A Writing Life

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Value of Rest

We've spent the weekend away as a family and more and more, I'm learning the value of rest. We in a world that moves fast. Sometime the pace makes my head spin. It takes work to slow down.

A few months go, I read the book Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller. It's been a game changer for me. In making Sabbath a priority, I've seen the importance of slowing down, as well as how I'm more productive during the week as I prepare for Sabbath.

However, you can't do something that draws you closer to God and not have it change your life. 

Sabbath is about taking time to slow down, to disconnect from the busyness that can overpower our days. But it's also about drawing close to God and being reminded of His love for us and that He designed us to "Be still and know He is God." (Psalm 46:10)

I'm no pro at Sabbath. I still have much to learn. Yesterday, I woke up with terrible food poisoning. The kind of sick where I only had the energy to lay there and stare. Even reading took too much energy. But I found myself looking at the huge trees out back, watching the woodpeckers bounce from branch to branch. I soaked in the sun as it warmed me from the chills that ran through me.

I got so relaxed, I fell asleep right there in my chair. My sweet dog, Ramses, never left my side. I snuggled him all day, thankful for his companionship. The Hubby took care of me, as well as my kids.

I woke up this morning feeling much better, both physically and spiritually. It sounds funny to say, but it was the most restful Sabbath I've had in a while. And it took my body fighting something for me to do it. But in spending my day focused solely on talking to God, seeing His world around me, and letting go of the "stuff" in my head that tells me an afternoon nap is lazy, I rested.

Truly rested, and that is a valuable thing. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

My Guilty Pleasure Apps

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't know how any writer can't be a rabid reader. Not to place judgment, I simply can't wrap my head around always putting words on a page without soaking in words written by others via reading. 

The following are my favorite guilty pleasure apps that feed the reader in me, as well as the student. I LOVE to learn new things, as well as learn more about something I already know (such as writing). 

As much as I love writing novels, writing blogs gives my non-fiction brain something to do. However, I love to read blogs almost more than I love writing them. This app organizes all my favorites. About once a week or so I'll sit down and scroll through, not unlike I would flip through a magazine and read the articles. 
Shelly Miller
Kristen Lamb's Blog 
Emily P. Freeman
A Write Smart

I know this isn't about reading, but podcasts are my new obsession. Sometimes my eyes get tired and it's nice to sit and relax while listening. I'm also in my car a lot and have found that podcasts help pass the time while I glean great information, whether on writing or life or sports. I love it. My boys and I are addicted to Mike Rowe's podcast, soaking it in like a sponge every time we do the 45 minute drive to Trap Shooting practice. 
Mike Rowe
The EntreLeadership Podcast
Quiet: The Power of Introverts with Susan Cain
Happier with Gretchen Rubin

I saved the best for last. Truly. I'm addicted to this app. It's Goodreads meets Instagram. With posts that have pictures of books along with reviews and ways to create a book stack based on recommendations, it's every reader's nirvana. 
And it's a lovely community of readers as well. I chat with people about books, books, and more books. It's wonderful. 
As a writer, I believe there are places to try and sell my wares. And I can definitely talk about my books there. But mostly, it's a place for readers, (which I appreciate) not an author chat room (which absolutely have their place in the world).

What are some of your favorite places to hang out and talk books or soak in book recommendations?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Get Your Move On

Writing is a solitary business. Or it can be, most of the time. As well as sedentary. All those hours in front of a screen, butt in the chair, are good for the word count and added pages, but not for the body. Or the mind.

I started going to CrossFit four years ago. A dear friend of mine dragged me in saying I could totally do it. (She's a trainer and awesome and I'm...well, not.) But I did it anyway.

And it's been one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Not only does it get me out of my chair and get me moving - really moving - but it's an hour of concentrated time that I'm not thinking about anything but the WOD (Workout of the Day). It's tough and each class is a challenge, but every single time I walk away feeling better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Here's what I get out of it:

1) Health and Strength - Obvious, but true. What I have found at CrossFit is that it's not about the scale. In fact, I hate the scale. I don't go by it anymore. I go by how my clothes fit or if I need a more definitive gage, I use measurements. But I know for a fact I am healthier and stronger than I was four years ago. And I'm 44 years-old here, people. It's not just a place for the youngin's.

2) Friendship - At CrossFit, I have found my people. I've never been called tiny. As my good friend says, "I'm not built for speed, but I can lift shit." That's all me. I played volleyball and basketball in high school and I was always put in positions where power was important. No one at my gym is trying to get skinny. We all share the same goal - health and strength. Longevity. The best we can be as individuals. There is healthy competition, but always, always encouragement. Always.

3) Spiritual - Yes. I said spiritual. Many times I have found myself mid-WOD praying for my family, my friends, whatever is stressing me, and ultimately that Jesus would allow me to finish the WOD without dying. Or puking. I guess for me, it's a form of meditation. Not a quiet or mellow form of meditation, but I am not quiet or mellow so it works.

I will say this - a disclaimer of sorts. CrossFit isn't for everyone and not all CrossFit gyms are good. That's just the sad truth. If you decide to try it, check out a few different ones and MAKE SURE the coaches there are certified and have your best health and interest at heart. Injury isn't necessary to be strong and healthy.

Find what works for YOU and then do it. Walking, Yoga, Pilates, Boot Camp, Running, Biking...there are countless choices. Just get your move on. I guarantee your writing life will thank you for it. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ignoring the Noise

I'm an extrovert. A pretty strong one. I like people. I like to talk. I thrive on many things happening at once.

Any yet I'm recognizing these days that life has gotten a bit too noisy.

Let me explain. In a world where information is available all day, every day, constantly, along with updates from friends, family, acquaintances, and neighbors, we could truly go every second without a break.

And as outgoing as I am, that's no good. I don't think it's good for anyone, but I can only speak for myself here. I'm in the middle or writing my next book. And then I have another to write after that and another after that. No big shocker. I'm a writer. I write.

But I've struggled to write lately because I've allowed too many people in my head.

And I can't write with so many noises going on in my head. So I decided to clear things out. I've re-worked my phone to have distracting apps tougher to get to, or I deleted them completely. I've made the first page of my phone anything truly important to my daily life. Everything else I have to swipe once or twice to get to. It may sound silly, but that few extra seconds gives me time to think if I really want to get distracted or not. Most of the time, I choose not to.

I'm working on using a Bullet Journal instead of different To Do lists or calendars. (And I'm loving it, by the way.) If you're unfamiliar with the concept, you can check the website Bullet Journal. There are also some great Instagram sites that show different ways to Bullet Journal. It's pretty cool.

And I'm recognizing what drains my writing emotional armies and I'm tossing those out as well. 

For me, this is obsessing over criticism, thinking about what others may or may not think of my writing, and anything that has to do with numbers or followers. I can have a gazillion followers, but if I write crappy books, what's the point.

I have a quote stuck to my computer:
"Keep your focus on your books. All the marketing in the world won't matter if the books don't hook readers and keep them wanting more." - Marie Force

I'd rather write great books for a small amount of people then write ho-hum books for the masses. 

What about you? What kinds of noise crowds up your mind and distracts you from writing?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Don't Box Yourself In

I'm a journalist at heart. I didn't know it until college, but I wanted to be a reporter. I'd always been a writer, tapping away stories on my mom's typewriter (Yes, typewriter. I know. That ages me.) But I didn't realize until after a writing class my freshman year in college that journalism was my thing. I got my degree in it and interned for various magazines and newspapers my senior year and for a few years after graduation.

When I had my first child, I wanted to be home full-time. This was when the fiction writing kicked into gear. Flash forward almost twenty years later and here I am. Writing novels. Doing my thing.

But sometimes I miss other kinds of writing. 

For this reason, I started blogging. I have two blogs to be exact. A Writing Life (this blog) where I talk about, well, writing. And The Almost Empty Nester where I pour out my thoughts and feelings about these years where my little ones are flying from the nest and how I'm dealing (or sometimes not dealing) with it.

I've learned over time to not box myself in. There's more than one kind of writing out there. 

One thing I love about this writing life is that I can work on anything. Non-fiction, fiction, articles, blogs, devotionals... You name it. The possibilities are endless. Yes, my novels take up a majority of my time right now, including the marketing and crazy that goes along with it.

But I'm a writer. I write. And not just one thing.


1) It keeps my writing sharp.
- I have to strap on a whole different writing hat to write my blogs than when I am working on a novel. It's a different kind of language in some ways. There's a different audience for each, but not only that, I'm a different writer for each.

2) I'm sharing a different part of myself in each type of writing.
- When I work on a novel, I'm daydreaming. I'm brainstorming people, places, situations. Basically, I'm making stuff up. When I'm blogging, I'm writing from the heart, from my experiences in the hopes that it encourages someone out there who's going through the same thing. And when I write an article (journalistic writing I like to call it) I'm interviewing people, weaving together their story that shares information about a topic or situation.

3) It keeps my writing fresh.
- If I plow away at only one type of writing, my brain gets stagnant. It gets stuck in one place. I can end up writing the same crap, different cover. I don't want to read that so I most certainly don't want to write it.

What types of writing are your favorites?

Monday, February 6, 2017

It's Time To Put On Big Girl Pants

I met with my critique partner recently. I adore this person. She is not only the one who reads everything I write and honestly tells me what to change and what to keep, she is a heart friend and someone I lean on. A lot. She's talked me off ledge after ledge after ledge.

Our most recent discussion centered around how easy it is to get frustrated as a writer. I've blogged before about that fine balance between being creative and then having to be a business. If you want to be a published author, the business side is going to be something you have to deal with whether you like it or not.

I'm in the "or not" category. 

I want to write. I want to create. I don't want to have to worry about marketing and sales and reviews, etc. But it's part of the deal. We talked about how grateful we are to do what we love, but that in some ways, we've seen behind the curtain in Oz and it's not all we thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of wonderful things in the Oz land of publishing. The golden paved roads and bright colors. The friends you meet along the way who sing with you and carry you through. But the wizard isn't all I imagined.

I have had to work hard to find that balance between creative and business. How much of each receives my time in a day. How often I let my mental armies focus on one or the other. And it pains me to admit it, but I get a bit whiny when I have to deal with the business side. I fuss and text my critique partner who commiserates with me and then we move on.

But that's the key. We put our big girl pants on and move on.

I don't always want to. But I need to. Plow through the business and move on to the fun stuff. The writing. Which is really why we are here, right?

What part of the business side of writing do you struggle with the most?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Why I'm a Reader First, Writer Second

"I'm always chilled and astonished by the would-be writers who ask me for advice and admit, quite blithely, that they don't 'have time to read.' This is like a guy starting up Mount Everest saying that he didn't have time to buy any rope or pitons."
- Stephen King

I'm sure I've posted this quote here before, but I'm going to do it again. It's an all time favorite of mine and one that hangs on the wall in my office. I read it multiple times a day. And I'm seeing more and more the importance of Stephen King's wisdom. I fear that as a writer, it's all too easy to get caught up in deadlines, word count per day, and the stress of churning out book after book that I forget the value of reading. It's not just would-be writers. I think some of us who have been writing for years have lost our way. We've stopped reading.

I'll admit I lost sight of the reader in me this past year or two. Over the holidays, I took time off from writing and did a lot of reading. A lot. It was so wonderful. So decadent to get lost in words and worlds on the page. Sure, I journaled and "wrote" each day, but without a deadline breathing down my neck. And with some extra time on my hands, I devoured books.

It reminded me why I'm a reader before I'm a writer:

1) I'm a reader because it takes me outside of my own story. When I'm working on a book, my mind is on that story almost 24/7. I think about it as I drive to run errands, while I'm cooking a meal, or when I go for a walk. Reading a story that isn't mine gets my brain outside of my story and let's it roam free for a bit. I've been inspired or have had the lightbulb go on in my head for my story many times while reading someone else's narrative.

2) I'm a reader because it teaches me various writing styles. Sure, I could take a class or two on writing styles, but I feel I learn most from reading other authors and how they do things. How do they use dialogue? Or maybe their strength is setting, which is not mine, and I can see how they do it well and take note of it for when I sit down to write.

3) I'm a reader because where would I be as a writer without being a reader? Again, I could take classes, but there's only so much to learn there. A good thing to do as a beginning writer, yes, but I'm talking here mainly to authors with a few books under their belt. If I did nothing but write and never dove into a book, my focus would become so narrow. I would see only what's in front of me. And I don't want to do that. Truth? I think it hurts my writing. Good writing takes time. It takes a lot of creative energy. And that isn't nurtured by sitting in front of a computer screen for hours and hours.

One of the most productive things I've done in my writing career is to put my reader hat on. As a reader, what do I do? Do I immediately follow on twitter a new author I find and like? (I don't, but that's just me.) Do I go to their website to see what other books they've written? (Yes. I do that.) What are the ways I like to find new authors? (Litsy is a new favorite app for this purpose.)

But if I didn't have a reader hat to put on, I wouldn't have a clue.

I'm in a book club in my neighborhood. I love it. I look forward to it. We aren't consistent with every single month because of our schedules, but when we meet, I'm so excited. I love nothing better in life than to talk books. I'm the resident writer of the group so they tend to think that I have some vast wisdom each time that they don't, but I assure them, what they offer me in their observations and opinions far outweighs what I bring to the table. These are incredibly intelligent, bright women and to hear their take on certain books is fascinating.

If I lived my life as a writer only, I would miss all of that. I'd have my head down over my computer keyboard, banging out tale after tale and never looking up to be inspired. I want to live inspired, I want my work to be inspired, don't you?

What about you? What do you love to read and why? What inspires you?