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Posts Tagged ‘encouragement’

“We are judged by how we finish, not how we start.”

How true. Some people are so worried about whether or not they’ll be able to finish a project that they hesitate to begin anything. I confess to being one of those. Partly, it’s because I tend to perfectionism. Please understand that perfectionism doesn’t mean that everything I do meets that high standard, but it’s what I wish I could attain. Through my life, I’ve had to make choices about where to spend my energy and focus, a fight against perfectionism. (Dusting the furniture was something that lost out!)

My husband is a starter. He loves to jump into a project and get it going. He doesn’t usually worry about finishing at that stage. I, on the other hand, am afraid to start something in case I won’t be able to finish it. The result: I talk myself out of a lot of things that might be good if I trusted myself. I have to say my husband and I have rubbed off on each other over the years. I’m more willing to try something, and he’s more intent on completing a project.

As a writer, I’ve learned that first words aren’t crucial at the outset. It’s the act of beginning that’s important. First words can be changed, edited, tweaked, or stricken from the record! They are only a starting point, a thought-bullet fired in a specific direction. The more important aspect is following through, completing a task to the best of our abilities.

We’re on a journey through this life, and our paths are not complete until our number is called. Let’s give each day our all, with the help of the God who created us do the things He has prepared in advance for us to do.

 

NOTE: For as long as I can remember, our household has regularly received The Furrow magazine, a farming publication published by Deere & Company. My favourite part of this magazine is the next-to-last page, titled fun & Philosophy, a collection of jokes, quotes from famous people, and capsule sermons. From these I’ve chosen a few as conversation starters for my blogspot. Thought-bullets.

 

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As you already know if you follow my blog, I had a different year in 2017. My mom lived with us for seven months before she passed, and after that I couldn’t seem to engage in my writing. I’ve kept up with my blogs, but my novel plans have languished. I needed to grieve and to heal.

Then two things happened:

  1. My husband and I read a devotional writing this morning (mid-March) that revolved around Ecclesiastes chapter three:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (verses 1 and 4b, NIV).

My mind went to seasons and times, and I realized that I had spent enough time in this season of mourning. Yes, it’s important to mourn, and I will never forget my dear mom, but I think it is time to move ahead.

  1. That same morning, I received a phone call from a dear friend. “My neighbor called me,” she said, “and told me she can’t find your third book in this latest series.”

    from pixabay.com

Hmm. That’s because it’s still in my head and on my heart. It has not yet fully migrated to paper and certainly hasn’t come near publication. I confessed this to my friend and she said, “I thought so. You had told me about your mom, and I told my neighbor. We understand.”

But her words were the kick-in-the-pants I needed to confirm the nudge from Ecclesiastes.

This missive is to inform you, my faithful blog-followers, that I have re-engaged in my novel activities. I have been writing, with paper and pen at the moment, a manuscript that will become the third book in my In Search of Freedom series. I plan to use a somewhat different format, so it’s a challenge, and that’s another reason I’ve been procrastinating. It’s scary to try something new.

If you are a praying person, I could use your prayers. I’ll let you know how it’s going, and please feel free to contact me and ask, or to offer another gentle kick-in-the-pants to keep me motivated.

Thanks for listening, and I wish you a day that matters.

 

 

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One year ago, I decided to make the leap into independent publishing. Here are some of the things I have learned, in no particular order, along with a few tips:id-100355999

  1. I am capable of launching my own publishing company, including the various forms and fees required. (Print copies of documents so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, so says experience.)
  1. I am capable of editing, formatting and creating covers for my books. I have carried out each step. However, if I wish to maintain my sanity and the quality I desire, I know I cannot do all these things myself all the time (kudos to those of you who can, and I know a few of you).

img_1237An Aside: I thought of an analogy this morning as my husband and I sat at breakfast contemplating a few upcoming renovations to our home. Three years ago, we transformed our attached garage into an office/guest room (it was too small for our vehicle). We, mostly my husband, did all the work. I helped where I could, including taping and mudding seams and corners after the drywall was up. I can do mudding, but I’m quite bad at it. I don’t ever want to do mudding again. The end result looks better if someone more skilled and patient does it. Just like I can do book covers and formatting, but it’s better for all concerned if I let someone more skilled do those jobs.

  1. Excellent and reasonably priced services are available to help indie authors in areas where we don’t feel competent, or where we can’t manage it all time-wise. Some of these skilled people may already be in our circle of friends/acquaintances. Trading skills is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
  1. Marketing remains my pianissimo (as opposed to my forte). I must continue to ask, read, search, learn. Again, there are people who are good at this, trained, willing to help. I need to reach out.
  1. I love the flexibility and the control that indie publishing offers. I decide the order of projects on my to-do list. I decide on the cover, the size, the interior design, et cetera, together with those I’ve asked to assist me.
  1. I am ultimately responsible for the outcomes, for my promises to my readers, for deadlines.
  1. A Reminder: As a Christian author, I am not my own boss. God is. That adds a much higher lever of accountability to my writing life.
  1. A human accountability partner who knows my writing, at least some of my personal situation, and my overall goals, is an immeasurable asset. We can pray for and support each another.
  1. I must continue to learn, to review, to experiment, to observe, to ask.
  1. I must continue to write so I have something to publish. I must learn balance.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13.

Tips in a Nutshell:

— Pray for wisdom, guidance and strength daily (or moment by moment)

— Do what you can

— Ask for help when you can’t

— Trade skills

— Count the costs, make a budget, treat this writing like a calling/career/vocation

If you are a self / indie published author, what are some of the things you have learned about the process? I’d love to hear from you.

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If you’re anything like me, you need some form of motivation to keep you going. 1422211012a83gw
According to Facebook posts, many people use coffee as their drug of choice, maintaining that they cannot operate without it. I admit that if it didn’t affect me so adversely, I’d do the same. Unfortunately, coffee gives me headache, stomachache, dizziness and the shakes, so I only consume it a sip or two at a time, and only rarely.

But there must be other motivational techniques we can employ to reward ourselves as we work at our self-employed creativity.

Most writers I know don’t do it for the money, because the actual returns are often negligible.
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So if we don’t do it for the money, why do we slave away at our computer keyboards? For the love of the craft, you may say. And I may be tempted to accept that statement. But that’s a big picture concept. How do we motivate ourselves from day to ordinary day? Similar to Pavlov’s dog, we need regular stimuli in order to perform.

One of my favorite methods for motivation is to regroup. Re-organize. I create charts and lists. In the short run, it may be a subtle form of procrastination, but if I persevere, this exercise helps me to see the big picture, and then break it down into bite-sized (measurable, achievable) pieces.file0001564894818

Another method is to reward myself upon completion of one of the steps toward my larger goal. Since I don’t drink coffee, I choose chocolate. Call it mind over matter, but the natural caffeine content of very dark chocolate does not cause me physical discomfort.

Sorry, I realize this is a serious distraction.

Sorry, I realize this is a serious distraction.

If you like exercise, an hourly break for stretches or a noon-hour bike ride may help to refresh the mind and body. I really do wish this described me, but my daily walk is a hard-won habit.13812056882z870

Perhaps a quick phone call to Mom is what it takes to encourage us. Right, Mom?phone call

Or how about reading a chapter (or two or three…) of one of the books we’re in the middle of?

The best idea I’ve come up with regarding daily, hourly motivation is relatively less action-oriented and considerably more spiritual. I try to remember to speak with the original Creator at the beginning of my day, asking for guidance and inspiration…and the strength to persevere. Then, from time to time throughout the day, possibly at the break times, I (try to remember to) re-focus on Jesus. After all, He is “the God who uses ink.” The “Author and Finisher of our faith.” Who better to motivate me?file000551198693

Since I believe I’ve been called and gifted to write, I need to rely on the giver of the gift to motivate me.

Whatever choice you make, let it motivate you to continue hard at the task of writing. We never know who our words will inspire, encourage, entertain, motivate.

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Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Below is the essence of his fifth letter, and responses that come to my mind.

 

 

 

 

FIFTH LETTER

Concepts:

* Firmly resolve to be wholly devoted to God.

* If you continually practice the presence of God, you will soon become spiritual.

* The first step to practicing the presence of God is to empty your heart of all else. This is what God requires in order to work in your life.

* Practice of the presence of God involves a continual conversation with Him.

* This continual conversation with God is sweet and delightful, but we do not seek devotion to God for the pleasure it will give us. We do it because of love.

* The delight in God’s presence can’t be adequately explained to those who haven’t experienced it.

* We often have no idea how much we need God’s grace and assistance in our lives.

* Commit yourself now, never lose sight of Him, “spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence,” even if this commitment requires great sacrifice.

 

Our Responses:

* We have to want to commit to spending my time in the presence of the Lord. We may see the need, the necessity, the comfort and delight, but still avoid the commitment. Why?

—perhaps I see the effort as too great

—perhaps I don’t think I can manage it

—perhaps I think it will interfere with my life

—perhaps I think I’ll miss something if I empty my heart of all else

—perhaps I feel I’m doing fine as I am

Note the “I” in each of these hesitations. Brother Lawrence has continually encouraged us to think on Christ, not on ourselves. Our society influences us strongly in favor of self. It’s a hard habit to break, but that’s the only way we’ll ever make the commitment to practice the presence of God.

* We may have a misconception of the purpose of life. As a very old song states: “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room.” Yes, God blesses us and wants us to enjoy His blessings, but those are bonuses. This life is short and I need to continually focus on what’s important.

* Those brief soul-bursting insights into close companionship with God—I call them glimpses of Glory—should overwhelm us and inspire us to practice His presence daily, hourly. Yet we give up so many opportunities of walking closely with Him.

* We may forget how very much our Father loves us, and how much He wants us to return that love. But there’s always a new starting point. That would be now.

* We often forge ahead on our own instead of seeking and accepting help from Almighty God. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), but He always has our best interests in mind.

Writes Brother Lawrence: “Set heartily about this work, and if you do it as you ought, be assured that you will soon find the effects of it.”

 

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CASE STUDY #1

Geoffrey Deschambeau* is the author of a recently published children’s book that the teacher of a dance class discovered and used to encourage and inspire her young students. However, when parents asked where they could buy the book, no one knew. They couldn’t trace the author or the book title.

CASE STUDY #2

Rebeka McElroy* has written a riveting historical novel set during World War II. It’s titled The Cost of Courage*. Apparently, it’s a great read and well-written. But how would you know that if I hadn’t told you, or if you didn’t believe me?

(*names have been changed)

Case in point: if we want people to read our books, we must make them available through whatever means of promotion are within our reach.

How can we do this?

My short answer: through social media.

newer twitter

 

facebook_linklinkedin

 

 

Yes, there may be a steep learning curve involved. If you’re tempted to skip this blog because you don’t want to put the effort into learning social media, please don’t. My expertise is also limited, but I can learn. My age might well be against me, but I can learn. And if I can learn and benefit from social media, so can you.

Step One — Who Are You?

* Create an author bio –where you were born/lived, early writing inspiration, education/professional experience, publishing credits if any, genre, etc. Write it in third person.

– Begin with a longer version, about 250 words (for website, interviews, social media profiles)

– Whittle it down to 30-50 words (for back cover book bio)

– Edit out everything but the essential facts, to 140 characters (for Twitter)

Step Two — What do you have?

* What is your book about? Write a summary (this is not a synopsis) in three lengths (short, medium, long) for various posting purposes. Check back covers of other books, especially those in the same genre as yours. Try the template in Appendix B of Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell if you need a more structured approach.

Step Three — Where Are You?

You must be traceable. How can people find you?

* Join writing groups, both locally and online

* Attend writing workshops, conferences, readings, launches

* Network with other writers and readers whenever possible

* Create an online presence for you and your books. This is what Social Media is for.

Step Four — Website, etc.

* Ask for help from friends who already have an online presence. Google to learn more.

* Create a website using WordPress or Blogger (my preferences). They provide easy-to-use templates for setting up a simple website. If you have the extra cash, you can hire someone to do this for you.

* Create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon Author Page, and any others you hear about. Take it one step at a time and practice using each site before moving to another

* Use the book summaries and author bios you prepared earlier for your profile on these sites. Here’s an example from the back cover of my most recent novel:

back cover copy

 

CASE STUDIES

In CASE STUDY #1, Deschambeau’s book found an extremely limited audience willing to buy if the buying was simple. However, at the time of this writing, the author has no website, and the book has not found a home on any social media sites. If we don’t know about it, we can’t buy it.

In CASE STUDY #2, I’m happy to say the author did her legwork and sent out emails, Facebook ads and tweets. She also hosted a book launch to spread the word of her newly released novel. She requested, received and posted positive reviews that followed the book’s appearance on the major bookselling sites. I believe it’s selling well and the actual title and author are Threaten to Undo Us by Rose Seiler Scott.

To conclude, our writing careers require balance. We must be traceable. Our product must be available for purchase. BUT, if we spend all our time on social media, we won’t have time to write. Many prolific authors have people to tend their social media sites, but those of us who can’t afford that must maximize our online time. The matter of greatest importance is to keep producing quality fiction. Otherwise, we will have nothing to promote.

I recently discovered an article online that offers a strong note of caution regarding social media book promotion. I will leave it to you to read and consider HERE. Go for balance.

 

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Practice of the Presence of God

 

Besides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Below is the essence of his third letter—a short one—and responses that come to my mind.

 

 

 

THIRD LETTER

Concepts:

* God is infinitely gracious

* He knows all our wants

* He comes in His own time, often unexpectedly

* He does favors for us (such as giving us our every breath, sez Jan)

* He cares for us

* He allows/sends affliction and suffering in order to teach us

* He welcomes our prayers, whether short or long

* He is our comfort

Our Responses:

* Accept who God is (and don’t remake Him in our likeness)

* Hope in Him

* Accept His will for our lives (God does what He does; read the book of Job)

* Learn from the difficulties and trials that come our way

* Accept that trials are part of life and we shouldn’t run from them

* Accept God’s timing

* Pray continuously, in all times and circumstances

* Be thankful in all things and at all times

* Think of Him often

* Practice the presence of God

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