Finding a topic

“What to talk about? What can I write about?” Those questions, I’m sure, are questions many writers/bloggers face at some point in their careers. So what’s the best way to keep finding different topics?

I know I haven’t been blogging for a long time, but I know what it is like to not have a topic to write about. Thankfully, I haven’t had that issue for a while.

What I did was build a library of topics and stories that I can draw upon before I get to that stage. It’s been a blessing when I’m unable to write a blog before Mondays. Now, when I have time to write, I don’t have to spend any precious time thinking about the topic. As a newbie to blogging, I still have other jobs to do and can’t always make time to write.

But when there is time to think, I like to consider stories and topics to add to the library. Topics that will bring about good discussions are ones with controversy. In Christian circles, the most controversial is the “prosperity gospel”.

The “prosperity gospel” is the name given to the belief that God wants to bless us financially. And the key to unlocking this blessing is to give to various ministries. That’s a very short summary of the “prosperity gospel”.

Many people believe and support it. Many think it promotes greed and paints God as someone we can manipulate. It is so divisive that I cannot go past it.

For the next few weeks, I’m looking to discuss the prosperity gospel. So keep an eye on this blog and see how a topic can be pushed out for a number of weeks. In the meantime, do share with us what you do to find topics to write about.

Be willing to learn

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good. (Ps 53:1)

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. (Ps 14:1)

What do those verses have to do with writing, you may ask. A lot actually. When we think about what these two verses talk about, it is about people making decisions on what they feel/believe, rather than making a logical conclusion.

A lot of atheists who proclaim that there is no God usually have been hurt by a parental figure who had hurt them. And they base their world view on their experience and fit everything into that wrong world view. They refuse to admit they’re wrong even when faced with insurmountable evidence.

(I won’t cover the evidence here. The discussion on the evidence of God is called “apologetics”. You can go search for it online.)

But the principle of the verses help us to be better writers. How does keeping an open mind help us be better writers? The writer needs to understand a topic before they start writing, otherwise, it could leave a bad taste in the readers. And that means understand all points of view.

A good writer must understand both sides of the story and in some cases, even present both sides. Imagine reading only one side of the story. It can feel like someone is pushing a political agenda.

And when we understand another person’s point of view, we can be able to reach them. And hopefully, with our writing, we can convince them that our point of view is just as valid, or at times, even more so.

So be open to learn new things. Don’t be a fool who’s already made up their minds before drawing a conclusion. You may just end up with the wrong one.

Dam the dams

Dam the dams. Close your eyes and say that repeat that a few times. Did you listen closely to what you said? Imagine not seeing the text and only hearing it. Were you cursing the dam that stores water? Were you cursing the curse? Or what were you saying?

When you read what’s written, you can see with crystal clarity what the writer said. What it means is another story altogether. But the clarity of what is being said is the beauty of the written word. No one wonders what word the writer used. They can wonder all about its meaning, but definitely not the words used.

And between reading and listening, I know listening is a lot easier and quicker. Regardless, reading is always better. When working, I prefer to get instructions via email rather than a phone call. I do not have to drop everything and focus on the speaker (I’m a typical guy who have trouble multi-tasking). I can choose when to read and consume the information, and I won’t have to worry if I forgot anything. Listening is temporal. You hear it once, and then it’s gone. You can’t hear it again unless you have it recorded. With writing, it lives on, long after the moment it’s first read.

Historians use writing to piece together history. They can’t used something that was said but not recorded. When an oral record is passed down for generations, there is always the issue with people’s memory. “What words did they use?” “Did they really say that?” “How can we trust that it wasn’t altered to suit their agendas?” And the list of problems go on.

It is nice to know the stories I write will last. The stories I produce as a writer will not be here today and gone tomorrow. I cannot imagine the bards of old. The stories they told and songs they sang were once enjoyed but are now lost to time.

I am grateful for the written record for God’s word. We can rest assured of the accuracy of what we now have. We have this confidence because there are so may written ancient records. Scholars have compared them over and over again. And they are confident that we have is an accurate representation of the original script. How amazing is that?

So when I read my Bible, I do not have to second guess what I read. Isn’t that just amazing?

Know your subject

One of my fondest memories growing up was the cartoons. And the favourite for a long time was “He-man: Masters of the Universe”. My brother and I had the action figures and even the castle, Castle Grayskull.

The show had a sister (literally) series called “She-Ra: Princess of Power”. As a boy growing up without sisters, that show wasn’t high on the family’s watch list. But now as an adult, imagine my surprise when I saw on Netflix, an updated series on She-Ra. She’s no He-Man, but because of the relationship between the two series, I felt drawn to it.

All in all, it was not a bad series, but the ending left a bad taste. The ending revealed a relationship between two characters. These two grew up together but ended up fighting for opposing sides for most of the series.

Why did that leave a bad taste you may ask. Simple. It felt forced and didn’t belong. It was the show forcing a political statement on viewers. The relationship spoilt what would have been a great series storyline. Storytellers are like florists. Florists take different flowers and foliage and making a beautiful bouquet. A storyteller brings together different bits and pieces to form a story. And the relationship was like having a prickly cactus in a bouquet of roses.

What happened along their journey wasn’t and could never be romantic love. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Ever wonder why siblings don’t get involved sexually with each other when they grow up together? Explanations about why siblings don’t breed include:

  1. Siblings tend to fight while growing up, and that makes them unattractive to one another.
  2. Siblings get so used to each other while growing up that they’re unattractive to each other.
  3. Westermarck effect.

Whatever the reason, siblings do not end up in a romantic relationships. Add to that, frequent fighting drives people apart. Couples who fight often and intensely as the two characters end up separating. In other words, the chances of the two characters ending up romantically involved is slim to none.

Whoever decided to have that relationship doesn’t understand what love actually is. Weird Al‘s If that isn’t love must be that person’s theme song. Writers need to understand of what they’re writing about. Stories falls apart when written without that understanding. And that’s what happened here with She-Ra. If you want a good movie that deals with love, watch My Best Friend’s wedding staring Julia Roberts. I won’t reveal too much as some readers may not have seen the film, and may wish to watch it for themselves. But Julia Robert’s character’s decision shows love.

As a writer, I have to understand the topic. If I fail to do so, people will pick my stories to pieces and I loose any credibility I have. So, be sure to have some understanding of your topic before you start writing.

Creativity from a creative God

Is the world running out of ideas? I’m a big movie fan, and I feel that the movie industry is running out of creative ideas. Most modern movies seem to depend on computer generated action sequences. Everything happens so fast that even in slow-mo, we can’t make out what’s happening.

Add to that the number of sequels that seem to use past plots only adds to that feeling. Disney seems to be making more life-action films of their past movies. Aladdin, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Jungle Book, Dumbo, are only a handful of these movies. And they do not stray very far from the original movies.

Even looking at superhero movies, there’s not a lot of creativity in their storylines. Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is material borrowed from the comics. And when searching through Netflix films, we find a lot of movies based on books. So I do grieve the lack of new stories on TV or in movies.

The best example I can think of is Star Wars. They had a very creative and successful start. They told the origins of story badly. And for the last trilogy, they decided to start rehashing the original trilogy.

It started with episodes 4-6 which were very well received. Good work. Tick. It kept the creativity with had an original story. Did it work? Sorry, nope. The story was original and answered many questions that fans had about the story. But it wasn’t well told and was widely panned.

Now what choice did they have if they were going to keep telling the story? Time to start copying from the successful trilogy. The results are Star Wars episode 7-9, and these are the worst of the lot. Episode 7 took bits and pieces from episode 4-6, stuck them in a blender and served it up as it was. Episode 8 is a retelling of Episode 5, and Episode 6 and 9 seem to have too many parallels to be a coincidence. I do not think this was the right path to take. They are back where they started after episode 6. People are asking again, what’s happening now that the Empire (or the First Order) is over thrown? How did the First Order (or Empire) come to be? And because of this, episodes 1-3 are way better than episodes 7-9. Episodes 1-6 had continuity.

Although Star Wars’s A New Hope followed your classic “good vs bad” story, but it had amazing storytelling. It had an imaginative world with new kinds of people, crammed into this classic story. Us vs them, good vs evil, killed or be killed. But that’s what made it so good. It took a classic story and brought creative elements into it. And that’s what made it so good. At the end of the day though, the franchise tossed what was good about the original into the bin. Along with it went the successful elements of the series.

So, are we running out of ideas? Looking at what I talked about, I don’t blame anyone for agreeing with the thought, but is it true? As a movie goer, sure, but as a storyteller, I disagree.

Many authors are coming up with great stories still. That’s why many movies and tv shows take their stories from them. As a writer myself, I have gotten creative ideas from the most amazing places. I would not call myself creative, but I get these inspirations out of the strangest places.

I was waiting in line with my son for him to get a Covid-19 test. It was cold, the line was long (2 hour wait to enter the building), and it tested both our patience. But I decided to work on a book idea. Next thing I noticed something and it would make a great story. So this is a story I’m working through these days.

I cannot say that these ideas came from deep inside me. I had to work at it, but when I did that, God moved. He is my source of my inspiration. God is the creative one. He created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. And because God made us in His image, we too have His creativity (Gen 1).

If you are looking for a creative idea, try giving God a short prayer asking for inspiration. And He will be faithful to promises to you.

Let us know how you go.