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Block Buster #2: Three tips for finding time to write

What should you take time to do?

Is finding time to write your biggest obstacle to writing regular blogs, finishing that novel, or getting started on the title you have in mind? Have you announced you are going to write a book and are now embarrassed by your lack of progress? Here are some tips to try.

It happens to everybody
OK, I’m embarrassed too. Interesting that I should be writing on this topic when it’s been weeks since I wrote my last blog! First of all I’d say to both of us, “Get over it.” Let’s not allow our past performance to paralyze our future. Let’s make progress.

FCWC

I could use the excuse that I was improving my craft. Since writing Writer’s Block Buster #1 post, I attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference. It was great and I met a lot of wonderful people who were generous in sharing their knowledge. If you get a chance, you should attend a writer’s conference near you or not near you! It will fire up your creative juices or just give you a kick in the pants, which is what I need from time to time. After forgiving yourself for not writing, take a look at your schedule to see if it reflects your priorities.

Tip #1. Schedule according to priorities

What your schedule tells about your priorities
Consider your activities of the past week. Did you find time to write? If not, discover what consumes your time. For the next week, keep a log of how you spend your time. Note what activities took priority. Maybe these are more important than writing right now. Or maybe you might discover you are not doing what you want to do at all. You are in reactionary mode.

Fire in bonesWhat your emotions tell about your priorities
If your story is like a fire shut up in your bones and finding time to write seems impossible, you may notice you are a little grumpier than normal. If requests for your time leave you feeling resentful or even a little angry, it may be an unconscious reaction to your goals being blocked. Examine your heart and determine what you are longing to do. Then make it a priority on your schedule and guard it from interruptions. Be intentional.

Tip #2. Schedule writing zones

How do you find time in a busy schedule?
I’ll say it again, it’s about priorities—making time to do the things you love. It’s interesting all the ways we describe time as if we really had control of it: spend time, waste time, save time, take time. We can’t really make more time, but we can plan what to do with it.

Mark your calendar
Go back to your schedule. Take a typical week or month and block out three different time zones—maybe use colored highlighters. First, cross out all the regularly scheduled activities that you can’t change like your time at work, church, or regularly-scheduled meetings—indicate these as your “no” zones. Next, highlight activities that you have control over. Some of these you can choose not to do or do at another time of the day or month. Label these as your “maybe” zones and use them for writing every chance you get. Finally, look at what is discretionary time—your unplanned time—this is your “go” zones. Put these on your calendar as writing appointments with yourself that you cannot break.

Tip #3. Write at your optimal time

If you have the luxury, arrange your schedule so that you write when you are most creative. If you are a morning person, get up earlier or see if you can adjust your schedule such as moving your gym time to after work. If you are a night owl who comes to life after 8:00 pm, resist the urge to turn on the TV, surf the internet, or check Facebook. I suggest you use your less creative times for editing and rewriting. I think you get the idea.

Your turn
Please use the comments section to share what works best for you!
Write on!

Kathy

Writer’s Block Buster #1

What should you take time to do?

My last blog addressed the importance of establishing momentum to keep your writing flowing. Momentum isn’t something that can be conjured up. It comes from diligently practicing good writing habits. This is the first in a series of writer’s-block buster habits designed to get you unstuck, on track, and in the flow!

Writer’s Block Buster #1. Know your reason for writing

No doubt, you have heard people say it’s important to know your “why” for writing. Likely they mean determining whether you are writing for personal expression or writing for market trends. In this Writer’s Block Buster, I’m suggesting that our “why” goes deeper than we think. I’m talking about searching your heart to understand what inspires you to write, because knowing this will likely keep you motivated to write.

Know what inspires you to write
Recently, I was introduced to the book, Find Your Why: A practical guide for discovering purpose for you and your team, by Simon Sinek with David Mead and Peter Docker (New York, NY: Penguin Random House, LLC, 2017). While this book isn’t about writing, I think completing the seemingly simple exercise of writing your WHY STATEMENT may help you explore your purpose, and as a result, your motivations. It goes like this: TO________________SO THAT_____________. In the first blank, write your contribution to the lives of others and in the second blank, write the impact that contribution makes. Try it—it’s harder than you think! Maybe you will start with multiple statements until you see a repeating theme that will help you hone it to a single one.

Face it, it’s unlikely we will write a bestseller that will make enough money to support us for the rest of our lives. So why write? Maybe you write because you take pleasure in it or hope that in the reading of it, someone’s life might be a least briefly changed for the better. Try to articulate your motivation by writing a WHY STATEMENT for your reader. Maybe something like this: Because of your message, what do you want your reader to do that contributes in a positive way to their own life or someone else’s? By the way, it doesn’t have to be nonfiction or a self-help message to do that! Even fiction may transport someone to a place that, at least temporarily, delights or excites them.

Being convinced your reason for writing is important should be a big motivator! Also in considering your why, identify your target audience how you want to appeal to them: to uplift, educate, inform, or entertain. Maybe your reason is more personal: to express your thoughts or creativity, or leave a historical record for someone to discover in the future. Determine your writing is important and necessary and just write, write, write!

For whose glory do you write?
Sometimes we fantasize about our book being published and becoming a recognized author and sought-after speaker—to be known. Maybe even to be in the spotlight. There are many valid reasons for writing, but it is most satisfying for me is when the underlying motivation is for the glory of God.

I have noticed that as humans, we seek to answer three basic questions about ourselves: (1) Am I significant? (2) Does my life matter? and (3) Where do I belong? The Bible tells us that (1) we are significant to God and he loves as his very own child, (2) we have a purpose in life that is part of his plan, and that as people of faith, (3) we are part of God’s family and heirs to his kingdom. I find answering these questions from a biblical perspective is empowering.

Children of God

But sometimes our egos get in the way and we are tempted to want our names to be great rather than God’s. We seek to answer these questions in selfish ways. The answers might look like this: (1) our significance comes from popularity, power, or wealth, (2) our purpose is guided by self-recognition or perhaps greed, and (3) we belong to groups that are popular or powerful in order to give us identity. I suggest that when you find your true answers to these questions, you will find your why. I am always surprised that when I seek to first bring God glory, he shows up to inspire my writing!

Make it a habit!
Whatever your reason for writing, be absolutely convinced of your why and it’s impact. Make it a habit of continually reminding yourself of the importance of your writing. Then just do it and don’t be discouraged!

Write On!
Kathy

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Get Your Momentum Going and Flowing

Waterfall flow

Have you got your writing momentum flowing? Are you consistent in your writing habits? What keeps you at it? There are so many good writers out there and likely, if you’re reading this, you are one of them. You’ve probably realized that writers don’t become authors by intending to write a book, or announcing they are going to write a book—it takes diligence. If you are a blog writer, all your followers know when you are MIA. How would describe your progress as a writer? If you’re like me, you might need some help.

I feel a little sheepish addressing a topic of momentum after you haven’t heard from me for a while. I was recovering from hip replacement surgery in December and illness in January. You would think I’d be itching to get back at writing, but the truth is, I’ve lost my momentum! Today, I opened the book I’m currently working on.Scrivener plugOnce again, I argued with the doubt demons and reminded myself of all the good reasons I should continue. Still uninspired, I did what I so often do—I edit what I’ve already written. How many times have I done that??? Stop that Kathy! Oh, don’t get me wrong, my writing needs editing, but it is not moving my story forward!

What keeps your momentum going? Momentum isn’t something that can be conjured up. It comes from diligently practicing good writing habits that keep you in the flow. I make the most progress when I just plow ahead even if the direction isn’t perfectly clear or my words aren’t perfectly right. If I just begin, the Holy Spirit has a chance to guide me. It’s thrilling when the words that come from my fingers surprise me. That alone should inspire me! Speaking of inspiration, in I Timothy 4:15, Paul writes to Timothy, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” Paul is encouraging Timothy to continue in his faith by practicing it. If you are a writer, be diligent in your writing habits so you can make progress and improve yourself as a writer. The world needs to hear from you!

What should you take time to do?Is your momentum is waning? Do you need to develop good writing habits? Watch for my next blog series called: “Writer’s Block Busters.” As you read these, I hope you will participate by responding and sharing the ideas that have worked for you. So be thinking about what you’d like to add and share it in the comments section.

I can’t wait to talk to you next time! Meanwhile: write on!

Kathy

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Harnessing time to do what you love

What should you take time to do?-3

Notice how we talk about time—we spend time, waste time, save time, take time—all suggesting we have control over time!

Judging by the number of times I’ve heard people say, “I don’t have enough time,” it sounds like there is a universal shortage of it. How do we get more?

We have the talents and skills to make many things, but we can’t make more time. So, the real question is: “How do we use the time we have in the most fulfilling way?”

If you were given a month free of responsibilities how would you be spending your time?

Do what you love

If you were given a month free of responsibilities how would you be spending your time? Does your response inform what your priorities should be? Even amidst your busy daily activities, if you are not taking some time for doing what you love, you’re probably not a very happy camper. In fact, if you find you are slightly agitated on a daily basis, it may be a sign that something is blocking you from doing what you may only subconsciously believe you should be doing. Your values are trying to tell you something.

At this point in my life, I strongly desire to write down legacy information for the next generation to enjoy reading and to possibly learn from my life lessons. I know that if I’m not making time for writing in my weekly routine, every request of my time becomes an irritation. That all changes when I’m doing what I know I should be. Then I am much more flexible, accommodating, and joyful. What about you? What should you be making time for?

Harnessing time

While we cannot manufacture more time, there are at least a couple ways we might be able to better handle what we do have. I want to talk about two of these today: setting priorities and scheduling.

Practices reveal priorities

At the beginning of the day, my first priority is to turn to God. He is the only one who can control time—partly because he is outside the time-space continuum and mostly because he’s God! Notice what 1 Peter 3:8 says about God and time: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” Clearly, God has time for everyone and everything! How can we tap in?

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 1 Peter 3:8

Ordering time

Throughout the Bible, we see God measuring things. Measurements set boundaries. For humans, time is measured by days and nights, months, years, and a lifetime. Within those boundaries, we can order our time by setting priorities—making time for what’s important. and by putting them on the calendar— taking time to do them.

Making the most of your time

Do you have tricks and strategies for making the most of your time? Do you schedule time to do the things you love? I’d like to hear them! Here are a few that work for me:

  • By rising early in the morning, I can avoid interruptions and spend time with God meditating on his Word. When I take time to make this my first priority, God seems to make up for it in other ways. For example: maybe I arrive at a solution or idea sooner rather than agonizing over it for hours. Or a client serendipitously reschedules an appointment freeing up an already packed schedule.
  • Next, I intentionally schedule doing things that I want to do. For me, it is being with grandchildren or taking time for writing or having coffee with a friend. If I have a big project I’m working on, I break it into small deadlines and try my best to meet them.
  • I make appointments with myself putting them on the calendar. I have done this with writing days. I set up a consistent day of the week to write, put it on the calendar like an appointment, and protect it from interruptions! When another invitation comes you can say, “Oh sorry, I have another appointment scheduled at that time.”
  • When up against a deadline, I used to worry myself into a migraine. Now, I use this little trick. While I’m working, I’m telling myself: “There is enough time, there is enough time.” It serves two purposes: 1. It reminds me to relax and, 2. Somehow miraculously, there is always enough time!

Living in the moment

I know that I am going to hear from my friends who are constantly reminding me to be in the moment! OK, I tend to be a planner and when something interferes with my schedule, it throws me off a little. I’m trying to be flexible! I applaud those of you who can savor every moment! Are you someone that in whatever circumstance, you find an opportunity for enjoyment and appreciation? You have something to teach me!

What are your tips and tricks for making the most of time? What are you taking time to do that you love? I want to hear from you. Leave me a comment!

Write On!
Kathy

P.S. Coming Soon: Writer’s Block Busters

Since writing is something I should be making time for, my next blog series addresses What should you take time to do?breaking through writer’s blocks (both physically and mentally). In the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging on “Eight Writer’s Block Busters.” If you have some tips that work for you, please share them in the comments area! We will all thank you! 

 

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Why do you write?

LegacyThe other day my grown daughter commented, “Mom, you are always writing for someone else, why don’t you write for your family?” She proceeded to remind me about some children’s books I had started years ago when she was growing up. Since then, her words keep ringing in my ears. It got me questioning, “Why am I writing?” How about you?

Why do you write? Who do you want to read your words? It’s not an easy answer. It takes some soul searching. I pondered, “Am I seeking recognition from others?” Or to feel good about myself because I made someone else feel good?” The truth is, there are far more people that will forget who I am than those who will remember me. But to my family, I’m pretty important. Especially to my young, impressionable grandchildren! I am blessed! You are important too!

In this busy world, we strive to make a name for ourselves, to make our lives matter. While you may not know it yet, your life already matters. It matters now and for generations that will come after you. Your children’s children, and their children may want to know what you were like. They will seek to glean what they can learn from your life, your struggles, your successes, your values, your faith. They will wonder what qualities or characteristics of yours are similar to theirs. Your life, good or bad, is a great teacher.

LucyMy husband has a journal from his great grandmother, Lucy, who lived from 1878 to 1960. It is entitled: “Seventy Years of Living.” It is profoundly interesting reading about what life was like, but not nearly as interesting as the lessons we learned from her life and the characteristics I see present in her great, great grandson! We learned of a young couple who were intent on building a farm and a lifestyle. They were entrepreneur types always expanding at great financial risk. Unfortunately, they borrowed rather than saved to have the things they thought they needed. They were particularly impressed with the latest and greatest inventions of the time—like a flush toilet for example! Dean’s great uncle, the oldest of the children, complained he’d have to run upstairs and refill it with water every time anyone flushed! Funny? Not so very much. They lost the farm. But they endured and that’s the real lesson.

LucyJournalExerptOn another occasion, we were cleaning out his grandmother’s attic and discovered a gorgeous family photo album. As we looked through the obviously well-preserved document of history, nameless faces stared back. Not a single photo was named or dated. It was meaningless to us! It might as well have been a book of strangers! We passed it on to another relative who didn’t know them either. Our children will never know who from that side of the family they might resemble. Please, label your pictures! Someone will appreciate it one day.

What legacy are you leaving? What treasures of knowledge are you passing forward? Are you being intentional about making a historical record? If so, don’t leave it as a file in your computer! Who is going to search through that thing to find your treasures after you pass? Print out those stories. Never mind if you don’t have archival paper! My husband’s great grandmother Lucy’s journal was a typewritten carbon copy on cheap paper and it’s still holding up! Print it out and pass it out, that’s the way to back up your documents!

Interestingly, the end of Lucy’s journal reads: “But I will do my very best to accept whatever is to be my future, with all the cheerfulness and fortitude possible. I only ask that I may be able to keep what little mentality I have, and care for myself to the end of my days—but I will try to say—Thy will, not mine.” After living a full life having gained and lost, she concluded that was her most important lesson in life was to trust God.

I’ve determined I want to leave a legacy of faith for the next generation. I want my grandchildren, and future great grandchildren to know they have been born into not just a Christian heritage, but into a family that knows and loves God. I want them to know the faithfulness of God in providing for us, of trusting when you can’t see the reason, and our deep love for them even though we don’t know all of them yet! We want them to know we are praying it forward for them. What will future generations read about your life?

Write On!

Psalm78

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Writing With Perspective

My best time of day is early morning as the sun is rising. The air is damp, the birds are beginning to sing, and the clouds have pink edges. Everything is renewed, and I have an optimistic perspective for the day. Today, as usual, I’m having coffee on the patio and contemplating God’s Word when movement among the heather bushes beneath the bottle brush tree attracts my attention. A rabbit!
Cute right? Not!
My husband coos, “We have a new pet.”
I complain, “He will probably eat our flowers.”
Interesting. We each spoke from our personal perspective. Same scene, same bunny, but different responses. It suggests something about our personalities. Maybe, maybe not, but it makes the story more interesting. In writing, your perspective can reveal something of your story or nature or just where you are standing that day. It can powerfully charge your message and challenge your reader to see things differently.

Different views of the same reality
As an art major, I studied perspective. In a drawing or painting, the underlying lines of YourPerspectiveperspective provide the proper shape, proportion, and position to make things appear three dimensional and realistic. Usually one-point perspective is taught first where you are at the center of the picture and the vanishing point is right in front of you. Much more interesting is two-point perspective as seen in the picture at the right. There are two vanishing points one at each  side of the picture revealing more dimension. Imagine yourself standing in different locations in this picture, you’d have an altered view of the very same reality. In writing editorials, offering differing points of view can bring balance and validity to your message. In your stories, providing differing points of view can add interest and dimension to your characters.

How do you see it?
In art, writing, and life, different perspectives can challenge us to see things differently. Where you position yourself affects how you see reality. For example, imagine the perspective picture as a city scene and you are standing in front of a tall building, how do you see it? Is it an obstacle blocking your view of what’s ahead? Or is it an opportunity to go up to the top floor and see much further than you would from the ground? If you feel stuck right now, try looking at your circumstance from a different position.

Version 2Two-point perspective also reminds us that there are two sides to an argument. You don’t have to agree with the other person but viewing things from their position will give you insights into their backstory. Ordinarily, I’m more tenderhearted about bunnies, but my response was provoked by the amount of work I had put into nurturing those flowers and plants and uncharacteristically, I was already planning that rabbit’s demise. It is a reminder that our beliefs, personality, and life experiences are like the hidden perspective guidelines that shape how we respond to what we see. Try tracing these out in your next conversation.

Write what you see
In my first writing workshop, I was told: “Write what you know.” In other words, tell the stories that are from your own experience because they will be credible. I say, don’t stay stuck in your one-point perspective where the world centers on you, but add dimension to your life by standing in different positions and tell what you learn. By the way, the bunny is fine. I decided he could be fun to have around. Keep writing my friend!

Write On!
Kathy

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:4-5

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Your web presence, does it reflect who you really are?

How does someone learn about your professional services? Authors, service providers, and small business owners know they need a platform to promote their offerings to the public. Most often this is done through internet presence and social media. But does your profile and your brand reflect who you really are?
WebPresenceBuilding a platform
I recently contemplated this very thought in seeking to establish a platform for myself as a writer. Yes, yes, I know some of you think of me as a serial entrepreneur. Writing is something I’ve always done, and this is the right career for me since my husband and I moved to Tallahassee a couple of years ago to be with our grandchildren. I’m excited, but I was stressing about having to establish a new identity on social media. I lamented about having to do this all over again. This time, I did something different. Rather than looking at what others were doing out there, I started with soul-searching about my brand.

Where to start
Remember the old Westerns? Cattle were branded with a logo that identified the owner. When launching a business or a web presence, marketing gurus say we must develop a brand. They mean more than a logo, it’s a whole identity. For most of us, our first instincts are to name our book, business, or URL, have a logo designed, get business cards printed, and have a website designed. That would be my first impulse, too, but first I contemplated my new identity. I questioned: “Do I create a brand, or be a brand?” I decided I should be a brand—that my public identity needed to reflect my character and deepest passion, not just a look I create. Does the identity you’re expressing reflect who you really are?

DavidsAppearanceBLK

Consider the verse from 1 Samuel 16:7 when the prophet Samuel was sent to the home of Jesse to anoint a new king of Israel. He did not consider the sons that looked the part—tall and handsome—but rather, God wanted him to select the one that had a heart for the interests of God. Samuel selected the son that was to be the future King David. He was known as “a man after God’s own heart.” Does your brand reflect your heart?

Create a Brand or be a Brand?
Your brand needs to be consistent, recognizable, and most especially, genuine. It should reflect your passion. People can tell if what you are broadcasting is genuine. Your brand is something people can feel. If it isn’t real, they won’t trust you. If they don’t trust you, they won’t purchase what you’re selling. So, what I’m suggesting is that your internet presence needs to have a look and message that genuinely reflects who you are rather than a look you create. To discover my brand, I asked myself some questions.

How to be a brand
I propose that you don’t build a brand, you identify your brand. To begin discerning your brand, identify who you are and what motivates you. Here is a list of the soul-searching questions I asked myself:

  • Who am I? (What would people say about me? How would they identify me? How am I known? Defines my character and characteristics.)
  • What do I stand for? (What is important to me? What guides my life and my responses to my life experiences? Defines my passion.)
  • What do I do? (How do I act on what I stand for? Defines my purpose.)
  • Why do I want to do this? (What motivates me? Defines my mission.)
  • What do I offer? (Products, services, insights. Defines my offering.)
  • What do I want to communicate about me, the product, and the benefit to my customer? (Defines my message.)
  • How do I want people to respond? (Defines my benefit.)
  • What will be my client’s benefit? (Defines their benefit and my impact.)
  • How does this honor God? (Defines how God is glorified.)

Write your answers

After answering these questions, my hesitation turned to enthusiasm as I became eager to set up my blog site and communicate the rediscovered passion that drives me!

Why is this important?
Hopefully, answering these questions for yourself will fire up your enthusiasm for what you do and how you express your brand. Connecting with your passion energizes your message and inspires your audience. It’s contagious! My writing friends, ask yourself these questions in reference to your blogging or book writing. Small business owners, review your current branding to see if it reflects who you genuinely are.

Your turn
Friends, I sincerely hope this exercise has helped you in some way. I’d love you to follow me in my new venture as a writer and share your challenges and what you’ve learned. At the right, click to follow me!

Write On Friends!

Kathy