The Why Of Writing

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As a writer, I sometimes find myself battling the enemies of isolation and loneliness associated with the job. Because I work from home, I feel this way often. Feeling restless, I went to a coffee shop. As I worked, I needed to ask the manager some questions about the shop for a chapter of a book I am writing. I came with a notebook and pen in hand ready to take copious notes. I found myself pleasantly surprised by direction the conversation took as I began to talk with others about what my book was about. Once I mentioned it was religious in nature, the conversation turned to the churches in the area. I realized after my encounter that so often I focus on my agenda associated with writing. I often focus on the what instead of focusing on the why of the writing.

Writing is not just words on a page. It is an art form, a medium I use to make a mark on my world. All of the words I interact with everyday shape who I am. The words I use in response, whether spoken or written dictate what permanent mark I make on it. When I focus only on the mechanics of the writing instead of the purpose of it, the words become meaningless.
I had an agenda when I walked into the shop. But God had other plans. He knew the people in that shop needed not only my spoken words more than they needed my written words that day.

Do you get lost in the what of writing rather than on the why of writing? Leave a comment and share!

Aside

When I completed my training to become a day care director,  I asked my boss at my place of employment for my job description as a head teacher so I could see the difference between a head teacher and director role. When confronted with the question, she shook her head. “I’m not sure I have one for you.” Confused, I asked her why she didn’t have one for me. She replied, “I’m not sure there ever was one for you.”

I left her office flabbergasted at the response. I mean, if there was no written explanation of the expectations of my job, how would I know if I was doing my job well, or if I was doing my job at all?

I have worked at many jobs where I was never presented with a clearly written list of expectations. I found myself wandering aimlessly through daily tasks, often creating work for myself when there wasn’t much to do. I often questioned whether what I was doing was enough. Because there was no accountability, it became easier to slack off on my tasks. That always ended with the same result: a lack of passion and focus.

Unfortunately, writing doesn’t come with a job description. The hours are unpredictable, the deadlines are arbitrary and the pay, well, non existent. Because there is no accountability, it is easy to push your writing into the corner while the demands of life take precedence. But what if there was a way  you could treat your writing like a job rather than a hobby?

The first step to regain your focus  is treating your writing like a part time (or full time) job. If you want to make writing your future career, you need to manage your time wisely and  write as if you will be compensated for it in the future (even if you aren’t right now).

Once you have done this, you must set a clear schedule with specific hours,projects and tools to do your job as effectively as possible. One tool most organizations use to evaluate if an employee is fulfilling the expectations of their employer is a job description. Job descriptions help  employers clearly communicate their expectations, and  employees can accurately assess whether or not they can complete the job expected of them.

According to http://www.sba.gov, A job description should be practical, clear and accurate to effectively define your needs. Good job descriptions typically begin with a careful analysis of the important facts about a job such as:

  • Individual tasks involved
  • The methods used to complete the tasks
  • The purpose and responsibilities of the job
  • The relationship of the job to other jobs
  •  Qualifications for the job

I want to challenge you to create a job description for your writing profession. Creating clearly defined boundaries in your writing will help you effectively measure how productive you are being at your writing. This differs from your writing goals in that it is more of a skeleton of the what, when ,where, how and why of your writing. A job description is general, while the goals are much more specific. The goals you set should be based off of what you choose to include in your job description. Think of it this way: the job description is your vision statement, while your goals are the mission statement.

When you create your writing job description, include the following ideas:

  • Individual projects (beginning a blog, writing a non fiction book,etc.)
  • What you hope to accomplish with each completed project (ex. I am beginning a blog for homeschool moms to challenge myself and others on how to balance homeschooling and daily life)
  • The hours you will set aside to accomplish this (I will work from 8:00-10:00 am Monday through Friday)
  • Which character traits, skills, and qualities you can use to get the job accomplished (I am organized, efficient, etc.)
  • How it relates to your other daily responsibilities (this blog will help me set aside specific time to research homeschooling curriculums to use with my children.)

Once that is drafted, write three specific goals on how you will complete it.

Example:

1) I will research three curriculums by April 15th, 2013.

2) I will write a blog post that reviews each curriculum and give my opinion on which one is the best.

3) I will implement the best curriculum into my own homeschooling routine and then write blog posts on the challenges and successes associated with this.

Do you have a job description for your writing? Once you create one, leave a comment and share with us what yours looks like. Let us all learn from each other!

Do You Have A Job Description For Your Writing?

A book review For Joyce Magnin’s book Cake

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Here is a book review for my editor friend Joyce Magnin’s new book Cake.

 

“Hope is the thing with feathers.” ~ Emily Dickinson

Twelve-year-old Wilma Sue discovers the ultimate comfort food in Joyce Magnin’s CAKE: Love, Chickens and a Taste of the Peculiar , a sweet tale complete with icing, surprises, love, and just the right amount of nuts.

 

Mary Poppins meets Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in this new story by the celebrated author of Carrying Mason. Wilma Sue seems destined to hop from one foster home to the next—until she is sent to live with sisters and retired missionaries, Ruth and Naomi. But do they really care about Wilma Sue, or are they just looking for a Cinderella-style farmhand to help raise their chickens and bake cakes?

As Wilma Sue adjusts to her new surroundings and helping Naomi deliver “special” cakes to the neighbors, she discovers something strange that happens to people who eat the cakes. Did Mrs. Snipplesmith’s chair really rise off the floor? Was that a gold fish in the lemonade?

Wilma Sue starts looking for answers and secret ingredients in these mysterious cakes. While doing so, she makes a new friend, Penny, and discovers what it feels like to be truly loved.

But when Penny and her mother hit a rough patch, Wilma Sue decides to try her own hand at baking a special cake—with disastrous results. Then tragedy strikes the chickens, and all fingers point to Wilma Sue—just when she was starting to believe she had finally found a permanent home with Ruth and Naomi.

Magnin takes Wilma Sue and readers on a journey to find faith in themselves and those around them. Fans will learn, along with Wilma Sue, that it’s not yummy desserts and magic that cures, but two very special ingredients: love and hope.

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I have been so excited for the success of Cake. There has been tremendous praise for this book including a coveted Starred Review from Kirkus Reviews. Here’s a snippet from the full review:

“Magnin maintains a delicate balance between a fablelike fantasy and reality fiction as Wilma Sue gradually discovers that not only is she eminently worthy of love, but that she can also help the people around her by loving them. Wilma’s captivating, clever language and short declarative sentences perfectly exemplify her wary but reverential view of the world.”

For me, there is nothing more magical and amazing than having the privilege to write for this age group. Unless I have the opportunity to sit with young people and talk about the power of story and words and the joy of books.

Here is what another reader has said about Cake:

“Cake is the perfect book for a family read along. There is a lot of truth among the stories of taking care of chickens and baking cakes. There are also some wonderful and of course quirky characters. Magnin’s humor also shines through, especially in her naming and descriptions of the characters. Who couldn’t feel a bit wary of a child named Penelope Pigsworthy or in awe of an opera singer named Ramona Von Tickle? There are also a lot of interesting tidbits to discuss along the way — from the country of Malawi to the care and feeding of chickens to the great classic Beowulf. Yes, all that and a lot of fun. My only complaint is that I had a readers copy that did not include the illustrations of the goings on within the book. From the cover illustration, I can imagine they add a great deal to the telling of the story. So if you are looking for a book for your 9 – 12 year old children or grandchildren, get a copy of Cake, and then schedule some family time for reading fun. Highly Recommended.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joyce Magnin is the author of five novels; including the popular Bright’s Pond series and the 2011 middle grade novel Carrying Mason. She is also a frequent speaker and writing instructor. Magnin lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania.

Joyce loves to visit schools, libraries, and churches and meet with kids about books and writing. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

To schedule an interview with Joyce Magnin, or receive a review copy of CAKE, please contact Candice Frederick at DJC Communications: 212-971-9707, Candice@djccommunications.com.

Are you Losing Your Passion for Writing?

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As I cleared off the dishes from the dinner table, my daughter entered the room and gleefully handed me a folder. I found inside a bunch of loose leaf papers bound together. On each page she scrawled detailed pictures to accompany the text written at the bottom. Each sheet represented a page fro her new book she was writing, complete with chapters, in the hopes to be “just like mommy.”  As I sat down to read, I admired her elaborate imagination in creating her new story. But I noticed as I flipped through the pages, something changed. Her attention to detail was not as sharp and her pictures became much more simplistic. Soon she whittled down her three sentences on each page to one word. No longer had alligators entered to take the princess to the castle. She truncated her story with simple words like “no!” “Good!” and Bad!” One page merely said “Wet.” Then the last page in chapter two simply said “dead.”

In that one word, she expressed what I had been feeling about my upcoming project: dead. 

Ever felt that way with a project? I am currently on a deadline to submit a completed manuscript for a prospective publisher. The company is asking for it by May and I only  began writing steadily for it in early February. 70,000 words in about 2 months  not counting editing). Yikes!

To fuel my passion for the project, I started out feverishly writing, churning out unedited chapters and spewing unpublishable words onto the screen. After two weeks, however, I am starting to feel the burn. The words are not coming as fast as they once were, and my passion for the project is slowly fading away.

In the daunting tasks of  everyday life, it is natural for your passion levels to wax and wane. Here are some things you can do to help your flame for your projects to keep from flickering:

1) Take frequent breaks- I dedicate about 7 to 8 hours each day to my writing. After a few hours, though, my body and mind begin to suffer. My thinking becomes cloudy, my hands hurt and my muscles become fatigued. Take a break every hour or two to stretch, refuel or rest. Your body will thank you and you will find your overall productivity increases. 

2) Reward Yourself- Make mini goals for yourself throughout the week. For example, if you achieve the goals you set by Friday, reward yourself with a small treat, some exercise, or if you have the money, a trip to the spa. Make sure to set a reward when your project is completed. In my case, I think my family and I will take a small weekend vacation to recharge my batteries after reaching my deadline. 

3) Pray- Projecting your worries about the project onto God makes my overall load feel lighter. I feel free to write at my leisure, but I don’t get upset if I don’t hit my goal for the week. As long as I remember to trust God with my burden, it sets me free to set my sights on the task at hand. 

What do you do to keep your project passions burning? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

What’s On Your Encouragement Board?

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As I stumbled to my mirror this morning to splash some water on my face and get ready for my day, I spotted something attached to the mirror. As I looked more closely, I noticed it was a picture of my husband a few years ago. When I asked him why he had hung it there, he said ” to remind myself everyday that I need to go to the gym.”

Sometimes our writing goals can seem out of reach. We toil and labor over each new project or idea, and some days we see very little fruit. Other days a kind word of encouragement from an excited reader or a positive review on Amazon can do wonders for our writing, and consequently, our egos.  Having a way to stay encouraged can help keep us on the right track toward finishing our tasks.

Recently, I placed a bulletin board above my computer desk in my office. Each time I receive  an encouraging word from a friend or an inspiring quote, I tack it onto my board. In times of discouragement or frustration, I look at it to remind myself not only of what I am doing, but more importantly why I am doing it.

Here are three items you can tack on your encouragement board:

1) Scripture quotations- Nothing inspires me more than a quotation from the oldest and most transformative book I own– the bible.  Jeremiah 29:11, John 15:4-5, and Proverbs 27:17 are all great examples of inspiring quotes that keep my fingers typing in times of stress or discouragement.

2) Quotes from other authors- Are there other authors that you enjoy whose words have pierced your heart? If so, write them on an index card or type it onto different colored paper. The different colors will catch your eye and remind you to keep pressing on towards your goal.

3) Photos or Images- Does a serene beach scene, an old photo of friends and family or a picture of an accomplished athlete  spur you on to accomplishing great things too? Intersperse those photos among  your quotes. Go crazy! The wilder the better!

We all need something to inspire us. What inspires you? Leave a comment and share. If you create a board ,and it doesn’t inspire you, don’t feel bad.

At least you have come way with some tasteful homemade decor. ..

Welcome to the Incourage Writer’s Group

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So, you wanna be a writer, eh?

Writing is a balancing act, between  life and honing your craft,  conferences and classes, building a writing platform vs. a life long career, not to mention all of that marketing….

No wonder you are so tired.

But if you are looking for a little bit of encouragement ,support and help in any of these areas, you’ve come to the right place.

I, and my partner,  Alia Hagenbach, would love to help you in your writing journey.

I have been writing for over three years and have been published in magazines and websites including http://www.womensministry.net and christiandevotions.us. I teach writing workshops in my local church and blog both at http://www.solomonswords.blogspot.com and here, where I offer tips to writers and aid them in this journey towards publication.

Alia’s blog can be found at http://narrowpathstohigherplaces.com/ . Make sure you check hers out, too!

We will meet once a month to connect and encourage each other on our Facebook page.https://www.facebook.com/groups/incouragewritersgroup/   Please make sure you friend request me so I know you are not a stranger! You can also feel free to post prayer requests, trials and triumphs in your writing careers at any time.

We are happy to have you here!

Post a comment to hare any questions, concerns or prayer requests.

Have People Stopped Reading Your Words?

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Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

What are your words doing to uplift the body of christ? Do you words spread encouragement and healing, or do your words make others wince and cringe?

Words are more than mere sounds that drip from our tongues when we open our mouths. This became the clearest to me during a recent visit to a coffee shop. As I sat down to focus on a productive day of writing, a group of women sat down next to me. Within five minutes of their lunch date, they began grousing about their jobs and the other incompetent workers that work alongside of them.  As I listened to their conversation, I realized something.

I  stopped listening.

As writers, this is an important lesson to learn because our words not only drip from our tongues, but also our pens. We have a unique opportunity to provide encouragement to someone feeling blue, inspiration to someone feeling stuck and healing to a wounded soul. If we are someone who is known in life (or on social media) as someone who spreads hate, doesn’t that defeat the beautiful purpose to which God has called us?

Writers have a difficult time standing out from the crowd with the words that comprise their books, blogs and websites. Don’t give anyone a reason to stop reading yours.