BioPicBlues Hello! Jan here hoping to generate some freshness into not only our nonfiction writing, but also our speaking.

Today is the Friday before Valentine’s Day. My childhood memories create a picture of schoolchildren across the country stuffing decorated boxes with sentiments and enjoying cupcakes with red sprinkles and candy hearts.

What does that have to do with writing and speaking?

Starting places for infusing very needed freshness into what we do . . .

My picture of what could be happening in classrooms on this day is very cliché. It lacks inspiration. It might be considered the lazy approach, or a giving into the expected. I sincerely hope that teachers are being more creative.

But being aware of and then thinking through what has been done can often be a great starting place for each of us to wrestle down the stagnant and bring out the new. As authors and speakers who care about our readers and listeners, we can’t neglect this.

I just worked with a friend who will be attending the upcoming Florida Christian Writers Conference. As I read through her query letter and proposal (professional and complete in its elements), I couldn’t let go of one question to help her book idea stand out: What about what you are offering is new and needed now? She’ll tell you; that was the theme question I asked at every turn, whether in her query or her proposal. It’s the question editors, readers, and listeners want to know, and it’s not as easy as it seems.

Our starting places are our current writing and speaking topics and taking the time to honestly and critically examine our ideas–and I’m certainly including my own here! How much of what we are offering has already been done many times over?

For example, we can take one part of a speaking or writing topic we’ve developed or are working on. Walk around and look at it from a new vantage point. Twist it into a different light. Examine and create. (We’re made in the Creator God’s image; we have much to draw upon as we partner with him!)

Consider the current questions and trends of our culture. What new questions are being asked by our intended audience that we can bring into the conversation? What might be a fresh way to bring insight and information to that audience? How does what you’re offering reflect the uniqueness of your passions and calling?

Starting Place Exercise

If you want to try an exercise apart from the attachment you might have to your current writing or speaking topics, take the Valentine’s Day classroom experience. Play with it. Get into the role as the teacher and be specific about the dynamics of your students—their age and background.

What might you do differently with the Valentine’s Day experience within your classroom? What would you bring out that others haven’t? How would you make it an experience your students can deeply connect with on some level, something unforgettable, maybe life-changing? What uniqueness would you bring that you could offer like no other teacher? Work with it until it seems fresh and distinctive, then go at it again and push toward even more new ideas you could incorporate.

Now that you’ve stretched those personal creativity muscles, shift to your writer or speaker role. Choose a project you’ve been writing, a workshop you’ve given or one you are developing.

That’s your starting place. Now make it unique.


Jan writes nonfiction from her home in the foothills of the California Sierras. She is currently working on more material for the teen/ya audience and for those who deeply care about them. She also enjoys life coaching and mentoring writers. Visit her site at