Day 41 update

My 40 days officially ended yesterday. What started out with a bang sadly seemed to end with a whimper. Since my last post, life has been incredibly busy and slightly crazy.

If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, as the old saying goes, then I think busy hands are his playground. Busyness and distraction are two of his greatest tools in keeping us away from the work we are called to do.

It was a good lesson, though, because as great as this time has been, I can’t always hide away from the world. Life has a way of getting in the way. The best laid plans easily go awry, and it’s not always possible to spend our time the way we want. Things happen that are out of our control, and sometimes there’s just nothing else to do but roll with the punches.

But having a crazy week has taught me that I have to fight for my writing time. It’s not always going to come easy. I have to fight to make the most important thing, well, the most important thing.

We are in a war. No matter what your calling is, you are called to battle. Like any great story, our lives weave a tale of good versus evil. Even if your evil is just a busy and distracted life, you must fight against it so that the good life you dream of can prevail.

Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our battle is very real: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And our adversary has a very real battle plan. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

But take heart, fellow soldiers. We are not in this battle by ourselves. Check out Exodus 14:14, Joshua 1:9, John 16:33, and 1 John 4:4 just as a few of my favorite reminders that we do not fight alone. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

So maybe you didn’t win the battle today. That doesn’t mean you’ve lost the war. To quote a line from my beloved Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it.” Start again. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24). Put on your armor (Ephesians 6:10-17) and fight on!

Day 33 Update

It’s hard to believe that this is my last week in my 40-day fast. I want to make this last week a great one! And even though the 40-day fast will be over, I will continue to make my writing a priority in my life.

I read a great article the other day about the “2 hour rule.” It said that people who are working on creative endeavors often think that they need large chunks of time to accomplish anything. But the reality is that most people can not sustain their creativity longer than a few hours.

Because it takes 15-20 minutes to really get “in the zone” for most creative people, a smaller chunk such as 30 minutes isn’t enough time.

Through various research, this writer found that a block of 2 hours seemed to be the ideal amount of time to work on something creative. He said that most people can arrange their lives to allow for 2 hours of uninterrupted time to work on their craft. It’s not so much time as to be daunting, but enough time to actually get something done.

I think this sounds logical, and I plan to implement the “2 hour rule” in my days going forward. Even once I start teaching piano again, I think I can manage a couple of hours at the end of the night to get some work done on my book. My friend Cliff says that writing is a battle won in inches, not miles. I need to think in sprints, not marathons.

All good advice to follow. I’m so thankful for those who can speak such wisdom into my life. I’m looking forward to this last week, and many weeks to come!

Day 26 update

The writer’s conference was Thursday through Saturday. It was fabulous! I’m still trying to process all that I learned and all that happened. Here are a few highlights.

First of all, I feel very encouraged. It’s one thing for people who know and love you to tell you that your writing is good. It’s a whole other thing to put your writing out there to complete strangers and let them critique it. I got good remarks from both the peer critique group and the professional critique. That was so encouraging!

I also gained a lot of good information. Writing is hard work. Really hard. If you think that a writer just sits down at the computer and it flows out, perfect the first time around, well…nothing could be further from the truth. It is a learning process, and even writers who have been at this for a while still need to continue learning and honing their craft. I know that I still have a long way to go, but at least I have some ideas on where to learn more and get the information I need to continue to improve. I feel better equipped after this weekend.

And lastly, I received a lot of confirmation that I’m doing what I should be doing. God places dreams in our hearts, a burning desire to do what He’s called us to do. And there’s a lot of joy in obeying that call. It’s not easy, but there’s plenty of grace for the journey.

I’m very thankful that God led me to this conference. It was just what I needed, right when I needed it. I’ll share more later!

Day 20 Update

It is Day 20 of my 40-day writing journey. Instead of thinking, “I’m halfway through,” I find myself thinking, “It’s half over!” The time has flown by, and I wish I had more to show for it.

But I’m learning about an important concept in the writing life. It’s called BICHOK. That stands for “Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.” 🙂 To call yourself a writer is one thing. To yearn to be a writer, to want to have written, is another. But to actually write is the most important thing, and the only way to do that is to show up every day and… WRITE!

It may not be good writing at first. But the more you do it, the better it will get. Note that I didn’t say “the easier it will get.” Some days it will be easy. Some days, inspiration is high and words flow faster than your fingers can fly over the keyboard. Other days, you may have to fight off discouragement or distractions, or feel uninspired, confused, or completely lost.

But if you just show up, every day, sit down, and put your fingers on the keys, eventually something will come out.

My mother and I both play the piano. She tells about a time when she was visiting at a church and someone asked her to play. She sat down at the piano, looked at the music, then at the keys, and nothing made sense. In her moment of panic, it felt like everything she had ever learned just flew right out of her mind. She could feel everyone looking at her and thought, “I’ve got to do something! I can’t just sit here. Maybe if I just put my hands on the keys, something will come to me.” So, she did, and at first, it was just noise. But soon, it did all come back to her and she was able to make it through the song.

Writing can be like that. Sometimes you think you don’t know how. Maybe everything you ever learned has flown right out of your mind. But if you’ll just put your hands on the keyboard and start, it will all come back to you. It may not be melodic at first, but eventually it will become beautiful music.

The past few days, I’ve worked a lot on the critiques I have to do for the writer’s conference, which starts in 2 days! I feel like I haven’t been able to work on my own stuff as much. But I know that as soon as get back to it, the words will start flowing again.

My friend Cliff says that writing is like exercise. You have to work at it, starting slowly, and build up your writing “muscles” a little at a time. Eventually you’ll be ready for a marathon, but just give yourself time to get there.

So whether it’s “halfway there” or “half over,” here’s to 20 more days of BICHOK!

Day 12 Update

Time sure flies! I can’t believe I’ve been at this for 12 days already.

I haven’t done any writing since last Thursday thanks to a busy weekend filled with friends, family, and fun. I needed it, though. It’s good to recharge the batteries once in a while. And, as my friend Cliff (also a writer) says, the story will always be there when you come back.

Today I received an email from the writer’s conference administrator. In addition to sending in my manuscript critique to be reviewed by a professional, we can also participate in a peer critique with other writers on Friday night of the conference. I got my critique group assignment today. There are 7 of us, including the moderator, who is also a speaker at the conference. We are to submit 3 pages of our manuscript to each person in the group, who in turn submit 3 pages of their work.

We are supposed to read each manuscript before the conference, making notes of feedback to share during our meeting. I sent my pages in tonight and have received pages from 2 other authors. I’m looking forward to reading these and offering any bits of advice I might have.

My BFF Amy and I attended a creative writing class a few years ago where we had to write something each week, read it aloud, and receive feedback from the group. Apparently it was good practice for what we’ll be doing in this group. I practiced reading my pages out loud tonight, and it was awkward at first, but soon I got into it and actually enjoyed it. It’s neat to hear the sound of your characters’ dialogue in an audible voice and not just the voice in your head. It brought reality and depth to their personalities. I might have to do that more often. Once again a reason I’m thankful to live alone! Ha, ha!

Well, I’d better get back to writing. I stopped in Chapter 8 last time. I usually try to end in the middle of a scene so it’s easier to pick up where I left off (a tip I read in an article on writing). I’m writing a scene where there’s a major thunderstorm going on – something we’re all too familiar with lately, right?

I can’t thank each of you enough for your support, enthusiasm, and most of all, your prayers. Keep ’em coming – it’s making all the difference!

Day 7 Update

I printed off my first two chapters for the manuscript critique tonight and went over everything one more time. I’m glad I did because I found a few things I needed to tweak/fix. You can see much more on a printed page than you can by scrolling through a page on the computer screen.

I finalized everything and sent it off to the critiquer (is that a word?). It felt a little like sending my child off to school for the first time!

I got a reply from Ms. Eason that she had received it. So now I just wait for the next two weeks before I get to meet with her at the conference. I’m curious to hear her feedback.

In the meantime, it’s back to chapter 7 and progressing the story.

My first week of the 40-day fasting and writing has gone okay so far. It has been a little weird not having the television on sometimes, but it’s amazing what you can hear when you’re being quiet. The still small voice of God is easier to hear when it’s not being drowned out by the “noise” of life.

My characters speak louder, too. They are becoming more real to me, and I feel like I carry them around in my pocket wherever I go. If you’ve ever read a book and fallen in love with the characters, you’ll know what I mean. They stay with you.

I’ve had some cool conversations with people as I’ve started telling them about working on my book. Thanks to each of you for your support and prayers!

Day 6 Update

I have spent tonight polishing my edits to Chapters 1 and 2. I should have these two chapters memorized pretty soon if I keep going over them like this!

The next step was “formatting” this manuscript sample and getting it ready to send in for the critique. There are lots of “rules” about how to do this properly. I have a book called “Guide to Manuscript Formats” but since it was published in 1987, I double-checked it with some recent posts on the Writer’s Digest website to make sure I was doing everything correctly. Thank goodness for the Internet!

I want to do one last check before I email it tomorrow, but I think it’s 99.9% ready to go. Or at least I need to stop looking at it over and over! Perfectionist? Why, yes, I am. I have to learn when to let go and let it be. After all, this is a manuscript critique – I’m looking for someone who knows more than I do to tell me what I’m doing right AND what I’m doing wrong. But it is good practice for when I am finally ready to send this in to a real agent or editor.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement!

Amy sent me a great Scripture the other night: Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

He has begun this work in me, and He certainly has a long way to go with me, I know. But I am thankful for His promise that He won’t give up on me but will continue to work on me, molding me and making me into what He wants me to be. Kind of like me and my editing these chapters, huh? Funny how that works. 🙂

Day 4 update

I am going to a writer’s conference on Aug. 22nd, and before then, I can send in a manuscript (up to 3500 words) for a critique. During the conference, we will meet with our assigned editor/agent/writer who will give us feedback on our manuscript.

So my main focus this week has been to get my first couple of chapters really tightened up in order to send that in. I have finished edits on chapter 1 and am starting on edits for chapter 2 tonight.

After that I will continue writing where I left off, in chapter 7. I am trying not to do too much editing/revising at this stage because I just need to keep going and get the story finished. I can go back and revise later, but if I try to revise as I go, I will get stuck and never move forward.

This is something I have figured out about myself as a writer. I have a very strong inner editor. That will come in handy later, but for now, I have to tell her to be quiet and let me write! First drafts always stink anyway, so I can’t worry about that right now.

Anyway, that’s where I am tonight.

Prayer Request: Please pray for my revisions on chapter 2. And pray for the manuscript as I send it off to be critiqued. Pray that I will get some helpful feedback that will make my writing better.