Monthly Archives: May 2012

Seek Him First- Balancing Work and Writing

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This is a guest blog post from Doris Cush. Enjoy!

Speaker and writer, Doris Cush provides true-life musings on her blog, www.embracehistruth.blogspot.com. Infused with humor, encouragement and a
bit of “real talk,” she loves bringing God’s truth to life’s common misconceptions.

My desire to write started out simply…prayer time, journal entries, scribbled notes on scratch paper. As I moved confidently in this calling, prayer and pen gave way to bible study apps and laptops. Doors opened to article writing, guest posting, Facebooking, Tweeting, blogging and connecting with like-minded sisters within cyberspace. As the desire to write required more from me, so did the other pieces of my life. It was then I stumbled upon a fascinating discovery. Maybe you can relate to this discovery as well: If I neglect the other areas of my life by making my desire to write the higher calling, I end up living life out of balance.

This notion of balance resembles that of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle where prayer life, home life, work life, church life, servant life, talents life, rest life, fun life, single or married life, family life, mommy life, friendship life, sister life, healthy life, doing life are designed to form and fit around Christ. The misconception: when life gets imbalanced, it is up to us to make the pieces fit, even when they don’t. We will juggle quiet time with family schedules. We will squeeze in writing time between dinner prep and bedtime. We will cram in biblical study and research with school projects, church events, social commitments and networking. Before too long, the pieces of life become unrecognizable; and if we’re not careful, our desire to write wavers between a delight and just another chore to complete.

You might ask, “How do we place the pieces of our lives in balance? That’s the fascinating discovery…WE DON’T. We concede our roles as Wonder Women and place all the pieces of our lives squarely in the hands of The One who originated this puzzling life. He is more than equipped to make our pieces fit whatever life throws our way. Our role in His hands is to seek and to trust. We are told in Matthew 6:33 to “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.” Again, the misconception: His word is a magic wand we wave and “poof!” we’re blessed with an immaculate dwelling, flawless children and a goose laying golden eggs in our perfectly, well-kept backyard. If only life were that simple. God’s word, however, promises that when we seek Him first and foremost, we can trust Him to fit and form our outcomes for His (not our) good purpose (Jeremiah 29:13; Romans 8:28; Philippians 1:6; 2:13).

So when faced with a deadline we can’t handle and a schedule we can’t keep…seek Him first. When people want more from our time than we can give…seek Him first. When there aren’t enough hours in the day to be all we hope to be…seek Him first. When we wish we had more to give (or not give) to another project…seek Him first. When we hope for more opportunities but it ends up not quite being the opportunities we hoped…seek Him first.

Seek Him first and watch all the pieces of your life truly come into balance.

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What is Your Posture?

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I need an ergonomic chair to sit in when I write because I have a bad back. My back pain is partially my fault. When I get lazy, I get into bad habits and don’t give it the proper support it needs. For example, I sit in a slumped position because it is more comfortable than sitting with shoulders back, completely upright. This not only affects my back but my lungs and overall health because my body fails to receive the  full amount of oxygen because and my organs constrict.

However, some of the pain is out of my control. It stems from the poor posture I have had since the age of twelve. Because of the natural curvature of my spine, I don’t stand as upright as I should which puts undue stress on my neck and  shoulders. That  trickles down into my upper and lower back and causes me pain I might otherwise be able to avoid.

My physical posture plays an important part in my overall health and well-being. Not only does my physical posture play a part in my health, but also my mental and emotional posture as well. Most days I consider others more highly than myself. Other days, I lazily neglect those that may need my support or help.  On those days, the only person I care about is me. Every thought and consequent action because of my selfishness allows me to change my posture. My posture becomes one of individualism and pride rather than one of humility and others-centeredness.

No matter where I am at in my writing journey, there will always be people ahead of me and those that are behind me, struggling to catch up and need someone to help them in their writing endeavors.  If I criticize those whose writing is not at the same level as mine, or worse, allow myself to envy those on their way to publication, I do my emotional and mental posture a major disservice.

My back hurts when I don’t give it the support or resources it needs to achieve optimal health. The pain reminds me I need to change my behavior.

We need to check our writers’ hearts. If it cringes with jealousy or pain when someone gets what we want, it needs a change. A heart full of anger or insecurity will, in time, turn into resentment and bitterness. That will never get me to a place where I can achieve my goals and dreams. Ridding myself of those sinful emotions paves the way for me to assume a posture of humility, grace and love.

Do you need to check your posture? What painful events or circumstances prevent you from assuming a posture of humility?

Writing Old School Style

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This post is from Samantha Livingston, a Christian Blogger at TheRightVolume.com, a blog dedicated to helping women come into the calling God has on their life–a place of freedom, purpose and grace. 

When I’m inspired, really inspired, and need speed on my side, nothing beats the keyboard. The whizz of my fingers, the tap-tap-tap of the keys, the windows, the spell-check, the blinking cursor…they all spur me on in the most efficient and technologically-advanced way. But  sometimes, just sometimes, nothing beats writing old-school style.

What says “Write!” like a real piece of paper–blank and waiting to be filled? Lines, real lines! The feel of the pen in my fingers, the flow of the ink, the smell of it all. I know, I know: It’s slower. Slower can feel boring and old- fashioned even. But could it be worth the extra time to go back to the basics? Could the solution to a case of writers block be as simple as pen and paper, yet as magnificent as tapping into the tradition of the art?

Using more rudimentary supplies to mix it up a bit can be liberating. At any given moment you can rip out a page, crumple it up, and throw it in yonder trashcan. Who cares about the trees? We’re getting somewhere….

I’ve been inspired to write old-school by some practical suggestions contained in The Right to Write.  Written in 1999, it certainly can’t be considered cutting edge, but author Julia Cameron has some great ideas about the practice of writing. Just one among her many tips is the importance of choosing the right supplies: Visit the stationery store. Try out the pens. Select what writes easily and smoothly. No ball points or pencils.

For me, this meant a trip to Target.  A twenty can be stretched into a variety of old- school supplies. I tossed the cheap ball points and found better pens with ink that flows more freely. A bigger budget may allow for a fountain pen splurge, but I’m finding the Pilot Precise Rolling Balls do the trick just fine. I also picked up several writing tablets of varying sizes. I keep one in my purse, one in my car, and one in the baby jogger. (You never know when inspiration may hit!)

I use the smaller on-the-go notebooks to jot down quick thoughts and phrases. I typically put the date and where I was when the thought occurred so that later, when I review my notes, these details help to jog my memory and I can pick up where I left off. For more intentional writing I’ve been using cheap composition notebooks. What says old school more than the black and white marble style? Lastly, I keep a Moleskine  which feels more special and is reserved for private thoughts.

Having these different options for writing and stashing them in handy places keeps the flow of inspiration moving throughout the day and has freed me from the one-size-fits-all desk and computer. Get out there and have fun!

Getting it Write

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My guest blogger today is Michelle Carlson. Michelle Carlson, NASM-CPT, CES,  is a personal fitness and business consultant. You can find her website at:

www.michellecfitness.com

Welcome, Michelle!

Getting It Write

My writing career began when I was very young. Oh yes, I had a published masterpiece in grade school. Keep in mind, it was a Christmas poem and I was completely mortified when I found out my mom had sent it to the local paper. They published it and I immediately kept all of my writing to myself. It’s difficult to put yourself out there to be judged like that right? Or is it write?

Fast forward twenty-five years and I now have two published books (health and fitness) with several others in the wings, and of course, blogs. How can you take your writing to the next level wherever you are now? You have to find your style.

Your writing style should be just as unique as your own individual style. The biggest problem is we live in a society that tries to dictate our style. Wrap dresses certainly do NOT flatter every physique, sorry to burst that bubble. Writers that stand out among the best in the industry are just that: writers that STAND OUT.

When I first began, you could clearly see the books I was reading by the blogs I was writing. I simply mirrored the writings of whomever I was entrenched in at that time. This flip-flop style of writing made me extremely inconsistent and hard to follow. So, I began to dig deeper to find my unique style, both in writing and how I conduct myself. Here are a few things I found that helped:

  1. Know the types of writing you enjoy reading. If you can’t stand to read your own writing, how do you expect others to do so?
  2. Know the amount of time you plan to put into your writing. There are days when I can blast out a blog in 5 minutes and others blogs take a few days of preparation. Know how much time you are willing to spend on your words as they enter into the world.
  3. Know who YOU are as a person. We all have a point of view and it is unique to each of us. God created us with the freedom to have an opinion, not as mindless drones. One of my very favorite things is to read a passage of scripture with my small group and then go around the room sharing what spoke to us in that passage. You get all different versions of it from the same passage. It all depends on your point of view and what might be happening in your life at the time.
  4. Know WHOSE you are. Being called into writing as a ministry is an awesome thing if you fully embrace it. The Holy Spirit can make things much easier by guiding our thoughts and words, but only if we die to self daily and ask that His will be done. If I step out of the way, God’s words come through much clearer and more beautiful than I could ever imagine.
  5. Pray without ceasing. Before my fingers begin to stroke the keyboard or pick up a pen, I remind myself to say a prayer to my Father. He has entrusted this gift to me and promises to hold me throughout this journey. By praying consistently, I am open to what He wants me to do, say, and write.
  6. Be open to critiques. Oh my, I must confess I have always struggled with this one! I do have a dear friend who proofs for me and I have another who is always consistent in checking my facts. We all need a little, friendly critique when it comes to writing. Look at your circle of friends and see if God has placed a grammatical genius among them to proof your writings. Perhaps you are blessed to have someone within your group that shares life experiences. Ask them to read your writings and see how they flow. It is very hard to willingly ask for correction, but it is also a necessary step in the writing process.

These six steps are the beginning of finding your special writing style. Remember to think about who you are writing for. My number one goal is to write in a way that pleases my Savior. I also think about the fact that I minister to mothers and daughters, so my writings should reflect that fact. Never lose sight of what you are here to do and place passion into each and every word so that through your labor of love a work of art will be born.

Write Everyday…Really?!?!?!

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Dawn Whitmore is my guest blogger today. Welcome Dawn! Dawn is a speaker/writer and entrepreneur with a heart for women and young adults. She has a Masters in Entertainment Business and a Bachelors in Communication Studies. Dawn currently lives in Virginia with her husband of 25 years. They have a daughter who is a Senior in college. You can follow her blog at Dawn’s Dialogue or book her at www.dawnwhitmorespeaks.org.

 

Let’s start today with a confession: I never seem to get done my “to-do” list. It doesn’t matter what I check off, there is always something left on the list. As a writer, this includes the amount of writing that is accomplished. Whew…that sure felt good considering the upcoming theme of today’s blog.

The majority of us devour anything and everything concerned with writing. We read articles, blogs, & books that concentrate on writing.  Our main focus: “What do I need to do to be a GREAT WRITER?”

I am not sure about you but for me, all of the writing tips reading boil down to two things:

  1. Write everyday
  2. Balancing life & writing

All of these lists emphasize “Writing Everyday.” I used to feel like such a failure because my writing wasn’t everyday. I would beat myself up and feel like a failure…Enter, my loving Father to reveal HIS TRUTH to me.

God showed me that I write ‘something’ everyday.

Did you know that writing notes and letters to family & friends is writing?

Especially when you let Jesus write through you.  How many times have you been prompted by God to write a note? Then that person tells you how much they needed to hear what you wrote.  Most writers want God to use their words for His Glory. Yet, then we put limits on what constitutes “for His Glory”.

Take time today and ask God to reveal to you where you write and if you have mistakenly not counted it as writing.

The second thing, “Balancing Life & Writing”, is a tricky one for me to write on. I am in a different phase of life. I no longer have small children in my home. Our only daughter is an upcoming Senior in college. It is hard to believe she will be 21 in a few short months.

Plus, God has moved me in the last 7 months. This move required me leaving all of my ministry responsibilities (Church Deaconess, bible study teacher, CBS Training position, and Church Media Director…to name a few). Even with all of that said, I can state with certainty that a majority of writers have believed a lie. The enemy’s lie being:

We must live an “either/or” life when it comes to our writing.

Examples of this “either/or” life:

  • Loading the washer or writing a paragraph
  • Cooking dinner or working on our blog

We resolve life just seems to get in the way of our writing. This is a part of the lie.

We compartmentalize life in the “Large” box and writing in this little “itty-bitty” box. We yearn to spend more time in the little “itty-bitty” box. But, how?

Personally, I had to come to the realization that writing is a part of my life. As I have matured…nice way of saying getting old J…I have come to the realization that writing is incorporated into a writer’s being.  God didn’t mean for me to compartmentalize. He wanted me to trust Him to incorporate writing into my life.

As I mentioned before, I am in a new phase of life. Therefore, I know some of you are reading and saying that must be nice. She doesn’t have “little ones” with noses to be wiped, carpooling to be accomplished, and the endless laundry that must be accomplished. PS…The ‘endless’ laundry doesn’t go away even when the kids grow up. I know some bloggers who get up in the wee hours of the morning to write and others who wait for everyone to be in bed. Whatever it takes for them to be able to write everyday. I admire them.

To the rest of you, my advice is enjoy your “little ones”. God will write through you…in HIS TIMING.  “The vision is for yet an appointed time…though it tarries wait for it.”

Now, it is your turn…tell me what how you write every day? Do you see writing incorporated into your life?

Work Space Oasis

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Kicking aside the ever mounting pile of laundry in my bedroom, I sat down at my cramped work space to write. “I need more room,” I mumbled to myself as I opened my computer to begin. Then I remembered  the two previous years where I yearned to have my own home office, and just couldn’t find the room. I realized that as small as the space has seemed, it has enabled me to produce more writing than I ever could without it.

Having a writing space is essential to any budding writer. Here are just a few reasons why it is so important:

1) It serves as an oasis from the trials of everyday life- On the days when I can’t go out to the local coffee shop to write, I have to settle for a quiet area to work. I can lock my bedroom door for a couple of hours to block out the noise of fighting children, blaring televisions or noisy neighbors. I’ve gotten more work done going to a quiet bedroom than I did working in the living room or kitchen table.

2) It helps me organize all of my resources- Because I write non fiction Christian books, I often need reference materials such as a commentary or lexicon. I added two small book cases to put all of my books, blank journals and office supplies such as binders, file folders and paper clips. They are  within arm’s reach and that helps me  maximize my time in the most efficient and productive way.

3) It helps me separate home time and work time- Since I spend the majority of my waking hours in the living room/kitchen, I keep my computer in my bedroom, out of my living space. When I did not have my work area, I kept my computer by my recliner in the living room. I picked it up to surf the ‘ net or blog when I got bored.  This happened during my relaxation time. I had a hard time separating work time from free time. I made a promise to myself that I carved out a certain amount of time during the day to write, but once that time was up, I would shut my computer down until the next day. Although I don’t stick to it as rigidly as I should, it has helped me utilize my work time and make more time to spend with my kids or relax.

You don’t need a whole separate room for a writing space, all you need is a little creativity, some quality  organizational skills, and a good sense of boundaries (and in my case, a good laundromat=)

The Ugly Side of Publishing

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“They’re going to publish her?” I yelled at my television. I  watched an interview with one of the escorts accused of engaging in inappropriate activity with some members of the Secret Service. She told Matt Lauer on the Today show that she wanted to tell her side of the story and she would not keep quiet about it anymore.  Lauer concluded the interview and told viewers several publishing houses approached her about writing a  book based on these events.  I told my husband “Sure, they’ll publish her, while people like us work tirelessly day in and day out on proposals that don’t even make it across a publisher’s desk.”

The publishing world, like all things, have both a pretty and ugly side.  Some publishers publish works that they feel may positively impact the world and its readers. However, the sensationalist nature of other books make them irresistible to the publishing world. Frankly, it doesn’t seem fair that many great proposals get turned down to make room for ones with less than savory subject matter. Yet, publishers have to look at their revenues as well as their reputations in order to make ends meet.

Publishing is a business. In order to continue to do their work, publishers must choose authors who have established a “platform”, or place where not only  an author’s voice can be heard but that  an audience  awaits to hear it. They need to ensure that if they pay this author to write a book, they will make enough sales to make their money back.  This reality can discourage  some authors from continuing on their publishing journeys.  An author has to consider whether or not they can endure the long  process of writing, editing, marketing and selling their book. Those that choose to embark on the journey may toil for many years, only to end it in despair.   Some authors think they can circumvent that process, but they will not find themselves closer to reaching their goals.  I honestly believe that with hard work, a thick skin and perseverance any author can reach achieve their writing dreams.