Friday, December 23, 2016

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

Do you ever struggle to find something new to write about?

I’m a writer, speaker, editor, and blogger, and finding new material is a constant challenge for me. Satisfying the voracious appetite of my blog often reminds me of how difficult it was to keep a household of teenagers fed. Add to that the need for clever ideas for magazine articles, women’s ministry programs, and writers conference workshops, and my creative pantry sometimes feels like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

This is why I was so excited to attend a seminar with Lance Miller, the 2005 Toastmasters International Champion of Public Speaking. Lance has given thousands of speeches in dozens of countries. Many have been project speeches of five to seven minutes, roughly 500-700 words. Others have been teaching and training seminars of an hour or more. These speeches can contain up to 10,000 words.

An interviewer asked him where he found material for so many speeches.

“I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary,” he said.

You may not be a speaker, but Lance Miller’s advice also applies to writers.

Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. What does this look like?

Maybe it’s:

Looking around the dinner table at the faces of your family and friends and imagining what it will be like in heaven when we’re reunited with your loved ones.

Or considering the properties of a commonplace item like a rubber band. It’s most useful when it’s stretched, its flexibility keeps it from snapping, and even though it’s not very glamourous, it’s incredibly useful.

Or watching a mother interact with her newborn baby. God often compares himself to a nurturing parent. What qualities do you see in human parents that remind you of our heavenly father?

Or leafing through old photo albums and pondering the passage of time and the brevity of life.

The Psalmist wasn’t a Toastmasters International world champion, but he understood how to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Listen to a sample of the beautiful words he penned:

Psalm 131:2: “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.”

Psalm 8:3-4:  “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

Psalm 125:2: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”

The next time a deadline is approaching, and you don’t know what to write about, follow Lance Miller’s advice. Sit quietly, find something ordinary, and look for the extraordinary within it.

Who knows? That rubber band on your desk might just spark the next New York Times bestseller.

Now it’s your turn. How do you spark creativity when you’re struggling to find new material to write about? Leave your best idea in the comment box below and join the conversation.



  1. The early Puritans were expert at seeing God's hand at work in common, ordinary things, and we writers must practice the same in our never-ending search for writing ideas. Great reminders, Lori.

    1. You're right, Dennis. I've read some extraordinarily beautiful reflections penned by our country's forefathers. Thanks for the reminder. Might be nice to dig those volumes out for another read.

  2. There is something extraordinary in the ordinary, because nothing is really "ordinary." All of life, everything we see around us, is a miracle.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. True, true, Linda. An excellent observation :) Thanks for chiming in.

  3. I don't know. Ideas just pop into my head as I go through my day - dry leaves, ants, and the like. I find God's creation speaks about Him all over the place. :-)

    1. Me too, Sandra. When we have our writing antennae up, it's amazing what we notice. Thanks for joining the conversation.