Just Finish It!

“Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” ~Anthony Powell

workstation-336369_1920The creative fantasy aspect of writing is fun. There is no denying it. Unfortunately, most of writing is a lot of hard work. There are probably a hundred things I would rather do sometimes than tap away at my keyboard. The dishwasher needs to be emptied. The grass needs mowing. The trash needs to go out. My nails need polishing. A warm bath sounds nice right about now. I wonder what’s new on Facebook. The excuses for procrastination from writing range from legitimate to pathetic. And yet, the discipline of writing produces an amazing sense of accomplishment.

“Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don’t talk about doing it. Do it. Finish.” ~E.L. Konigsburg

There is no trick to learning to be disciplined. You know as well as I do that discipline is simply getting the job done. No more excuses or distractions. Do the job until is is finished.

So I’m not going to waste any more of your time with a long blog post. Sit down in your favorite chair and start writing. If you don’t know what to write, write anyway. The flow will come. It’s okay to start writing even if you don’t know what it is exactly that you want to say. The words will come as you begin writing, and they may even take you somewhere you could not have seen before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Just start writing. That’s what I’m going to do just as soon as I make a hot tea, take the dog out, and empty my dryer.  😉

Happy Thanksgiving!

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“The more I come to recognize my story’s place in God’s grander Story, my once-bewildered questions are turning to psalms of thanksgiving at the wonder that I have been included in what He is doing.”  ~ Gloria Gaither

THANK YOU to all of you who have encouraged me this year with my writing. Thank you for the wonderful reviews, speaking opportunities, words of encouragement, and for taking the time to read what I have written. This new venture I’m on is amazing because of all of you!

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I’m especially grateful for my husband and children, who have been supportive all along the way. And I’m tickled pink to have become a grandmother this year!! There is nothing like it!

Finally, I am blessed beyond measure by the comments from my readers who have said they have received spiritual encouragement while reading my novel and/or reading my blog. I agree with Gloria Gaither in her quote above. I’m so glad to be included in what He is doing. I am eternally grateful for how He continues working in me. Jesus doesn’t give up on me because of my weaknesses. Instead, He encourages, strengthens, helps, and keeps me. Any accomplishment in my life is all due to His amazing love and grace toward me.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!!!!

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Have You Discovered Your Gift?

What’s your gift? A gift isn’t necessarily something you automatically do well. It’s usually something you have worked at, developed, studied, and now you rise above the average because you are gifted and you’ve applied yourself to grow in that area.

My husband taught himself to speak American sign language at the age of 14, eventually working at the New Jersey School for the Deaf as well as interpreting at church and at many events. At 16, he taught himself German. He’s speaks German fluently, writes in German, and even preaches sermons in the German language. Over our thirty-year marriage, I’ve heard many people say, “You’re so gifted in language learning!” He is gifted. There is no doubt about it. But it didn’t just happen. He didn’t wake up one day speaking German. He spent countless hours working on it. While others spent their time doing other things they enjoyed, my husband spent time in a book learning the German language and listening to German speakers. To this day, he continues immersing himself in the German language so he won’t lose what he learned. There are others who have invested the same amount of time, but will never speak German as well as my husband does. It is a gift. But a gift must be developed.

What interests you? What do you enjoy doing? Therein lies your gift. Study it, develop it, and immerse yourself in it. Grow in your area of interest. And then use it to the glory of God.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

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If your gift is writing, there are countless ways to use your gift, from sending encouraging emails, texts, and letters to publishing articles in magazines or writing books. Use your writing to encourage, teach, as well as for wholesome entertainment. As with any gift, the important thing is that you are faithful with using the gift you’ve been given to bring glory to God.

You may enjoy writing, but feel you will never be as good at it as perhaps John Grisham. Well, you don’t have to be him. All the things that you have experienced have made you the person you are today. You have a unique voice and you have something to offer to others. The important thing is for you to begin writing and keep writing. As you are writing, you will develop your voice and your gift.

Bonnie Friedman said, “Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing.”

When I start writing, I usually only have a glimmer of an idea. It isn’t until I begin writing that my thoughts begin to form and I find myself going in a direction I could not have seen if I hadn’t sat down and started tapping away at my keyboard. I’ve tried writing out an entire outline first, and then start to write. It’s fine to do it that way, but I found myself rewriting most of my outline once the writing process began. Ideas come to me as I write. Find what works best for you, and then do it.

Anne Rice says, “If you want to be a writer, write. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again. Save everything that you write. If you feel blocked, write through it until you feel your creative juices flowing again. Write. Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less.” 

Whatever your gift may be, you must develop it and use it. And as followers of Jesus, we must use our gifts to serve others and to bring glory to God. When my readers reach the end of my novel, I hope they will have enjoyed a clean romance, but I also hope they will find something in the characters of my story that will help them desire to become better people.

In the song, Little Drummer Boy, the writer had it correct when she wrote the lyrics. “Our finest gifts we bring…to lay before the King…” and later it says, “I played my best for Him…” And finally, “Then he smiled at me, pa, rum, pum, pum, pum. Me and my drum.” 

In order to give Him a fine gift, I must develop what He placed within me. In order to lay it before the King, I must use it to serve others, because Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Do you want Him to smile upon you? I do, too. So we must develop our gifts. Yes, I used the plural on purpose, for I’m sure you have more than one. There are many ways to serve others. I will close with this verse in 1 Peter 4:11 NLT that says it best.

“Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”

You Can’t Bask In Yesterday’s Glory

The thing about writing is this, you can’t bask in yesterday’s glory. As soon as you complete one book, you must begin the next. And as a writer, this is not a bad thing, since I lovefullsizeoutput_1bd7 what I do. I’m always writing in my head anyway, I may as well put it down on paper. But lets face it, it’s easier to think up a story than it is to actually write it.

For years, to help myself go to sleep at night, I have made up stories in my head. It would help me not to think about the problems that I was facing or plans for the next day. These things could wait until morning. I would pray about them, leave them with God, and instead of needless worrying, I would distract myself by making up a story, falling to sleep in the middle of it, and then picking up where I left off the next night. Sometimes I’d work on the same story for months because I’d fall asleep before I had gotten very far. Of course, there were times the story was so captivating, I found myself fighting sleep because I wanted to finally finish it. Since I was a pre-teen, I’ve made up these bedtime stories in my head. I wish I could remember them all, but, alas, it isn’t so.

For much of my life, only traditional publishing existed, and it was extremely difficult to find a publishing company that would even want to look at your manuscript. However, self-published books are all around us now, so I decided to take the plunge and finally write out an entire story. I had no idea of all it would entail. I didn’t even read much about writing before I started. I simply started writing in one of my favorite genres and I attempted to write the type of book I enjoy reading. As I was doing so, I realized I had to research to make the story more realistic. So I researched as I continued writing. Each time I encountered a problem, I Googled for a solution and found it. It’s amazing how we have all the answers at our fingertips now. Then I edited and edited and edited before sending it off to be edited by others. I had a few people read it and give me their input before I published my first novel. Thankfully, anyone can publish a book today and there are even free publishers like Kindle and Create Space that make it easy for new writers to get their books out to the public.

Once your book is out there and people like it, they begin to ask you when the next one will be published. The pressure is on and, if you want to make a career of writing, it will always be on your mind. While you are writing one book, you are already deciding which character you might use for the next book in your series. While you’re promoting your last book(s), you are researching, choosing character names, background, personalities, scene, etc., and when you finish with all of that, the writing process begins all over again.

I heard a helpful YouTube this week with Joanna Penn from The Creative Penn as she interviewed Michaelbrent Collings on the topic How To Write Faster And Never Get Writer’s Block. What stood out to me was the fact that Michaelbrent Collings said, “I go in and begin to start typing and I don’t stop for eight or nine hours. And sometimes I write total crap, but that’s what the delete key is for. But even with writing the total crap, I learn how to write better the next day.” He goes on to explain that writing becomes your life. Everything you experience, watch, observe, hear, or read can potentially help you when you sit down to write. BUT…he works on writing EVERY DAY!

And that’s the KEY to writing. And I’m not there yet. I’m doing so much better, but I can do much better still. With my lifestyle, I doubt I’ll ever be able to write 8 to 9 hours a day, but I’ve read other successful writers who disciplined themselves to write one hour each day. They may not publish as many books at Michaelbrent Collings does each year, but they will continue to publish books on a regular basis.

My first novel, Reluctant to Wed, has been published and is getting great reviews. As I’m basking in the glory of this moment, my fingers are on the the keyboard pounding out the next novel in this series. It’s what I must do. It’s what I love. I’m a writer.

Do you write every day? What time of day is your best writing time? Are you an early bird or a night owl? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Finish It!

“Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there.” ~J.K. Rowling

 

I’m working hard at trying to be a consistent writer. That means either an hour of writing each day or 1,000 words. Unfortunately, my schedule this week has not been conducive for writing. My husband and I are at a church family camp where he is the speaker and I have some responsibilities in that direction as well. Since it’s a camp I attended as a youth, there are many people to reconnect with and also many to meet, and it’s hard to find time to write. Constant interruptions and long conversations have kept me from it. Rather than bemoaning the fact, I find myself intrigued by the stories I’m hearing as I sit face-to-face with people from various parts of the country, many whose families immigrated here years ago. There are lots of bits and pieces that might work nicely into future novels. So rather than feeling guilty for not writing, I feel like an investigator gathering information. By the time I one day write the bits and pieces of these stories into a fiction, they will not be recognizable to anyone, but they will have fed my imagination.

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Life can get away from us. There are responsibilities that are quite frankly more important than writing, yet there is nothing that needs to keep me from gathering more information and gaining ideas for future writings. HOWEVER, these times of not setting pen to paper or fingers to keyboards cannot last long — maybe a day or two — and then I must make time to write if I wish to keep improving. So here I sit at my computer between meetings typing a few sentences that I plan to review later and edit. I need to write. I must write. It’s the only way to become better at this craft.

Now that I’ve published my first novel, I’ve had several people come up to me and tell me how much they long to write a book. Some have a partially finished book lying in a desk drawer at home — still unfinished after several years of working on it. Let me encourage you to get it done. Complete it. Finish it. You have a story to tell, a gift to share, and information to impart. If it’s a dream, then make it come true. Commit to writing each day for one hour or write 1,000 words per day. You decide what’s doable, but be consistent and it will get done.

Are you that person who has an incomplete book at your house? Perhaps you haven’t even begun writing yet and it’s still just a dream in your head without one word written on paper? What’s keeping you from finishing? On the other hand, you may be a writer who already has a consistent routine of writing. I’d love to hear from you. How did you get to this place of consistency?

Writer’s Hideaway

IMG_0896.JPG-1.jpegThe days slip away as I cook meals, straighten the house, grocery shop, care for family and pets, run errands, go to church, talk on the phone, answer texts and emails, etc. I haven’t even mentioned conferences, weddings, showers, graduations, birthday parties, and the list goes on. Distractions to keep me from writing surround me. The clock keeps ticking and another week flies by.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining. I love caring for my family and I love my life. I wouldn’t want to change it for anything in the world. But I also believe I can make time for the things I really desire to do. I don’t need to give up my aspirations when it’s possible to enjoy both. It’s a matter of managing my time.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m a great procrastinator. I’ve learned to be very good at it over the course of my life. As a teenager, my mother would ask me to clean my bedroom. What she meant was, she wanted me to make my bed, dust, vacuum, and put away any clothes lying around. What I ended up doing instead was, cleaning my desk drawer out and going through old letters, reading them, and deciding which to keep and which to throw away. Then I made the bed and put away my clothes. But that made me aware of how messy my other drawers had gotten, so I would refold all my clothes and stack them nicely in each drawer. Finally, I would get to dusting and vacuuming. By the time I finished cleaning my room, my mother had cleaned the entire house, cooked and baked, and worked on laundry, too! Why, she probably even washed the windows, mowed the lawn, and cleaned the garage! Thankfully, I’ve grown up since then and can clean my whole house in a day, plus cook a meal, and even work on laundry. But the temptation to procrastinate is my constant companion. So how can a procrastinator manage time? Here are some things that are working for me:

  1. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wiseIt’s an old saying, but loaded with wisdom. If I go to bed early enough, I wake up early, which allows me to get things done so I have more time for writing.
  2. Most days are filled with activity and I have to snatch time wherever I  can find it. If dinner has to cook for thirty minutes or an hour, that’s a good time to write. Thirty minutes here and thirty minutes there. I write when I can.
  3. Sometimes in the writing process, it’s absolutely necessary to devote a huge chunk of time if you want to make some fast progress. On those days, and I admit they are few and far between, I will stay in my lounging pants and tell my family I’m hiding in my room to write. And that’s exactly what I do. They know they can call me if there’s a fire, but they also understand I need some uninterrupted time alone. It’s so easy for those around you to invade your workspace if you are at the dining room table or sitting on your recliner. But if you hide in your bedroom and close the door, it may cause them to think before they interrupt your thought process. As I said IMG_0897.JPG-1.jpegalready, those days are few and far between, but this method works well when necessary.
  4. The final thing that has helped me with writing for hours at a time is a writer’s hideaway. For example, my husband and I rented a vintage studio apartment in a small obscure town only a couple hours from our home. We only stayed a couple of nights, but it was for the express purpose of using this as a writer’s retreat. Its vintage appearance was a great inspiration for a historical fiction writer like me. Its seclusion allowed for a feeling of isolation conducive for creative thought processing. My husband and I would take long walks to talk, explored artists’ galleries, and observed the people around us, then returned to our quaint and peaceful room. With a warm, gentle breeze blowing through the cranked-open vertical windows and the sounds of birds in the trees, I placed my fingers on the computer keyboard and allowed inspiration to carry me away — uninterrupted — in my writer’s hideaway.

If you’re reading this blog post, you are either a writer or perhaps your creativity is in a different direction. Whatever it is, don’t allow the busyness of life to keep you from your dream. You certainly must not give up the people who are counting on you and the things you are responsible for, but I’m certain there are activities you can set aside to pursue your goal. How much of your time is spent on Facebook, TV, searching the internet, talking on the phone, and so on? Be completely honest with yourself. Is there something useless or unnecessary that is robbing you of valuable time that could be spent on learning something new to help you obtain your dream? I love the quote by Reinhold Niebuhr.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”