t help thinking that the Holy Spirit had inspired those ideas.  Okay, mine was the wacky one about the hobbits, so maybe Holy Spirit inspiration is harder to argue for that one.  Then again, maybe God knew we needed a lighter piece to balance out the serious ones.  In any case, we all went away with something we could work on, something we wouldn’t have thought of without the prompt and that moment of inspiration. 

Some anthologies and writing competitions also focus on a particular theme.  For example, the Australian group Poetica Christi had the theme of “Taking Flight” for their 2011 poetry collection.  I felt God prompting me to write a poem about Joseph fleeing to Egypt with Mary and baby Jesus.  It’s since been published.  In 2012, the theme was “Into the Depths”.  I felt God leading me to write about a couple who always skirt around the issues rather than sharing intimately.  It’s been accepted for this year’s anthology.  I wouldn’t have written either of those poems without the theme as a starting point.

Recently, I decided to try my hand at a short story competition where the first sentence had to be “Heads we get married, tails we split up.”  I didn’t find that line particularly inspiring, so I thought I’d just write a light piece for fun.  Then I felt God whisper, “put them on a train in India”.  India?  Where did that come from?  But I sat down, typed in the first line and started writing about two people on a train in India.  The story took on a life of its own and ended up being a tear-jerker about an orphan girl rescued by aid workers.   I asked a work colleague to check it for cultural accuracy.  Not only did she pick up one of my cultural faux pas, but she said she really enjoyed it.  That led to a chat about the current situation in India.  Another colleague also liked it and wanted to know what happened next.  Mmm … could be a Friday lunchtime series in the making.  I wouldn’t have had those two conversations if not for the initial sentence and God’s quiet nudging.

If you’ve never used writing prompts, why not give them a try?  If you’re sensitive to the Holy Spirit and willing to step out of your comfort zone, you may find opportunities opening up for you – the odd publication, relationship-building conversations, and more material that you can later develop into other projects.  Do a google search for “writing prompts” and let God and the creative juices take you for a ride.  Mmm … “take you for a ride”.  I think I’ve just found my next prompt!  


 
Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 90 short pieces published in various magazines, journals, and anthologies (including true stories, devotions, poetry and short fiction). She has a passion for writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same. (Some call it "nagging", but she calls it "encouragement").

19 comments:

  1. Great suggestions, Nola. I never thought that writing prompts could be so fruitful. Actually, I've always associated them with fiction (and therefore never used them), but now you have inspired me to adapt the concept to particular topics. I might try placing conceptual words or images on a whiteboard in mind map style and then do some timed, free association writing. Thank you!

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    1. Hi Margaret - I also write non-fiction, especially devotions and inspirational true stories. Prompts have been useful for some of those too, so I think they can apply to any type of writing. I'd be interested to see what you come up with. Blessings.

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  2. Nola, great piece. I'm constantly surprised by what the Spirit nudges me with as I write. It's also a good reminder of the importance of turning up each day to write because we never know what He might suggest.

    Turning up is an act of obedience for we writers.

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    1. Thanks for that Ian. That's a great perspective. I was telling my husband about some of the things I felt God had prompted me to write and he stated the obvious - "Well you prayed God would use your writing didn't you? It's not surprising he would then give you ideas." I hadn't really thought of it like that, but you're right. If you believe God is in your writing endeavours, then turning up is an act of obedience. We can then trust that he will take what we give him and turn it into something for his glory. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Hey, wouldn't it be good if Peter Jackson did revision "Gone to the Wind" to include hobbits?
    It's always great to see how one prompt will lead to many, many different but equally creative pieces of writing from all the different people.
    Thanks for the post, Nola.

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    1. Hi Paula - just realised that I didn't actually reply to you in the reply section, so my response to your post is further down. But no doubt you've worked that out :)

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  4. Totally agree with your husband, Nola, that if we pray about our writing, why wouldn't God give us ideas for it along the way. And God can use tangible writing prompts, Google searches, our imagination, little prompts and whispers in our spirit--whatever! That's one of the great things about having God's Spirit alive and active in us, don't you think?

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    1. Hi Jo - yes I totally agree. God can pop those ideas in our minds at any time. He's the creator of the universe, so he's not going to run out of creative ideas LOL. Blessings.

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  5. Hi Paula - When our group gets together, the variety of responses to the same prompt never ceases to amaze me. And I'll look forward to reading your revisioning of Gone With the Wind ;)

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  6. Hi Nola,
    Great post. It's wonderful what you Quirky Quills Girls have been up to and where you have been led. I've read about writing prompts in books - and haven't tried too many of them too often - simply because I constantly have a real life series of writing prompts that need attention in my writing - and have pages of notebooks covered with ideas. Just not enough time to write them all down. I think God does love to keep nudging me all day long and I love His promptings so much! :)

    I found an interesting book called 'The Writer's Match' or some name like that (like a matchstick lighting a flame - and an idea lighting a story) - where there are heaps of writing prompt ideas - I copied many of them down - and will use them one day!.

    Thanks for making us aware of the Holy Spirits leading in our writing Nola - aren't we blessed to have Him as our Guide.
    Blessings,
    Anusha

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    1. Hi Anusha - Thanks for that and for your encouragement. I've also got a list of real-life prompts. There just aren't enough hours in the day to make use of them all (LOL) Lucky we have a God who is just constantly brimming with ideas! Thanks for that book suggestion. Will have to look it up. I've also found a couple of e-Books cheap on Kindle that are full of prompts, but haven't tried too many of them yet. Lovely to also hear how the Holy Spirit leads you in your writing Anusha. Bless you.

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  7. I have always believed that God is in/around/behind our writing and have one of Deborah Raney's quotes next to my screen:

    "Lord, I know that as I write this book - a book that won't be published for many months - even now, YOU ARE PREPARING HEARTS that will one day read my words. So let every word I write accurately reflect your truth and your precepts. Supernaturally imbue my writing with that quality that, by your Spirit, will woo souls to You."

    But I never looked at my 'writing appointments' as an act of obedience! So true though! I needed that today to keep me going :) Thank you!

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    1. Thanks Margaret. What a great quote. I'll have to write that one down. And yes, I loved Ian's suggestion of turning up to writing appointments being an act of obedience. Certainly no time for Writer's Block! Blessings.

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  8. We use prompts in our FAW group and it's interesting to see what people came up with from the same prompt. Mine last Saturday morning turned out to be a poem as is did the month before. Now all I have to do is actually revise and send them somewhere. I love the way what seem random connections are made. Great post Nola.

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    1. Hi Dale - I agree. It really is amazing to see those seemingly random connections take shape. Good luck with those poems. I really liked the ones of yours that were in the Taking Flight book. Blessings.

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    2. Thanks for that Nola. One of those came out of an extremely hard time.

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  9. A great reminder that we don't have to write alone. Can think of numerous times that I've been stuck for ideas or even finding it difficult to nail down some research aspects of a particular story when I've requested "a bit of help with this please, God!" And He does! :)

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  10. Thanks Adele - same here. Makes me wonder why I don't pray about it more. Oh that's right - He's the creator of the universe. He probably has some ideas :) Looking forward to seeing what you and God come up with in your next novel :)

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  11. Congratulations on your achievements, how wonderful that you followed your nudges and in the process not only did you achieve a prize but you also were able to praise God. One of the prompts that I was given was to write, once a week, about a picture in my house and for each week the story had to be completely different. Now that was difficult because once you associate a story with a picture it's almost impossible to change it completely!

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