December 13, 2018

Keeping Some Skin in the Game

By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine 

There are periods in life when you simply don’t have time to write. For instance, here’s a case scenario: You’ve recently moved. There are still 100 unopened boxes upstairs and you’re exhausted from the thought of opening another one. Halloween is nipping at your heels and everyone knows what happens after Halloween—it’s bulldozed by Thanksgiving and then Christmas decorating. Then it’s time to undrape the tree and bury the greenery upstairs with the other boxes. 

With all of that going on, who has time to write more than utility bill checks? How does a writer keep their pencils sharp and their minds sharper to be able to stack a few words next to each other when a free moment explodes onto your writer’s scene?

That’s when thinking of a subject, any subject to write about, comes in handy and you keep some skin in the game by writing short stories. Could you write a story about broccoli? You liked it as a kid and ate the flowerets or tossed it to the dog. How about a strawberry story—ever picked some in those pay-to-pick patches? What happened? Anything funny? Anything tragic or sad? If you’ve lived long enough you probably have a story about most everything.

But if you don’t have any stories, good or bad about broccoli, try searching for a writers prompt site online. is one. On that website, they have listed 250 topics for familiar essays. Instead of essays, you could simply write creative nonfiction. Whether stories or essays, write a few of those gems a week. Within a year you could have enough stories for a nonfiction book. 

Let’s look at some of the topics listed on

1. Backyard gardens – I could check that off my list because I could write about recently planting fifty rose bushes and sixty boxwoods. Then I could describe the aches and pains that accompanied that labor of love. 

2. Telephone Manners – remember the old days when long distance telephone operators had to tell you their names when they answered the phone? Did I just date myself? Oopsie, let’s just move on.

3. The Pleasure of Eating – Immediately I thought about eating bread pudding with hard sauce three times a day while in New Orleans to try and find the restaurant with the best recipe. Then there was that time I ate a frog’s leg and broke a tooth. Then that time I regretted eating rattlesnake, and that time I…you get the picture.

4. Mental Indigestion – For this subject, I could possibly expand on the rattlesnake and frog legs stories. Or I could write about rethinking and over-thinking a subject until my brain freezes or needs a gray matter Alka Seltzer. 

5. On Losing One’s Freckles – I could definitely tell about how my freckles finally gave up the ghost and did a slow fade or even better, I could write about a college friend who drove me insane using lemon juice and other concoctions on her face to rid herself of her own freckles.

You get the picture. But what about these topics—Etiquette for Ancestors or Gasoline and Onions. Strange combinations don’t you think?

Ahhh, but this one – After He Died. That topic could go in several directions and get ho-hum mild or better yet, crazy wild. Mull that one over. Then write away. Would love to be a little mouse looking over your shoulder to see what you pen to keep some skin in the game!         

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