Monday, November 11, 2019

Priming the Writer’s Pump

 By Tim Suddeth

I used to get frustrated when starting my old lawn mower. There was a rubber bulb I had to mash, and mash, and mash. By forcing gas into some thingamajig, it would—eventually—start the mower with a burp and a cloud of smoke.

The engine had to have gas in it before it could run. And getting that gas in is called priming the pump.

That’s a lot like how a writer’s mind works. (Not the burping and cloud of smoke part.) If you want to come up with new ideas and new stories, you need to continually prime the pump. A local college has a program called “Lifetime Learning,” and that’s exactly what is expected from a writer.

Today, we have more ways than ever to learn: podcasts, books, articles, blogs, videos, websites, forums, magazines, newspapers (yes, we still have them.), chat rooms, etc. And new information mediums are coming out all the time.

So, how are you keeping your pump (mind) primed?

My first thought goes to what you are reading. Are you reading the types of books, blogs, or articles you write or want to write? I’m always hearing stories about the shock agents and publishers have when they ask a hopeful writer what they are reading, and they answer they don’t read. Or they don’t read the types of stories they are submitting.

Then how can they know what is good, what has already been done to death, and what their desired reader expects to encounter?

They haven’t primed the pump. Or they primed it with water. In either case, the engine isn’t going to start, and the story won’t meet the expectations of the agent or publisher. Or worse, the reader.

If you’re thinking of writing a book, read other books in your genre. Definitely the works of respected authors but also non-published works. 

If you blog, read other blogs on your subject as well as those on totally different topics. Find what draws you in. 

There are other ways you can prime your writing pump. Listen to music. We all have our favorite types, and that’s fine, but don’t limit yourself to just one. I’m a big fan of Christmas music, new or traditional. Give me “Away in a Manger,” but I also want to hear the latest songs that come out each year. What are they about? How do they look at the same old Christmas story but from a different angle?

Take a nature walk. From a panoramic view of the ocean, the mountains, or the sky to the grains of sand on the beach and a slide under a microscope. Each will leave you grasping for new words to describe the wonder you’ll find.

The seasons remind me how our lives are constantly changing. You can also see this when you watch a river as it flows between its banks. On the other hand, a mountain seems as if it has stood silent, unchanging, since God first called out for it to rise.

God has made our minds to be His marvelous creations that allow us to experience His world. To experience Him. He has filled His world with things and people who give us an endless amount of creative ideas. Explore. Smell the roses … and the bugs. And remember, while you are searching for ideas, the Creator has left His fingerprints all over His creation. He’s just waiting for us to discover them.

To me, wispy, white clouds look as if God took a Bob Ross brush and—swish, swish—hung them high in the blue sky.

What is the most unlikely God fingerprint you’ve ever found?

 (Photos courtesy of, vectorolie, and everydayplus.)


Tim Suddeth is a regular attendee of The Blue Ridge Mountains Writers Conference and a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He’s currently working on his fifth novel. He has a monthly post on The Write Conversation and is trying to make a dent in his to-read bookcases. You can follow him at on his blog at or on Twitter @TimSuddeth.


  1. I appreciate your article with those great recommendations. I like to watch people - their behaviors and interactions. Not that I'm eavesdropping, but I listen to conversations & discussions. It's not necessary to go out of my way or beyond my normal weekly routine, but sometimes a new setting helps. Plus, I've got decades of memories.
    Thanks Tim.

    1. I think all writers are natural "eavesdroppers." We get so many creative ideas that way. Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing with us. Blessings! :)