To Resolve or Not to Resolve That is the Question
Last week social media was all a buzz about New Year’s resolutions. Facebook status comments offered summaries of people’s 2012 and their goals for 2013. Blogs gave statistics from last year and offered predictions for the New Year.
How about you? Are you making resolutions?
I don’t do well with general resolutions like those pictured.
BUT I am a goal-setter. Goals help solidify intangibles into something tangible.
Consider this quote from Mario Andretti, “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
As a former teacher, goals (aka objectives) were an integral part of my world. I watched lesson plan objectives produce learning success for students. So transferring goal setting to my writing career was a logical, easy progression.
For me, goal setting provides the target, and I can analyze why I missed the bull’s eye and adjust as I move toward success.
Knowledge is power. When I know what works, I can do more of it. When I know what doesn’t work, I can do less of it.
Goals work for me.
If you’re not one to set goals or make New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll love Juliet Marillier’s New Year’s blog post where she shared nine gifts for a writer’s focus in 2013.
- The wind in your hair, the rain on your skin, the sun on your back, the richness of freshly turned soil underfoot. (If you live in a city apartment, plant up some pots with flowers or veggies. Go for regular walks in the park, and use your five senses to experience nature. If you have a garden, make compost. Get your hands dirty!)
- The joy of providing a forever home for a shelter animal. (Not all of you will be able to do this, but it’s a great way to nourish the soul. If you can’t take on a homeless animal, you could volunteer to walk shelter dogs, or help out at a refuge.)
- Social interaction and I don’t mean online! (Writers can easily get into the pattern of spending long hours alone, maintaining their social contacts mostly online. This is not great for your physical or mental health. Make an effort – go out to coffee with a friend once a week, join a book club, walk your dog at the park, meet like-minded people in the flesh.)
- Writing because you love it; loving what you write. (Because otherwise what’s the point?)
- Stretching yourself creatively. (Try a new genre; set yourself challenges in voice, point of view, vocabulary, structure)
- Making a virtue of ‘down time.’ (Try meditation, walking, Tai Chi, swimming, playing with your children or animals)
- Learning that the best motivation for getting on with things – your work in progress, your diet/exercise plan – does not come from the note on the fridge, but from deep within you. Changing your mindset; doing the right things not because you ought to, but because you want to.
- Being generous with your time, even if you don’t have much of it to spare. (Read to an elderly person; help out at your kids’ school; fill hampers for the needy.)
- Breathing. (Step away from your screen regularly. Go outside, look at something beautiful and breathe slowly for a few minutes. You live in the real world; it is the source of your inspiration. Honour and respect it with all its flaws.)
I love her ideas for enriching our creativity. Wonderful words of wisdom. You can read the whole blog here.
But I still believe in goal setting.
As a writer, I see this New Year as a blank book. Remember my New Year’s Eve post? If not, read it here.
We can fill the pages of 2013 any way we want. A goal plan isn’t required, but it might help us succeed.
Next Monday, I’ll share my goal-setting process.
After Friday’s darkness Monday’s Motivation
How do we find motivation after Friday’s act of darkness? I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time.
Bob Mayer’s FB status on Friday suggested: “Just mourn. No politics, agendas, rants. Losing a child is an exclusive club you do not want to be a part of. Trust me on that.”
This is not going to be a rant or a political statement. I don’t have an agenda.
What I have is a hurting heart.
My family lived near Newtown at one time. I have an undergraduate degree from Western Connecticut State in Danbury. One of my daughters graduated from New Fairfield High School. Our other daughter took piano lessons from a teacher in Newtown. Somehow, these connections made what happened more real.
I’ve been restless, perplexed, sidetracked by tears of anger and sadness all weekend. How do we make sense out of senseless?
I’m wondering how God can let things like the massacres in Newtown and Aurora , the rampage in Tucson and Virginia Tech happen?
Seeking answers I emailed my son, a minister with a Ph.D. in Theology. I share his thoughts with his permission.
It is in times like these that our faith meets sight. It is easy to walk by faith when things make sense. It is when our reality is rocked by some inexplicable and incomprehensible event that faith must really kick in.
Because I believe that God has revealed Himself to us in His written Word, the Bible, and because I believe the Bible contains everything we need for life, my mind turns to Scripture to seek an answer.
The crux of the matter in cases like this comes down to “how/why does God allow evil?”
It is really a question of sovereignty versus free will. If I could solve that, I would be famous indeed.
By its very nature, the sovereignty/free will issue is an antinomy—something that cannot be explained in human terms, to human satisfaction. Scripture reminds us in Isaiah 40:13-14 that God’s knowledge is unique to Him. And Proverbs 21:30 confirms that there is no wisdom, or counsel or understanding higher than His.
So we are left to trust Him and Him alone as knowing what is best.
For many people, this approach to the question of evil in the world is inadequate and trite. I understand.
That’s why eschatology is not just a hobby or whimsy of mine. It is the key cog in my worldview. I could not survive in a world where everyone is under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19) if I did not believe that God wins in the end.
When I see things like what happened in Newtown I get angry and crave God’s divine intervention more than ever. I, too, question why does He wait to claim victory?
But I take comfort in knowing that ultimately, God will intervene. A better day is coming. A day of complete justice when Satan and all of his human and demonic envoys will be judged once and for all. It is that promise of Scripture that allows me to keep going when things don’t make sense in the present world.
So, to summarize: The unspeakable events of Friday are incomprehensible apart from a biblical worldview that promises (1) God is in control even when evil seems to triumph; (2) All evil will be recompensed; (3) Justice will prevail; (4) God wins.
I believe, like my son, God wins the final victory. But until that THE END happens, I will hug my children more, tell teachers I appreciate them more often, and offer prayers of comfort for the families and victims of these tragedies.
And most important, as a writer, I will write.
So should you.
I love Emma D. Dryden’s suggestions in her blog.
Create something precious for the world that might help to replace the precious the world’s lost. Write, paint, sing, dance, walk in nature, breathe deeply, and love fiercely. As we reach out to friends, to family, to others, so too must we reach inside to be gentle with ourselves. And we must remind ourselves we do carry the light necessary to light the dark corners, vanquishing one shadow at a time.
Monday Motiviation – Ready, aim, write
Today’s inspiration is short, pointed and graphic.
Now go WRITE
My Alexander Day and Small Town Love
I’m having an Alexander day. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day where nothing goes right.
I’m sure you’ve had those days too, but you may not be familiar with the term Alexander day.
If not, you HAVE to read, Judith Voirst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It’s a delightful children’s book that will warm your adult heart. Click on the cover to read more.
Like Alexander, I must decide what to do with this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
I could grump and get nowhere with my editing or…
since I believe action can alter attitude,
I’m choosing to blog about a recent experience in a wonderful little Panhandle city called Clarendon.
For the non-Texan blog readers that would be the northernmost 26 counties in the state. The part that looks like the handle of a pan.
On our travels between Houston and Colorado, we’ve gone through Clarendon on US 287 many, many times. Not a big city. The population is under two thousand. It’s home to Clarendon College (established 1898), the oldest center of higher education in the Texas Panhandle.
On our most recent trip through, I was having another Alexander day. This time because I had strep throat. The penicillin hadn’t fully kicked in so I was feeling pretty rotten.
We arrived in Clarendon late – 7:30 p.m. – and hungry. For all you city dwellers who think that isn’t late, small towns tend to roll up the sidewalks early.
We saw a sign for the Clarendon Steakhouse and pulled in praying it would be open. I was hoping the buffet had some soup that would soothe my very raw throat.
The building is a former grocery store converted to a restaurant with funny cowboys on the windows and friendly people inside. Very friendly and very kind people.
When we went inside, the place was about empty and the buffet was bare. My hopes sank. They were closed.
A waitress, in an apron that Vera Bradley would give her eye tooth to claim, greeted us. Turns out the waitress’ grandmother made her apron. I asked.
I explained how we were passing through, tired of driving, hungry, and really wanted some soup. Okay, I admit I shared more detail than necessary, but I am a storyteller.
She walked us to a back table to check with the owner whose name was Mary. I think. Remember I was not having a good day and that affected my memory.
Mary pointed to her husband’s soup bowl filled with the most delicious-looking chicken soup I’d ever seen. I know I looked a bit peaked and I must have drooled because Mary said she had enough for a couple of bowls.
She directed us to the “non-smoking” section. A booth at the store window under a ceiling fan. (to disperse cigarette smoke)
Sitting in the next booth was Fred Gray, a local columnist for The Clarendon Enterprise. We shared writing stories. He even went next door to the newspaper office for old editions so we could read his “The Quick, the Dead and Fred” column. Check out some of his columns in the newspaper’s online edition you’ll enjoy them.
Naturally, I shared my business card with my website and told him all about my writing. And, I’d love for you to check out my Judythe Morgan books page. :-)
Sarah, a lovely young Clarendon High School student, served as our waitress. She was excited and bubbly about her coming class trip to Washington, D.C. Needless to say, we gave her a generous tip to go toward her expenses.
Suddenly our tiring, drive of 540 miles with another 145 more to go before we stopped had become a pleasant visit with friendly people and delicious down-home chicken soup.
And Mary wouldn’t let us pay for our dinner! Isn’t small-town America wonderful?
Sharing has helped refuel my creative juices and improved my terrible, horrible, really bad day dramatically. I’m back to editing.
YOUR TURN: What about you? How do you combat a really bad, terrible, horrible day?
3 Necessities to be a successful writer
What does it take to be a writer?
Is all you need to be a writer pen and paper or a typewriter or an iPad or laptop/computer with a word processor? Maybe all it takes is the latest writing tool like this:
Or is there more involved besides having the proper writing tool?
Simple answer, YES.
A writer’s journey is a solo trip. A lonely trip and no two writers achieve success in the same way.
I think, to be successful, an aspiring writer must possess, at a minimum, these things:
- A PASSION
- A WILLINGNESS TO PRACTICE
- A DESIRE TO LEARN
The most important trait a writer needs is the deep desire to write and a steadfast commitment to his passion.
“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” Hebbel quotes
Writers must write because, if we don’t, we are miserable. The desire flows with our blood.
If you watched the Summer Olympics last month, you saw performances by athletes who had practiced and trained YEARS for the opportunity to compete in their chosen event.
A certain number of hours practice is frequently necessary to be considered proficient at so many things.
Think about airline pilots who must have a specific number of flying hours before they are qualified to solo. Teenage drivers get learner permits and must practice before taking a test to prove their proficiency and earn a driver’s license.
Writing is no different. Writing requires practice.
The exact amount of practice depends on your natural talent, how quick you learn the techniques of your craft and how much passion you have for what you’re doing.
Which brings up another question, how often should you write?
My simple answer: EVERY DAY.
But how much should you write? Does it matter?
According to James Thayer’s Author Magazine article “How Many Words a Day?” Jack London wrote between 1,000 and 1,500 words each day.
Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day.
Ray Bradbury, who authored over five hundred science fiction novels and short stories which someone calculated to be three and a half million words worth of stories, advises writers to “Write a thousand words a day and in three years you will be a writer.”
To succeed as writers, we must practice by writing something, anything every day.
On LEARNING or STUDYING writing craft
Most people wouldn’t dream of trying to build an automobile without learning about auto mechanics. Unfortunately, too many people try to become writers without learning about the craft of writing.
An idea for a story strikes, and they start writing. They never consider story structure, POV, or any of the other skills embedded in every novel we read.
This, imo, is why so many aspiring writers fail so often.
Without learning basic skills, you won’t go far as an auto mechanic, no matter how many hours you put into practicing. Think about artists. They learn to mix paint, how to prepare a canvas and color theory at an art school. Aspiring auto mechanics go to technical schools.
Learning about basic craft skills requires time and study. To me, it’s the most important aspect of being a writer.
Sure, some writers succeed without study. With study, I believe success comes faster.
Even those born with great talent rarely go anywhere without equal measures of passion and practice. Mozart was a virtuoso of musical technique and artistry, but even he needed to learn his craft. He was full of passion for music, he practiced all the time, and he studied.
There are hundreds of great books on writing. I’m sure you have your favorites. On my website you’ll find a complete list of writer resources and some inspiring quotes. Below is a short list I recommend for every writer’s craft resource shelf:
- Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell
- Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass
- Break Into Fiction, by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love
- Story, by Robert McKee
- Scene and Structure, by Jack M. Bickham
- Getting Into Character, by Brandilyn Collins
- Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
- The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley
Writing classes – on-line and at colleges and universities – also offer wonderful ways to develop writing skills. Too many classes, in fact, to list them in this post. I’ll do another blog with my recommendations soon.
Writing conferences offer yet another means to study writing craft with the added benefit of networking with like-minded people.
If you happen to live in or near Houston, Texas, there’s going to be a great writer’s conference next month—Northwest Houston RWA’s Lone Star Writer’s Conference featuring James Scott Bell.Yep—same one whose book is #1 on my recommended list.
The conference also offers a tremendous line-up of editors and agents. All for only $130.00. Check it out here.
Now you know what 3 things I believe are necessary to be a success writer so get out your iTyperwriter and GO, GO, GO.
YOUR TURN: What do you think it takes to be a successful writer?
Labor Day from a writer’s perspective
Today is Labor Day. We pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. To celebrate the writers in the workplace, I’m sharing a blog and a video about the writing process.
Nathan Bransford’s blog, “The Publishing Process in Gif Form,” made the rounds on Twitter, FB and many boards and loops. It’s worthy of another view.
For those who haven’t read the blog and don’t know him, Nathan Bransford is a children’s author, a former literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., and is now the social media manager at CNET. Bransford knows the emotional process of writing from all angles and his blog illustrates a writer’s rollercoaster ride perfectly. His blog is hilarious.
Another blog I read, especially for humor, is The Steve Laube Agency. I met Steve, president and founder of the agency, at an ACFW Conference many years ago. Wise man.
He’s a 30-year veteran of the bookselling industry. His career began in the bookselling arena with a store in Phoenix. He worked with Bethany House Publishers. In 2004 he formed The Steve Laube Agency which represents everything from sweet romance to systematic theology.
Fridays on his blog are FUN days. Recently he shared this great video by James Andrew Wilson titled The Five Emotional Stages of Writing a Novel. Make sure to watch through the credits.
Wherever you are in your writing process, I hope I made you laugh today.
Happy Labor Day and labor on! Our readers are waiting.
What Unending Devotion Means to Me and a great book release
Happy Release Day to Jody Hedlund for Unending Devotion!
High-Stakes Drama Meets High-Tension Romance
In 1883 Michigan, Lily Young is on a mission to save her lost sister, or die trying. Heedless of the danger, her searches of logging camps lead her to Harrison and into the sights of Connell McCormick, a man doing his best to add to the hard-earned fortunes of his lumber baron father.
Posing during the day as a photographer’s assistant, Lily can’t understand why any God-fearing citizen would allow evil to persist and why men like Connell McCormick turn a blind eye to the crime rampant in the town. But Connell is boss-man of three of his father’s lumber camps in the area, and like most of the other men, he’s interested in clearing the pine and earning a profit. He figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters.
Lily challenges everything he thought he knew, and together they work not only to save her sister but to put an end to the corruption that’s dominated Harrison for so long.
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling books, The Preacher’s Bride and The Doctor’s Lady. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children.
To celebrate the release of Jody’s book I’m paying tribute to my dogs who have given me their unending devotion in exchange for so little—food in their bowl and a pet on the head or rub on the belly every now and then.
My love affair with Old English Sheepdogs began with Obadiah who never quite understood he was a dog.
Next came Micah.
He joined my granddog Bernie, a terrier mix, who came to live with us when our son went off to seminary. Rhinestone was our rescue OES.The three of us made quite a spectacle walking in the neighborhood.
As happens with large dogs, Micah’s hips played out. We lost him and Bernie (at age 17) about the same time. Rhinestone became even more attached to me. When we emptied our house to have hardwood floors installed, I worried the stress would be too much for her.
She went to live with my sister-in-law who had never married.
The two became best buds. I wrote about their story in The Dog Next Door.
For the first time ever we were dog-less.
I hated it.
So we found Tobias (Toby).
A couple of years later Buster, a twelve pound Maltese, came to live with us.
And once again we’ve become a big happy family.
You can read all about a sister’s uneding devotion in Jody’s book. Available on Amazon.
What about about you? Do you give or receive unending devotion for someone or pet?
How do you write?
It’s Monday again time to begin our writing week. I thought it would be fun to consider how other writers write (wrote).
So what method will you be using to write this week?
Where will you be writing?
How much do you play to write?
I’m inspired. My goal this week is to complete revisions on the first five chapters of my current WIP.
How about you?
Remember writing book reports?
I loved writing book reports when I was in school. Still do after a fashion.
Voracious reader that I am, I love to tell others about great books I read. So I’m constantly giving oral book reports in the form of “Have you read such and such?”
I also post reviews for the books I really, really love on review sites and at e-retailers.
That’s so important. All reviews help author sales. It doesn’t matter whether the review is good or bad.
People often say they don’t know how to write a review. It really isn’t difficult. A review doesn’t have to be long or detailed like those book reports for school. Even a sentence or two can convey whether you liked a book or didn’t.
Here are some suggestions:
“This story was well-told. I fell in love with the hero on page 2.”
“Always pleased with stories by this author.”
“Predictable, but still a good read.”
“So disappointed. Not up to her/his usual standard.”
If you’re still nervous about actually posting a review on Amazon. Check out this video I found by Douglas Goldstein. It demonstrates exactly how to post a review for a book.