to each their own creative process

Musical silence foreshadows creativity. An imagined instrumental interlude is sometimes all it takes for me to dig deep and discover an artistic piece yet to be fully refined. It can reveal an emotion, a new way of thinking about a problem, a poetic turn of phrase, or a form waiting to be revealed on the drawing pad.

I’m sure it’s not this way for every person. For me, it normally requires discipline to do the work of creating art, whether written or some other form. But when the sweet spot of musical silence strikes, I feel as if I have entered the world which I am attempting to create.

I press in, exploring places I prefer to ignore. Pain. Sorrow. Regret. Evil. Vulnerability. Neediness. Through tears I write. I also explore places which unveil wonder, evoking joy, laughter, and worship.

Nuggets of creative inspiration strike me throughout the day, usually in the midst of the mundane: driving truck, manual labor, walking in the city or in nature, living ordinary life. I note those moments, reflecting on them. Later, if the inspiration persists, I act on them to the soundtrack of musical silence. It is in these moments that the ideas coalesce, forming into tangible creations.

Then I take the biggest risk of all. I put them out there for others to see, vulnerability on full display.

carving words from my heart


Photo by Glen Alan Woods

Amid the silence there is a relentless sound of chiseling, the carver’s blade etching words from my heart. Words of joy; words of pain. Real. They bring life to the things held deeply inside. Dreams. Disappointment. Shame. Surrender. Boundless hope.

Writing gives voice to the myriad thoughts that play themselves out while I sit for hours on the bus or train, and while I engage my daily responsibilities as a local truck driver. Writing helps me make sense of it all.

A poem to mourn the loss of yet another friend on the street.
A reflection to wrestle with doubt.
An opinion piece to challenge my own thinking, as well as that of my readers.
A story of some aspect of my day, hoping to find meaning in the narrative.

I’m not sure why people read my blog. But I am glad you are here. If you are a writer and you plan to attend the Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference in Newberg this weekend, please look for me. I want to meet you.

I’m not a published author in the sense most people admire and aspire to achieve. However, I am learning to own my voice. Whether it’s through blogging or contributions to a website or some other publication, I’m just going to be me.

I invite you to be you. The Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference will inspire you to do that very thing, giving you permission to try, to fail, and then to try again. Through it all, we will cheer you on, celebrating the beautiful voice you are contributing to the world.

Are you in? Let’s connect.

My Personal Pronouns and Me, erm…and I…?


I love personal pronouns. I use them everyday in speech and writing. So do you. We all do, in fact. Even when we are not consciously aware of it. In fact, personal pronouns comprise 17% of the words in this paragraph.

I present them here in the order they appeared in the paragraph above: I, I, them, you, we, we, and it.

They are lovable little critters minding their own business as we go about ours communicating verbally and via text. One problem. We often wield them awkwardly, causing confusion in the process. Consider two common examples:

1. “The Christmas gift meant so much to the wife and I.” See the problem with this? Actually I see two problems, one of which pertains to personal pronouns. The correct syntax substitutes me for I. The word I is first person; the word me is third person. So, why do people use the former in place of the latter? Lazy speech transmitted to writing. We tend to write in the way we talk, and too frequently, we do not think about correct grammar in the course of our daily conversations. I mentioned there is a second problem, too. A husband’s wife is not inanimate property. There is no need to refer to her as “the wife.” The phrase “my wife” suffices.

2. “Me and my friend went to the store.” See the problem with this? The correct syntax reads, “My friend and I went to the store.” Me is third person singular; I is first person singular. Me is the object; I is the subject.

For more information on the use of personal pronouns, consult a current English grammar. It’s a small, but important matter which communicates competence or its lack in your communications.

Typo Watch: Words That Sound Alike But Are Not

One of the most common writing pitfalls I have discovered in writing and editing is the problem of homophones, words that sound alike, but are usually spelled differently and contain differing meanings. With the advent of smooth operating computer keyboards and automated spellchecks, typing speeds have escalated exponentially, even for those of us (ahem, that would be me o/) who eschewed formal typing classes in high school because of their perceived irrelevance to future endeavors (remind me to tell you someday how that worked out for me). So we type quickly, trust in our spellcheck systems to catch subtle errors, and miss the telltale signs of trouble which careful proofreading and editing might have avoided.

Their our numerous examples of words which slip threw are editorial filters do two there similarity in form and sound. 

I will wait a moment.

Still waiting.

Tapping my toes and waiting for your responses. Read the sentence above again. Do you see any problems? How might you edit the sentence so that it retains its implied meaning, yet employs the correct words?

Let me try it again: There are numerous examples of words which slip through our editorial filters due to their similarity in form and sound.

Look better? Now that was an easy one, to be sure. But imagine just one or two similar typos in a large body of text ranging from 1,000 to 90,000 words. The deluge of text can overwhelm the author and editors, making it far easier to miss the errors. Add to this that spell checkers check for spelling, not for correct word usage.

Rather than attempting to cite numerous examples of homophones here, I prefer instead to direct your attention to the website Compiled by a private individual, the site (play on words intended) gives a modest sampling of the kinds of words which can be problematic.

Ask yourself what words tend to trip you up in your writing, causing you to insert a similarly sounding homophone in place of the precise word which conveys your intended meaning?

Ten Tips for Proof-reading Your Writing

I have had a number of conversations with Karl “The Kidologist” Bastian of Kidology in recent years about writing and editing. He reminded me via twitter that we had discussed having me create a list of ten tips for proof-reading a document. Consider this a preliminary contribution to what may become an ongoing conversation about writing and editing.

Before I offer my list of specific tips concerning the craft, let me suggest a few fundamental resources and ideas. First, keep a dictionary, thesaurus, and style manual handy. For the first two, I most commonly use and I also own and frequently consult The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn, and On Writing Well by William Zinsser. All of these have served me well and I commend them to you highly. In fact, I suggest Zinsser’s book as required reading before you launch out into developing a writing platform.

Second, bloggers, self-published authors and writers with similar fast-track publishing platforms are well-advised to slow down their pace to allow for unbiased critique of their work. In other words, serious bloggers should not quickly write a piece and then hit publish before giving careful attention to the editorial process. To avoid this temptation, write the piece in a document editor such as Word or something similar. Only enter it into the blogging platform when the final edited version is completed and ready to publish. Likewise, self-published authors should also avoid sending a book to print without feedback from a quality editor. Assume the first draft is just that: a first draft. I recognize that this advice is counterintuitive to our instant satisfaction culture. However, when you look at that first draft again in the morning you will notice needed edits which will cause you to thank me for pulling on your reins just a bit (pun intended; yes, you may laugh).

 With that, I now offer you my list of ten tips for proof-reading your writing:

  1. Unless it is absolutely necessary to portray a particular voice or culture, lose the colloquial language. Writers tend to write the way that they speak. Although there can be some benefit to this tendency by virtue of creating your unique writing voice, the downside is that it allows colloquial language to bleed into the text, frequently causing ideas to be obscured by vague terminology and wordy, awkward phrasing. Particularly in serious non-fiction writing, it is constructive to edit colloquialisms out of the text. Be merciless. You may need an independent editor to help you with this.
  2. Watch for repetition. As a corollary, writers (even experienced ones working on their first drafts) tend to use certain words or phrases repeatedly. When your piece is completed, set it aside for a couple of days. Then return to it, specifically looking for repetitious phrasing or words. In time, you will improve your ability to avoid it.
  3. Do not rely on spell-check, or auto-spell check to correct your typos and check your grammar. It can have benefits, but it also breeds editorial laziness. Plus, it may change specialized terminology which is not in its database to something which you do not mean. Instead, rely on your dictionary and thesaurus.
  4. Clear writing is simple and elegant. Why say in twenty words what you can convey in five? This is not to say complex sentences are bad. However, only use them to the degree that they contribute to the strength of your ideas. In short, be as straightforward as possible and edit out ambiguity.
  5. Punctuation is intended to bring clarity to sentences. Most people over-punctuate, seemingly fearful that their childhood English teachers lurk nearby waiting to rap their fingers with wooden rulers if they inadequately adorn their sentences with those glorious bits of flair known as punctuation marks. Minimalist punctuation is good, especially as it pertains to commas. See your style guide for help with commas, semi-colons, and other sundry sentence interruptions.
  6. Get to the point quickly or risk losing your audience. When proof-reading the first draft of an article or blog post, determine how long it takes to get to the central thesis. If it takes longer than a few sentences, then remove the excess from the beginning as it is likely filled with either irrelevant material or wordiness and awkward fumbling for the main idea of the piece.
  7. Write to the level of your intended audience, but do not assume they are helpless to understand well-defined terminology and complex ideas which are expressed in clear and cogent ways. It is your responsibility to write clearly, offering specialized definitions and access to further reading where necessary, so that they may follow your thesis to its conclusion.
  8. When each draft of a particular piece is complete, read it out loud. You may discover typos, awkward phrasing, and unclear thesis development through this process. When writing for hire, count on multiple drafts before submitting for publication. Even then, additional drafts may be required by the editors. Develop a thick skin for critical feedback and learn from it.
  9. Avoid passive sentences unless they are absolutely necessary.
  10. Learn rules of grammar. The Copyeditor’s Handbook will serve you well as you deal with grammar issues. Just because a turn of phrase sounds correct to your ear does not mean it is correct in written form. I refer you back to my comments on colloquialisms in point 1.

This is not an exhaustive list; but it offers a glimpse into constructive habits for proof-reading your own work. Read Zinsser for a thorough treatment of the writing craft. His economy of words and incisive wit will influence your writing habits. For now, do not be so enamored with a turn of phrase or development of an idea that you are not willing to edit it out if you recognize it simply must go in order to produce the best possible final product. The point of proof-reading in the editorial process is to prepare the document for publication so that it receives the widest audience possible. If you do everything you possibly can to craft a quality product, eventually all those rejection letters will be forgotten on account of a single letter of acceptance. So, off you go. Write often. Edit mercilessly. After all, that is when the real writing begins.

re-engaging the kidmin conversation

Yes, it’s true. I am wading back in to the children’s ministry conversation. The venues are the same, but the perspective is different. I am in the process of developing articles for and new content for  As always, I may post content related to children’s ministry on this blog, too. Whereas before I wrote from the perspective of an ordained children’s pastor in a local church, I will now be writing as a missionary to my city and a volunteer in my church. Yet, I am sure I will access my background of practical and academic learning experiences. So I invite you to look for my articles and content and to interact with me here and in those venues. The two websites offer unique and outstanding resources. I am privileged to contribute in a small way in the days to come. And watch out, you will probably be encouraged, inspired, and energized by accessing the resources on both websites.

the writer’s angst

I remember the Spring of 1981 when I used to stare at the blank sheet of college-ruled paper, pencil in hand. The minutes ticked by. The hours, too. Eventually, I would give up and go outside, basketball in hand. One hundred free-throws later, I was no closer to inspiration. I was petrified of failure. So, I would go for a run. Usually about five miles, sometimes longer. Back then, I hated writing. I preferred the familiar pain of running to the mocking laughter of failed prose. So, as a 16 year old kid flailing my way through 10th grade, I failed the required creative writing class. Not because my writing was that bad, but because I never turned in any work. Indeed, I never wrote any of the five required five-page papers. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think it had any relevance to my life.

In the second semester of my Junior year I attempted the class again, approaching it with a new attitude. I tried. I wrote and I turned in all of my work. I don’t recall what I wrote. I have vague memories, and I am sure they were not publishable efforts. But I tried. I received an A in the class. It was a turning point in my suffering academic career and in my writing.  I realized that with hard work and a positive attitude, I could do it.

It has never been smooth sailing since that time. Each season has been hard. The key difference is I have never given up. I have had articles ignored and rejected. I have had my writing called the worst that a seminary lecturer has ever seen. I have had an essay for a test mocked with a satirical cartoon by a former college instructor. But I never stopped.

The difference for me now is that I am no longer blessed (or shackled) by the burden of academic writing. No one cares if I write another word. It is incredibly liberating. And daunting. In some ways the process mirrors the tentative stops and starts of my life beyond the writing craft.

Then I recall those things which propelled me forward during formative seasons in my journey. My high school writing teacher who gave me timely encouragement, both verbally and in print. The memory of my second grade home room teacher who tried to get me to read, and eventually succeeded, although she probably never found out about it. The college English teacher who worked so hard to help me grapple with basic grammar. The seminary professor who spent hours with me, helping me develop and polish graduate level writing skills. My family who believed in me.

Angst is part of my journey in writing. I want my words to count for something. Something beautiful, sometimes haunting, or funny, or thoughtful, but always meaningful. I hope the same for my life so that I may show others the love of Jesus, even if it means unveiling parts of my flawed, insecure, prideful heart.

Maybe that is the true difficulty with crafting good prose. I prefer to keep my flaws secret and focus only on what impresses others. So, I impress for a moment and distance myself from my intended audience in the process. The readers move on and I am left alone with a cursor as it blinks insistently in the top left hand corner of my Word document.

Surely, I am not alone in wrestling with writer’s angst. I only know of one antidote. Write. Write some more. And then edit, trying new approaches, lines of reasoning, story arcs, and so on. But most importantly, write in ways that mine the depths of human frailty. In so doing, the likelihood of connecting meaningfully with my audience will increase. 

What about you? How do you deal with angst in your writing?