Holiday non-writing, writing tips

Let’s be honest—you’re not writing during the Christmas season. Neither am I. With all the glitter, the Christmas-sing-alongs, the baking and the general melee of the season, congealing your thoughts into a coherent, let-alone tension-filled scene is like trying to choose just one cookie to choose from the Christmas buffet table.

Give it up.

Instead, how about using the next two weeks to prep for an amazing 2016 writing year?

Here are a few ideas to keep your brain simmering on story while you enjoy that spiced cider.

Give yourself a break! I’m not talking about simplifying (although, that is good—only one kind of cookie on the tray means less agonizing choices!), but rather—actually going to your room, shutting the door and having a moment of quiet. Listen, I know—if you have little children—quiet isn’t easy. I used to require an hour of reading every day during Christmas breaks (and summer, too!). The kids (if they were little) got to choose books from our special “book basket” to read on their bed. Or I might turn on an audio book and give them a few toys to play with. I might even spread out a blanket on the floor (each child gets their own) and declare it “their zone”—to play/read in.

And then go get a book, something lavish that you are reading just for the pure enjoyment of it (I can recommend a few—Rachel Haucks, The Wedding Chapel, Melissa Tagg’s Christmas novella, One Enchanted Christmas,  Becky Wade’s Christmas short story, The Proposal) and indulge yourself in a chapter. I read a book for fun nearly every weekend of the year—but I read “biz” books—novels for endorsement, or research, or just to challenge my writing—during the week. But for two weeks during Christmas, I allow myself to indulge in decadent fiction—books I might not normally have time for.

And, in quieting my brain, allowing myself this lavish luxury, inevitably, great ideas for my own writing will surface.

Quiet Time Reading—a little gift you give yourself.

 

Gather around the fire! Bring back the old “Christmas read-aloud” tradition. In our family, we do a Christmas puzzle every season. Often, we listen to Christmas music. But occasionally, we have a family read aloud—I read, while people puzzle. When the kids were younger, each child got to choose one book, one per night, leading up to Christmas. Reading aloud is like yoga for the writing brain. We hear delightful dialogue, savor story world, and become the characters we’re reading. And, when we enjoy a story together, we are reminded not only what makes a great story . . . but why we write.

Evergreen cove for CarolSome of our family favorites: David Barry’s The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog

Back To Christmas, by my author friend Dennis Canfield

(or pick up Evergreen: A Christiansen Christmas story)

 

 

Turn OFF and let your brain turn ON.  About 6 months ago, I decided to go device-free on the weekends. Yes, I post our Saturday football game crew on Facebook, but then I turn my social media off until Monday. I find it de-clutters my brain and allows me to just enjoy my people, the game, and the space of life. One of my favorite things to do is take a walk on a Sunday afternoon, let my thoughts air out and get some perspective.

When I do this, I find room for other thoughts—deeper ones that can influence the themes of my stories, the depth of my writing.

So . . . let’s get crazy this weekend and walk away from social media from the 24th through the 28th. Really. And then, maybe get outside, take a walk. Give your brain a rest. It’ll come back online, restored and ready to go after the holidays.

I’ll miss you, but I’ll see you then.

Have a great Christmas holiday!

Warmly,

Susie May

smw_sig_without_background06e211

 

Focusing on One Word for 2016

It’s that time of year again when I throw down my One Word challenge! I encourage one and all — that means you! — to abandon the time-honored tradition of New Year’s resolutions and instead, to focus on One Word for the upcoming year.

This is my eleventh year to focus on one word, and here’s a quick recap of my One Words for years past:

2006: gratitude – I kept a gratitude journal and found my “glass-half-empty” attitude revolutionized.
2007: simplify – A severe illness turned this word into survival. I embraced simpler things in ways I never imagined.
2008: content – as in “be content with such things as you have” (Hebrews 13:5) I bought a lot less that year!
2009 & 2010: forgiveness – I had a lot to learn and unlearn about forgiveness.
2011: hope – A word I clung to when life hurt or when my heart ached for others who were hurting. There were times I could have asked “Why?” Instead, I asked myself, “Are you going to abandon hope?” My answer: No.
2012: trust – During a year of change, I faced doubting versus trusting — and chose to trust. I also began posting trust quotes on my Facebook page to encourage myself and others.
2013: confidence – I feel so much stronger emotionally after keeping my heart and mind set on “not throwing away my confidence.” (Hebrews 10:35-36) And yes, I continued the tradition of posting confidence quotes on my FB page.
2014: think – I tried to anchor my thinking to truth more and more, rather than letting my thoughts go wandering.
2015: collaborate – to work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something. Synonyms: co-operate, join forces, team up, band together, work together, participate, combine, ally.

My word for 2016 is: prosper.

I Samuel 18:14 says: David was prospering in all his ways for the LORD was with him.

1 Samuel 1814 NASB 2015

But here’s what I found interesting: the word “prosper” means acting wisely. So read that as “And David was acting wisely in all his ways for the LORD was with him.”

Changes things, doesn’t it? I like to think of “prosper” as material wealth, or even accolades. It’s not often — if ever — that I think of prospering as acting wisely. The upcoming year is going to be interesting as God teaches me more about the deeper meaning of the word prosper.

So, what about you? Have you chosen One Word in years past? Are you pondering One Word for 2016?

9 Traps to Avoid if You Want to Grow as a Writer

I’ve never met a writer who didn’t claim to want to grow and improve. Everyone single one I’ve ever met has had some sort of a goal. Oh don’t get me wrong, the goals differ widely—from wanting to write and publish the next great American novel, to just wanting to see their name in print, to wanting to record the family stories for the next generation. All of these different goals require growth.

But while everyone says they want to grow and improve—many don’t take even the simplest of steps to achieve that growth. So today, instead of pointing out what writers should do to grow, I’m going to turn the tables and give you a list on what to do if you do NOT want to grow as a writer. Beware if you fall into too many of the traps I’ve listed below.

9 Steps to Avoid Growing as a Writer

  1. Don’t Write.Instead talk about writing, meet with others who are writing, and definitely read about writing. But don’t ever let yourself record words on a page.
  2. Focus on the Reasons Why NOT.I don’t know a single successful writer who actually has time to write. Every single one of them lives in the midst of circumstances that would keep any sane person from spending time at the computer composing manuscripts. At one point or another we all deal with family crisis, health issues, and overwhelming chaos. Be sure you always focus on why you don’t have time to write and you’ll be composing your own self-defeating philosophy.
  3. Listen to and Obey the Negative Voices in Your Head.Writers are our own worst enemies. We can come up with more reasons to fail than any group of people we might encounter. Focus on those voices that whisper what a failure you are and that no one will ever read what you’ve written.
  4. Never Invest Time or Especially Money in Your Foolish Dream.Life has shown me that I get out of something what I’m willing to get into it. If I’m not willing to invest in my dream, that will definitely keep me from making any kind of progress. So to avoid growth I need to keep my money in my wallet and my time spent elsewhere by avoiding attending conferences, buying books, joining writing groups
  5. Put ALL Relationships above Writing Time.We all know there’s nothing more important than relationships. Balance is good, but focusing only on relationships is even better—if you never want to grow. Truthfully I don’t know of a single profession that doesn’t cause us to make sacrifices and choices. By only being available to help out others, we’re being generous. Who cares if we’re not following our calling.
  6. Hang Out with Others Who Aren’t Writing.I’m not talking about non-writers. I’m talking about others who want to write, but never seem to find the time. By hanging out with these folks you’ll be able to reinforce the decisions you’re making and commiserate about how you’re too _________ to write and isn’t that a shame.
  7. Never Take ANY Risks.Growth requires stretching, and yes, often pain. If you never take any risks you’ll be able to get through this phase of wanting to write without making any forward motion.
  8. Ignore the Fact that God Gave You this Gift of Words.You can’t even be sure, in a black and white sort of way, that God did birth this dream inside you. It’s silly to follow something you’re not sure of. After all, if He really wanted you to write, He’d have provided the time you needed, right?
  9. Never Set Goals and EspeciallyNever Write Them Down.We all know what happens when you set goals, we tend to work toward them. And if we write them down, we’re almost doomed to follow through. If you never want to make progress as a writer, avoid this snare.

I hope and pray that none of you find yourself in the traps above. I’m ashamed to say that—at one time or another—I’ve fallen into most of the them at one time or another. Fortunately, I’ve surrounded myself with people who will tell me the truth and ask me the hard questions.

What would you add to my list? Come one, I’ve been honest, now it’s your turn. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Care and Feeding of Creativity

Rachel Hauck
Christ’s Birth In A Stable

This fall I tackled something new in my writing career. Two books in six months. One at 100K words the other at 50K words.

To be honest, the second book got slapped together enough for my editor to see where I was going. Bless her heart all the way to the moon and back.

And it was with characters I knew, in a setting I’d built for the royal wedding books but stories take time.

The characters have to germinate, come to life. I have to wrestle with who they really are as the main storytellers.

So today as I took care of things around the house, I realized I could “breath and think.”

Monday as I finished the book enough to turn it in, I could barely think. Had NO emotion. I was tired.

Two days later, I’m ready to dream up a new story idea.

Why? Because I had a few moments to relax, do something else, dream.

Driving down the road, I boosted the volume on the iTunes track playing and sang at the top of my lungs.

I thought of going shopping. Then maybe how to decorate the house a bit more. Oh, and I should clean said house since I’ve been backside-in-chair before Thanksgiving.

These things help our creativity.

When we do things that emotionally energize us or bring us back to reality, to the every day world.

I can READ!!

I started a book on the plane home and haven’t been able to get back to it sense.

Creativity isn’t something we pull out of thin air. It’s not a flash idea we never revisit.

Creativity is something we cultivate.

We pray. We worship the Creator. We share life with other.

Hubs and I don’t have children but we collect OPKs—Other People’s Kids. 😉 Two of them visited for my birthday this past weekend.

We went to the spa. Chilled. Ordered Longhorns take out.

Care and feeing of creativity right there…

Christmas the house will be full of guests. I’m excited. Lots of coming and going. It’ll be the first time in a long time we’ve had a house full.

Filling my emotional bank with friends and family is part of caring and feeding of my creativity.

Sitting out on the back deck. Doodling in a large sketch book with colored pencils. I cannot draw worth spit but just putting colorful lines and curly-cues on paper inspires me.

Taking pictures. I’ll be sure to snap a few photos this Christmas. Though there’s no way my brother will pose for a pic! But that’s caring and feeding my creativity.

As writers, we get emotionally drained. We need life to full our tank, refuel our emotions.

Mostly stilling our hearts before the Lord. This time can be so busy, even stressful, but our Peace is the baby who came to redeem us from stress, fear, depression and loneliness.

I’ve been busy. I need to get at His feet. Just be. Let Him fill me. Speak to me.

What about you? How’s your emotional tank? Don’t forget to be with the One who loves you and will fill you!