Writing Prompt 123
Do you think the federal food stamp program should undergo reform as a Congressional money-saving measure?
Now that the federal government shutdown is officially a thing of the past, thankfully, there are new political issues taking center stage. One of the issues quickly gaining attention is a dispute over whether the federal food stamp program should be cut in order to save Congress some money. It is being reported that Republicans want to modify the eligibility requirements by shortening the time that able-bodied individuals can receive food stamp benefits. President Obama is seeking to negotiate those terms in favor of a long-term farm bill to help vulnerable people in times of need.
From what I gather, there seems to be thoughtful debate on both sides of the issue. Any good steward of money must act in the best interests of the group. If Congressional officials decide that food stamp benefits is a valid line item to cut from the federal budget, that’s something that needs to be considered.
On the other hand, the heart calls for any measures to protect vulnerable adults and children. We have all seen the effects of the economy, job loss, and natural disasters on Americans throughout the United States. If food stamps benefit people by giving them hope and putting meals on the table during difficult times, it’s possible those measures should be preserved.
I speak of this issue from the heart, too, as I have been a recipient of food stamp benefits for several months now. My husband and I are both able-bodied adults, but the job market has not been so kind to us. Though we have gotten by through wires of faith during the tempest of job loss and hardships, I can assure you with utmost sincerity that we have appreciated every single dollar of food stamp benefits. They have helped us during our time of need, and I know they will continue to help many other families until they can get back on their feet.
Be sure to consider both sides of the issue when answering today’s prompt. Lots to think about.
Nonfiction Writing: Instructive
Nonfiction writers can put their personal interests and knowledge to good use by writing instructive materials. Anything instructive seeks to teach others how to do things by providing detailed, step-by-step instructions. The most common form of instructive writing is also known as a tutorial, though tutorials tend to be primarily visual, through photos or videos.
Instructive writing is terrific to read, but difficult to write. Any person who believes he can create instructive writing would do well to try the activity that he wants to write about before attempting to write. For example, suppose you want to write a tutorial on how to bake a cake. What is the best way of doing this? Hopefully, you didn’t answer that question by saying that you’d look it up on the Internet or see if there is a Youtube video on that subject.
In the case of instructive writing, doing research beforehand is actually a distraction and a quick way to end the very project you’re working on. Let’s get back to the cake example. How do you start by writing a tutorial on how to bake a cake? The first step is mental preparation. What, specifically, do you want to focus on? If you’re having trouble visualizing how you are going to bake a cake, writing down a set of ideas on paper is the next step.
Are you going to bake your cake from a store-bought box of cake mix or are you going to teach people how to bake a cake using raw ingredients? Teaching people how to cook or bake “from scratch” is a fantastic and fun writing project. No matter how you choose to write a tutorial, the activity beforehand should always be the same; do the activity first, and then write about it.
Recipes are another form of instructive writing that are interesting to read and probably more difficult to write than a tutorial. Anyone who knows how to do something, whether it’s learning how to use a power tool, sew a dress from a pattern, apply stage make-up, or any of 1,000 other things, can write a tutorial by doing the activity beforehand. No special expertise or knowledge is needed to write a tutorial than your knowledge and experience.
Recipes, by contrast, require an extraordinary amount of creativity, experience, and experimentation in the kitchen. They are hard to write! If a nonfiction writer researches recipes from the Internet, finds a terrific casserole dish from Betty Crocker and copies it, that’s not writing a recipe. If the writer uses Betty Crocker’s original recipe and modifies it to suit his personal tastes, those modifications do not count as writing, either.
The only true writing of a recipe requires the nonfiction writer to purchase raw ingredients, experiment in the kitchen, and then write a recipe based on what he cooked and how he cooked it. Writing recipes “from scratch” also requires cooking or baking “from scratch.” This is a hard skill to learn, but one that is useful to the palate as it is the writing portfolio.
Next time, we’ll talk about technical writing as another form of instructive writing.
It’s almost time for National Nonfiction Writing Month. Are you ready to take the WNFIN challenge?
Amanda M. Socci is the creator of the 10-month training program for Write Nonfiction in November called “I Know I Can” WNFIN. The first two blog posts of the series explain more about this program and its benefits.
Amanda refers to herself as the Creative Idea Gal because she comes up with original ideas for herself and others. Based in Alexandria, VA, she is a devoted mother of two and a hopeless fanatic of all things creative. Connect with Amanda on Google+ or Twitter.