Seven Things I’ve Learned About Writing Fiction (from The Hunger Games)

(1) Tension. Something’s not right about all this.

(2) Respect. A strong, competent hero.

(3) Empathy. Characters I care for.

(4) Conflict. Most of these characters are in mortal danger.

(5) Enemies. Opposition that is believable and overwhelming.

(6) Romance. Between characters I’m rooting for, but with plenty of #1, above.

(7) Resolution? Wrap things up, yet with nagging uncertainty. Unless you’d rather not sell millions of the sequel(s).

Seven Things I’ve Learned About Doing Right (from Psalm 15)

Not everything done in God’s name brings Him glory. According to King David, author of Psalm 15, genuinely godly people* . . .

(1) Walk with integrity.

(2) Do what is right and just.

(3) Tell the truth.

(4) Don’t slander, do evil to a neighbor, or take up a reproach against a friend.

(5) Have no part in what is vile, but give honor to what is good.

(6) Keep their word even when it hurts.

(7) Don’t take advantage of others or take bribes against the innocent.

* And when they fail, as we all do, they appeal to God’s mercy (see 1 John 1:9).

Seven Things I’ve Learned About Using a Moleskine®

(1) Use it for you. Don’t worry about preserving your work for posterity. That’s what presidential historians are for. Use it to fuel your creativity and capture what matters.

(2) Keep track of events and experiences. Notes from a conference. Descriptions of a vacation. Impressions of an encounter. The mile markers of your life. What happened? How did you feel? Who was there? What will you tell your friends?

(3) Perspectives. Lying awake rehearsing a conversation? Struggling to digest a change of plans? How do you see it? What would you do different? Why is this good or bad?

(4) Clippings. Take samples of everything that inspires, intrigues, or provokes you. Evidence of your journey.

(5) Sketches. If you want to remember or might duplicate it, capture it.

(6) Blazing insights. The best ideas show up suddenly. They’re born while you’re walking, showering, or sitting in a meeting. Ideas for a presentation, things to tell a friend, or solutions to a problem. Write them down before you forget.

(7) Index it. Some day you’ll go searching for a particular nugget, so date your entries and use the last few pages as an index. Scanning indices is way better than thumbing through fifty old Moleskines.

Seven Things I’ve Learned About Running a Winter Youth Retreat

(1) Forget about sleep. Students love late nights, and wee hours yield transparency. Make yourself available and you’ll forge new friendships. But don’t torture yourself by hoping for rest. That’s what van rides are for (unless you’re driving).

(2) Schedules matter. Students want to know what’s next. Schedule event time and free time. Action and togetherness. Gym time, quiet time, events time, and late night lodge time (bring board games!). Make a major deal about certain things, but not everything. Change it up.

(3) Run assembly lines. Eighty students and ten adults means 250 pieces of luggage. When you get there, back in, line them up, and assembly line the whole mess straight into a common area. They can sort it out from there in a bigger area than the back of a trailer.

(4) The girls get the nice quarters. Plenty of toilets and most of the showers. The guys will shower when they get home. Maybe.

(5) Be intentional with God time. Schedule 30-minutes of it every morning. Plan your sessions around it. Pray about it for weeks in advance, and get people praying while you’re there. And if you want soul searching, don’t yuck it up every minute. Sobriety is not a bad thing.

(6) Ban romance. Except for one breakfast. As a surprise.

(7) Tradition is huge. As stories pass from one year to the next, they become legends. The 3:00 Football Game. The Saturday Night Banquet. The Skit Competition. The Guys Writing Poems for the Girls. It’s all the stuff of Facebook pictures.

Seven Things I’ve Learned About Leadership from Captaining a Sailboat

(1) Know it all, but don’t do it all. Understand how everything works, ideally from experience. Study the charts, plot your course, avoid harm, and seek leverage. Intuit the boat so you can tease out its advantage. And read the elements like your native language. Then — use everything you know to wisely direct the work of others.

(2) Enjoy the rush but respect the elements. Know when to come back in.

(3) Your temperament sets the tone. Fearless in danger, focused in chaos, and purposeful in decisions. Learn to project courage and confidence whether or not you feel them. They are fuel to a crew.

(4) Listen to your crew, but be the captain. There’s wisdom in perspective, but it’s your job to decide. And never confuse camaraderie with favor. Captains marshall all assets for the good of the whole.

(5) Healthy and well can face any challenge. A highly disciplined and well-fed crew is a formidable force.

(6) Confront the majors; don’t sweat the minors. Work to create a self-healing culture. Most issues are self-correcting. But be swift to confront any threat that falls below the waterline.

(7) Learn from the adventures and disasters of others. Listen carefully, ask questions, and visualize scenarios. Vicarious learning is buried treasure. Be quick to dig.

Seven Things I’ve Learned About Moving to a New Country

(1) Read books. Anything you can find. Novels, human interest, political, current events, cultural studies, and so forth. Get a sense of the place.

(2) Learn the language. Do what you can before you go. Keep it up once you’re there.

(3) Interview people who’ve lived there. Take them to dinner, listen to stories, and ask questions. Watch for subtleties.

(4) Study the history. Trace the thread of civilization through the place. Culture, commerce, religion, dynasties, high water marks, wars, dominance, and celebrations.

(5) Follow the news. Understand what’s happening and why.

(6) Buy some maps. Know the significance of its borders, cities, topology, regions. As you learn the history and read the news, locate the places.

(7) Cultivate a love for the people. They are your neighbors.

Seven Things I’ve Learned About Persuasive Writing

(1) Keep it personal. This is a conversation, not an announcement.

(2) Show respect. Assume a reader more intelligent than yourself.

(3) Be honest. Never resort to hype.

(4) Make your point. Why does this matter?

(5) Allow yourself to feel. Speak to the mind and heart. Identify with your reader.

(6) Write visually. Evoke images.

(7) Keep it lean. Say more by writing less.