Time to Write with Shirley & Harriet

Shirley Crowder, how do you fit writing into your daily schedule?

With all my work, ministry, family, and other responsibilities it can be difficult to carve out time for writing—even though I don’t require a lot of sleep!

I find making a schedule helpful in safeguarding my writing time and I must be disciplined to guard that time.

I schedule early mornings before work and after midnight for writing. Devotional writing works well in these time slots, whether for a blog, newspaper article, or devotional for a book.

I block out four hours of each Friday (when I’m off from my job), sometimes morning and sometimes afternoon, to focus on devotionals for books.

I turn off the TV and the sound on my phone, sit at my desk, and start writing. I keep a sticky note handy to jot down things that come to mind that are not related to my writing.

All my writing deadlines go on my calendar, including my study and research, time to put it aside (a few days for a blog, article, or single devotional; and a couple of weeks for a book manuscript), time for someone else to read the manuscript, and time to do final edits/rewrites.

Admittedly, sometimes it is difficult to carve out time when I need to be at the hospital with a friend, or doing laundry, or any one of a gazillion other things that come along.

Please understand that all of this is the way things SHOULD work!

If my schedule gets interrupted for any reason, I reschedule that time as soon as possible.

I have to remind myself that my time is not my own—it is God’s! It is extremely important that I seek the Lord’s guidance in scheduling my writing time. [Click to Tweet]

Harriet Michael, what’s your secret?

I work three days a week as a substitute middle or high school teacher at a nearby Christian school. This school has block scheduling, so they have only four classes a day with each class an hour and a half long. One of these four blocks for each teacher is a planning period. As a sub, I have no planning to do, nor do I have to grade tests or papers. So, how do I fill this hour and a half three days a week?

You guessed it, I write.

With the school’s permission, I bring my computer with me and use the planning periods to get some writing done. It works out great for me. I can’t leave the school anyway, so I am stuck in a classroom with nothing else to do for ninety minutes. I might as well take advantage of the time.

I am blessed to have this carved-out scheduled time every week and I realize it is a unique situation. But the point remains—set aside some specific time every week to write. Make it part of your routine. I actually find I get more done in the school year when I am working than I do in the summer when I am off. There are so many distractions pulling at me when I am home. Being forced to sit in a chair, with nothing else to do but write works well for me.

At a writers’ conference once I heard an instructor, whose name I cannot remember, tease that what writers need to do sounds like a dirty word. He called it BICFOK, which he said stands for “butt in chair, fingers on keys”. That truly is the key to getting some much-needed writing accomplished. Just sit down and do it!


Shirley Crowder was born in Nigeria, West Africa, where her parents served as missionaries, Shirley is passionate about disciple-making, which is manifested through a myriad of ministry opportunities that include biblical counseling, teaching Bible studies, speaking at conferences, writing, and serving on the national advisory team for The Addiction Connection.

She is a biblical counselor and is commissioned by and serves on the national Advisory Team for The Addiction Connection. Her articles, devotions have appeared in “Paper Pulpit” in The Gadsden Times’ Faith section and Seek magazine—a David C. Cook publication. She has also written articles for Life Bible Study and Woman’s Missionary Union. Six published books were contributed to, authored, or co-authored by Shirley. Four contracted devotional books are due out over the next two years.

Shirley has spiritual children and grandchildren serving the Lord in various ways throughout the world.


Harriet E. Michael is a multi-published author and freelance writer. She has authored five books, with two more coming out this year. Over 200 articles, devotions, and stories penned by her have appeared in various publications by Focus on the Family, Lifeway, David C. Cook, Standard Publishing, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Upper Room, Judson Press, and more. Harriet has been married for nearly forty years. She is the proud mother of four grown children and “Lala” to two adorable grandchildren.


Click to Tweet: The key to getting some much-needed writing accomplished: just sit down and do it! – Harriet Michael via @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #time

Writing Prompt: Map out a quick, doable writing schedule for tomorrow. Then post it where you will see it. If it worked for you, try it the next day, too. Make changes if necessary. Keep at it until you’ve found a system that works for you. Don’t give up! Even five minutes between daily tasks can add word count to your work-in-progress.

Do you have a question for Shirley, or Harriet? Please feel free to ask in the comments section. We’re here to help.

Apples of Gold

Apples of gold in pictures of silver.

golden apple

This is the way Proverbs 25:11 describes what it calls “a word fitly spoken.” It says these words are like apples of gold in pictures of silver. But what, exactly is a word fitly spoken?

There are many possible answers to that question. The New American Standard Bible says it’s a word spoken in the right circumstances. It is a word or words spoken to another person that helps them in some way. Maybe it encourages them, or eases their pain, lifts them up, or sympathizes with their pain. However the fitly words are intended, the end result is that they land on open ears and touch the listener in some significant way.

I am an eclectic writer—I write many things: fiction, nonfiction, full length books, short articles, and devotions. Yes, I am a devotional writer. I absolutely love writing devotions! I have had hundreds of them published in magazines, online, and in books. I teach workshops on devotional writing. Devotions helped to build my writing resume and payment from writing devotions supplements my writing income. But this is not the reason I write devotions. I write to touch the hearts of others with words that cause them to ponder on God’s word. My goal is that they will be “fitly words.”

It’s autumn again, a time of year when apples are in abundance. We enjoy apples in so many forms during this season—cooked in pies, coated in candy, squeezed into juice or made into cider, and so many other ways.

apple-fall

Because of this verse in Proverbs, the abundance of apples makes me think of devotional writing. Let’s be writers whose words are fitly. Let’s have our words be apples of gold in pictures of silver.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Proverbs 25:11 (KJV) [Click to Tweet]

Writing prompt: write a devotional about a time someone spoke words you needed to hear.

Kids and Summer

Ty as shark

Kids, pools, and shark fins! Summer doesn’t get much better than that.

This is my youngest son about fifteen years ago. He is grown now and sports a beard, but I will always remember him like this and treasure this picture.

Here at Inspired Prompts we are breaking from our usual more serious writing related topics to share some personal pictures and information with our readers so I will tell you a little about my family.

I have been married for over thirty-nine years. My husband and I have four children. We had three, waited a long time, and then had the fourth. Our children currently range in age from 36-21. And now we have two grandchildren. Oh, what joy grandchildren bring! I know all grandparent think their grandchildren are special but ours truly are—in one way, anyway. Our first grandchild is bi-racial and our second is Marshallese.

K G Hilton Head

Here is a picture of my first grandchild with his mother, my daughter, on a family vacation. (He is her biological son.)

Robert Ellie

And here’s a picture of one of my sons and my second grandchild, his daughter, whom he and his wife adopted from the Marshall Islands. They traveled to Hawaii to get her.

My other two sons—the oldest and the youngest—do not have children so from them, I am still a grandmother-in-waiting, or rather a Lala-in-waiting, since my grandchildren call me Lala.

Yep, they call me Lala, and you can call me a happy grandmother, who can’t wait to play with her grandchildren again!

Click to Tweet: Join us for some Summer Fun via @InspiredPrompt as we share our favorite summer fun photos and stories. #summer #travel #adventure

Writing Prompt: Caption this photo!

Research: The Inspired Prompt Way

Research. We’ve spent the month of March dissecting this topic from all angles. From how to start, to research on the road, and current events research, a way to gather information should be coming clear.

I’ve asked the Crew to share their go-to source when it comes to research. Here’s what they said:

Harriet Michael: As a Christian nonfiction writer who writes a lot of Biblical pieces—devotions and essays to a Biblical theme, my go-to resource is Bible Gateway where I can look up passages, do word searches, find commentaries, and find passages in all translations. Here is their link: https://www.biblegateway.com/

Jennifer Hallmark: Sometimes when I write, I just can’t think of the right word so I use an online thesaurus. Even if I don’t find what I need, it often gets my creativity flowing so I can move forward in my writing. Their link is http://www.thesaurus.com/

Kristy Horine: I find the Blue Letter Bible www.blueletterbible.org to be a great resource due to its interlinear concordance, cross references, language explanations, and access to commentaries. It has an app that is free that can be downloaded to your phone.  In addition, www.biblestudytools.com is helpful in the commentary area.

Another source is www.thoughtco.com. This is not a Christian-based resource, but it sure is fun for those strange and unusual questions like if brain cells regenerate, or the difference between racism and prejudice. It is based on the idea that we should be lifelong learners and seeks to teach just that. Plus, it has a really neat daily email you can sign up for. And, for numbers: www.barna.com and www.pewresearch.org

Betty Thomason Owens: I attended a class on researching at the Mid South Conference. The instructor gave us the Library of Congress website. It’s huge. You can find articles, photos, and lots of other interesting studies and stories and books. https://www.loc.gov/  I also love History.com  https://www.history.com/ and the Smithsonian.com https://www.smithsonianmag.com/.

Gail Johnson: I use the Bible, Webster’s dictionary, and the Strong’s Concordance. Also Bible Gateway and the online versions of the dictionary and thesaurus.

Bonita McCoy: I love  Biblehub.com because it gives you the verse in several translations. I use it for my Beautiful Pieces of Grace blog. Also the good old library for articles for the Inspired Prompt site and my Courageous Writers blog.

Fay Lamb: My research varies on what the subject happens to be. If it is medical, I will look up medical research on various sites, but I also look for journals of people who have undergone medical procedures. I also use slang dictionaries for slang for certain times. I even have a surfers’ slang dictionary.

Tammy Trail:  I tend to look for historical societies. There is a blog I like to catch up with too, Colonial Quills. Lots of historical information there for me. I use the Colonial Williamsburg website also. For writing related information, I love Seekerville.

Carlton Hughes:  Like others, my research varies depending on the subject. I’m mostly writing devotionals now, so usually I’m searching for a specific scripture on Bible Gateway. Blogs like Novel Rocket are good for general advice on fiction writing.

Shirley Crowder:  I use Blue Letter Bible — lots of commentaries, words studies, etc. https://www.blueletterbible.org/

Karen Jurgens: I use Google for whatever I need to know when I’m writing about Paris and other parts of the world. I study maps of the city, and I use reference books I’ve purchased while visiting. For example, I bought lots of historical books and maps of Cayman Island when I vacationed there a couple years ago. I always write about settings I know personally or have visited.

Cammi Woodall: Started in September of 1998, Google is the world’s largest search engine. You know how I know that? I googled it! When you can use your search engine name as a verb, you know you are doing something right. I love other sites like AskJeeves.com or Yahoo.com, but I always come back to Google. In one research session, l learned that the world’s oldest church is the Dura-Europos house church in Syria, arsenic poison will still show up in your fingernails 6 to 12 months after ingestion, and a ten-gallon hat really only holds three-quarters of a gallon. Who knew? Google did! And now I do, too.

Thank you, Inspired Prompt Crew! As you can see, there are research sites galore for the fiction and non-fiction writer. Do you have a go-to site that’s not listed above? In lieu of a writing prompt, we’re asking you to share that in the comments below…

Click to tweet: The Inspired Prompt Crew shares their go-to source when it comes to research for writers. #research #Google

I Miss the Rains Down in Africa

by Harriet Michael

Okay, I know. The real words to that song are “I bless the rains down in Africa” but personally, I miss the African rains and so many other things too! As some of you may have noticed, my blog posts often have some connection to Nigeria, the nation of my birth. I’m a Third Culture Kid—a person born and reared in a country different from her citizenship. Well, I actually had duel citizenship until I was 18 and had to choose. Of course, I chose the USA. That was the right choice, but I do miss so much that I left behind in Africa. Thanks for letting me tell you again about a place my heart loves.

Though travel to Nigeria today is not advised due to political dangers, such as Boko Harem and other sad realities, the country does have some incredible places, many tucked away forever in my memory.

There are beautiful rivers to see. The Niger, near where I was born, is a wild river. Swimming is not recommended due to the possibility of crocodile attacks. But it’s beautiful, just the same. My family crossed it in a large open canoe-type boat with wooden seats and a thatched roof when I was about 10. I remember sitting on that boat and thinking it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen in my short life. The first time I ever visited Disney World and rode The Jungle Cruise, I was taken back in a flash to that moment in my early life when I traveled the Niger.jungle cruise

The Ethiope is a different story. It’s tame and wonderful. Most all of my missionary kid friends have fond memories of swimming in the Ethiope. Here is how I described snorkeling there in a post on my personal blog a few years ago:

“The place we entered was only about a five-minute swim from the pier, but it seemed to take forever to get there. First we drove for a while, then walked a small path for what seemed like a long time. Finally, we came to the river. From the bank we could see the other side. Even to a child it did not look too far to swim. My dad put goggles, flippers, and a snorkel on me. Another missionary went in first, then me, and my dad behind me. What happened next was like entering into a world of wonder—one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

What appeared to me to be a short, easy swim to the other bank suddenly seemed wild, challenging, exciting, and even scary. As I kept my eyes under the water, in an instant I saw the ground below me drop what seemed to be a mile. I don’t really know how deep it was but it was clear to my child’s eyes that it was deeper than anyplace I’d ever been before. It was over my head and my dad’s by a long shot! It felt like I was swimming from the top of one underwater mountain to another, as I swam from that shore line to a sand dune a short distance away. The river floor below was alive too! There was grass swaying and fish swimming everywhere. I understood why my dad wanted to be behind me and didn’t want me swimming this part of the river by myself. And I was really glad he was there!

Very soon the three of us were on the sand dune resting. I sat in utter amazement and wonder at what I had just seen. Then we set out again and swam to the pier which seemed to be just around the corner. The river floor below me in this part was much more shallow, brown in color from the sand, less green and not so alive.”

Eku River

This is an actual picture of the Ethiope River shared with me by a childhood friend who grew up in Eku, very near the river.

Another place I fondly recall from my childhood is the warm springs in Ikogosi. The mission had a retreat there when I was a child. The place was managed by missionaries, John and Doris Mcgee, and the beautiful chapel on the grounds was designed by missionary Wilfred Congdon. Even as a child, the warm water had been diverted in part, so as to gather in a swimming pool but flow out again so it would not become stagnant. Today, it is a resort. The pictures from the website show much development, but the chapel still stands. http://www.ikogosiresort.net/ Ikogisi chape

The chapel in Ikogosi in the 1950’s, when it was fairly new.

There are so many other places I could write about—the Yankari Game Reserve–I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard stories about it from my childhood friends, http://www.wcsnigeria.org/Wild-Places/Yankari-Game-Reserve.aspx.  The incredible rock formations in the northern Plateau State, http://www.nigeriagalleria.com/Nigeria/States_Nigeria/Plateau/Riyom-Rock-Formations-Jos.html, –and so many more.house in Jos (Joy)

I love this picture! It was taken about three  years ago by a childhood friend on a visit back to the Plateau State.

I miss these places, but I must admit, I’m glad I am a US citizen. Ours is truly the greatest nation on earth, and we are blessed to live here.

Writing Prompt: Make up a fictional adventure in Africa. Include why you went there (business, pleasure, mission work?) and what happened while there.

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