6 Productivity Thoughts for the Holidays

by Jeanne Takenaka, @JeanneTakenaka

A few years ago, my schedule and pace exhausted me. A traveling husband’s schedule, boys’ activities, Christmas concerts, preparing and mailing out our Christmas letters, wrapping gifts . . . all of it caused me to forget how to breathe deep and sleep hard. I was running on crazy/busy/empty/breathless. I literally only inhaled shallow breaths.

In writing life, I concentrated on my third story, blogged, and was trying to build a platform . . . on top of all the real-life stuff. God warned me—I was headed for health troubles.

There are times when we need a little grace. During those busy weeks between Thanksgiving and the end of the year? We need a lot of grace.

What should we do when we must step back from our normal writing pace, but we still want to be productive?

Never fear. There are smaller, less-time-intensive tasks we can do to move us forward during the busy holiday season and organize us for next year:

  1. Give ourselves permission to rest. Agents and editors usually take this time of year off to catch up and to focus on family and friends. Unless we’re on deadline, we should take a cue from them and give our bodies, minds, and spirits space to rejuvenate.
  2. For bloggers, it’s okay to take a break from active blogging. Most of our readers are also busy with Christmas schedules. They may not visit as often anyway. We should let our readers know what we’re doing so they don’t worry about (or forget!) us.
  3. Look at what is and isn’t working with our blogs and platforms. Is it time to update our themes? Which social media posts are drawing/not drawing attention? Check logistical things like gravatar and bios and see if they’re current.
  4. Be on the lookout for ideas to begin posting on our blogs and social media sites in January. If possible, find an idea/series that can pique your readers’ interests based on the themes you write about.
  5. For those who have tons of pictures, this can be a good time to pull out the laptop (or phone or wherever they’re stored). Delete duplicates, blurry photos, and other photos that no longer speak to us.
  6. Give ourselves permission to fully engage with family and friends. This is a special time of year. We should be intentional with our time. When we’re with loved ones, let’s love well.

Writing life should take a back seat to real life.

After that Christmas season, I made some changes—for my sanity and my family’s.

Our boys’ schedules still run us a little ragged, but taking a break from most things writing in December has lightened my spirit. Come January, I’m eager to get back to all things writing.

And, I’ve learned how to slow down and breathe more deeply.

What about you? What tips would you add for those who want to be productive but not stressed during the Christmas season?

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Jeanne Takenaka writes contemporary fiction that touches the heart. She won My Book Therapy’s Frasier award in 2014 after finaling in the contest in 2013. She was a Genesis 2015 finalist in the romance category, and she finaled in the Launching a Star Contest and the Phoenix Rattler in 2012. An active member of RWA, ACFW and My Book Therapy, Jeanne blogs about life and relationships at http://jeannetakenaka.wordpress.com. A graduate with an M.A. in education, she resides in Colorado with her husband and two exuberant teenage boys who hope to one day have a dog of their own.

 

What’s Really Important?

by Alena Tauriainen writing as Alena Wendall @alenawendall

I remember hosting my very first Thanksgiving dinner. Fyi..the following is a perfect disaster scenario for someone’s story.

I should explain a little a bit about my family. My parents are from the islands and I was raised on typical Trinidadian foods. Hence, our Thanksgiving dinner looked a little different than those in the states. Okay, to be truthful, a lot different. We served things like macaroni pie, plantains, and rice. There was always rice.

My husband’s family is from Finland and they opt for a traditional Thanksgiving. Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and, of course, my mother-in-law’s famous stuffing.

Did I mention at that time I had never cooked for both families like that before?

That day, I woke up super excited and determined that everything was going to be perfect. I had my step-mom and my mother-in-law in the kitchen with me. Both had an opinion on everything I did that day. EVERYTHING.

Did I mention I was pregnant at the time?

I thought I was doing great. We were close. I was plating all the big items for the meal. I was listening, nodding, and smiling. Then it hit.

Did you see that emotion zing across the kitchen? No? It was that fast.

When someone told me how to pour the rice into the serving dish, I lost it. Unequivocally lost it. One minute, I was pouring rice, and the next, I was in the bathroom crying.

All I remembered was my husband appearing in our bathroom. He just stood there until I was ready. He never said a word about me crying. Just waited. Smart man.

Later that afternoon, after all the food was eaten, leftovers bagged and put away and we were on our second round of dessert, both of my sisters-in-law started laughing. I didn’t know what was funny. I didn’t think I’d missed a joke but apparently, I had.

They said that they knew it was going to hit the fan, so they deliberately stayed outside. Smart women for sure!

I bring up that story because if I’d taken a moment before all of the craziness to reflect on what was truly important—time with family, laughing, joking, eating—then I wouldn’t have been so wound up about everything being perfect.

Thanksgiving is a time of reflecting on the blessings in your life. Being thankful. Sure, we look forward to the meal, but really, whether you make a baked turkey, a smoked turkey or a fried turkey—it doesn’t matter. Paper products versus real dishes, freshly made rolls versus store-bought—those things aren’t deal breakers, not if you remember what’s really important.

So, before the craziness starts…take a moment to reflect.

Then when the green beans are over-cooked, or some very helpful family member tells you for the thirtieth time how to do something, you will have the patience to let it go. Because you will be smarter than I was that Thanksgiving, and you will remember to focus on what’s truly important.

Oh, and if I had to give one extra tip for a happy Thanksgiving dinner? Delegate. Get those in-laws and siblings to bring something and/or put them in charge of something. Share the load. Share the fun.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Writing as Alena Wendall, Alena Tauriainen pens contemporary Christian romance novels that always end with a happily ever after. By day, she partners with her lifelong mate Clyde, to run the family HVAC business. She manages both business and family life with four lovable but crazy kids. She is the Retreats Coordinator for My Book Therapy. She is represented by Rachelle Gardner with Books & Such Literary Management. Visit her at alenawendall.com.

 

 

 

The Art of Dreaming with God (Part 1)

by Kariss Lynch

As writers, we were created to create. When Genesis says that man was created in the image of God, I believe that included being made with characteristics that resemble Him. He’s the master storyteller, and I believe He gave me a tiny piece of that trait. I love to create and work with color. I believe that is His creativity peaking through me.

I would even take it one step further. Not only do I think we were created to create, but I believe we are called to create, meaning I believe our writing, our storytelling is an act of obedience, a time of growing our relationship with the Lord.

Part of that process for me looks like dreaming. We belong to a God who spoke the earth into being. He created the platypus and the manatee, both which fascinate me because of how they are designed. Don’t laugh. I know those are weird examples. Okay, maybe laugh a little, but don’t think for a second He isn’t creative or a dreamer. Part of writing with Him looks like dreaming with Him.

One of my favorite quotes from C. S. Lewis regarding his process of writing The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe says, “But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it…once He was there He pulled the whole story together.”

I believe our writing journeys are the same. Until Aslan comes bounding into this journey, we just have pieces. When He arrives, the whole journey, the whole story comes together. But I don’t want to just wait. I want to invite Him into it. So last month, I blocked off time to dream. I asked a couple different questions to help me brainstorm, but the very first one I asked was:

What do I love about a good story? What are my favorite aspects of my Heart of a Warrior series?

I made a list, knowing this list would tell me a lot about how God wired me, helped me dream, helped me strategize, and helped me resonate with the heart of the reader. But I didn’t stop there. I made a list of what I love most about stories but I also made myself identify why. That “why” sets the tone for my stories.

What I love most about stories:

  • A good, imperfect romance
  • A little bit of action, danger, and adventure
  • A team, family unit, or group
  • Fun character personalities and growth
  • A setting that sings
  • Creativity
  • Heroism that comes from fighting for something bigger than the individual
  • Hope, loyalty, and courage

Dreaming this way with the Lord is the sweetest part of this journey for me. Aslan has dashed onto the page, and I’m excited to walk next to Him in this process, participating in the adventures He has in store, knowing He doesn’t lead us to safe places but He does lead us to good places (thanks for the lesson, Mr. Beaver).

What would your list include? What do you love most about stories and want to include in your own?

Click to Tweet: The Art of Dreaming With God by Kariss Lynch via @NovelAcademy https://ctt.ec/81Uc3+ #writing #faith

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Kariss Lynch writes contemporary romance about characters with big dreams, adventurous hearts, and enduring hope. She is the author of the Heart of a Warrior series and loves to encourage her readers to have courage. In her free time, she hangs out with her family and friends, explores the great outdoors, and tries not to plot five stories at once. Connect with her at karisslynch.com, or on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.

 

Reasons Why Writers Need Rest from Writing

by Connilyn Cossette,@ConniCossette 

One of the things I did not anticipate about becoming a published author was just how fatigued I would become during certain periods. Book launches can be grueling and overlapping editing/writing target dates can wear an author out. The closer I get to a deadline the more exhausted my poor brain becomes and I need a thesaurus just to carry on a normal conversation.

Since this has become an issue for me, I have deemed the entire month after I turn in a manuscript to my publisher as “Writercation”. During those 30 days, I do not allow myself to start any new project other than the few odd blogs (like this one) and instead take that time to whittle away at my TBR pile and read a couple of new craft books, which always help inspire me. Of course, I do spend time pulling the craziness of my house back together after marathon deadline writing but I overlap the tedium with lots of audio books and a whole lot of daydreaming about my next book.

As a result, when I do begin that next project I have cleared away the cobwebs and gotten far enough away from the former manuscript that I can come at the new story with a fresh perspective, a rested mind, and revived inspiration.

You may not have the luxury of an entire month due to publishing schedules (and in the future, I anticipate I won’t either) but have you prioritized rest into your publishing/writing calendar? Are you taking a Sabbath rest weekly? If so, are you using that rest day to do things that are actually refreshing and nourishing to your soul or are you spending that day vacuuming and doing laundry?

There is a reason that God prescribed rest from the very beginning of Creation. The bodies he designed for us cannot sustain without regular periods of rest and neither can our minds. If we do not take that command seriously we will burn out and writing will become a burden instead of a joy.

If you are pre-published now is the time to institute these periods of rest, so that when you are under a deadline in the future, you’ll already be in the habit of doing so. Make plans to explore nature, daydream, spend time with your family, or enjoy hobbies that have been put on the back burner to focus on writing. Choose something that rejuvenates you, schedule regular time to enjoy it, and I guarantee you will be a more focused, more creative, more productive writer as a result.

What are your favorite ways to rest your body and mind? Do you have regularly scheduled days off built into your writing schedule? What benefits have you seen from these breaks?

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Connilyn Cossette is the CBA Best-Selling author of the Out from Egypt Series with Bethany House Publishing. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for both an INSPY Award and a Christian Retailing’s Best Award. There’s not much she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible, uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus, and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives in a little town near Dallas, Texas with her husband of twenty years and two awesome kids, who fill her days with laughter, joy, and inspiration. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.