Monday, September 9, 2019

Five Questions for Reviewing Your Train of Thought

By Katy Kauffman

With time, I have become a better train conductor. Instead of jumping the rails to explore lush, green forests or majestic mountain peaks, I am better able to keep my train of thought on its intended course. Have you ever thought of yourself—a writer—as a train conductor?
Words are our cars, and chapters are our trains. We may not wear the nostalgic conductor’s hat, but our thinking caps fit snugly in place. That may be the problem. In the broad expanse of ideas and sentences and experiences, we have to chart our course. What points do we need to make? Which ones do we need to leave out? Our necessary writer’s tool (dare I say the word?)—an outline—acts as our track. The track grows as we add illustrations, insights, or examples to make our point. The danger comes when our exuberance for sharing what we know runs off track and into the thicket.

Oh, it may not look like a thicket to us. But our readers will find themselves traveling through briars and underbrush if we decide to jump the track. They may appreciate the extra leg of the journey, tucked safely inside our train. But they will start to wonder why their conductor added a few stops before the destination. We never want to confuse or disappoint our readers. We want them to travel with us again through worlds of truth or imagination.

So how do we ensure that they will buy our train ticket and ride with us again? By delivering what we’ve promised. By arriving at our destination at the end of the book and making every stop until we get there as enjoyable, informative, and encouraging as possible.

Here are five questions to ask yourself about every chapter, paragraph, and sentence in your book. These questions also work for shorter rides, such as articles and blog posts. Once you have poured out your heart on paper, put on your conductor’s hat and examine closely your train of thought. Streamline your writing by evaluating the “track.”

  1. Does my train of thought travel from Point A (the beginning of my chapter or article) to Point B (the end of it) in a straight line, or have I meandered off course?
  2. Have I included stories, statistics, or quotes that illustrate my point, or are some not as relevant as others?
  3.  Can I cut out any paragraphs, sentences, or single words, and my message is still clear?
  4.  Have I inserted anything that’s precious to me but unnecessary to my overall point? 
  5. Do I arrive at my destination “on time,” or do I have any delays and detours?

Our goal as writers is to arrive at our destination—the end of our work—leaving our readers feeling as if they have had an adventure worth remembering and taking to heart. Guide them all the way through your message of truth by using the most effective route—don’t let your train of thought jump the track.

What do you do to help yourself stay on track in your writing? Share your tips and ideas with us in the comments below.

(Photos courtesy of


Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. Her first compilation, Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage, won a 2018 Selah finalist award. Her next compilation, Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, was a 2019 Selah finalist and Director’s Choice finalist. Katy’s writing can be found at,,, two blogs on writing, in online magazines, and on devotional blogs. She loves spending time with family and friends, making jewelry, and hunting for the best donuts. Connect with her at her blog, The Scrapbooked Bible Study, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Whatcha Gonna Do When the Well Runs Dry, Honey?

By Yolanda Smith

Whatcha Gonna Do when the Well Runs Dry, Honey?

I’ll admit it—this blog post was due, and I had nuthin’. Sometimes my well of ideas runs dry. My lack of material is not due to stupidity. At least, I hope that’s not the case. This problem usually manifests when I’m full of conflicting and competing responsibilities (back-to-school, anyone?), and they take over my brain, siphoning the creativity faster than a gas thief. What’s a writer to do?

Sit on the Bank and Cry, Cry, Cry
Tears are my default when things aren’t going write right. I used to be ashamed of my tears, doing everything within my power to stop the flow. That’s never worked well for me, so my second option was to hide the blubbering as best I could. That remained true for many years, until I realized God gave me tears as a gift, and I stopped holding back. These days a hearty sob is no crying shame. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, tired, or out of sorts, a good bawl cleanses my soul and is the closest thing I have to a reset button.

Yonder Comes a Man with a Sack on His Back
We know the source of all creativity, right? He’s in sight, and He’s headed our way. He’s the living water, ready to slake our thirst if we’re willing to sit at His feet and drink deeply of all He offers. He can fill our wagon, our well, and our water bottles with whatever we need most. Often, we don’t even know what to ask for, but He knows what we need, and He’s got a sack full of supplies. But it’s our job to pay attention—and notice His presence.

Got More Crawdads than He Can Pack
God has a bottomless reservoir of creativity available. There’s no promise as to the measure He will share with us, but we won’t be worse for the asking. He invites us to remember every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

You Get a Line, I’ll Get a Pole, Honey
Wouldn’t it be odd if, while pulling out a good folk song or ballad and whistling a jaunty tune, we actually get a line? And one line leads to another line, and a nibble turns to a catch. Soon, we’re fishing in the deep waters of creativity once again. Or writing a full blog post. Wow!

We’ll Go Down to the Crawdad Hole
Make sure to invite others along the journey with you. Sometimes when the well is dry the best way to prime the pump is share what you already know with someone who is a little behind you on the road. Everything feels ho-hum until we begin recounting what we’ve learned along the way, and it refuels our passion to keep learning and trying.

Honey, Baby, Mine
At the center of why we write is the gift of words, and the gift of an audience. We are called to serve people with and through the words we share, giving away our ideas and experiences as a way to love our audience well.

What do you do when you run out of ideas? Where do you turn for inspiration? We’d love for you to share your best ideas with us in the comments.

(Photos courtesy of, Sira Anamwong, and Aleks Melnik.)


Writer, when the inspiration and ideas run dry, turn to the Source of all creativity. God’s reservoir is bottomless and never runs dry. via @canitbeyolanda (Click to tweet.)

Yolanda Smith enjoys life in the foothills of North Carolina. In a “Yours, Mine & Ours” spin, she and her husband are parents to a combined total of twelve children and grandparents to a growing number of littles. Yolanda serves on her church’s worship team, works as a freelance editor, is a guest speaker at various churches, and writes in the cracks of life. She is currently working on her first novel featuring historical Appalachian fiction. A former member of a legalistic, cultish church, Yolanda is passionate about helping people find freedom in Christ. She is also enthusiastic about reading good books and correcting bad grammar.

You can find Yolanda on the Internet at: