Monday, August 30, 2010

The Inner Child

Instead of slowing down and relaxing this summer, I tried even harder to meet my writing goals while spending quality time with my kids. Did I succeed? Yes, but there was a cost.

Some of the joy of being me seeped out. With less time to putter and regroup, I found myself more and more stressed out about not keeping up with my normal activities, like reading blogs and visiting our families. Yeah, I fell into the Supermom Syndrome. You know, the murky area where you try to be perfect at everything you do and somehow come up short regardless.

That's why this month I'm determined to embrace the core of who I am, starting with my inner child. The things that thrilled me as a kid, still thrill me today. I still love singing hymns, dancing, doing goofy impressions of people I see on television, reading, giggling with my best friends, and relishing dessert.

What things did you love to do as a child? Do you still do them? Do you even want to? Do you recognize who you were as a kid in who you are today?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll discuss childhood's wide open spaces.

Friday, August 27, 2010

One Goal Friday: August 27, 2010

And so ends the final week of summer vacation. We had beautiful weather, sports' camps, and a few last minute back-to-school shopping trips. My parents came to visit (thanks Mom and Dad!), and I finally went through last year's school papers.

Am I ready for Monday?
Yes, I am. Monday marks the beginning of my serious writing time, and I long for uninterrupted hours of getting lost in my new novel.

It's Friday! Time to set one goal for the week.

My goal last week was to finish the scene outline. Did I meet it? Not even close. Didn't even attempt it. But a few new developments with my latest book got pushed through instead, so I feel good.

Here are your goals.
CJ: Seeing the Young One off to college orientation (Good luck!)
Terri: No meltdowns over feedback on book
Wendy: Spend quality time with girls
Lynn: Begin digital photo story book for granddaughter
Paul: Stay focused while traveling to do final read-through
Erica: Start grade 9 homeschooling
KH: Get bird's-eye view of WIP and determine how to finish in 2010
Linda: Clean off desk and prepare for first Story Circle meeting
Ralene: Start pre-k homeschooling
Kelly: Outline story idea
Patti: Have a blast teaching with Julie
T.Anne: Finish edits on book and dig into edits of another
Katie: Get to page 320 in revisions
Cindy: Finish business cards and make lots of progress editing
Jennifer: Get back on track with family devotions
QuietSpirit: Continue work on devotionals and start work to submit for anthology (praying for your husband)
Abby: Finish updating resume and apply for job
Robyn: Cleaning closets
Sharon: Enjoy daughter before school starts, revise on pb manuscript, be kind to self and live life in present
Nancy: Push on with more books squirrelled away
Amber J: Organize everything from writing, photography, school, to coaching soccer
Angie: Work on WIP and read submissions for Rose & Thorn Journal

Whew!! This week got away from me, but I hope it didn't get away from you. How did you do? These goals make me happy because I can relate to every one of them. I hope you all had a great week.

My goal for this week? Make a new schedule, set goals for the next two months, and survive the first week of school.

What about you? What one goal will enhance your life this week?
Please leave your goal in the comment section. Newcomers are welcome to participate, and don't worry if you can't stop by every Friday--my blog's goal isn't to add stress but to be a place of support.

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Your Tips to Streamline Your Writing

Last week I shared the tips I use to streamline my writing process. You can read about it here. I asked you to share your tips, and boy, did you. I loved the creative responses.

Are you ready for them?

I've divvied them up into different classifications.

  • Eat chocolate
  • Have a glass of wine
  • Coffee--lots and lots of coffee!
  • Use an egg timer
  • Form a critique group
  • Finish one session with direction for the next
  • Daydream about book at night to jump start the next day's session
  • Visualize next scene before writing
  • Write at an "unplugged" computer
  • Keep a writing log
  • Set up your writing materials as a reward for doing an unpleasant chore
  • Keep a journal for ideas
  • Write down goals before social networking
  • Don't let anything interfere with writing time
  • Keep your goals front and center--written down in front of you
  • Review outline before bed
  • Pray
  • Write through storms, write in storms, write about storms, and wait for the rainbow
  • Write through the fear
  • Free yourself from goals and expectations
  • Be quiet and listen when necessary
  • Reward yourself after writing
Thank you all for sharing your tips to streamline your writing. This list is so great, I'm printing it out!
Join me on Friday to set one goal!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Smarter Than the Average Bear?

If you aren't familiar with the cartoon Yogi Bear, the show centered around a single-minded bear who constantly hunted picnic baskets from unsuspecting campers. His sidekick and the voice of reason was Boo Boo. Yogi often had an overly inflated opinion of himself. His motto? That he was smarter than the average bear. Boo Boo tried to inject common sense into Yogi, but usually failed.

As a writer, I'm often like Yogi, constantly hunting for a publishing contract instead of a picnic basket. Sometimes I have an overly inflated opinion of myself, too. To hurdle the slow times and the doubting times, sometimes you need to think you're smarter than the average bear.

Most of the time I'm like Boo Boo, though. Plugging away, trying to be better, working hard to make my dream come true. Boo Boo would never steal someone's picnic--he'd make his own sandwich and an extra one to share.

It's good to be a combination of both bears. To continue to push toward our goals, we have to have the tenacity of Yogi with the common sense and integrity of Boo Boo.

What do you think? Yogi? Boo Boo? Or both?

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, August 20, 2010

One Goal Friday: August 20, 2010

Shopping for school clothes requires the skills of a bounty hunter.

Multiple sources assail you at once:
  • The kids, of course, because the things they want to wear and the things you want to buy rarely coincide.
  • The stores are perfectly designed to hypnotize you with their bright lights, narrow aisles, and display after display of different items. When you're woozy from neon, you'll conveniently forget you already purchased two shirts similar to the one in your child's hand.
  • Other shoppers jostle, small children cry, and salesclerks do everything in their power to get you to sign up for yet another credit card.
  • If you shop at a mall, you'll have to shimmy around store kiosks and desperately try to avoid the lotion/perfume/pumice stone samples.
  • The aromas of Cinnabon will caress you, entice you, drag you to the line of fifteen people deep until you realize you'll need to take out a second mortgage just to enjoy one heavenly bun. Do you succumb? Yes. Refi-rates are good and you needed that icing.
Sorry, I went off on a tangent. Needless to say, school shopping was an exhausting experience, but I survived.

It's Friday! Time to set and review one goal!

My goal last week? Finish the scene outline for my new book and critique one manuscript for my critique partner. I finished the critique, but I did not finish the scene outline.

Here are your goals.

Tabitha: Map out revisions needed for book
Terri: Write 5000 words
Wendy: Figure out revisions for Partridge
Patti: Get house ready for Chinese exchange students
Wendy: Edit as much as possible and edit well
Kelly: Use kids' camp time productively
CJ: Have fun with the class of 11-13 year-old girls
Keli: Make good progress on revisions
Abby: Enjoy nature--oceans and mountains
Nancy: Go further in books squirrelled away
Karen: Work on and finish lesson plans for online writing class
Ralene: Ease into routine to prepare for homeschooling
Kelly: Not let fear stand in way of what to write
Katie: Keep 5-6am writing time sacred (how do you do it??)
Quiet Spirit: Study six scripture passages and write samples to send to two devotionals
Paul: Stay focused
Em: Stay focused
Maria S: Decide which colleges to apply for

How did you do? Are you feeling any urgency now that summer is almost over? I am. My productive time starts in September, and while I've loved spending so much delicious time with my kids these months, I'm ready to kick into high gear again.

My goal this week is to finish that scene outline. Enough already!

What about you? What one goal will enhance your life this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. Newcomers are welcome to participate, and don't worry if you can't stop by every Friday--my blog's goal isn't to add stress but to be a place of support.

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Simple Ways to Streamline Your Writing Life

Today, I'm sharing tips that have streamlined my writing life, and I'm begging you to share yours too.

  • Ritualize your writing sessions. By that I mean, start in the same way each session. Give your brain a trigger that it's time to get started. For me, I spend 30 to 45 minutes each morning going through e-mails, blog comments, and social networks before switching computers to write, revise, or plot. By doing this, I release anxiety about staying connected, and I free my brain for creative work.

  • Have a plan of attack. Before each session, briefly think about what you want to achieve during that block of time. Sometimes you'll get more done, sometimes less, but planning gives your brain a runway of where to go.

  • Don't stay away too long. When you take extended time away from your project, it grows into a monster in the closet. Suddenly, the book you loved becomes a horrific beast in your mind. Even if it's only for ten minutes, chip away at your task regularly.

  • Ignore how you feel. When you feel excited about your new book, write. When you feel like pulling the covers over your head, write. Don't let your feelings dictate your productivity. Athletes can't skip practice because they're feeling insecure, and neither can we.

  • Find supportive writing friends. You'll weather the ups and downs of the writing life if you have friends who get it. Your spouse, sister, best friend, and co-workers might not always have the words you need to hear, but other writers deep in the trenches will. I've met amazing writers through blogging, local writer's groups, and conferences. By cultivating friendships with them, I know I always have someone to turn to when my hope fails. And it's rewarding to be able to help them when they're struggling.

What simple tips do you rely on to keep moving forward with your writing? Please share! I'm going to compile the list for one of next week's posts.
Join me on Friday to set one goal!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Trite Advice

Have you ever heard trite advice spewing from your mouth? Have you been on the receiving end of such gems? I know most is common sense, but trite advice can rankle the calmest soul.

Don't sweat the small stuff. Okay, when I'm rational and calm, I don't sweat the small stuff. But after I've walked past a kitchen counter mounded with random belongings from my kids' rooms six times in a row and have asked them politely to put the stuff away each time, by the seventh go-round, I'm sweating the small stuff. I'm not just sweating it, I'm shooting it with hand grenades.

It'll happen in good time. Yep. Got it. But sometimes I want it to happen in my time, which is right this second.

The grass is always greener. Actually, that's true. The grass is greener over there. Don't believe me? I've got binoculars to spy on the neighbor's grass. I'll lend them to you.

What trite advice gets on your nerves? Please share!

Friday, August 13, 2010

One Goal Friday: August 13, 2010

Earlier in the week, my family and I went tent camping for five days on the shores of Lake Michigan. The white sand beaches made me want to park my beach chair permanently, but this gal can only take sleeping in a tent in small doses.

The main problem with tent camping is the lack of a sound barrier. Two nights in a row, I gritted my teeth through our neighbor's laugh-and-chat fest until 4:30AM. Finally, I realized tissues have more than one use. I rolled them up and shoved them in my ears. Sure, some sound still came through, but I was able to sleep--that is until morning arrived and small children yelled across six campsites. I'm always happy to see kids having a good time. If they could just have a good time a little later in the day...

It's Friday! Time to set and review our goal.

My goal last week was to slow down and enjoy nature. Vacation made that possible. Goal accomplished!

Here are your goals:
Jeanette: Finish a guest blog article on humor writing
CJ: Look into upgrading from Vista to 7
Ralene: Start a routine to help ease into homeschooling
Paul: Yoga and stretching
Loree: Finish book this week (!!) and relax before query process
Erica: Continue polishing and perfecting a proposal
Kelly: Plan activities w/kids and prepare for interview (how did it go?)
Julie: Write every day
Robyn: Stay close to God, query agents, prepare for homeschool and co-op
Nancy: Start new schedule with energy and joy
Diane J: Come up with contest entry, write it and revise, work on novel
Erin: Get along with hubby :)

How did you do? I feel like a big old slacker after a week off. I'm ready for some meaty goals like yours.

My goal this week? Finish my plot outline for my new book and read one of my critique partner's manuscripts.

What about you? What one goal will enhance your life this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. Newcomers are welcome to participate, and don't worry if you can't stop by every Friday--my blog's goal isn't to add stress but to be a place of support.

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Society and Simplicity

Oh boy. Society. Simplicity. Two words at opposite ends of a magnet.

When I think of simple and society in the same sentence (say that five times really fast!), I think of homesteaders out west. Building log homes, farming, praying together over dinner--you know what I'm talking about.

It's hard to place our current society in the simple file. Michigan's speed limit is 70mph. The highways brim with vehicles going eighty. Flights take off from airports every few minutes. People walk around typing into their smart phones--even six-year-olds have cell phones! Most homes feature not one, but multiple televisions, telephones, and computers. Does this seem simple?

Yes. Yes, it does.

Have you read Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie lately? There was nothing simple about homesteading. They built log homes with few tools and fewer hands. They couldn't buy the lumber--they had to harvest it themselves. They survived harsh winters, food shortages, and constant fear of either Indian attack or government meddling. They didn't have the luxury of deciding they didn't feel like cooking dinner or of calling 911 when an accident happened. They missed their friends, siblings, and parents.

American society is complicated, but it also simplifies our life. Our taxes pay for roads, police and firemen, teachers and schools, government officials, and a military to keep us safe. Not everyone will agree with me on being thankful for these things and that's okay, but I am very thankful for them. They've given me the deepest level of simplicity--security.

Of course, in any society during any time frame, security comes from God, but He has blessed us with safety nets provided by our society.

What do you think when you hear the words simple and society?

Join me on Friday to set one goal!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Complicated Simple Tasks

Pick up any women's magazine and somewhere in it will be recipes, tips on saving money, ways to organize your life, or diet and exercise plans. Magazine editors study what women want--information on the complicated issues--and include articles each month to simplify the tasks.

If you've been cooking for ten years, the recipes might be a welcome reprieve from your rut of everyday dishes. If you've been carefully watching your pennies, the tips might give you a boost to keep saving. Savvy housekeepers will watch for new ways to organize, and healthy folks will find extra motivation from the diet and exercise plans.

But what if you've never picked up a pan in your life? If you're thousands of dollars in debt and don't even know the basics of financial health? If the last time your house smelled Lysol was the day you bought it--in 1996? Or if you've tried, and failed, at every fad diet on the market?

The magazine's simple tips make the hard jobs look simple, but getting to the point where you're comfortable cooking, budgeting, cleaning, and exercising can be very difficult and might involve complicated steps.

Take cooking. For even a simple recipe like spaghetti, you might need to purchase pans, learn how to brown ground beef, set a timer to cook the noodles properly, and learn words like simmer. I guarantee the process will take twice as long for someone who has never cooked than for someone who makes this dish once a month.

Learning simple tasks can be time-consuming, difficult, and miles away from our comfort zone. Sure, fast food isn't very healthy and can put a huge dent in your budget, but let's face it, it's a lot easier to drive to a window, order a few value meals, pay someone and drive away, than it is to take a few hours each night to learn the basics of cooking.

I can't speak for everyone, but in my case, learning to cook was one of the best skills I learned. It took time, patience, and many less-than-edible dishes, but it's satisfying to come home and be able to whip up a healthy meal for a fraction of restaurant costs.

The simple life is like that. We have to dedicate ourselves to learning many skills that will save us time and sanity in the long run, but short term might threaten our sanity, stretch our time limits, and cause us to wonder if the simple life is very simple after all.

I've been chasing the simple life for over a decade. The skills I've learned have simplified my life. They've given me the resources to chase my dreams, and they've given me the confidence to believe those dreams will come true.

Is there a complicated task you'd like to try? Do you purchase magazines when they promise to simplify that task? Am I the only one who gobbles up magazines like Halloween candy??

Join me on Wednesday when we'll look at society and simplicity.

I will be offline until August 11. I love to read your comments, so please leave one. Have a wonderful day!

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Goal Friday: August 6, 2010

The good news? Summer hasn't quit yet. The bad news? It's ending soon. But hey, I love watching college football and even some NFL, so at least I have something to look forward to.

I forced myself to resume the jogging regimen. After only a week off, the exercise was much easier than I expected, and it--I can't believe I'm admitting this--felt great.

It's Friday! Time to set and review our goals.

Last week, my goal was to attend the county fair. I met that goal and enjoyed french fries and funnel cake on top of it. Score! We lingered in the bunny barn, ran into our friends throughout the fair, and even got to pet a five-hour-old calf. (Thanks, Dee!)

Here are your goals.

Wendy: Complete revisions on first 50 pages of Partridge
Heather: Come up with blogging plan, check out research books, and read The Help
Jessica: Think of a goal (after the RWA fun, I'm guessing you had no trouble!)
Jen: Write a humor column for the paper
Diane: Get on the treadmill (and hack away at the to-be-read pile)
Erica: Walk three times (Yay! You finished your ms!)
Paul: Yoga and stretching three days
Patti: Finish The Rhythm of Secrets, teach class, prepare lesson, and plan conference
Sherrinda: Survive first week back to work (No cranky pants!)
Cindy: Prepare for ACFW conference (woo-hoo!)
Loree H: Get three more chapters revised (Praying for Hannah. Any improvement?)
Beth: Survive hubby going back to work and write 10k words
Jackee: Reorganize writing space and research an article
CJ: Refrain from destroying slow computer
Jennifer: Jogging and spinning (you're my hero)
Katie: Get to pg. 150 revising

So, how did you do? These are great goals! I hope you all had fun meeting them.

My goal for this week is to soak in nature, be contemplative, nourish my silly side, and enjoy a very, very slow pace.

What about you? What one goal would enhance your life this week?

Please leave your goal in the comment section. Newcomers are welcome to participate, and don't worry if you can't stop by every Friday--my blog's goal isn't to add stress but to be a place of support.

I will be offline until August 11. I love to read your goals and comments, so please leave one. Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Schedules Aid in Simplicity

Ask anyone who claims to have a simple life, and I'll bet they'll tell you one of their secrets is a schedule. People who regularly reach their goals rely on automated systems, like schedules, to keep their lives running efficiently. It might be internal, something they don't think about but that comes naturally, or it might be something they write down in advance.

After reading other writer's blogs, I know many of you write at a certain time each day to reach your goals. Others might work around your young children's daily needs or even the seasonal conditions of your region. But most of you adhere to a natural rhythm to maximize your output. If you're energetic in the morning, that's when you write. If late night is the only time you can get an hour's peace, you use it.

Setting a schedule and sticking to it can feel complicated. It's hard to change our habits. And frankly, sometimes we shouldn't. I think it's important not to shove ourselves into a mold we think should fit but never will.

If you have a schedule, does it fit your life? If you don't, do you feel your method is failing you?

Does your productivity increase when you set a schedule? Do you find it simplifies your life or does it feel even more complicated?

My productivity increases when I set a schedule. The complications of planning it in advance aren't always fun, but it's worth it when I achieve the goals I'm working toward. The sad truth for me is when I don't set a schedule, my goals take much, much longer to achieve.

Join me on Friday to set one goal!

Monday, August 2, 2010

August: The Complicated Simple Life

The simple life. So simple and wonderful and relaxing and magical and...

Complicated. The simple life isn't easy to achieve.

A few years ago, No Doubt released a song called Simple Kind of Life. It struck me as being true and something many women could relate to. The author of the lyrics reveals wanting to be a wife and to have children, but how her choices in men and her career have not made that possible. I found it intriguing that Gwen Stefani wrote this. Yes, even rock stars have the same longings for a normal, simple, life that we do.

But the other thing I find interesting is the flip side. So many of us who do have the "simple kind of life" also have such complicated lives. Aren't we all a bit like Gwen? Striving for an ideal that doesn't exist? To have a simple life, we have to learn complicated skills, we have to think beyond what the media tells us, and it's not always easy.

Is your life simple? Complicated? A bit of both?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll look at how schedules impact our life.