Tonight, I volunteered at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). What a fantastic nonprofit! Organized. Easy. Fun. Worthwhile. The warehouse-like location in Eagan had space for up to 200 volunteers though the staff informed us they had space for a few more people at that shift — “so tell all your friends.” I volunteered with my stepson Ben who needed community service hours for school. Afterward, he said, “That was fun. Let’s do this again.”

As we packaged four-ingredient meals containing soy, rice, protein powder, and vegetables, we competed with other table teams to complete as many packs as possible. Cheers of woohoo! and yeah! erupted as teams completed boxes of 36 packaged meals. Bryan Adams’s “Summer of ’69” and NIrvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” blasted through the room as my stepson begged me to stop dancing. I coudn’t blame him, though, since my natural rhythm is a close match to Elaine’s on an old Seinfeld episode. But I was having fun and wanted to dance, so who cares! The hour-and-a-half shift flew by.

What if writing a novel was that much fun? What if I could feed my starving creative life by racing to write pages the way we rushed to pour those ingredients through a funnel. Everything (rice, soy, dried veggies, vitamin powder) all landed neatly in the packing bag underneath, ready to eat, just mix with water.

My novel had its own list of necessary ingredients, too:

  • Character
  • Setting
  • Conflict
  • Plot

The story would be all packed up neatly in a bound book, just add a dash of reader imagination and I’d have everything.

Maybe using some of those Feed My Starving Children work techniques would help break the occasional writer’s funk. Set the timer, compete with a friend on how much writing you can do in a given block of time. Race to the end. Competing for quantity vs. quality would change my focus. Quantity would give me a draft to edit. And I could actually have my next finished piece. What if?

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