Writing Prompts and Resources

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Writing prompts. Where do they come from? I once read a tweet by Benjamin Dreyer who I defer to in almost all matters of grammar and copyediting, but there are two things I disagree with:

1. an historic is correct, and

2. He is incorrect when he says that not everything is a writing prompt.

In fact, EVERYTHING is a writing prompt.

That bird nestling in the tree outside your garage. Writing Prompt.

That car that went through the stop sign. Writing Prompt.

A sink full of dirty dishes. Writing Prompt.

Your child’s laughter. Writing Prompt.

Everything around you is a writing prompt.

Take for example this week’s Target ad. Advertisers tell you what you should be focusing on in the new year and encourage you to better yourself whether you need to or not. The first couple of weeks of ads focus on that new year, new you spirit, and of course they want you to buy things. If you follow the seasonal editorial/advertising schedule you’ll also see what people are interested in and looking for.

Going through the Target ad there are easily ten separate things that can be written as features, blog posts, listicles, and whatever else you might think of. Just like “Low Prices!” Target copywriters can offer titles or sub-titles to a longer piece: “Home Refresh” and “Clean Every Surface“.

The subjects include, but of course are not limited to: laundry, cleaning, restocking essentials, baby stuff – diapers, formula, furniture, vitamins, exercise equipment, office and stationary organization and “essential items” now with taxes right around the corner, and at the end of the ad is the reminder that Valentine’s Day is coming soon so get those blog posts written and those pictures taken.

Personally, I’ve already made my list from the ad of most of the things we’ve run out of over the holidays while we were preparing and celebrating Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s. We made do with what we had, but now it’s time to restock.

I’ve also started writing in my new calendar/planner so I need to begin writing with some of the prompts I’ve been collecting.

These are some of my go-to resources:

Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer

Thesaurus dot com

The Writer magazine

Merriam-Webster dictionary

Evernote app

Business Calendar 2 app (I use the free one, but I plan on getting the pro version sometime in 2022)

Inspire. January. 2022.

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They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Andy Warhol

…any writer who waits for “inspiration” to strike will never finish a book. Inspiration is all very well, but it will never replace sheer dogged determination.

Author Elizabeth Peters in an interview that appears at the end of The Golden One, one in her Amelia Peabody series.

Pointsettia. (c)2022

Every year, just after midnight on January 1st, I take out my new calendar/blog planner. It is perfectly even. No bent pages, no stray marks, no correcting tape, no bookmarks, no stickers. Empty pages and I never go to bed until I’ve filled in the dates that have been piling up in lists at the back of the old planner. New appointments, new school days, new writing assignments and ideas. Over the days and weeks, it will fill in and be the guide that I use throughout the year.

Resolutions get broken. They start out with good intentions, but often they fall by the wayside. I try to set goals; to have determinations; to focus. I do this a few times a year beginning in the fall and adjusting and re-adjusting what I want to accomplish.

I have a few writing series that I will continue including this Inspire series. It may have a change of name, but all in all, it will continue in the same format.

I am continuing the new Instagram and Spotify compilations; Instagram as the mood strikes and Spotify during the last week of the month.

I would also like to begin a more definitive travel section, including places of interest as well as giving more time to my book writing.

So much to do, but I am determined to take those two quotations to heart and simply keep moving forward.


Inspire. December.

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What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In some things I am struggling, but I still find that inspiration is all around. I see labyrinths everywhere, and I’m beginning to find words to accompany them. I search for new ones to walk and to pray on, and each one is as different as the clouds in the sky.

Labyrinth. (c)2021

I am devoted to Mary, and I think on all of the knots I’m called to untie, many of which I cannot do without her intercession. Last week was the feast of her Immaculate Conception, a special day in my parish of the same name, and each Monday I recite the Joyous Mysteries with my Cursillo family.

Mary, Untier of Knots. Tiny Saints. (c)2021

I have also completed a book series that I long to write about and share with you. It was not only entertaining, I have decided on a Halloween costume (already!) and it has inspired a few ideas of where to approach my book on my journey through Wales (although that particular title is already taken – *shakes fist at Gerald of Wales*). I have lists to make for my book, and having finished the series, I have already began it again. I read the first five books in 2018 so they were not fresh in my mind. I was able to be surprised by some twists and turns that I had forgotten, and I will continue the rest in the new year. Fear not, I will share my thoughts on Amelia Peabody and her adventures in the coming weeks, if not days.


In the meantime, enjoy the waiting of Advent, the lights of Chanukah, and the promise of the New Year, and eat all the foods of all the holidays.

HashtagNANO, 1+ Weeks Out

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Looking back on this year’s Nano I can’t say that it was successful for me, but I also can’t say the opposite. I went in with goals, most of which were not met, and I am still okay. After October, there was much weighing on my mind. November also fed my obsession with a book series (I will write more about that in the coming days). This book series held my attention and fed me intellectually and in its own way, spiritually.

I have renewed focus for my two main book projects and hope to begin them in the new year. I would begin immediately, but I don’t need that kind of pressure. Also, I have a few books that I’d like to finish reading before the end of December. I have really taken advantage of my online NY Public Library card for ebooks, finding several that I could not acquire through my local account. Reading isn’t just fundamental; it is also inspirational. My end of year review will include my books read since January.

However you spent your Nanowrimo, it is always the beginning; not the end. When Nano ends, there is more work to be done, and this is probably the first Nano that I’ve “participated” in that has left me in a better frame of mind than previous ones. Once I was able to accept that I would have nothing written for the Nano projects, I was able to release all the Nano tensions that I build up for myself.

I look forward to the new year and to the writing to come.

HashtagNANO, Day 13

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What can you do if you just can’t write? This has been my struggle this Nano. I usually have a time getting started, but this year is different. I have no doubt that part of it stems from our October difficulties.

However, there are other things that can be done to keep your project (I say project rather than novel because my work is primarily non-fiction) moving forward. Here are five.

  1. Outline. What do you have? What do you need? Is there research that needs to be done for your project?
  2. Write vignettes. Get the scene out of your head. No transitions, no history, just stream of consciousness that can be incorporated later on in your project.
  3. Study the history of your subject. My particular book offers some historical perspective and learning the history of the place can give you ideas for storylines in both fiction and non-fiction.
  4. Edit. Re-read. Revise. I know that Nano is for writing and not editing, but if you can’t write…re-read. Something may come to you.
  5. Take a Break. Light a candle, have a cup of tea, read a book. Set a timer for ten minutes and just sit with eyes closed and mind open. Or twenty minutes.

Take the pressure off of yourself. What are some of your suggestions when you’re blocked?

HashtagNANO, Day 9

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While this is Day 9 of National Novel Writing Month, for me it is more like Day 1. To begin, get any information at the Nanowrimo link. It will introduce you to the organization, its philosophy, and how to sign up and keep track of your word counts, daily as well as in totality.


While Nanowrimo focuses on novel writing, I think its pep talks, write-ins, and exercises work with any writing project, and I do use it extensively for my non-fiction writing.
Currently, I am working on four books, in various stages of writing.


The two big ones are (the simply known as) the Wales book and a Labyrinth prayer book.

While both have some bits written, they are really in need of outlining and focus. That is what I plan to do this week. Sometimes writing the goal down leads to its completion; or at least its beginning.


What projects (writing or otherwise) are you working on at the moment? How’s it going?

Count Me Out, October

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The last prompt for this season’s memoir writing class was Count Me Out. I have finally had enough inspiration to attempt to write something. I am, however afraid that it will only be a list of grievances, but October has been a shitshow, sometimes literally, so please bear with me.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt so overwhelmingly despaired. I’m not in an emergency depressive state, but I am at the point where I can’t actively wonder what’s next in fear that the powers that be will take that as a challenge.

My response?

Count me out.

We began the month with the first two days having my daughter home sick from school. By October 1st and 2nd, she was finishing a week at home despite being better and except for lacking a negative covid test (which came on Friday) could have gone back to school.

Continue reading

Writing Resources

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We all have those things, those tools that keep us on task or inspire us or help us in the mundane, every day editing and revision process. And of course, there’s the writing.

As I was writing the Back to School Resource Guide last week, I realized that many of those same items can be used as resources for our writing process.

Currently, my first go-to is a Thesaurus. I use the online one in the previous link. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it has all the words.

Next is a new addition to anyone’s resource list: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. I also have his Day-by-Day Calendar which gives you hints and copyediting advice all through the year that you didn’t know you needed until you read it. Both are excellent resources. He is coming out with a children’s version and a second edition is on the way.

My go-to online dictionary is Merriam-Webster, partly because of their longevity and willingness to modernize, but also their sense of humor. Follow them on Twitter.

Need to know what day someone was born on in 1873? Sunrise or sunset? Time and Date is for you.

Need a quotation? BrainyQuote.

When is National Crepe Day? Well, National Crepe Suzette Day is May 6th! Today, in fact is National Noodle Day! How do I know this? National Day Archives.

Need help jump starting your novel? Nanowrimo is for you! It runs November 1st through November 30th and gives you the resources and motivation to write 50,000 words in thirty days.

The only magazine I subscribe to is The Writer. I’ve been getting it for at least two decades, although I have more recently switched to digital only. Saves trees and space in my house.

Drawing Interior Scenes. Even as a young writer, I always drew the apartments where my characters lived. I found it a useful way to assist in the descriptive prose. This manga artist takes it to a whole new level: Manga artist [Haru Amake] shares a genius-level trick to take the headache out of drawing interior scenes

Chromebook Shortcuts

Two of my very favorite organizing tools are Evernote and Business Calendar 2. My links go to the Amazon store since I use my Kindle more than anything else, but both are available in the Google Store and if you have i-products you can check the Apple Store. Both come in a free and a paid version.

Evernote lets you keep information organized in separate “books”. A few of mine are: Quotations, Writing Prompts, A Book of Days (to track holidays), and Travel Notes for on the go.

Business Calendar 2 is the best calendar app I have ever used, and I have used more than a few. I’ve been using it for about two weeks, and it took me a couple of days to see how beneficial this calendar app is to my life!

The free version lets me do everything I absolutely need to do with a calendar/organizer with a minimum of ads. There are a few advanced features that I would like, and I plan to eventually purchase the paid version. In addition to no ads, it will let me multi-pick for deleting agenda items at the end of the day. But realistically, that’s only for my preference. It is completely usable and useful with just the free download.

Is This the End of Writing in Cafés? by Emily Temple. Full Disclosure: I’m writing this right now in a cafe, so I think you know my answer to that question.

I leave you with some inspiring words from Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner, Lin-Manuel Miranda:

Then chase a moment, not a plot.

If a moment’s too big, chase a sentence.

You just need an inch to start. GO WRITE.

Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter, circa 2016 (when you can’t find the words)

Inspire. October.

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Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

St. Francis of Assisi

I was happy to find the above quotation in my collection for today since today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. He is well known for his love of animals; in fact, many churches do blessings of animals during this weekend of his feast including my own parish. He is the patron of animals, merchants, and ecology and is known to have set up the first live nativity scene around the year 1220.

I would recommend reading the English translation of Canticle of the Sun, which Francis composed and by the same token I’d highly recommend reading Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si as well as the book based on that encyclical, Our Common Home by my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath.

In devotion to our common home and its care as well as his concern for the poor, Pope Francis took that name as his Papal name in 2013. It is the first time a Pope has been called Francis, and truly speaks to the heart of our current pope and brings on much inspiration to do for others in many ways.


Labyrinth at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Public Library.
(c)2021

The above photo is of my most recent labyrinth walk. Located behind the library in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada, it is placed in serene, pastoral setting, surrounded by grass, trees, and a farm in the distance. There was the opportunity to walk it, pray the walk, and then to sit just taking in the space around me. There was a vegetable garden, a gazebo, and a court for lawn bowling. If my family wasn’t waiting for me in the car, I could have stayed there at least an additonal hour. I may plan on them dropping me off for a bit longer the next time we’re in the area.

It was a very hot day, but once I settled onto the marble bench after my walk, I was able to feel the breeze, letting it cool me off while I contemplated the bucolic area. Despite sitting relatively still, I felt energized and inspired, and all I wanted to do was to sit and write for a bit. That is one of the reasons that I always carry pen and paper, although in this case, I left it in the car bringing only my mask and my phone camera.

When I first saw the shape of this labyrinth online about two years ago it seemed an unusual shape. Upon seeing it in person, I realized that the shape itself wasn’t unusual or the design, but the way the turns were so sharp with acute angles. For me, it created the feeling of looking inside a keyhole or walking through the inside of a keyhole like a miniature person, Elves and the Shoemaker style.

As I said in yesterday’s reflection, I like falling headfirst into the photos and letting myself be inspired as if I had returned to the original place of the photo.


What inspires you?


Library Gardens. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Public Library.
(c)2021
I could have sat all day here, writing and looking out of the window.
(c)2021

A Writing Reflection

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A short rainstorm and now the sun is streaming through the windows of the new coffee shop I’ve brought my computer to. I don’t drink coffee, but I love coffee shops and this one is really perfect. It is the exact replica of what I would design if I were to open my own coffee shop, although perhaps not exact. It is very much themed in art: Botticelli, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe. I think I would theme mine with writing, but the walls, the delicate filigree on some chairs, the bright sofa under the window and the paper flower hanging lamp all exude ingenuity and initiates creativity; all creativity including my writing. It is very easy to get lost in thought and conceive of a vision that works.

This is my second time sitting here, at this same table. As I write this, I have a memoir workshop in about ninety minutes, and I’ve been here since 7:30. It’s now 8:44. My daughter “forced me” to drive her here to pick up an iced chai latte before school which is only up the road. Her incentive for me was that I could sit here and write or “whatever it is that I do” until the class, which is also up the road in a different direction. Her plan was that I sit here with my computer for almost three hours! What was she thinking?!

Well, her begging convinced me, although I’m not sure what the two folks behind the counter think of me nursing my drink until it’s time to pack up for class. I did buy (what I consider) an expensive breakfast – they have the most amazing crepes and worth every penny, although I’m not supposed to tell anyone about it. It’s being kept a secret so that it doesn’t attract the wrong crowd, by which she means people taking up space that are not her and her friends. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know about the place had she not needed a ride to and from.

I digress, though.

I’ve been trying to write this (in my head, at least) for the past two weeks. For the last nine years – I can’t believe it’s been that long! – I’ve attended a memoir workshop class twice a year – six weeks (although it started out at eight weeks) in the fall and then the spring. Two blissful hours of writing, reading what we’ve written, and learning new techniques, and getting writing tips. We come from all walks of life and it is equally entertaining and educational.

With the pandemic, the last three sessions were cancelled. It’s been difficult to keep up on some of my writing since the class is such an inspiration and motivator. We finally received the email from our teacher that we were on for this fall. I was so excited! I put the registration date on my calendar so I wouldn’t get shut out, and I began to prepare by buying a new notebook to write in for this semester. New, clean pages that will optimistically take me through several sessions.

Then the covid numbers began rising and kept rising. The library made the decision that they wouldn’t have people meeting inside the library building but they also didn’t want to cancel the session again.

They arranged with the next town over to use a pavilion in one of their parks to accomodate us. We’d be going until the middle of October, but we’re hardy upstaters, and half of us had been meeting in a different park for the last year through three seasons, and all the way into November. The pavilion had a roof to keep out the rain, and picnic tables and a dirt floor, and I did not care. We were meeting and connecting and writing.

On the first day, the library provided clipboards to lean on and the teacher brought a pile of cushions for the hard picnic table benches. I brought my own chair which I found more comfortable, but honestly, I may borrow one of the cushions next time.

The park was the perfect atmosphere for writing. A field of green grass, a cool breeze, an empty jungle gym, and a bridge we had to cross over a brook to get to the pavilion. It felt more like a retreat than a class. I took pictures – I always take pictures of places to share and to relive the moments. Sometimes falling headfirst into those photos and reliving those moments help to inspire a new series of writing prompts and ideas to plan for in the future. (I did the same at the coffee shop too. My family is a little tired of my Instagram life, photographing everything, getting the best angles, retakes – what can I say?)

There is also the added advantage that comes with fall. Fall is Back to School which is Back to Writing, and does sort of force me into the chair. I’ve got my writing (school) supplies, I’ve got some new prompts, some new plans for my website, some new angles for my book, and off I go. Out in the world, everything is a writing prompt. How could it not be, especially in fall. Leaves changing, pumpkins on porches, the smell of apples in the orchard, the countdown to Halloween and Thanksgiving and All Saints Day and Advent. And don’t forget the mums!

Everything is crammed into so little time, and we’re still postponing things because of covid.

Nanowrimo is just around the corner.

Election Day is in thirty days. No, it’s not an off year. There are no more off years.

Christmas shopping is short by one weekend.

What will the new year bring?

I just answered the question about my writing plans for winter, which was the first assignment from class. I’m not actually sure I answered the question as much as I skirted around it.

At the end of the WandaVision series on Disney + (spoilers), there was a meme based on Vision’s statement to Wanda: “What is grief but love persevering.” Online was a wave of substitutions for grief and love. The other day, because there is nothing I love more than a good meme, I thought:

What is writing but words persevering.

And I think that sums up writing for me. Taking a jumble of words and making them make sense. Form coherence. Form passion and inspire something, someone. The words keep persevering and the writing pushes on. And as I keep doing that – persevering, pushing on, plotting, and publishing – all that keeps me writing and titles me a writer.