writing prompts – and spirit prompts too…

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:19
– Derek Maul things, prays, and writes in North Carolina

One of the fun things I remember from teaching creative writing is the use of prompts; I used them when I taught elementary and middle-school children, and then when I helped with a prison inmate writing program in Florida. (A prompt is a tool designed to integrate a students imagination and creativity into guided writing practice.)

For me pretty much everything is a prompt! It is as if my soul is constantly receiving signals from literally the entire world around me, and when I write I am simply constructing words around the prayer my spirit is already breathing.

Maybe this is why I am always so genuinely incredulous when I ask the question, “Where/how have you encountered God this week?” and people struggle to find an answer? I honestly believe we should have several stories at hand to share every single day!

Other than “everything” I do have a couple of favorite prompts that come up time and again. If I am ever stuck in writing I A) turn to the scriptures, and B) I look at photographs. Mostly, the photographs are my own, but they are often supplemented by the stories that present themselves every time our daughter Naomi shares a new picture of our Miami grandchildren!

– David, Beks, and baby Geoffrey

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the wonderful opportunity the children have to enjoy the Science Museum and the Zoo (The Serious Business of Curiosity and Play) This past weekend they went back and the new photograph, in front of another quote, touched my imagination just as profoundly.

Part of me wants you to read the scripture and look at the photograph, then write a paragraph of your own in the comments section below. The other part of me is about to drop another 500 words into this space!

So let’s compromise. I will wind this down, and maybe you can respond to one of the prompts in a short paragraph of your own.

Problems and Design:

The question that is answered by the quote, “What are the boundaries of problems?” was, “What are the boundaries of design?”

In other words, problems present opportunities for design. And that is where science, and imagination, and invention, and learning, and creativity all begin to come together. Great questions invite good science.

When David was just one year old I watched him move around a tower of wooden blocks for several minutes. Instead of knocking it down he was saying, “Hmmmm….????” and figuring something out.

I pray that David continues to grow into someone who both knows that, “The Sovereign Lord is [his] strength…” and uses that strength to “tread on the heights… with the feet of a deer….” as he engages the opportunity real world problems present with the confidence of one who understands where his gifts come from.

Peace – and good writing – DEREK


  1. Derek, nice article. As a fellow writer, I can relate to being prompted by many situations, thoughts, and passages from Scripture. I have more ideas in my, um, well, “idea” book than I have time to write. I’m curious; do you think being well-prompted for subject matter is relative to our awareness and sensitivity level?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I do. But I also believe this is something we can cultivate – and we can ask for it too… Kind of like the quote from St. Teresa of Avila: “Oh God, I don’t love you, I don’t even want to love you, but I want to want to love you!”

      Liked by 1 person

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