Blogger: Wendy Lawton
This morning at oh-dark-hundred we take our last Christmas guests to the San Francisco airport. I’ve changed bed linens washed mountains of tablecloths and napkins, dealt with leftovers, sent chocolate home with guests and now it’s time to switch gears and prepare for the exciting work year ahead. Anybody identify?
Ready, set, go!
My passage for this year is found in Philippians 3:13-14.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
You’ve probably already heard enough about resolutions and goals. I’m guessing you wouldn’t be following this blog if you didn’t have some very specific goals in mind. My question today is, how do we restart the race after a hiatus? For writers, one of the hardest things is getting back on track after losing momentum. Aren’t the holidays famous for causing us to lose momentum? Or what about when you’ve finished a book, celebrated, taken a little time off and you come back to that blank screen?
Let’s take a look at these words:
Ready— I find that getting ready always helps me get in the working frame of mind. For a number of years I’ve used Sunday night as a time to plan out my week. And my first couple of weeks back at work after the end-of-year break help me set up the whole year. This year will be a little different because I have a board meeting and weeklong trip scheduled for the end of this week so my back-in-the-saddle planning will be a little delayed but I’ll still “take hold” and do the planning.
Set— Setting the schedule to sit in the chair and work is essential. Notice the wisdom in the Philippians passage, “Forgetting what is behind.” That is essential. If you didn’t meet your word counts or missed your goal, set that behind you. This is a new year. Toss all that out and set new achievable daily word counts or goals.
Go— The key is just to go. Whether it is to put fingers to keyboard or to start submitting, it’s time to press on toward the goal.
That’s my plan as we start this new year. But how about you? What tricks do you have for a successful restart. Share them with us, okay? Ready, set, go!
You’re so right, Wendy. Going back to my day job yesterday was tough, after a mere four days off. I found myself reading the same section of a medical record three times, forgetting what question I was trying to answer.
* Over the holidays, I extended my morning routine over twice the time. Yesterday I pushed it back into its usual time constraints. At work, my emails and morning reports took till lunch time, but the routine lurched into place. “Set, Go.”
* And I granted myself grace. It didn’t “Go” smoothly at home or at work. But it went. Today, I will forget how rocky yesterday was and press forward.
I think “forgetting what is behind” is so important as we look forward to a fresh new year.
I also like your trick to get ready. Part of getting ready for me is to reorganize my office space after the crazy holidays. A lot of junk got dumped in here in preparing for company.
Another very important thing to do is pray over our goals.
Thanks for sharing your tricks for 2016, and happy new year!
I’m in the same boat as you, Jackie, needing to clear all the “temporarily dumped junk” off my desk before I can write! 🙂
This Lord’s word for me this year is “through” and it’s directing me moment by moment. It’s interesting to me that it covers short and long -term planning. Already I see this word helping me through procrastination and fear of doing it wrong. Love how He works with us uniquely.
Kathleen, what a great word! Just had to say that. 🙂
Falling in love with our characters lifts the pen to form and finish the work of our hands. Because you love them, you have to complete their story.
*I started a new MS, using two very minor characters from my last MS. I’m on chapter six … and I can barely wait to slip out of bed each morning to work on their story. Each night, I plan the next scene … and they already give me butterflies. When I have to go a day without lifting my fingers to the keys, I’m a bit grumpy inside. 🙂 But, that’s motivation.
I so resonate with you, Shelli! I’ve got a set of five novels (3 with contemporary-POV-style rewrites virtually finished, two in progress) where minor characters suddenly become major characters in the next and one character who is martyred in the second one is the linchpin connecting them all. I love my characters (except for the evil ones that succumb to greed and envy even to the point of murder). I can’t wait to work on them each day. It would have been a punishment to scale back working on them for the holidays.
Happy 2016, Wendy! And a good post to begin things.
* I don’t have a problem restarting, as with the dog sanctuary, the daily routine never really varies for me.
* My problem is something of the opposite…what, exactly, am I trying to DO?
* There’s a certain level of confidence that comes with pursuing the representation-contract-publication dream, and I’ve lost it. I don’t believe it’ll happen to me, so…why am I writing?
* Self-publishing’s an option, but without a solid background in marketing (and some developed infrastructure) it seems a bit of an ego trip.
* So, the question…and I wonder if others are facing it…do I keep writing fiction? My blog seems to be filling a need (just wait ’till tomorrow’s post!), so I’ll continue that…but is my fiction worth continuing?
* I really don’t know. I’d love to hear from others whose perspective is similar, and learn what y’all chose to do.
Andrew, if you still have fiction writing itself in your brain, does God want you to entirely give up writing it? It seems to me that your life experiences have uniquely prepared you to write on topics with impacts far different from any most of us here could. In God’s economy, it isn’t sales volume that matters. Remember the 99 sheep left on the hillside? It was the single lost one (for whom your fiction could be a true Godsend) that God went to find. I wouldn’t rule out self-publishing. That single lost sheep will find the book if God intends to use it to reach him or her. One life transformed is worth far more than 50,000 entertained.
Carol, thank you…you raise good points. The one person who may benefit from fiction does make the process worthwhile…but as for God’s imprimatur, …I’m beginning to feel that however I may feel about it, He isn’t supportive of the fiction-writing aspiration.
Years ago when i was discouraged about writing–more accurately, ever getting published–I told a friend I was considering quitting. She asked me why I would do that when I loved writing.There were other things that I did that I didn’t expect others to see or buy. If writing was something I loved then couldn’t I do it for MYSELF? And could I give it up?The answers: Yes to the first and no to the second.
Good point, Barbara – thanks.
I love that passage, and you have a terrific application, particularly forgetting what is behind. I’m going to save this post in my encouragement file.
Working with other writers toward a specific deadline has motivated me. The children wanted another week off of homeschool, to play with Christmas toys and read Christmas books, and that gives me a bit more time in the day to get in some extra words. It’s a win-win. Then, by next week, hopefully, I’ll be back in the groove and can keep the momentum going as we return to a more typical schedule.
Enjoy your trip, Wendy!
I took a lengthy fiction-writing hiatus over the month of December (though I continued to blog and write some poetry), and yesterday was my first day back inside my WIP. It was *hard* and it’ll be hard today, too, I suspect. Thanks for the encouragement that hard doesn’t mean impossible–nor does it mean it’ll stay that way.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Welllllll, I suppose getting out of my pajamas would be good.
My 2 younger tenants went back to school today and I always need a zombie day after a long vacation. A day to wander the house alone, raid their chocolate stash (What? No one else does that? Sure.) finish the laundry, grind my own flour, make paleo meals for everyone (see how easily I lied? Yeah, my idea of ‘grinding my own flour’ is spilling it on the floor and walking in it by accident) and generally watch Youtube videos and act like a woman who should have an Oscar for her magnificent performance of The Sloth Queen.
My website launched yesterday and I am exhausted from flying high over that. (Nice humblebrag, Jennifer)
Today will be some tidying, and note taking, and tomorrow will be the official start of 2016.
“Forgetting what is behind” is awesome.
You made me laugh out loud this morning! Grinding your own flour takes on a new definition. 😉
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Hey, it’s hard work! Back and forth! Sometimes? I even track it around the house. But, then my kids rise and call me blessed because I’m such an example of hard work.
Or because I told them to get their sorry butts off the couch. That could be it.
Have you thought about writing comedy? You put me in stitches sometimes, but I have learned not to believe you.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Thank you, Carol. I have thought of writing comedy. And my brother has actually done professional stand-up. When we are together, which is a rarity since he lives 3000 miles away, we are like matches and balsa wood. We get to the point where we can fire single words at each other and simply laugh ourselves to the point of physical pain. We may have spent time begging for mercy from each other, only to receive none. There was a moment in October of 2014 in which we were certain we’d sent our dad into a very bad cardiac experience.
When we get going on Facebook, there are people who simply sit there and watch their monitors.
Someday, I plan to write comedy, but for now, the horrors of war and slavery seem to be drawing me in.
If that is how you grind your flour, I hope you don’t eat your own bread, but it is one way of dealing with the”daily grind” I suppose. 🙂
I took off several months from writing to focus on my secondary self-employment (small ebay business) and now I have dedicated January to get back to writing.
I have some previously written pieces coming up in Lilybell magazine (online app based girl’s publication) in Feb and I am preparing some for the March issue as well.
Andrew, I think I understand where you are. I backed off seeking representation about 6 months ago, but the magazine writing (as does your blog writing) keeps me at it and gives me a lot of positive feedback that helps me to not give up.
This month a sixth grade class is acting as beta readers for my WIP, I plan to meet with them several times and get as much feedback as possible. Then I will edit and rewrite, then once again start querying.
I have certainly thought about giving up, but I know that I have some ability. I am taking a plotting class this month from Rebecca Petruck (award winning middle grade writer) and hope to see my manuscript though a new set of eyes.
What a great post to set my mind where it needs to be, Wendy. As others have mentioned, I especially loved your “forgetting what is behind.” This is something I need to embrace in the new year. Start with a fresh mindset.
*Hubby and boys have been home since December 20th . . . which means very little got done writing-wise.The break, even from blogging, was refreshing. When my boys go back to school tomorrow, I’m ready to dig back into my writing. I’m starting to set goals and see what I need to do before ACFW in August. Getting back into blogging today was helpful in switching my mindset from “relax mode” to “focus mode.”
*I like your idea of spending the first couple weeks of the year to set up the rest of the year. I think it would help me to write down my goals and craft my timeline . . . in pencil, so God can tweak it as He sees fit.
*I hope your travels are productive!
In 2015 I took a different path, one with less direction. What happened is this. I asked God to make me into a good neighbor, spiritually speaking and literally. In doing so, I gave up the reigns that I held so tightly. I let go of my stinginess with my time. I had five writing projects going but they took second place. I learned to be more sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and less jealous for my plans. Within a week, God brought two ladies into my life who needed wise counsel. I committed a year to meeting with them individually once a week. That commitment cost me two mornings a week. But God used it and He taught me through the process. You see, it was a God thing all along. However I did feel sad when another year ended without anything of substance being published. I had so wanted to get my monastery book published and my Stepping Stones Devotionals for the Hurting available as an ebook. A positive for me was joking this online community. I read B &S daily and appreciate all the contributors.
2016 is headed in a different direction. I am learning how to be a caregiver for my elderly parents. They both suffered major health issues in Nov. and Dec.. I think I will learn time management principles because the books do need to be finished and my online contributions maximized. I believe in their message I do LOVE writing and giving. And I’d like to make a few bucks at it. Life is a journey. Bless you all. Happy New Year.
*joining, not joking.
Ahhh, Norma, I am in the midst of a parallel experience. I could write and become a hermit. But God insists that I connect with others, messing with my writing schedule (nothing as orderly as your pre-scheduled meetings). I can’t quite bring myself to say, “God, I can’t do your will writing if you keep interrupting to do your will with people.” It’s a challenge to greet those drop-in needy people with grace–how did Jesus do it? There’s gotta be a message about the fullness of time in there.
I smile. It wasn’t always orderly, we’d have to reschedule etc. But I learned to be flexible, and that was important. Last night it happened again. A hurting young woman came over to talk with my daughter, I was planning to edit a MS, when my daughter unexpectedly got called to work. I took over at that point because the need was great and my past experiences dovetailed with the young woman’s heartache. I knew it was God at work. So that was that. It’s really something to live life in this way. Good for you, Shirlee.
Xochi E. Dixon
Bum Glue. It’s imaginary, but powerful. I apply the glue daily so that I’ll be stuck firmly in the writing position every day.
I work best with a skeleton schedule. I invest in a yearly notebook calendar that allows me to plan out the hours in my day. I use the calendar to mark deadlines and plan out progress.
The most important thing I do to help my productivity is start and end my day with refreshment.
Before I write, I spend time with God. I read my daily devotional and my scheduled Bible readings, then go through my prayer list.
At the end of the day, I do something I enjoy.
I celebrate the small victories and extend grace when I don’t get as much done as I’d hoped. Beating myself up requires way too much energy. I like to remind myself that writing is a process, so productivity doesn’t always mean hitting a daily word count.
My biggest goals are to draw near to God as I write, prayerfully move forward as I seek His direction, hone my craft with excellence, and use writing as a tool for ministry.
I have a secret ingredient for a productive day of writing, though. Starbuck’s Light. Bottled. Over ice. With a straw.
When I’m sipping on a light Mocha Frappuccino, my creative juices do the Snoopy Dance!
I love the holidays, but I’ve missed my routine. I can’t wait to see how my story will unfold this year.
What an inspiring post! Thank you for the encouragement, Wendy. I love the phrase “press on” in the verse you use– to set with determination those words upon the paper, even when they’re not cooperating. And to literally “press” on, as in “printing press”. 😉 Here’s to the words that await us in 2016!
Spot on Wendy! I’m finally alone in my house after three weeks of merry making. Having all my children home is a once a year treat and the post Christmas blues usually hit me hard. This year I had a game plan: I got dressed, opened my laptop and began gathering extra research for my YA. I’m originally from Southern Illinois and the setting for my YA takes place in an area along the Mississippi River that is now flooded. It’s heartbreaking to see photos of the water ravaged towns I’m so familiar with, but the information gathered steps right in line with a similar event in my story. I suppose today’s headlines eventually become the substance of tomorrow’s books. I’ll definitely add a dedication page to all those who lost their battle with the Mississippi.
Thanks for this great motivational post, Wendy. I love your point about leaving our failings of last year behind. I’m going to do that as I use this week to get ready to “Go!”
Very true. Great advice. I should spend a bit more time planningnout my week. I don’t need motivation. I’m always excited to start new projects. I have two books in the works and one fine art piece in progress. “What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes ) I want to enjoy the work of my hands, but I want to remember to have fun with my family and love my creator for who I toil under the sun.