Some people claim to have an endless cache of ideas, which they form into stories, articles, speeches and blogs. Others bemoan a dearth of ideas, claiming they have nothing to write about. I believe the key is to grab and record the snippets that run through our minds and let them steep until they become rich with meaning and fullness.
In my opinion, there are three basic skills required to make effective use of our ideas. One is the habit of observation. What do we see, hear, smell, taste and touch that is unique, interesting or identifiable to others.
The second skill is analytical thinking. This requires training ourselves to see beyond the surface of what we observe, to ask the oft-hidden questions: who, what, when, where, why and how.
Our pastor is particularly skilled in observation and analytical thinking, but he also practices the third skill: application. How can an idea be translated into inspiration, motivation, encouragement, call to action? This is also a matter of habit, training and thought.
One of the chief challenges to effective and efficient use of ideas is to focus on one idea at a time. When our son was in his teens, he and several other young men were invited to present sermons in church on Sunday morning. He struggled for days with his ideas, wrote them out, practiced them in the privacy of our farm’s open spaces, but he couldn’t find the sweet spot. Until he realized he had too many tangents. When he focused on one main idea, he was away.
I would suggest that we all have enough ideas to fill our writing obligations and opportunities. What we need to practice is observation, analytical thinking and application. When we do this, we will be able to effectively and efficiently use the ideas God showers upon us.