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The Sweetness of Margins

Last year was a year of celebration at our house. It started with my youngest child’s 16th birthday. Wow, just writing that makes me feel, um, well-seasoned! That was January…fast forward to May and we had one college graduation, one high school graduation, one graduation party complete with tent, chicken salad sandwiches and a string quartet (thanks to my daughter and her friends). Then my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and that was June.

In July we took a road trip to Disney at my high-school graduate’s request. It was so HOT, but there was lots of laughter and great memories made along the way. August rolled around and it was time to pack my middle kid off to college for the first time. But just two weeks before she left, we decided to add a puppy to our family- enter Barnabas (Gracie and Willow still haven’t quite forgiven me). Crazy right? We said our goodbyes to our girl standing on the sidewalk after holding hands and praying, and my emotional roller coaster was in full swing. Fast forward to October, and I was dancing to “Don’t It Feel Good,” with my son at his wedding. Wow, what a year!

Now it’s January, and I’m finally getting around to my first post of the year. I don’t want to make excuses, but after reading that last paragraph, you have to admit I’ve needed a little time to catch my breath. Joy, while the best stuff of life, can be exhausting!

So here we are in a brand-spanking new year and you’re probably wondering what’s on my calendar now? Absolutely nothing. Now that didn’t sound quite right, did it? What I mean is, absolutely nothing big. You might be thinking that’s a bit of a let down after last year, but seriously, my essentially-empty calendar is such a beautiful thing to me at present. Why? Because it gives me room. . .

Room to think and create and write and revise. Room to commit to getting a major overhaul done on my novel. Room to look at my work with fresh, new eyes. And hey, even room to exercise (kind of fell off the wagon those last couple of months). And yes, room to breathe.

Do you have room to breathe in your life? Or are your margins crammed so full you can barely make it from one task to the next? Even in this crazy broken world filled with technology and the next new thing all of the time, that’s no way to live my friend.

Hipp_hipp_hurra!_Konstnärsfest_på_Skagen_-_Peder_Severin_Krøyer
Hip, Hip, Hurrah! by Danish painter P.S. Krøyer, 1888

So raise a glass with me (a few weeks late) to margins. May they be ever empty of busyness and filled with all the joy and grace and sweetness we can hold! Happy New Year everyone!


Sensibility- Margins give us time to recharge and reflect. Be wise in how you use them.

Sense- Get your new writing year off right by saying “No” to things that eat into your writing time. If it isn’t essential, let it go.


 

 

What are some ways you protect your writing time and the margins in your life?

 

 

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

What Happens Next? Life After the Contract (So far. . .)

Woo Hoo!!!

Something pretty amazing happened to me near the end of August! I signed a contract for my picture book, A BLANKET IN THE SNOW: QUATIE ROSS AND THE TRAIL OF TEARS! The book is with 4RV Publishing, and is tentatively scheduled for a fall 2017 release. It’s my first contract for a traditionally published picture book, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

 

The contract came in the mail right around my 50th birthday, so that was awesome! It was also right in the middle of sending my daughter off to college and my son getting married. So the fanfare was short but sweet. About two weeks after I’d signed on the dotted line and done some requested edits, my son asked, “So Mom, what happens next?”

I chuckled then answered, “We wait!”

“What do you mean wait?” he replied.

“It’s like I said, we wait. . .”

“But don’t you have something else to do? When’s the book coming out? Aren’t there more steps?” he questioned.

“Yes,” I said, “but the first step is to wait. Wait to be assigned an editor, wait to be paired with an illustrator, wait for more editorial notes, wait for an exact publication date- you know, wait.”

“But haven’t you already waited long enough?” he said.

Haven’t I already waited long enough? I thought.

Sure. Of course. Absolutely. But really? Long enough? Let’s see. . .

We all know that behind the excitement of a book deal is a lot of hard work and waiting. But the question, “Haven’t you waited long enough?” just isn’t part of the equation. It can’t be for any serious writer.

There’s no way to measure how long is “long enough.” Writing is such a personal journey, and every person’s story and path to publication is different. I live my life believing that things come to us when it’s time. But that doesn’t trump all the hard work it takes to realize a dream. There’s a balance of responsibility to your calling, trust in the process, open doors and a sprinkling of talent for good measure. No one part can be rushed or missing. It’s only when the time is right and the story is the best you can make it that the contract will follow or it won’t.

So what do I do next? I wait. But while I’m waiting, I’m working like crazy on other manuscripts as well as submitting, so that the next opportunity is there at just the right time with just the right house. And when the next contract comes (see how I said “WHEN”;)  I’ll sign it, send it back and, you guessed it, WAIT! It’s what we writers do best. . .well, at least you get better at it the longer you do it.

Here’s to working and waiting. You can’t have one without the other!


Sensibility- There’s no greater joy for a writer than opening your email and seeing, “We’re happy to inform you. . .” When it comes, savor it!

Sense- Once you hit “send” and submit your manuscript, it’s time to get going on something else. Make the most of your “waiting” time by writing and polishing your next story.


What’s the first thing you do after submitting a manuscript? Get started on something new? Revise a work-in-progress? Eat ice cream and chocolate? Do tell. . .

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Thankful Thoughts: How to Encourage Your Muse

It’s November, and thoughts during this month naturally turn to thankfulness. Many friends on social media sites have taken the “30 Days of Thankfulness Challenge,” and I’m enjoying reading multiple posts on a daily basis. But this is a post about encouraging your muse, and you’re probably wondering what thankfulness has to do with getting that contrary gal (or guy) to work. Well sometimes it’s all about being thankful.

Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth)

My muse is an odd bird. You might assume she’d enjoy rainy days filled with thoughtful music, multiple cups of tea and all the dark chocolate she can find; that a little over-the-top emotion from me is all it takes to get her creative juices flowing. You know, kind of like the scene in Pride and Prejudice where Darcy pours his heart out on paper to Elizabeth (although he was pretty disgusted with her at that moment). The all-night vigil he keeps with feather pen in hand, desperately trying to explain how wrong she was about him (except for the part where he purposefully keeps Jane from Bingley). He writes with abandon, sealing his words with a big blob of red wax, and instead of going straight to bed, heads towards the grove where he hopes to find her (I’ve watched it way too many times).

But I’ve recently realized there’s a better way to get my muse moving. “Tell us please!” you say. “Don’t keep us waiting one more minute.” OK, here it is…BEING THANKFUL!

Yep, you heard me. One of the best ways to get my muse in the writing frame of mind is practicing thankfulness. Here’s how it goes…

I get up, pack lunches and help get breakfast. I send my husband and daughter off to school, look at my computer and sigh. “I don’t want to sit there all day!” I moan. “I don’t have anything useful to say to anyone. I don’t care about deadlines. I’m tired.” Then I walk by the offending machine to get a shower (and hopefully an attitude adjustment). By the time I’ve had my caffeine (Diet Coke), I’m feeling a little better, but not good enough. So I read my devotional and Bible and spend some time meditating. I close my eyes and open them, and there it is; the blank screen staring back at me. “It’s time,” I say aloud, “for some thankfulness.” My list goes something like this:

I’m thankful for…

  • The chance to work from home. When there’s three feet of snow outside, I don’t have to commute, put on a coat or even get out of my jammies if I don’t want to (but I always do). This is a very good thing.
  • My family. When you’ve seen your kid go through two major surgeries in two years and watch him graduate, get a great job and get married all in a few month’s time, that is something to be thankful for. I write to help all of them realize their dreams while I’m realizing mine.
  • My health. When you get diagnosed with RA and you think you’ll never write, or do anything, again, you don’t take little things for granted. Each time I wiggle my fingers or get up from my chair, I remember a time when I couldn’t.
  • The ability to think and process information in a way that others can read and understand. We writers take this for granted regularly and we shouldn’t. Just like you might wish you could run a marathon or play an instrument, there are many people who would love to be able to do what you do.
  • God’s grace in my life. Even if God never blessed me with one more thing, He has been very good to me. That is reason enough to work hard and be grateful for the gift each and every day.

My list gets much longer when my muse is especially contrary. But most days, after these five things she gets the message that it’s time to get back to it and be joyful in the process. And if there’s a little dark chocolate somewhere in the house that makes her even nicer.

Even if you don’t practice the “30 Days of Thankfulness Challenge” in your life this month, at least take time to be thankful for the gift of language and story and the heart to use both to bring others joy.


Sensibility- The ability to put words together into stories or information that can benefit others is a gift. Use it and treasure it.

Sense- If your muse isn’t showing up for duty, inspire her by creating a “Thankfulness Journal,” or “Family Diary.”


How do you encourage your muse? What are some things for which you are thankful?

 

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New Seasons, Beautiful Moments! Getting Back into a Writing Routine

Well let’s see, my last post here on Sensibility and Sense was July 21, and so much has happened in our lives since then . . .

Barnabas and Gracie!

The first major change was adding a big, black puppy to our family back in August! Barnabas is a bouncing bundle of joy and mischief and has become my new writing partner (currently curled up under my desk). He has destroyed a few phone chargers and some headphones, been a little slow in the potty-training department and succeeded in making our cat his mortal enemy, but other than that, he’s turning out to be a great dog!

Julia ready for college!

About two weeks after Barnabas arrived, our Julia went off to college. We packed up her big old car (named Betty) and headed to Grand Rapids. She had orientation for a few days and officially became a college student on September 8! Julia is studying music education with an emphasis in violin. We’re so proud of her and can’t wait to see where this journey leads.

Olivia, my last chauffeur!

Of course, Julia’s leaving for college meant that our household of five was now a household of three. Our youngest, Olivia, is a high-school junior this year, and she’s learning how to live with all of the attention from her parents squarely on her shoulders! She’s doing a fabulous job adjusting to being the only child at home and is currently my hero;)

And finally, just a little over a month after Julia started college, Wesley, our oldest, got married to his sweetheart Katie! Our family gathered from as far away as Hawaii on a picture-perfect October day to witness their vows to each other and before God and celebrate their amazing love story. It was a happy day full of beautiful moments and special memories, and we are all feeling so blessed. . .

That was a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve settled into a steady fall hum here at the Richards’ house. Now that I’ve kind of recovered from all the activity of the last few months, it’s time to get back to work. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been working all along, but only on weekly deadlines and not other writing projects. And now, when I’m completely caught up on work and have all the time I need to dust off some things that have been waiting, I can’t seem to wrap my brain around getting started.

It’s like when you haven’t exercised in a while, but you can’t find the energy to take that first step. When you’re forced to take a hiatus due to celebrations, life’s changes, illness or other things that demand your time and attention, it can be hard to start putting your thoughts down again on a regular basis.

Wesley and Katie!

But like taking those first steps on that treadmill, getting a few words down at a set time each day will have you up and writing again in no time. At least I’ve found that’s what works for me.

If you’ve been putting off a project that seems to be calling your name, why not join me and get started? There are two writing challenges coming up that can help. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) may be just the thing to get you working again. Each event begins on November 1 and runs throughout the month. Sign ups are happening now!

So what are you waiting for? Kick that muse out of her recliner and get back to work. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did!


Sensibility- Take time to be fully aware when wonderful things are happening. Each savored moment creates a memory that will last a lifetime!

Sense- Pushing too hard after an extended time away from writing can create frustration. Ease back into your writing schedule by setting aside one hour each day to get a few words down.


 

What do you do to get back into your writing routine after an extended absence?

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Reading Between the Lines…

As writers, we all face the challenge of giving away too much or not enough when it comes to story and character development. The need to leave some room for the reader’s imagination is real and important. But finding that perfect balance between important details and just liking to hear yourself (or your characters) talk is difficult.

This week, I was reminded of this while getting ready for my son and his fiancés bridal shower. We each had to write down one of our favorite recipes on a 3×5 card to give to the bride. I think this is such a great way to connect with a young couple and help them share the parts of their childhoods that surround favorite foods and celebrations! So, like any good mother-in-law to be, I wanted to choose something that would let my sweet daughter-in-law know that she was now one of us. But I just couldn’t narrow it down to one, so I chose three! Now if that isn’t a sign of a writer, what is?

Anyway, the first recipe I picked was my grandmother’s cheesecake. Simple and delicious, this one has been in our family for a long time. But when it came to writing out the directions, I realized my card was way too small to tell her all the nuances of making this cheesecake come out perfectly every time. There was no space to include a description of the cracks in the top or that just-right color that says, “I’m done!” I had no room to talk about how sometimes I put four eggs instead of three depending on how I’m feeling that day or whether or not I’ve been to the grocery store. And how could I describe the specific moment when the strawberry topping reaches its perfect thickness and glossiness and you just KNOW it’s ready? There aren’t enough 3×5 cards in the world to get that part right. So, I had to let those things go and trust my “reader” to eventually make this recipe her own. Katie is already a wonderful cook, but would she make the cheesecake just like me, or my mom, or my grandmother? I think the better question is, “Does she have to?” And the answer is a definitive, “No!”

In writing (and in recipes), you must be willing to give away something that may never turn out exactly as you had planned. Just like I want to give Katie room to be Katie in everything she brings to our family, my stories must give my readers room to bring their own experiences, nuances and expectations into the world I’ve created. If I tell too much, the story is not theirs. It’s just a cheap representation of something that’s supposed to look like the real thing, but falls terribly short. But that kind of writing takes courage. The kind of courage that knows when not to write everything you’re thinking; to let the Master Storyteller take over and create something beyond what you ever thought possible. Through you, but not necessarily by you. Whew! That’s deep!

Take a close look at what you’re writing today and see if you need to give up some control and cut out a few (or a thousand) words you don’t need. Give your characters their head, and let your margins be just that, margins. Trust me, your readers will fill in the white spaces and each one will be unique and beautiful.

So here’s to recipes…guides rather than roadmaps…and to the best-tasting cheesecakes ever!

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Sensibility- We all come into life’s seasons with our own stories. Learn to weave them together to create something special and new.

Sense- Take time to interview the characters in your stories. Write down their responses to important questions as if they were sitting right there in the room with you. This helps you understand the motivations behind their words and actions rather than having to include every detail in dialogue or description.


What are some of your favorite family recipes? How have you changed them to make them your own?

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Late Frost

When you live in the Mitten, late frost is more the norm than the exception. We never, EVER plant annuals until after Mother’s Day, and sometimes even then I find myself covering up my blooming beauties, “just in case.” But cooler temperatures in late spring mean strong roots and beautiful blooms all summer and even into the fall. I promise you, it’s worth the wait.

We get examples of what late frost can do to fragile flowers every year. Case in point: the current state of my magnolia.

My tulip magnolia a few years ago.

She stuck some of her petals out a wee bit early this year and now they are brown and burned from a zap of cold weather. I still have hope that she’ll put on an incredible spring show like the one in this picture from a few years ago, but the many dark, unopened buds make me doubtful. It’s important for writers to beware of “late frost” in the writing life as well. Even though it may feel like your manuscript is ready to submit, if you don’t have many revisions, some honest critiques from critique partners and even a professional conference critique or two, chances are your manuscript is in danger of catching a “late frost” from editors and agents.

It’s not that there’s some kind of hidden secret agenda in publishing- a type of literary hazing if you will- but these proven steps work. Here’s a personal example that I’m excited to share…

Last week, I received a contract for a story from Highlights Magazine! This was a dream come true for me since I’ve wanted to have something published in Highlights since I was like 8 years old. I wrote the story, “The Christmas Candles,” about 15 years ago. The first version was over 2000 words (now that’s funny:), and that was the first version I submitted to Highlights (I’m so embarrassed). Of course I received a rejection straight away. In the meantime, I joined a critique group and worked on a revision based on my group’s suggestions. I then submitted the story to their yearly fiction contest and got no response. Fast forward a few years and many, many revisions later, and I submitted the story to the fiction contest again (their contest subjects are often cyclical). And I didn’t win…again! But this time, I got a letter saying they loved the piece, and if I’d be willing to do a few revisions, they’d like to consider it for regular purchase.

I was overjoyed! Of course I had already sent them what I thought was my best work, so I knew I needed the help of a professional editor to get things just right. I hired a friend of mine that I trust and admire, and she gave me wonderful suggestions that made the story even stronger (thanks Lorri Cardwell-Casey)! About six months later, I received an email from the editor telling me they had loved the revisions but needed one more thing. Because my story was historical fiction, they asked me to find a university professor to do a quick fact check and write a short review of the piece. If I was willing to do that, then they would offer me a contract. It took a few weeks, but I found just the right person for the job and the editor loved the review. The entire process from entering the contest to signing the contract took a year and a half. But the entire process from writing the first draft to signing the contract took almost 15 years! Wow!

Through this process, I learned first hand how sending out a story too early is never a good idea. You’re more likely to get burned by a late frost than land a contract if your story isn’t ready. Would I change this journey if I could? No, not at all. I’ve learned so much and am a better writer because of it. And I can’t even describe to you the joy of delayed gratification. It makes the victory all the sweeter.

So watch out for “late frost” in your writing life. Take your time and make your stories the best they can be! It’s more than worth it!


Sensibility- Delicate new blossoms need lots of TLC to grow into mature flowers. Think of your stories in this way and take proper care of them in the early days of inspiration.

Sense- Drafting, revising, re-writing, critiquing and rewriting again may seem like a waste of time, but it’s the only way to make your story the best it can be.


“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

What are some examples of “late frost” experiences in your writing life?

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Inspiration Point!

I know what you’re thinking…inspiration point sounds like a place where Fonzie and Richie used to take their girlfriends! Well trust me, that’s not what today’s post is all about, so keep reading. (This is longer than usual, but indulge me just this once, OK?)

I call an inspiration point a place or moment in time where a writer’s muse seems to jump into overdrive. Ideas for new stories flow like water, and we can’t seem to get the words down fast enough. I’ve had many “inspiration points” on this journey. Some are obvious, and others more subtle. But learning to recognize and remember them is important.

The old tobacco barn.

One of my first inspiration points was my grandparent’s farm outside of Nashville. They had 200 acres and raised cattle. They also grew corn and hay to feed their livestock. My grandmother had a large kitchen garden, and my grandfather had a tiny orchard. Some of my earliest memories are of playing in the creek, taking salt blocks and hay to the cows, riding high on the tractor wheel well and catching my first fish! And it was a big one let me tell you. I’ve tucked those memories away in safe places in my mind, and when I need inspiration for a story, I often dust them off. The smell of hay, the taste of homemade molasses on hot biscuits slathered with butter and the sound of tree frogs are as near now as they were when I was a braid-wearing tomboy of seven or eight. But sometimes our inspiration points need a refresher, especially when new memories make things a little crowded in the safe places in our minds.

So my husband and I took a short trip over Easter weekend while my girls were away on a school trip to NYC. We drove down to Nashville to spend Easter with his family, and on our way back home, we took a drive down that long, familiar, dippy-windy road…

Gracie loves the water!

We stopped at the church cemetery first and walked among the headstones. I paused to read the names of my grandparent’s, uncles, great-grandparents, and the names of those I belonged to but had never met. Then we drove past my great grandmother’s house, and I looked for the small cabin where my dad was born. I was glad I had taken a picture of it many years ago because it had finally fallen down. Then we drove up the hill and down the narrow driveway. My grandmother’s house looked so different. The pristine fruit trees were gone, and the garage that was my grandfather’s pride and joy was nearly hidden by trailers, RV’s and other big toys. But tucked right behind it was the smokehouse. I could almost see Granddaddy coming out the little door with a big chunk of country ham ready for breakfast. Can you smell it?

We drove up to the pasture and got out. Our little Gracie dog thought she had died and gone to heaven. We walked down the steep hill towards the old tobacco barn. I stood still when I thought I was in just the right spot and listened. The gurgle of the creek branch sang the same song as always. And after stepping in the barn to see if the sweet tobacco smell was still there, I walked to the water’s edge, took off my shoes, dipped my feet in the coolness

Me in the creek!
Me in the creek!

and closed my eyes…

I saw Dad picking up the rocks Mom chose. I heard my sister’s voice as she splashed in the icy water. I heard Granddaddy in the pasture above, calling the cows home for supper. And it was good to remember…

Before we left, my husband broke off a piece of the old barn door and it’s waiting on our garage floor. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet, but it will eventually be somewhere close to my desk. It’s nice to have inspiration points nearby because sometimes you need to run your hand over aged barn wood to find your center again. I’m sure I’ll do this many times in the years to come, and it will be good to remember.

So, that’s one of my inspiration points. There are many others of all shapes and sizes. They are beautiful and good and confusing and difficult and joyful and grace-filled. They are the stuff of life. And as a writer, it is good to remember.


Sensibility- Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Good writers are always looking.

Sense- Write descriptions of some of your favorite inspiration points and tuck them away for future use.


What are some of your favorite inspiration points?

 

Uncategorized

The Secret to Getting Published in the Children’s Market

Photo by See-ming Lee, courtesy of Flickr.com.
“Bert and Ernie: Let me tell you a secret!” Photo by See-ming Lee, courtesy of Flickr.com.

Wow, that got your attention didn’t it? After all, it’s really what we all want to know as writers for children or otherwise: the elusive secret that some seem to know, while the rest of us wander around blindly in the hopes that someone, anyone will notice our brilliance and hand us a book contract. Well, I’m here to tell you the secret once and for all, so keep reading…

 

 

I rediscovered the secret the other day when I was updating my submission spreadsheet. At first it kind of tickled my ear like a whisper. But then, the more I read through my submissions- what I had out, what I had in and what I had in revision- the more the whisper turned into a shout. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? ‘Cause here it is…

The secret to getting published in the children’s market is (drum roll please)…

YOU MUST SUBMIT!

Did you get that? Well just in case you didn’t, here it is again…

The secret to getting published in the children’s market (or any market for that matter) is…

YOU MUST SUBMIT!

Yep, that’s it. Sounds simple doesn’t it? And how did I figure this out? Well, as I was perusing my submissions I noticed I had several manuscripts that had been through revision, critique and revision again and hadn’t seen the light of day in almost a year. That means for a year or more a perfectly ready manuscript had gone unsubmitted because I hadn’t been paying attention. And manuscripts that don’t get submitted don’t get published. It’s that simple.

Now don’t get me wrong. That three-word secret has years and years of blood, sweat and tears behind it (OK, maybe not sweat, but you get my point). And I would never EVER tell a fellow writer to submit a manuscript that wasn’t ready. That’s not what I’m talking about here. The manuscripts I’m referring to are the ones that are ready and have been gathering dust because you’re afraid to write that cover letter, address that envelope, or hit “send” on that email you composed.

So I’m here to tell you today my writer friend, that at some point, you must declare your manuscript ready (after careful vetting from writing partners, critique groups, conference critiques or paid critiques), put your precious baby in an envelope (or attachment) and send it on its way. Give it wings to fly. You’ve done everything in your power to make it the best it can be. Now let it go out in the world and find its way. If you never do, you’ll never know.

This business is about a lot of things, but courage is one of the most important. I encourage you reach deep for yours today, take a big breath and let your story fly!


Sensibility- Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from sending out your very best work.

Sense- Develop a system for tracking your submitted manuscripts and keep them circulating. It’s the only way your work will ever be seen by those that can help you take the next steps on your publishing journey.


How many manuscripts are you currently sending out? What has the submission process been like for you?

 

 

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Expect Miracles

I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready to see green grass and tulips popping out their pretty little heads to say, “Hello!” We’re in the middle-of-the-road time in the Mitten, where everything needs a good spring shower to wash away the last signs of winter. I love spring. Next to fall, it’s my favorite season. Spring is a miracle that comes each year, and we just get to sit back and watch God’s handiwork as He brings everything back to life.

I’ve been feeling a little low about my writing these days- like my muse needs to run barefoot in the rain to get the cobwebs out. It’s one of those times when it seems like I’m walking uphill wearing waders full of water. That sounds a little dramatic, but hey, endless spring sniffles, an Internet that’s spent more time down than up in the last month, and no responses from editors and agents can get even the most courageous writer down. But last night I got a gentle reminder that I need an attitude adjustment.

 

About five years ago, my family began a journey that would be a significant challenge to our faith. In the course of one year, I was diagnosed with RA and my son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that caused very large tumors to develop in his abdomen and skull. I was bedridden for many weeks as the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. Once I was on medication and doing better, we learned my son would need a big surgery and he’d have to miss his second semester of college. Less than one year later, doctors found a second tumor in his skull that would require another big surgery. We hung on to our faith like people hanging on to a cliff with bare and bloody fingers. But with God’s help, we made it and can look back and see miracles all along the way.

And that’s what I found last night. A miracle marker.

I was looking in my nightstand drawer for some throat spray when I felt a small bracelet. I pulled it out, and right there in big, bold letters it said, “EXPECT MIRACLES.” And then I remembered. The nurses at the cancer center had given this bracelet to my son before a treatment that was supposed to prevent the need for surgery on his head. We weren’t able to complete the treatment because his tumor had grown, so he ended up having surgery anyway. But the message on that bracelet kept us going when all we wanted to do was give up.

I think we all forget to expect the miraculous in our lives. It might sound a little sentimental, but just the fact that you are breathing and reading this is its own miracle. Spring and Easter are times of rebirth. The truth I base my life on is all about death, resurrection and a promise of hope and life to come. And that is the greatest miracle of all.

So, are you “expecting miracles” today? Or are you letting the humdrum of everyday life sour your attitude and stall your writing? If so, take time to look around and find the miracles just waiting to be discovered.


Sensibility- Live in expectation that your best work is yet to come and your best days are ahead of you.

Sense- If you’re struggling to stay motivated, get up from your desk and start spring cleaning. Getting rid of clutter makes more room for your muse.


How is your writing journey today?

 

 

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Daylight Savings Time?

Really? Is there really a way to save daylight? Or is that name just a ploy to make us all feel better about springing forward?

Public Domain Photo

Daylight Savings Time was first introduced in the United States when Woodrow Wilson signed it into law in 1918 to support the war effort. The seasonal time change was quickly abolished just seven months later. However, some cities continued to use Daylight Savings Time until FDR signed year-round DST into law again in 1942. Talk about confusing to the people who lived in the holdout cities! It wasn’t until Congress signed the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that the entire country got on the same page, er, um, clock.

You’re probably wondering what saving daylight has to do with writing. I know that happens a lot here on Sensibility and Sense, but humor me for a minute, K? As writers, we have a unique struggle when it comes to using time wisely. I am blessed to be able to write full time, from home, in my little corner office in the dining room. But even I have trouble balancing work, home and me time each day. I know you’re shocked, but it’s true. Your vision of a full-time writer is probably one of hours of uninterrupted time to hone craft and flesh out every idea your muse kicks into your head. Sorry guys, it’s not nearly that glamorous. Sometimes I envy my husband who goes to an office each where there are secretaries, receptionists and random bowls of candy…but I digress. Working from home I AM the secretary, receptionist, chief of finance, investment specialist, pet sitter, cook and transportation secretary. Daylight savings time? Are you kidding me?

How can we make the most of writing time in the middle of everything else? Here are a few suggestions (or reminders):

  • Set office hours. I know it sounds like a no brainer, but if you don’t set office hours, you’ll never get anything done. My official office hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I work many more hours a day/week than that, but these hours are my framework.
  • Let others know your office hours. If you don’t, it won’t work. Get in the habit of returning phone calls and emails outside of writing time, and your kids and extended family members will quickly get on your schedule. (Unless it’s an emergency).
  • Replace interrupted writing time. A flexible schedule is the best part of working from home. I schedule things during the day so it keeps my afternoons clear when my kids are home. But that also means I’m working while they do homework or after they go to bed. Don’t give away your writing time. Trade it.

Don’t let Daylight Savings Time fool you. There aren’t more hours in the day. That’s why learning to use the ones we have wisely is so important.


Sensibility- Use the first few minutes of your writing time each day to take a deep breath, slow down and get into the writing zone.

Sense- Schedule some “me time” into each writing day. Exercise, read for pleasure or take a brisk walk to keep your mind fresh and your spirit free.


How do you protect your writing time?