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Writing Workshop: Gathering Ideas with Lists

And we’re off! Day 1 of our writing workshop! I hope you’ve set up your writing notebook – either paper or digital writing notebook! If you like, share a photo on my Facebook page with the hashtag (#WriteInTheMoment), or post to Instagram and tag me (@juliekieras) and use the hashtag!

I can’t wait to see what you’re doing with your writing!

The way we’ll go about these tutorials is in a “workshop” format. I’ll share with you a method or tip for writing. Then I’ll demonstrate this tip either with examples from my own writing, or a mentor text by a published author. The next step is for you to spend some time trying out the strategy yourself!

How much time you want to spend on this is up to you – perhaps 15 minutes a few times a week. Maybe you’ll have a dedicated hour. Maybe you’ll snatch small moments here and there. Whatever works!

writing workshop gathering ideas with lists

Gathering Ideas by Listing Moments

Some of you may already know exactly what you want to write. If that’s the case – awesome! And feel free to get started if you don’t need help generating ideas! But I’m guessing most of you have no idea what to write or how to get started – and you’re exactly who I am gearing this lesson towards!

All writers feel this way at times – that sense of “I don’t know what to write!” Commonly known as writer’s block! When I can’t figure out what to write, I use specific strategies to help me gather ideas.

My hands down favorite gathering ideas strategy is making lists. Lists are easy. Lists are fun. Lists are quick! Lists are something we as moms are so used to making!

In fact, Anne Voskamp in her book 1000 Gifts uses lists as her method of gathering all the moments, memories, and facts of her gratitude. I’d be willing to guess many of those items on her list have turned into more detailed blog posts or chapters in her books! If you’ve already started a 1000 Gifts list of your own, that’s a fabulous resource!

Important Moments that Matter

Today I want to show you how to decide what stories to write, by listing important moments that matter… because those those moments, are worth writing about!

So… when I’m gathering a list of writing ideas, I like to focus on a category. Today I’m going to focus on important moments in my life as a mom

Watch me:

  • The nurse giving me advice at my first son’s birth
  • My second son’s hug when he was just one day old
  • Our first camping trip with our oldest son
  • Using the stroller in the house with our first son
  • Watching my husband carry our first son around the yard in the mornings 
  • The old woman next to us at the restaurant in Massachusetts
  • Our first 24 hour drive to Florida (2013)
  • First time my son slept over Grandma’s

Did you see how I did that? I didn’t have to start writing any big piece right away. I just gathered some ideas for future writing by listing important moments that mattered to me as a mom.

I plan to keep this list going in my notebook as new moments happen, and also to backtrack and remember past moments that were significant to me.

The important thing is to list LOTS of ideas, because sometimes you can’t use all the ideas you come up with (but when you’re in the flow, just put them down anyway!). For example, I’m going to cross out a few ideas, because they are BIG moments, with lots of people and events, and I honestly don’t remember a lot of the details too well. So they wouldn’t make for good small moments to write about.

writing workshop gathering ideas with lists

As writers, we decide what stories are worth telling. We should always choose to write about moments we can recall with clarity and detail.

Now you try it!

Turn to a fresh page in your writing notebook. Title it “Important Moments.” Now list all the ideas you can come up with of important moments for you – this may be moments as a mom, or perhaps you’re writing on a different topic. It doesn’t matter because the strategy is the same!

Spend about 5-15 minutes writing, or try to generate a half page or more of ideas before stopping. But really it’s up to you!

Writers use strategies to get started!

Whenever you can’t decide what to write about, remember, you can always gather ideas by listing important moments, because these are the moments that matter. So they will become the stories that matter too!

Use this list-making strategy any time you are stuck in your writing. Go back to old lists and add on. Create new lists with different themes (lists of places, lists of books, lists of foods, lists of embarrassing moments, etc).

I’d encourage you to spend lots of writing time making lists… then you’ll never be stuck for writing ideas. Besides which, I find lists can be beautiful in their own right – Voskamp’s 1000 Gift lists for example, or a list poem, or printing and framing a themed list… writing your memories can take many shapes!

writing workshop gathering ideas with lists


Feel free to share a few of your writing ideas in the comments below, or share a photo on social media with the hashtag #WriteInTheMoment! 

Stay tuned because Friday, I plan to share with you a piece of writing that came off this list!


A Tale of Two Lion Loveys

Saturday 23rd of May 2015

[…] did the idea come from? I drafted this piece based on some list making and brainstorming I’d done in my writer’s notebook! We’d had this moment, described above, with his […]

A Tale of Two Lion Loveys

Saturday 23rd of May 2015

[…] did the idea come from? I drafted this piece based on some list making and brainstorming I’d done in my writer’s notebook! We’d had this moment, described above, with his […]