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.

 

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

Click to Tweet: “I made a list of what I love most about stories but I also made myself identify why.” The Art of Dreaming With God by Kariss Lynch via @NovelAcademy https://ctt.ec/a7Zw2+ #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.

Deep Woods Writing Camp Review

by Jennifer Chastain

When I saw the email for the Deep Woods Writing Camp back in July, I immediately knew that I wanted to attend. I mean, a whole week of writing, writing workshops and a chance to recharge my writing batteries.

As I traveled first by airplane and then by vehicle to reach the North Shore of Lake Superior, I thought, “what am I doing here?” I was so out of my comfort zone. Here I am, traveling off to parts unknown with people I don’t know. What was I thinking? Okay, so, needless to say, I had a lot of self-doubts and was second guessing my decision to attend.

But as we drove on the darkened highway, we shared our personal writing journeys along with the stories we wanted to work on. I realized we’re not so different after all. Yes, some were further along in their writing than others, but that’s okay. And our stories were all unique, just like each attendee. It was a great time to connect with others from different areas of the country as well as make lasting friendships. It amazes me how God brought us all together.

When I first signed up, I had my whole week planned out. I was going to sit down, plot my stories (notice the plural – LOL) in record time and knock out thirty thousand words. And not to mention learn from one of the best writers of contemporary Christian romance.

On Sunday morning, we met for breakfast and then a short time of devotions, led by Susie. This was the pattern for each morning.

But what I appreciated most was that not only did we pray together, Susie specifically prayed for each one. It was a sweet time of fellowship, of sharing our burdens and giving praise to the One who gave us this burning desire to write.

Susie brought home the point that we’re not in this writing journey alone. God is with us and we need to consecrate our writing to the Lord. And as I sat and meditated on this truth, I realized I hadn’t been doing this. Yes, I believe God called me to write, but I was trying to do this in my own power.

Around ten a.m., we had classes on scene building, overwriting or wordsmithing. The classes were optional, there was no pressure to attend. If we didn’t want to sit in, we did research or worked on our works-in-progress (WIPs).

Some of us went hiking to Devil’s Kettle, others walked through the woods alone and a group attended the local high school football game with the deep blue shore of Lake Superior in the background.

The afternoons were reserved for writing and one-on-one time with Susie. Everyone had time to meet with her, to hone their stories or even plot new stories. Susie poured herself into each person this week.

In my case, we tore apart my story, reworked my plot and story equation (SEQ). This made my story stronger. After a session like that, I felt limp, overworked. But I was encouraged. Why? Because the possibilities for my story were endless!

In the evenings, we watched a movie and then analyzed it according to the SEQ. Or a group gathered around the firepit, with blankets on their laps, gazing at the stars in the velvety night sky, and talked.

Friday morning and early afternoon was reserved for one-on-one time with Susie. She read scenes and first chapters, making suggestions for improvement. Oh my, she could see to the heart of a scene! That afternoon, we walked through the charming town of Grand Marais, shopped, took selfies. And, for those of you familiar with the Deep Haven books, we ate doughnuts at World’s Best Doughnuts!

Friday was bittersweet. Our last day and then off to our respective homes. The bond that we formed was the result of not only writing. But of the oneness of spirit in Christ. But more than anything, I came away not only excited about my story but refreshed in my spirit.

If you have the chance to attend, Deep Woods Writing Camp, I suggest you jump on it. You won’t regret it!

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A graduate of  Tennessee Temple University with a degree in Communication Arts, Jennifer Chastain writes contemporary fiction, recently completing her first novel. Married more than twenty years, she and her husband make their home in the beautiful state of North Carolina with their rescued black cat.