IVP - Andy Unedited

May 17, 2017

Cracking the Writer's Block 3: Playing Balderdash

Sometimes our writing is stuck because we don't know where to start. For some of us, we need to know where we are going to end up before we can begin. And if we don't, the ink has run out, our pencil is down to a nub, our muse is silent, and the battery to our laptop has died.

It can be hard to just start writing and see what happens. Yet I often find that the act of beginning to write stimulates further ideas and clarifies my thinking. I didn't think I had anything to say, but by starting blind, suddenly I can see. I don't worry about where to begin. What I'm putting down is likely something that will end up in the middle, or even get deleted. But it primes my pump, gets my juices going and stimulates all manner of cliches, as occasionally some fresh prose. If I know that it doesn't have to be perfect at the beginning, I have greater freedom. Later I can reorganize and rewrite.

A Balderdash.jpgfun exercise that can give you good practice at writing from a standing start is the game Balderdash, otherwise known as Dictionary. One person gives everyone else playing an unusual word. Each person then creates an imaginary definition with the intent of fooling the rest of the players into believing it is the real definition. The person handing out the word also writes down the real definition, collects what everyone has written and reads them to the group. Everyone then votes on which they think is correct.

Playing the game trains you to just start writing and see where it goes. For example, I was once given the word burgonet. So I started writing, "In fencing," because the word seemed vaguely French and somehow I associate fencing with France. Then what? After a moment, I continued, "a movement in which . . ." knowing that now I was going to have to come up with some kind of tactic that could fit a fencing match. So I thought a second and concluded, "one feigns a retreat as a prelude to an attack." It took me all of thirty seconds. I didn't evaluate or second guess myself as I went along. I just wrote.

In the end I thought it might fool a couple people. The actual definition was, "A 16th-century army helmet with a retractable visor." But by just starting somewhere, even though I had no idea where I was going, I could move forward.

Another Balderdash variation involves obscure movie titles for which players are to come up with a bogus plot summary. Consider Blond Crazy. Start with something slightly offbeat like, "A Golden Retriever . . ." But what does the dog do in the movie? ". . . falls for an Irish Setter . . ." Now we need conflict or drama. ". . . and will do anything to attract her attention. . ." And for a wrap-up? An old stand-by is just fine. "Hilarity ensues."

What is this 1931 James Cagney movie (in which he utters the famous line, "You dirty, double-crossin' rat") actually about? In this romantic comedy, a bellboy enlists a maid to help him con people out of their money.

Want to get started? Here's a few words to try out on your own. Don't take more than one minute for each:


The game is a lot more fun in a group when players may come up riotous definitions. As a bonus, it gives you practice at putting words down on paper before you have any idea of where they are going. Just what you need to crack your writer's block.

Next Installment:
Cracking the Writer's Block 4: Life Issues

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:16 AM | Comments

May 11, 2017

Cracking the Writer's Block 2: Quick Tips

So you are a writer with lots of ideas, but don't know where to start. Or you have no ideas, with the same result. What do you do? Here are a few simple ideas to get you going.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:14 AM | Comments

May 9, 2017

Cracking the Writer's Block 1: Fear, Success and Life

A publishing colleague of mine who worked with our book printers was fond of telling me, "With all the things that can go wrong in producing a book, it's amazing the ink ever hits the page."

What's true for printers is true in spades for writers. With so many reasons for writer's block it's a miracle anyone writes anything.

Continue reading "Cracking the Writer's Block 1: Fear, Success and Life"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:15 AM | Comments

April 27, 2017

Intuition, Snap Judgments and Gut Reactions

When Gianfranco Becchina offered to sell an ancient statue to the Getty Museum for $10 million in 1983, the Getty conducted extensive (even microscopic) analysis before agreeing to buy. Afterward a few experts on viewing the statue had instantaneous misgivings, though they had a hard time articulating exactly why. Yet the gut reactions were right and the time-consuming analysis was wrong. The statue eventually proved to be a fake.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:02 AM | Comments

April 6, 2017

The Man in the High Castle

What would it be like for white Americans to be second-class citizens in their own country? What if we had to accommodate ourselves to a dominant culture that wasn't native to us? What if we had to negotiate different values, different customs, different ways of speaking, and a lower economic status than we are used to--all with the vague fog of inferiority hanging over us constantly as we and others compare us to a superior race? What would it be like? How would it feel?

Continue reading "The Man in the High Castle"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 2:03 PM | Comments

March 14, 2017

A Missing Element in Knowing God

One of the most significant passages in one of the most significant books for the church in the last fifty years is this:

What were we made for? To know God.
What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God
What is the "eternal life" that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. "This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true god, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3).
What is the best thing in life bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. "This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me' " (Jer 9:23-24).*
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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:58 AM | Comments

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Get to Know IVP

book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.