Friday, February 24, 2012

Part III: What Holds You Back From Being the Best Writer You Can Be? Disorganization

            It might be difficult to believe that being disorganized can cause our writing to suffer, but, I think it is one of the biggest culprits in my struggle. I, and maybe you, too, have to work very hard at being organized.

            -At times, the paper and files around my laptop get so stacked up, that I can’t open it and insert a CD.
            -Stacks of books grow on my desk and on the floor around my desk.
            -I can’t seem to find what I need when I need it, whether it is a pen, calendar or notebook.
            -The disarray of my office causes me to shake my head and walk away; it is not worth the effort to start a writing project.

1.  A CALENDAR AT MY DESK. I work out a schedule every evening, for the next day. In the past, I have started a calendar and then I stop and find myself doing other things. But, this time I am making myself work the calendar. At the same time, I try not to “beat myself up”. When I don’t complete what I planned, I just change the plan for the next day.

2.  A JOURNAL OF WHAT WORKS/WHAT DOESN’T. I am trying to record what I am doing to make my writing more productive and what I learn from it.

3.  A CENTRAL NOTEBOOK FOR IDEAS. I have many ideas for articles, devotionals, short stories and books. I am taking a three-ring notebook and placing dividers in it for my areas of interest. I like to do this rather than have a file on the computer because then I can read it in a quiet place after I shut the computer down.

4.  PLASTIC STORAGE DRAWERS. I purchased some inexpensive plastic storage drawers of varying sizes to put next to my desk and also some small ones on top. I am in the process of using a drawer for each of my projects.

5.  PRAY AND COMMIT MY DAY TO GOD. I begin each day by reading my Bible and a daily devotional. I am also now asking God to guide me to a more peaceful and ordered existence.
 DON’T GIVE UP! Keep working at finding solutions, no matter how many times you have to try.

If you are disorganized what are you doing to overcome it? Please share as we all need each other’s advice!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Part II: What Holds You Back From Being the Best Writer You Can Be? Lack of Focus

Last week, I explored how fear can be a hindrance as we strive to be the best writer God called us to be.
This week I will look at a lack of focus.

Jim Parkin/

Can you answer “yes” to any of these questions?
Have you ever attended a writer’s conference, left excited to start a new project and then about three months later found all your notes in a folder untouched?
Are you easily distracted to a new area of writing, when it probably isn’t what you should try?
Do you subscribe to writer’s magazines that do not get read and books that are started, but never finished?
Did you have rough drafts of articles and chapters, but it has been months since you have worked on them?

I think all of us may be guilty of one of the above, although some things may be due to disorganization (which we will discuss next week). But, many of us try to do too many things.
            I have heard some say that if we specialize, we can become very good at one thing and then we will be known for a certain talent or skill. Some may call it building a brand. I always thought that I was limiting myself when I tried to work in a certain niche, but I think there is truth in that idea.
            A lack of focus causes us to spend too little time on many writing projects and not enough concentrated time on a few that we could make shine.

Here are 4 things that may help you focus:
1.  Ask yourself, “What are my passions?” When we do the things that we are drawn to and enjoy, it isn’t difficult to complete a project. For me those are daily devotionals and short stories.
2.  Also, ask yourself: “What are two or three other areas of writing that I want to explore? Then let yourself investigate those arenas when you have a little time. I am interested in looking into screenwriting, so I keep a list of articles and book titles that I want to read in the future.
3.  Say, “No,” to some good things. I find this to be difficult, as I always think about what I will miss. But, we have to say “no” to the books and blogs we don’t have time to read.  Not to mention the online information, although incredibly interesting, that just doesn't pertain to us.
4.  Pray. Yes, pray for guidance about what should be your focus and how we as Christian writers should spend our time.

How about you, do you have a lack of focus in your writing? If so, what do you do to get yourself back on track?   

Friday, February 10, 2012

Part I: What Holds You Back From Being the Best Writer You Can Be? Fear

          First, I would like to thank everyone who commented last week on my post about eBooks. I didn’t realize it was such an area of passion for so many. Thanks, again, for your thoughts.
Now for this week’s topic:
This year I have posted about things that can help writers gear up for a new season, leave the mistakes of last year behind, and move on to new goals. I have blogged about conferences, a new market, getting your market guide and ways to jump-start your writing, such as journaling.
Today, I am asking the question: What holds us back from being the writer God called us to be?
Here are the top three reasons for me:
1.     Fear and Criticism
2.     A Lack of Focus
3.     Disorganization
 This week I will look at Fear and Criticism.

Fear, Specifically, of Interviewing Others
            When I was a college student, working toward a degree in journalism, my heartbeat would quicken when I had to interview someone. I always felt like I was invading their privacy or imposing on them, even though in many instances, it helped them get the word out about themselves or an issue for which they felt strongly. I made it through my fears, by telling myself that once I graduated the fear would magically disappear. That has been over 25 years and that fear has not gone away.
Even, today, there are some authors I would like to interview for my blog, but sometimes I just can’t seem to muster the courage to contact them. So, I miss out on the things another writer could teach me.
When I watch reporters on the national news broadcasts, covering various events around the world, I feel a little sad and envious. I wonder if that could have been me.

Brett Pelletier/Dreamstime

Criticism of My Work and Person
            I believe criticism is my greatest fear. I don’t fear public speaking or going to the dentist, but, when someone points criticizes what I have done or written, I take it personally, whether it is merited or not. Early in my career, a source for one of my stories, accused me of fabricating statistics in an article I had written (which I had not done). He made a scene about the situation in front of one of my supervisors. Although I was supported, I believe it was the thing that finally caused me to walk away from writing for many years.

How can I overcome these fears?
 If I want to be a writer who makes a difference in the world, I have to find ways to attack this problem.
There are a few ways that I approach fear:
1.  Prayer. Over the past few years, I have become what some may call, a prayer warrior. I pray for others, many I have never met, or know. What this has done for me is help me to develop a habit of prayer. I still struggle with fear issues, but I pray more about them.
2.  Journal. I started writing, over thirty years ago, by journaling. When fear grips me, I still journal. It helps me to separate fact from fiction.
3.  God’s Word. I have come to believe there is great power in Holy Scripture. I was fortunate that as a young person, I memorized many scripture verses, so the love of the Bible has been ingrained in me. I go to God’s Word to battle my fears.
4.  Practice. I have to take steps and do the things that I am afraid of, if I am to overcome my fears. When I receive criticism, I take a deep breath and pray. Each time I deal with it, I grow. I’m still fearful, but hopefully a little less each day.
Next week I’ll discuss a lack of focus in our writing.
How about you? Is fear keeping you from being the writer you should be?

Friday, February 3, 2012

EBooks: Do You Really Read Them?

                                                                      Stanislav Butygin
            I know eBooks are around to stay, and not a passing fad. But, I have to admit, I really don’t read them.
I have downloaded some eBooks for free and also purchased some. I don’t have an eBook reader, but I did download the free Kindle App from Amazon to my PC. I have purchased novels, marketing books from some authors I know, and some historical informational books. But, honestly, I haven’t read many of them.
So, I asked myself: “Why?” These are the reasons I came up with:  
I forget about them. I simply forget that I have the Kindle App on my PC. Maybe if I had a separate eBook reader it would be easier to remember, because I would see it and I could hold it like a book and maybe be more relaxed when reading. But, I also forget to read some of the electronic magazines I receive. I see them when they come in by email, categorize them to be read later, but then more emails come in and I forget about them. I seem to see my TBR (To Be Read) stack and know they are there, even though I don’t get through them all.
I still have the habit of printing things out.  One time I purchased an eBook on writing from an editor. Without thinking about it, I tried to print it out so I could read and highlight it. I couldn’t, so I emailed him and asked why I was having difficulty. He was surprised at my question, because he didn’t know of anyone who had tried to print it out.

Sometimes I print out blogs I want to read. Before I leave for work in the morning, I go through my blogs (via Google Reader) and if I see a blog I want to read, I will print it out and take it with me to read on my break at work. I do not have a mobile device yet, either, which would give me more options.
         I miss seeing the covers that draw me into a book. I used to hire designers and illustrators to produce book covers, at the publishing house where I worked. I still get awed by book covers. Will eBooks do away with great covers?
            I like the smell of books. Especially if it is a new book, I lift it to my nose and take a big whiff.  

I know I need to expand my reach into the electronic age, but, I haven’t become a major eBook reader, yet.

            How about you? Do you read eBooks?