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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Boosting Creativity

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes.

I'm blessed to have a sister who is a stained glass artist, a master chef, a photographer, and just an all-around creative Earth-mother, aging hippie type.

My wife is a children's librarian who plans creative programs for children to boost their creativity, literacy, and engagement with writing.

Our oldest daughter is a professional photographer and graphic designer. She would like to be involved in interior design as well, and never feels at home in a new apartment until she's claimed each of the walls with her own creative stamp. The amount of art she has painted (and covered up when she moves) is astounding.

What about me? 

I dabble in color and graphic design. I love to cook, but hate to clean up. I write a little. But what really gets my creative juices going is helping other writers discover the beauty in their writing through the editing process.

One of the things I'll often suggest to authors is to engage their creativity through various writing prompts.

The other day I received a package in the mail from my designer daughter. The note said, "Thought of you when I found this. Almost kept it for myself!" In the package was a book of writing prompts, 642 Things To Write About put out by The San Francisco Writers' Grotto.

I've been playing with it since.

Let's play now!

You're all creative people. So, I'm going to randomly open the book and present you with a writing prompt. (Hang on while I do that ...)

Put your iPod on random shuffle. Write down the first line of lyric of the first song that comes on. Use it as an opening line.

My iPod is currently playing on random shuffle (Moody Blues' Knights in White Satin is about half done), so I will wait for the next song it goes to.

I got lucky! My song comes from the pen of a true writer, Mary Chapin Carpenter. It is her song Stones in the Road from the album of the same name. The first sentence below is her first line in that song.

When we were young, we pledged allegiance every morning of our lives. I didn't even know what 'allegiance' meant at the time, but I swore it to the flag of my country gladly, 'one nation under God,' my little American heart swelling with pride in I knew not what.

In front of me--we were in alphabetical order--stood Janey Duckworth. She was the kind of girl, I now know, men would pledge allegiance to just for the privilege of gazing on her face. Before summer was over that year, I would understand--too well--the cost of such allegiance.

But, for now, her pigtail was too much of a temptation. And I was blissfully unaware of any other kind.

Your turn

You can use the same opening line I did above, or, for more fun, turn your iPod to shuffle and take the first line from the first song that comes on. Share the result below in the comments.

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor at, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Girl with pigtails image courtesy of graur razvan ionut/


  1. Some folks like to get away, take a holiday form the neighborhood.

    But not my Mee-Maw.

    "Sure as I leave," she'd say, "that boy o' mine will come home the minute I step on the train. You all go on now and have fun."

    Mee-Maw had a way of wrapping her apron strings and a way of marrying self-pity to bravery that I never saw again until today when I looked In the mirror.

    My uncle never did come back from France, and darned if I didn't let my own boy go off to war as well.

    (New York State of MInd by Billy Joel)

    1. Debra, LOVE the ending of your beginning! That's fantastic.

  2. Excellent idea! Now I have to find my iPod. :-)

  3. What a fun idea ... and if I can't find my iPod (it happens) I can always fire up Pandora and scramble a favorite station ...

    1. Beth, I can't imagine misplacing my iPod. That would be cause for very great alarm... :)

  4. “Two birds on a wire.”


    “I said, ‘two birds on a wire.’ It’s what I see when I close my eyes.”


    “I don’t know, but it happens every time.”

    “What about when you go to sleep?”

    “I still see the birds, at least until I fall asleep.”

    “What do you see then?”

    “Nothing, I think. Until the dream reel starts up.”

    “Do you dream about birds too?”

    “No, I mostly dream about endless railroad tracks, being late for something important, having to pee really bad. You know, regular dream stuff. But sometimes, when I’m waking up—or, like, right before I wake up, I see the birds again.”

    “Do the birds do anything? Or do they just sit there?”

    “One bird darts his head around, looking at different things. The other bird just watches me.”

    “Is that it?”

    “One time they shared a cigarette?”

    “I don’t know whether to laugh, or to run away screaming. What do you think it all means?”

    “I wish I knew. They’re starting to creep me out. What about you? What do you think it means?”

    “I think it means you should leave your eyes open more.”


    The first line I heard was, of course: “Two birds on a wire…” It was from the song, Two Birds, by Regina Spektor.

    1. Hey, long time no see, Mr. Snyder! I want to know why he (? he ?) is seeing the birds. By the time you got to the end it was creeping me out, too ... nicely done.

  5. Your poker face ain’t fooling nobody—nobody here. You think if you keep your mouth straight and your forehead from frowning, we won’t guess. Son, we don’t have to guess. It’s plain as day. We know what you been through, or near enough.

    You come in here acting like you don’t care, like you got nothing on your mind. But we take one look, just one, and we know. It’s the eyes, son. The whole story’s right there. Windows to the soul, that’s what they say.

    Ain’t nobody gonna trouble you about it, though. You just rest easy. That’s right, sit yourself down and rest. You can stay as long as you want.

    "Learning to Love Again" by Mat Kearney

    1. Janice, has a down home, prodigal returning, feel. Nice.


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