Stormy with a Chance of Ideas

brainstormingNervously tapping my pencil against the edge of the desk, I anxiously glanced around the library. Everyone else seemed so focused, so confident, so productive. Sighing, I mustered up all the leftover brainpower provided from my morning cup of Joe, and decisively read through the essay prompt again. Unfortunately, the third attempt also ended in failure. Even after several efforts to brainstorm ideas, my mind seemed as empty as a swimming pool in the Sahara. Accusatory thoughts of comparison began to torment me, leading to feelings of fear and incapability. Believing the lies, I wallowed in self-pity and began to give up hope that a convincing point could ever be made about the overwhelming topic.

Have you ever felt this way?

If so, you are not alone! Even for the most experienced writers, beginning a paper and creating a thesis can be tricky and occasionally daunting. But don’t despair! There are several brainstorming techniques that writers can use to help expedite the thinking process.

Mapping is the first method that I would suggest when generating thoughts about a topic. To begin mapping, write the assigned topic at the top of a sheet of paper. Next, list any words or ideas that come to mind when thinking about the topic. Lastly, circle anything in the list that seems intriguing or could possibly serve as a point in the thesis statement.

Although mapping can be very helpful, I personally prefer to free write when brainstorming. As the name suggests, the free writing strategy consists of spontaneously writing anything that comes to mind about a specific topic. Writers are encouraged to let their thoughts wander and to explore any tangents that may result, even if the tangent seems unrelated to the topic. Although this strategy can be performed with a paper and pen, I personally prefer to type out my thoughts on Microsoft Word. When I finally begin writing my paper, the free writing strategy allows me to explore different perspectives about the topic, and I often discover creative ideas as a result of the spontaneity.

Though these brainstorming methods seem basic, they are, in fact, quite valuable! Often a little listing or spontaneous writing is just what one needs to jumpstart ideas.

Written by Leah

For more information on brainstorming and other writing topics, check out our Brainstorming Techniques handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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Four Pranks You’d Be a Fool Not to Try in April

Four Pranks You’d be a Fool Not to Try in April

Ah! April has returned, bearing the fruits of a new season. Oh, the lovely spring showers, colorful meadows, and plenty of pranks to try out on April Fools’ Day.

It is said that April Fools’ Day began in France with little children tapping fish heads on their peer’s backs and calling the day “Poisson d’Avril.” Scotland used their two-day rendition to kick off the first “kick me” signs. With great American appreciation for the first day of April, I give you my top four pranks for April Fool’s:

  1. Idle iPhone- For this prank, simply grab a friend’s unlocked iPhone and take a screenshot of their primary home screen page. Next, hold down an app until it begins to move and slide the apps to one of their secondary home screen pages. Next, set the screenshot as the background image for the phone. Voila! Now you may enjoy the next ten minutes of your friends techno tantrum.  You’re welcome!
  2. Freshly Squeezed Cheese- Ah! Ah-ha! The day is new and your roommate has just peeled his or her head off the pillow and is clearly in need of some morning motivation. Be a good roomie and fetch some breakfast. Maybe make some eggs and bacon served with a tall glass of orange juice. Instead of pulling out your carton of Minute Maid, serve something a bit less tasty. Grab a box of macaroni and cheese and remove the cheese mix from the box. Pour the cheese mix into a pitcher of water. Add more water if needed to dilute the color until it looks like orange juice and serve. That surely will wake up the deepest of sleepers and make for an interesting reaction.

Looking to turn up the heat a notch and be a terrible friend? These are for you:

  1. “Did I do that?”- Act as if you are clumsily ruining a friend’s life by pretending to wreck his/her gear. One idea would be to stage a spill on an open laptop or computer. Pour out some nail polish or bottle glue onto wax paper and let it dry. Afterwards, remove the dried substance and place it on the keyboard along with an empty bottle of the items so that it appears to have just spilled. You’ll adore that ghostly look on your BFF’s face when she considers the damage you’ve done. She’ll love you!
  2. “I see you!”-  Print colored pictures of scary characters and realistic looking hands and tape them in high traffic areas partway behind curtains, around walls, and other objects. Anyone who falls victim to noticing these peeping figures will surely despise the soul who almost made them wet their pants.

For the best pranks, take stock of your friend’s personalities. Be sure to know what they might find amusing and what might be downright offensive or hurtful. If you want to be known in your friend group as the mischievous and clever prank king or queen and still have a friend group, take caution before pranking your friends. These pranks are meant for everyone, including the “victim” to enjoy, not to be insensitive, disrespectful, or hurtful. “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). So, use caution before proceeding!

Written by Ashley

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Take Care of Your Characters

Have you ever been writing a story and get the worst writer’s block? Maybe you simply can’t figure out where the plot should go or why your characters are even in the situation in the first place. If you’ve had this experience, don’t worry. You are not alone. (If you haven’t, then I am jealous of your talent.) A good method to use when you get writer’s block is to focus on your characters. The plot is definitely the main element of a story, but the characters have a huge impact on where the plot is going.

If you’re like me, then you can get caught up in all the plot details like how Person A and Person B will finally fall in love and be together or how the hero will climb out of the hopeless situation he’s been thrown into. These, along with many other types of plot details, rely on characters. If you can figure out what you want your character’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations to be, then you can figure out where your story is going.

One thing I like to do in order to keep everything organized in my brain and give me a visual aid is make character sheets. I compile a list of all the things I would want to know about my character. And this isn’t limited to a simple description like eye color, hair style, body type, and clothing. Although appearances can give certain clues to the identities of people, they do not tell the entire story. You can also list personality traits. What mood are they in most of the time? Give both the good and bad side of their character. Also, list some other random facts about them. What annoys your character to the nth degree? What can they simply not resist? What is their sense of humor like? What are their greatest fears? Do they have any deep, dark secrets? All of these attributes can affect your characters’ actions and therefore guide the plot of your story in a specific direction.

If you’ve got all this stuff down already, then maybe it’s time for a plot twist of some sort; you may need something unexpected to happen. Well, this may sound harsh, but to do this, you’ll probably need to put your character through a little (or a lot) of turmoil. But don’t be afraid to be mean to your characters. A lot of the time, the most influential moment in a novel or short story is when something negatively impacts the characters, especially the main protagonist. If they take something for granted, take it away, whether it be an object or a person. It will cause them to either change routes or test their commitment to a certain path. Maybe they have a belief or a certain someone or something they believe in. Make them doubt it. Make them confused. They may choose to seek out another truth or maybe they will overcome it and have a new, stronger faith. Remember their worst fears? Use them. They could fall in defeat or overcome it.

I used a couple of these methods when I was in one of my creative slumps as I was writing one of my fantasy stories. I specifically turned to my protagonist’s loved ones. My young, orphaned heroine had recently begun to form a positive and growing relationship with her newfound father figure and mentor, and she couldn’t have felt happier or safer with him. The plot grew to a standstill because the protagonist felt too safe and had no reason to move forward in her quest, so I decided that this was the time the villain should strike and take away this new safety from my heroine. I didn’t exactly kill the beloved mentor off, but I left barely enough hope for the heroine to hold onto so that she would have the motivation to continue her quest and fulfill her destiny in my story. Saving him and the goal of her quest became the same, so if she believed that she could save her mentor, then she would have the motivation to fulfill her destiny in completing her quest.

You can use these concepts and techniques to both develop your characters’ identities and push the story forward. Thinking about your characters, their actions, their beliefs, their fears will help aim the plot of your story in a certain direction. Without your characters, there would be no story.

Written by Taylor Hayes

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How to Combat Summer Boredom

Summer is finally here. As a student, I really look forward to summer every year. It seems like I have so much going on during the fall and spring semesters, and at least one aspect of my life is always completely out of control. If I don’t have eighteen projects due for my classes in the span of one week, then I’m preparing for a big weekend with the media team at my church. If things at the church aren’t crazy, then I’m dealing with some family crisis or my friends suddenly want to hang out until way past my preferred bedtime. The problem is that I care about all of these areas of my life, so I want to give them all as much attention as they require. During the summer, it seems like every area of my life comes to a screeching halt. Suddenly, there are no classes to attend, no homework to do, and maybe no one on campus to hang out with. I find myself wondering what to do with all of my free time. Maybe you do, too, dear readers. Don’t worry. I’ve got some ideas for you to combat summer boredom.

My first idea is a pretty simple one. During the school year, there are a lot of things that get put on the backburner. Summer is a perfect opportunity to get some of those things done! At different points throughout the year, I’ve wanted to read some of the Harry Potter series, re-watch The Office, play a video game called Undertale, clean out my closet, and have my sister come to stay the weekend with me. Now that I have a few months without anything too crazy happening, I can probably do all of those things and more. Maybe some of you readers have goals you always seem too busy to reach. They can be small goals, like the ones I listed, or really big ones. Even if your aspirations are too high to reach in only a few months, maybe you can get your start this summer.

Another thing you can try if you find yourself bored out of your mind is going on an adventure. I grew up in a small town where there wasn’t much to do and there weren’t many places to go. In this boring environment, my friends and I used to come up with small adventures to keep ourselves busy. We would go to our nearest movie theater and see the worst-looking movie playing, just so that we could laugh at how bad it was. We would buy sidewalk chalk and draw murals at our local park. We would take a road trip to visit the closest zoo on half-price ticket day. We would walk to the highest point in town to watch the sunset overlooking our neighborhood. Sometimes, we would even just sit in my living room and watch the first episode of a bunch of different shows on Netflix. There are all kinds of adventures to be had if you open up your mind and use your imagination.

phineas and ferb

My last tip for staving off summer boredom is to just rest and relax. I know it might seem counterintuitive to try to rest when you want to be busy doing something, but that’s kind of the point. During the school year, I tend to become so busy that I run myself ragged. Without the presence of that busyness, I realize how slowly time can move. This summer, I want to take a deep breath and revel in a change of pace. I want to take the time to appreciate the world and the people around me without distractions. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer over the past few weeks, and that time has made me really hungry to understand my God more. I’ve never felt a hunger this strong, and I want to run with it. I want God to show me new things. I think the perfect environment to foster this desire is a few months when I’ll be taking things slow, when I can rest, be still, and know that He is God.

Those are just a few ideas to fight the beast of boredom. Hopefully your summer will be a fun, enjoyable few months. Even if your summer will be busy with classes, work, mission trips, or just life in general, I pray that the God of peace will give you rest.

Written by Becca

Image credits: Header image, Phineas and Ferb

DIY Gifts to Wow Her on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day, a time in early May, has been dedicated to celebrating the mommies, mothers, mamas, and moms across the nation for many years. Anna Jarvis, Mother’s Day founder, dedicated her life to honoring the great women who’ve endured much hardship for their children while continuing to be poised and graceful (History.com staff para.1). For the women whose love for their family is so unique, moms deserve a day dedicated to celebrating them in a spectacular way. Here are a few ideas for D.I.Y. gifts to wow any mom on Mother’s Day.

diy charm bracelet

First on the list of gnarly gizmos and gadgets is a D.I.Y charm bracelet. This simple yet elegant gift is gentle on the pockets, easy to make, and still very personal to that special lady. To make this charm bracelet, you will need a chain, jump rings, a lobster claw clasp, and a few meaningful charms. You can add as many or as few as you’d like and still achieve a one-of-a-kind look that will make Mommy smile. This gift will also allow you two to grow and improve the gift over time, as the charms can be updated and multiplied with time. As she sports this sweet act of love around her wrist, she will always be reminded of your appreciation for her as will everyone else.

diy spa in a jar

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Help Mama soak away the stress of being a mom, amongst other things, with a D.I.Y Spa in a Jar and D.I.Y Scrubs. To create a scrub your mom will love, take a small container, some white or brown sugar and pair it honey, olive oil or coconut oil, and a few drops of an essential oil she likes. After using this delicious-smelling concoction, she will have skin to die for! To fashion a Spa in a Jar, simply grab a large mason jar and fill it with those D.I.Y scrubs, lip balm, a face mask, and any other helpful trinkets for relaxation. Next, decorate the jar with some of her favorite colors and a nice ribbon. She will definitely appreciate the lovely gesture from you and the reminder for her to treat herself.

cheeseburger sliders

Finally, go the classic route with a spectacular Mother’s Day themed meal. Rock your mother’s taste buds with some fabulous flap-jacks, sausage, and an omelet the size of your head. For the moms more inclined to heartier meals, home-made-bacon-and-cheese-burger sliders would be a great choice. If you’re more of a Pizza Roll microwaver, simply make some fresh lemonade and chocolate covered fruit for a mouth-watering reaction.  My mom will be receiving a Spa in a Jar as well as a tasty Mother’s Day meal. Whatever you decide to make, or try to make, your mom will love and welcome it.

Show her a little gratitude with these cute and easy D.I.Ys. Remember, there is no judgement if you go crazy with hearts in these D.I.Ys as long as you have fun in creating them and use them as tools to show just how much you love and cherish your mom, mommy, mama, and mother.

History.com Staff. ” Mother’s Day.” History.com, 2011.

Written by Ashley

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