Poetry for the Day: Writing

Writing by Joyce Rupp

I wait out sluggish days,

empty evenings, mulish

attempts to capture words

hiding themselves

inside the undulating sea

of my mental thesaurus,

not even remotely available

for me to scoot them

onto my fingers and

into necessary revision.

So I wait, and wait,

and wait some more

while I fumble uselessly

with worthless concoctions


one early dawn

the tide comes in

and the first word peeks out.

then they all follow,

and like a flock of gulls

I swoop in to snatch

the sea’s latest prey.WIP

A Prompt: Write In And Through Love

I was re-reading Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak for a class with students of theology the other evening.  But I thought of writers when I read it.  He was discussing how to honor and live one’s nature.  Parker had discussed how we damage our own integrity when trying to be generous, even if we have nothing to give, all in the name of love.

When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless–a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for.  That kind of giving is not only loveless but faithless, based on the arrogant and mistaken notion that God has no way of channeling love  to the other except through me.  Yes, we are created in and for community, to be there, in love, for one another.  But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need.

Raising Creative Kids

Thanks to the creative and thoughtful Jillian who sent this to me the other day.  Read the full article by clicking here.

Research is demonstrating that children rapidly lose their creative thinking skills as they grow older. Moreover, by the time children reach adolescence, the way they think is largely fixed. So the more you encourage your children to use more of their minds in order to think more creatively, the more likely you are to raise exceptionally creative children.

Here are suggestions for encouraging and maintaining creativity in your children.

1. Answer Questions with Questions.

Children ask lots of questions. As parents, we tend to give them direct answers. “What does ‘invertebrate’ mean?” a child might ask while watching a television documentary. A typical parent response is: “It means an animal that does not have a backbone.” There is nothing wrong with such an answer. It is correct. It provides your child with the information she seeks. But, why not ask: “What do you think ‘invertebrate’ means?” Your child has just watched a documentary about animals and has a lot of context in her mind. Very likely she can put that context together and hazard a good guess. Indeed, she has possibly done this already and is simply seeking confirmation. If her answer is correct, reward her and ask her how why she felt it was the correct answer. If her answer is wrong, reward her and ask her why she thought this was the answer. Then, reward her thinking and explain the correct answer. If you are not sure about the correct answer, see the next suggestion. Encouraging your child to gather information and make deductions based on that information is a form of creative problem solving. Make it a habit!

2. Find Answers Together

As your children grow older, they will increasingly often ask questions that you cannot answer. As a parent, you may occasionally feel the need to cover up your ignorance. After all, your children look to you as the ultimate source of knowledge. At other times one of your children will ask a question in which you believe you know the correct answer, but are not sure.

Rather than hazard a guess at the answer, a better response is, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure. I believe the answer is….” and then add, “Let’s find out the correct answer.” Then do some research with your child in order to find that answer. That research may be a simple matter of searching on the web. But do not neglect other possibilities. Perhaps you have a book on the subject. Fetch it and look it up. Your child might be interested in reading the book. Go to the library. Before the age of the web and Google, libraries were the best information resource available. They are still wonderful places of reference with the added benefit that you often find interesting information that you were not seeking.

You might also try experiments and illustration. When my science loving son asked why, if you drive a car around a curve too fast and lose control, you should turn into the skid, I drew a sketch showing how the different forces were at work in a car accelerating around a curve. This made it very clear.

3. Reward Failure

We all talk about the importance of accepting and rewarding failure in business. Yet all too many parents punish failure directly or indirectly. Your son enters a swimming competition and comes in last. How do you respond? “Maybe swimming isn’t for you?” “I told you that you had to practice more!” “Ralph took second place and he’s two years younger than you!”. Even a caring parent is likely to say something dismissive: “It doesn’t matter. I love you the way you are.”

Sadly, all of these responses are likely to discourage your son from ever entering a swimming competition again. Worse, they might discourage him from trying other things in which he is unsure of his capability.

A far better response is, “I am so proud of you for entering the swimming competition and trying so hard.” And if your son feels badly, do not immediately tell him it doesn’t matter. Instead ask him, “Why do you think you came in last?” This gives him and you a chance to analyse the problem so he can do better next time. Maybe he became too nervous and wasn’t breathing correctly. That’s great! Now you can talk about how he can deal with nervousness and breathing next time.

4. Teach Them to Cook

Cooking and especially baking, is an incredible creative process. Think about a cake. You start with flour, eggs, sugar and a handful of other ingredients. Mix them and bake them and you have a wonderful cake. An ex-girlfriend of mine, who trained as a chemist (but is now a leading virologist), went so far as to explain to my sons some of the chemical processes that occur when cooking.

Once your kids learn the basics of baking a cook, making cookies or frying an omelet, let them experiment. And do not correct them beforehand unless they are endangering themselves, others or your kitchen. If they want to put twice as much chocolate in the cake, let them. If they want to see what happens if they use a brown sugar instead of white sugar, let them. Chances are, they will not ruin the cake. But by experimenting and seeing what happens, they learn a valuable creative process. Moreover, when things go wrong, they can often be fixed. The cake is too dry? Make a moist frosting.

This is creative problem solving at its best!

5. Feed Your Children a Healthy, Balanced Diet

A healthy mind and body feel better, deliver more energy and think better. Moreover, if you get your children in the habit of eating healthy food from an early age, it will form a life-long habit. They will be far less likely to have weight problems or health problems as they grow older. They will look better, have more energy and smell better. And most importantly, in the context of creativity, they will think better.

The amazing thing is, eating a healthy diet is remarkably easy. It is a simple matter of getting a suitable balance of the key food groups while minimising the amount of sugary and fatty foods you eat. Britain’s National Health Service has a nifty diagram of a balanced diet here.

In addition to eating a balanced diet, allow kids to stop eating when they are full and restrict the amount of sweets and non-healthy snacks they can eat (though let them eat healthy snacks, such as fruit, when they are hungry between meals). Forcing children to eat all the food on their plates and rewarding them with a huge dessert if they do so only encourages overeating.

Seth Godin and “your competitive advantage”

Seth Godin is a careful observer, critical thinker, and creative mastermind.  You should visit his site, learn about him, and draw, in your own way, from his genius.  Here is a post he put up the other week.  You can find Seth’s blog here.

Are you going to succeed because you return emails a few minutes faster, tweet a bit more often and stay at work an hour longer than anyone else?

I think that’s unlikely. When you push to turn intellectual work into factory work (which means more showing up and more following instructions) you’re racing to the bottom.

It seems to me that you will succeed because you confronted and overcame anxiety and the lizard brain better than anyone else. Perhaps because you overcame inertia and actually got significantly better at your craft, even when it was uncomfortable because you were risking failure. When you increase your discernment, maximize your awareness of the available options and then go ahead and ship work that scares others… that’s when you succeed.

More time on the problem isn’t the way. More guts is. When you expose yourself to the opportunities that scare you, you create something scarce, something others won’t do.