Taking the Fear Out of Writing

I just completed facilitating a Taking the Fear Out of Writing workshop at The Commons at Central Hall here in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. We had anticipated about five in the class, but by the time we started there were 10 enrolled … and they kept coming back week after week.

The amazing thing is the transformation I  saw over our six weeks together. When we started, they were reluctant to come out of their writer shell. We’ve all been there. I don’t know what to write. Who cares about what I write? I just have these thoughts. What can I do next? Share my words?

Monday — our last gathering – they couldn’t wait to share their words.

I don’t think I did anything special during our session, although I encouraged them to share their work in our controlled setting. While I tutored on the hub of storytelling — who, what, when, where, why and how — and dealt with genre, characters, story and character development, dialogue, and the importance of a strong beginning and end wrapped around compelling story. And I also emphasized to them the importance of know who their audience was — even if the audience was one, themselves.

In other words, I told them it was important for your thoughts to reflect your values. It doesn’t matter if anyone else reads your words — they are a history of, well, you. It puts your life in context.

We discussed different writing styles — journaling, short stories, fiction, nonfiction and poetry {thanks to my friend, neighbor and published poet Tom Lyford}. We discussed how the different styles are similar and how they differ.

To push them, I gave them a weekly assignment — a five minute writing prompt {thanks to the Five Minute Friday community}. The diverse words brought diverse reactions, bringing out the blessings from the Christians in the group, earthiness for others, self evaluation for others. At least three indicated they would follow Five Minute Friday, others were looking for alternative prompt spots. All noted the exercise “forced” them to sit down and write, or, as I noted, took away some of the fear of writing.

The artistry of writing is in its individuality. We could write about a common prompt or issue and come up with our own interpretation. There is no right or wrong {except for news reporting where that pesky thing called facts comes into play}.

I emphasized that last point in every class. There are conventions in style, but there are just as many exceptions that individualize the process.

To see how much they absorbed over the six weeks, I challenged them with a writing “game”. I picked about 20 famous two or more word book titles, split them and put them in a bowl. I had each participant pick to slips and write a book title based on those two slips. Next, I had them write a lead paragraph; identify the W’s – What, Who,Where, When, Why & How (the hub of the story); identify and describe their characters; write some dialogue between characters; write a poem, either standalone or worked into the story; and finally finish the story. The twist was after each “assignment” they passed their work to another member of the group.

That meant they had to personalize each segment based on someone else’s thoughts, think and write on the fly, and come up with a fairly readable final product. They succeeded! Each of the short stories were readable and made sense. They were not just random thoughts, but built upon what they were given.

As I scanned the table, I saw the group busily embracing the project. Or, another way of saying that, they showed no fear as they tackled writing.

I hope they continue to follow their heart and put words down on paper. If nothing else, those words are part of their individual legacy, which should be passed down to future generations.

Members of the group asked if there was a way to continue. I am pleased to report The Commons is willing to give some space for a writing group (share and support) on the third Wednesday of the month, 1 p.m., at The Commons, beginning Aug. 21. It is open to any writers in the area to share our work and constructively critique.

I may have facilitated the group, but they taught me. They reminded me why I write. They renewed my passion. So, thanks to The Commons for allowing me to lead this workshop, and a special thank you to my students — Adrienne, Charlotte, Jim, Joan, Lillian, Mari, Mary, Peg, Rich and Victoria!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Don’t make life more complicated than it has to be … just keep it simple. It’s simply life. — LaTrice Brandon




Christmas in July

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Another short reminder, this one from John Winston Ono Lennon

Love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep on watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER:Once a wise man was asked why Eve was created from the man’s rib. The wise man answered. “She was created from his rib to be next to him, to be equal to him; from beneath his shoulder to be in his protection; from his side close to his heart to be his lover, his companion and to share his hopes and feeling forever.”


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Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Today’s reflection is from Karen, a Latter-day Saint, Christian woman, Mormon, mother, sister, daughter of God, friend.

He said, Bring them hither to me. (Matthew 14:18)

I’m always asking my children, “How can I help you?” “Is there anything I can do for you to lighten your load?”

Whatever it is, just “bring it to me” – let me help you.

My daughter’s wedding. “What part can I do for you?”  “I’ll pick up the centerpieces.” “Shall I get those thank-yous for you?” “Let me take care of hemming your temple dress.”

My daughter’s ballroom preparations: “What else do you need?” “How can I take up the slack?”  “Out of lipstick, need shoe guards?”

My friends: “What can I do?”

Most of us echo what our Heavenly Parent must silently but through the voice of the Spirit ask us: “Bring it to me, Karen.” “Bring it to me.”  Maybe that’s what it means to “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”

Heavenly Father and the Savior’s longing is to be there, to take up the slack, to make up the difference. How often He must ask us to “bring it to Him.” Bring the untied spiritual shoelaces in a knot; bring the work assignment that is beyond our natural ken; bring the longing unmet; bring the larger than life challenge, the unexpected debt, the new fear, or old diagnosis. “Bring it to me,” He says.

Thousands of years ago, the disciples faced a hungry throng with no anticipated way of feeding them. They faced a task they shrugged away from. Jesus, asking a few questions, and recognizing a young boy whose presence must not have been without purpose and placement, whose offering was sufficient as He brought it unto the Lord.

What are you feeling like you can’t do today?

Take on a challenge God is calling you to?

Respond to a calling or prompting to step out and do what God is asking you to do?

Persevere in your efforts to store food and get out of  off debt?

Offer kindness to someone who hurt you?

Live in the present?

Whatever it is, know this. God has all power to fill in the gaps, mow down the dashes, add His grace to ours and multiply the fishes in our lives, divide it up, with baskets left offer. Trust Him, and bring it to Him today.

Turn over your frustration, your disappointment, your hurt and allow Him to make the miracle to happen in your life, so you can assist in sharing that and feeding others to His glory.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Either you run the day, or the day runs you. — Jim Rohn


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Do Not Be Anxious …

As we build this community prayer platform, with help from the #PrayerWarriors team, we ask the Lord to listen to our petitions with full confidence they not only are heard but acted upon by God according to His holy will. These requests are on my prayer list and I hope you consider putting them on yours as you place your petitions before the Lord Sunday.

As we approach the throne room, let’s remember to respond with faith and not fear, knowing the promises of God and His mighty hand will hold us through any situation! Sometimes, all it takes is just one prayer to change everything. Something extraordinary happens when two or more agree together in prayer. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

We lift up Jim, who is recuperating at home after another stint in the hospital for pneumonia and COPD  (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Rev. Kevin is still facing the toughest challenge of his life, and so far he’s been facing it alone with his two dogs. He has chronic kidney disease, crippling arthritis, neuropathy, a totally pinched sciatic nerve, and his right hip is bone on bone and extremely painful. He needs an electric wheelchair, other medical needs, co-pays, living expenses, and to get the dogs their current vet care. He needs prayers.

Christine has pneumonia for the first time ever.

Please continue lifting Angelina in prayer. She’s now in a coma from complications from pneumonia and a staph infection. She is a young mom.

Sophi is asking for prayers her liver enzyme count will be lowered.

Erica is in her thirties and very ill. The doctor called her and told her she has to see a surgeon ASAP.

Patrick is fighting for his life right now from cancer.

Juan had a stroke and two brain aneurysms. He had surgery last night. Please, pray for him and his wife and young daughter who need him so much!

Haile is experiencing sudden excruciating knee pain.

Please pray for Drazen’s right foot. It’s heavily swollen and hurting after getting bit by a spider yesterday while at the lake.

Victor is at the hospital. The assumption is he has a kidney stone and the concern is it has created a blockage. Any and all prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Khala is undergoing her chemotherapy and not holding up well at all. Please, please remember her in your prayers.

We heard of a number of deaths this week and there were a host of unspoken prayer requests.

We come to You, Lord, because prayer is the least yet the greatest thing we can do for each other. When two or more are gathered in Your name, we confidently know You are with us. What better company can we have? You reign and we trust You! We may be broken and battered but know You heal and quiet the soul. You are the source for all that happens in our lives. We thank You for the progress being made. We thank You for the many blessings we have received this week — some we unfortunately didn’t notice. Nonetheless, those blessings are ever-present in our lives. We thank You for healing. We thank You for slowing us down. We thank You for providing us our daily needs — no more and no less. We thank You for being with us, listening to us, walking with us on this journey. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures, good news amid the bad news. We also know we can come to You with our concerns and they will be heard. Through Christ all things are possible. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your guidance and healing (although that would be welcomed) but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. Specifically we lift up Jim, Kevin, Christine, Angelina, Sophi, Erica, Patrick, Juan, Haile, Drazen, Victor, Khala and all those needing Your healing touch. We pray for the families of all those You have called home. We grieve … You celebrate. We pray for obedience to Your Will so Your “Son” Light shines through us through the power of the Spirit. And we come to You through the confidence of the words taught by Your Son Jesus.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep your joys and concerns coming. They have been and will be included during my prayer time and I trust they will be on your lips as well as you approach the altar. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {or to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site so we can all be viable prayer warriors. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Keep your eyes on stars and feet on ground. — Theodore Roosevelt

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Five Minute Friday — Take

I have always had the desire to put the words on paper (okay, the screen). So I’m here because I believe in the Five Minute Friday exercise and the community of writers I have come to know as virtual friends.

I don’t have to tell you the drill — I’ve done that many times over — but there is something different. The link is on Facebook at fiveminutefriday.com. I hope to see some of you there.

As I’ve been doing, here’s Kim’s take on the value of the exercise, taken from snippets found in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat as an added inducement to join in.

“FMF has been a desperately-needed community to me when I had none in my real life. I have made friendships there I know will only deepen over time. My FMF family has cheered me on when I didn’t think I had anything worthwhile to say and they’ve prayed with me when things went wrong in my life. I have tried to do the same for them. FMF is not just about the writing — it’s about relationships we form while we are writing.”

Kim is so right. FMF is way more than just writing. It’s extending our family and our outreach.

So, it’s time to set the timer for five minutes, settle down and ponder on the prompt, TAKE. GO …

This was a difficult assignment. Which writing tack to take?

I chose taking risks. I am not afraid to take  a risk, although I do try to weigh the pros and cons before heading down a particular road. That’s a different story, however.

Throughout my life, I was a “comfortable” risk taker. I wasn’t afraid of the unknowns; in fact, I looked at them as adventures. My wife, of course, did not share my sometimes risky behavior.

When I say taking risks, I don’t mean extreme risks like mountain climbing or running a marathon. I’m too sedentary for those. But I do take risks in my personal, professional and spiritual life. Risk-taking lead me to six states and down entirely different paths — paths I might not necessarily thought I would pursue at the time of my choices. If you asked me if I would have pursued a career in the printing field, I would have said no. If you asked me if I would have … STOP

shared my life through these posts, I would  have said no. I’m too much of an introvert. If you asked me if I would have slid to the slanted side of the pulpit, I would have laughed and said no.

But I did. I was able to move beyond my comfort zone and adopted a “let’s see what God has in mind for me today” attitude. Man, some of the twists and turns have been downright scary, but others have deepened my personal, professional and spiritual life.

I have a couple of roads ahead of me and I have to decide which trail to take. Or, I  can just wait on an answer from above.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Hope is the foundational quality of all change, and encouragement is the fuel which keeps hope alive. — Zig Ziglar


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Fourth of July Fireworks

Happy Birthday America!

I was thinking about how I celebrated Independence Day through the decades. I remember the celebration being the kickoff to summer vacations — sneaking an extra day. Parades were always part of the day. Barbecues immediately come to mind. And, of course, the fireworks stand out.

Until lately, barbecues were always a staple for the July 4 celebration. Growing up, the folks would fight with the charcoal for what was sometimes the only cookout of the year. After Karen and I got married, we mixed hosting barbecues with visiting at friends’ barbecues. I remember kids running around with sparklers until dusk closed in and we headed for various firework displays.

My first recollection of July 4 fireworks were as a tyke in Paterson NJ. My cousins and I — along with their families — walked to three or four blocks up the Madison Avenue overpass to watch the pyrotechnics light up the sky. When we moved to Totowa, NJ, the day started with the parade, which was staged a few blocks away. And we could sit in the back yard and still get a sky view of the fireworks.

The traditions waned after I entered the workforce, got married and started a family. Early in my career, I was usually inside the office instead of witnessing the bursts above. In Ogdensburg, NJ, we watched the parade from our back yard, and would travel to neighboring Sparta,  NJ, for fireworks.

In Belvidere, IL, the tradition was revived with a morning at the downtown parade, good eats during the day and heading to neighboring Cherry Valley, IL, to stake out our spot, usually with neighbors, friends and soon-to-be-friends, as we watched the kids run around with reckless abandon until the first crack and flash in the sky. I do remember one year it was hot, humid and overcast, but the crowds gathered in and around Cherry Valley, only to be prematurely displaced by the howl of the tornado sirens. Nature put on quite a display that July 4 night!

In Ohio, we often ventured over toward Maumee Bay to watch the fireworks. Karen and I aren’t particularly fond of crowds so we often found a place somewhere along the river bank to watch the display.

We always intended to go the The Mall in Washington, DC, but we always came up with an excuse and generally watched the fun on television … comfy in our pjs and the ac.

By the time we reached upstate New York, the allure of July 4 fireworks dulled. Barbecues were a must and occasionally we would take in a parade. There were not a lot of firework options — they were reserved for other events in most towns — but one summer July evening we drove to the Seneca Lake shoreline in Lodi to watch a parade of boats and probably not-so-legal pyrotechnic show.

I happened  to be in Dexter, ME, one July 4 weekend and got my holiday firework fix there overlooking Lake Wassookeag. I’ve returned a couple of times, usually capping off the night with a frosty ice cream cone. The fireworks were last night, so I missed this year, and I doubt I’ll trek to Bangor or Greenville.

It’s not a big deal for me. After all these years, the pop, flashes and displays tend to be routine. Seen one. Seen them all. The excitement has aged as I have.

However, with that being said, there are two places that really captured my attention. I was at a music/food festival in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, area. I was there more for the food, but stayed late enough to watch the fireworks, which was the first time I witnessed synchronized pyrotechnics with Dan Fogelberg on stage.

The second firework display that garners excitement for me is in Seaside Heights, NJ. It’s called First Night Ocean County and it takes place around 5 p.m. Dec. 31. The hook is the explosives are lit on the beach and explode over the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an entirely different experience. I’ve been to three in the last five years — well, actually two. Two years ago it was bitterly cold and the event was postponed and my plans couldn’t be extended.

I hope you all have a safe July 4th, celebrating our heritage as a nation. Enjoy your parades, your barbecues and your fireworks.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: The greatest impact of your life comes at the time of your greatest pain.


Summertime Clearance Sale



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Midweek Mirth

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

So, let’s smile a little!

Smile … It’s Christmas in July

Einstein’s Practical Side

It is impossible to travel faster than light, and certainly not desirable, as one’s hat keeps blowing off.

And now for the bonus …

Backup Plan

“I’m sorry,” said the clerk in a flower shop, “we don’t have potted geraniums. Could you use African violets instead?”

Replied the customer sadly, “No, it was geraniums my wife told me to water while she was gone.”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Whatever makes you weird is probably your greatest asset.


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