A Writer’s Gratitude

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In the six-and-a-half months that I’ve been blogging about writing and what I’ve learned while writing, I may have mentioned a time or two how difficult it can be. Writing is often a daunting and solitary activity, filled with insecurity and uncertainty and frequent attacks of creativity-squashing doubt. But while all of that is true, it’s not my focus today. Today, I am basking in one of the biggest perks of being a writer.

Literally.

As I write this post, I am decked out in a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, chilling on a patio chair with my bare feet and arms soaking up some end-of-summer warmth. It’s a balmy seventy degrees out here with an intermittent light breeze and enough cotton candy clouds passing occasionally in front of the sun to keep me from getting too warm. (In the words of one of our local meteorologists, it is a Goldilocks Day—not too hot, not too cold, and not too windy. It’s juuuust right.)

I have a can of cool sparkling water cozied up in a koozie on the table next to me and every breath in brings with it the lingering scent of my neighbor’s freshly mowed lawn. The insects and birds have been kind enough to provide the soundtrack for my afternoon writing session, serenading me with their chirps and buzzes, along with the sporadic honk of a male pheasant somewhere in the distance.

I lift my eyes to the sky, take in another deep breath, and all I can think is: How incredibly blessed am I to have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful, beautiful day?

What about you? What are you most grateful for today?

What I’ve Learned By Blogging

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

Last Monday, while enjoying a riverside walk with a friend of mine, she posed a question that at the time completely stumped me. She asked, “What have you learned by blogging?”** Although her inquiry was simple and should have been easy for me to answer immediately, it has taken an entire week and a considerable amount of pondering for me to formulate any type of response. And even as I sat down to write it out, I repeatedly asked myself similar versions of the same question while staring at the blank screen and blinking cursor.

What have I learned? Why do I blog? How have I grown over the last six months?

I have said before that writing is an emotional outlet for me. It offers an avenue through which I can make sense of myself, my thoughts, and (as much as possible) the world at large. Throughout my lifetime, the act of writing of any kind—be it work on my manuscript, blogging, journaling, or even a personal email/card/letter—has provided me with tremendous insight, understanding, and compassion. But thinking about blogging specifically, I realize I have gained three valuable skills.

I’ve learned Focus. For the first several weeks every post took hours to write. I was often distracted by worry and anxiety—judgment and criticism and comparisons, oh my—as well as to-do lists, drama (both real and imagined), emails/calls/texts, etc. You name it, my attention was likely diverted by it and I recognized very quickly the detrimental effects of my lack of concentration. The more time I wasted, the more time my butt had to be glued to my desk chair, and the less time I had for other life essentials. BUT when I focused solely on the task at hand, not only did my work improve, but I also got more done in less time. And as an added bonus, this learned focus has bled into other parts of my life, like when I’m working on my manuscript.

I’ve learned Stamina. My original intention in starting the blog was to keep my family and friends abreast of my novel-writing journey. But a short time later, it grew into a way to connect with other people who, like me, may have big dreams and goals and plans, but also experience difficulty following through on them. But blogging isn’t exactly an “if you build it, they will come” proposition. Building a readership is a marathon, not a sprint, and much like long-distance running, it takes stamina to keep going. And as a self-proclaimed quitter, I am happy to report that through training and persistence, this priceless trait is one that can be honed and strengthened.

I’ve learned Consistency. In the beginning, I made a commitment to myself to publish two blog posts every week. Twenty-five-and-a-half weeks and fifty-one posts later, I am still upholding that promise. This has been made possible mainly because of a consistent writing schedule. Creating blog content has become as much a part of my daily routine as working on my manuscript.

So, what have I learned by blogging? Focus. Stamina. Consistency. Three skills that I wouldn’t have necessarily expected to acquire, but I am grateful I have. For it is armed with these precious assets that I have also made progress in other areas of my life. And it just goes to show that we never know what unforeseen growth can come out of our experiences if only we keep our hearts and minds open.

What about you? Are there any qualities/skills/abilities that you have learned in an unexpected way?

**Thank you, Julie, for prompting the topic of this post.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

As a still-newbie blogger of only four-and-a-half months and a greenhorn Twitterer, I am honored to have been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by a fellow member of the amazing Twitter #writingcommunity. A quick shout out of sincere appreciation for the nomination to the lovely and talented Charlotte, who writes about food, fitness, and reading (among other things) over at Enchanting Moments. You can check out her blog there and also connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given within the blogging and writing community in support of other bloggers and writers. Individuals are chosen for their thoughtfulness and generosity, positive content and attitudes, and support towards the writing community. Anyone can nominate their favorite blogger, writer, or someone who has made an impact.

Rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, provide a link back to their blogging sites.
  2. Answer their questions.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.
  4. Notify the nominees about their nomination via their blog or social media.
  5. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post.

My answers to Charlotte’s questions:

  1. What’s your favorite season of the year? Christmas was the first season to pop in my head—I love the joyful church services, the magical lights, the warm and fuzzy nostalgia wrapped up in all the ornaments and foods, and most of all the music—but if that doesn’t count, the runner up is Autumn. Fallen leaves are one of my favorite scents (next to Christmas trees, of course).
  2. What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday morning? Summer Saturday mornings are perfect for long bike rides with my hubby. In the winter, I prefer a book, a fireplace, and a cup of tea.
  3. Who do you call in a crisis? My husband. His logic balances out my instinct to overreact.
  4. When do you feel at your most creative? Usually at the most inopportune times. Like in the wee hours of the morning when my mind wakes up well before my alarm. Or when I’m away from my computer and involved in a mundane task like folding laundry or mowing the lawn.
  5. If you had to pick one outfit to wear for the rest of your life, which would it be? That “fit just right” pair of jeans, a well-worn tee, and a cozy sweatshirt.
  6. What’s your favorite type of baked goods? I try to steer clear of baked goods, but I have an inherent sweet tooth that can’t seem to say no to most desserts, especially when they’re topped with ice cream.
  7. You have won an all-inclusive trip to the destination of your choice. Where are you going? This is a tough one. I love to travel and there are a lot of wonderful destinations in the world that I’d like to visit, but for me the ideal isn’t as much a location as it is an experience. I’d choose to go where life is simpler, slower-paced, and retains a Mayberry-type charm. If such a place still exists, I’d definitely like to spend some time there.
  8. Which series would you recommend I watch next? I’m not really up on current TV shows, so I’ll recommend a few older ones that I fully enjoyed and watched in toto: Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, and a blast from a couple decades past that I’ve recently resurrected, Wings.
  9. Are you a dog person or a cat person? Dog. Although my sweet Dolly is starting to exhibit some cat-like behaviors in her old age.
  10. Which achievement are you most proud of and why? One day very soon, this will read: Wrote a complete novel manuscript. But until then, my answer is running a half marathon. I have a tendency to conceive grand ideas, but I habitually lack the follow-through to see them to fruition. So I am proud to have signed up, trained for, and crossed the finish line for not just one, but two of those 13.1-mile jaunts.
  11. Do you prefer breakfast, lunch or dinner? I am a huge fan of breakfast and could eat breakfasty foods for every meal, every day.

My Nominees and Questions:

Randy Susan Meyers, Lindsey Bomgren (Nourish Move Love), Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist), Anthony Ongaro (Break the Twitch), No Sidebar, Melanie Notkin (Savvy Auntie), Katie Wells (Wellness Mama), Davida Lederle (The Healthy Maven), Taylor Kiser (Food Faith Fitness), Clayton Snyder, and Christina Herr

  1. If you had no obligations on your calendar and no responsibilities on your to-do list, how would you spend a Goldilocks day (not too hot, not too cold, not too windy)?
  2. What book have you read multiple times and why?
  3. What one thing would you be most distraught to lose?
  4. How many consecutive days could you survive without your cell phone?
  5. What is your all-time, favorite movie?
  6. When visiting the beach, do you spend most of your time on the sand or in the water?
  7. Things that make you go Mmmm. What is the most delicious food you’ve ever tasted?
  8. Rollercoasters . . . yay or nay?
  9. From what decade(s) do the most-played songs on your playlist(s) originate?
  10. What cartoons did you watch growing up?
  11. Do you play a musical instrument?

Thanks again to Charlotte for the nomination and the fun deviation from my normal posts. Be sure to take a peek at the blogs mentioned above and if you’d like to participate, feel free to share your responses to any/all of the questions by posting in the comments.

How I Will Finish My Manuscript

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

I jumped out of bed Friday morning at 6 a.m. sharp, singing praises of joy for having been given another day to live out my purpose here on God’s green earth. I grabbed a prepared-in-advance smoothie from the fridge, cheerfully glided through the usual morning stuff—which included a workout, dog care, packing hubby’s lunch, etc.—before sliding into my desk chair at precisely 8:00 with a prayer on my lips and a wealth of gratitude in my heart.

I spent the next four hours revising my manuscript, sinking easily into The Flow without once being tempted to open a web browser or look at the clock or check my phone, so I was shocked when my stomach told me it was lunchtime.

I stepped away from my computer, ate a healthy and colorful salad, and took Dolly out for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. Returning home refreshed and reenergized, I hammered out a couple blog posts, along with a few simultaneously witty and thought-provoking social media posts.

At exactly four o’clock, I shut down my computer, carefully mapped out the next day’s plan, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading, resting, and relaxing with family and friends.

I’m kidding, of course.

Although there is some truth to this romanticized version—e.g., my alarm does go off at six most mornings and I do spend four hours revising—the majority of it is far from reality. There are, in fact, many days that I’d rather hit the snooze button and I sleepwalk through most of my workout and writing is so hard that I can’t remember why I ever wanted to do it in the first place.

And yet I keep showing up.

My butt is in the chair each weekday at eight because I made a promise to myself that it would be. Because a little under a year ago I decided that I was going to make progress on my novel manuscript. I took an honest look at my irregular writing routine and I figured out what worked and what didn’t and why. Through trial and error, I landed on a schedule that fit my life and I committed to staying firm but flexible in sticking with it.

That consistency is how I am going to complete this manuscript. Will it be a bestseller? Or even good enough to find its way out of an agent’s slush pile? I don’t know. What I do know is that before the end of this year, there will come a day when I will sit down at my desk during my designated writing time and I will type the words THE END.

If you want to make progress on your own goals, you have got to decide to keep showing up. Write even when the words are terrible. Go to the gym even when you’d rather sleep in. Do what you need to do even when you don’t feel like doing it. Commit to creating that consistency and you will see progress.

You can do it, my friends! I believe in you!

What’s Your Why?

Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

There are days when I can’t seem to focus. When my words and writing projects seem inadequate and useless, mere whispers in a world already saturated with stronger, louder voices. When my inner critic pesters me with relentless questions about purpose and talent and worth until there’s nothing running through my mind but a revolving door of doubt.

Those are the days when I need to remind myself of my why. To remember why I keep writing even though it’s hard and often scary and sometimes lonely. To remember why I started in the first place. To get back to the basics. Before there were blog posts and web sites and social media platforms to worry about. Back when I was just a girl with a story, a notebook, and a dream.

That girl wrote because she had to. Because she was led by an internal spirit that refused to let her rest until she followed. She wrote with hopes of transforming simple turns of phrase into resounding prose that made someone’s day, changed someone’s life, woke someone up to his or her own passion. She wrote with abandon even when it seemed no one was reading because setting words on paper was how she made sense of the world, and of herself.

So, when my memory gets bogged down with fear and doubt and insecurities, and I forget what I’m doing and why, I conjure an image of that girl—her compulsion, her optimism, her vulnerability—and I remember that, although I have grown and changed in many ways, I am still her. I still feel that pull, that sometimes overwhelming passion to write. I still hold onto that naïve hope that someday, somehow, somewhere, my words will be a light, a lift, a gift to someone in need. And I still write, despite crickets and critics, because writing not only helps me identify and understand the world and my place in it, but it has become a part of who I am.

What about you? What’s your why? What keeps you getting up, showing up, and moving forward?