January 16, 2019

Writers Need to Embrace Rewards by Nina Faye Morey

Why do we writers need daily incentives to motivate us? Because it’s imperative that we acknowledge and celebrate every accomplishment, not just our major achievements. Life has a nasty habit of sabotaging our dreams of becoming successful writers. Work, family, friends, and our own perfectionism, procrastination, doubts and fears—all these and more conspire against us. So, if we want to keep our butts in the chair, our fingers on the keyboard or pen, and our minds focused on writing, we must somehow reinforce our writing habits. We need to embrace a system of regular rewards. Giving ourselves a small reward for each step we take on the way to achieving our goals will keep us on track to finish our writing projects.

But what types of incentives will motivate us to reach our writing goals? There are several ways to reward ourselves that don’t require a huge expenditure of time or money. Here are some simple rewards I use to motivate myself to complete my daily writing goals: a cup of hot chocolate or Chai tea, a walk with my husband, a good book, a little treat that’s definitely not healthy, a board game I enjoy playing with a family member, or a shopping trip for something I really need. However, I admit there are those rare days when my real reward is simply shutting down my computer and going to bed!

Why do we writers so often fail to reward ourselves for our daily accomplishments? One reason could be that we’re setting unrealistic goals, so we never feel deserving enough. We may even decide to punish ourselves for not achieving our goals when we should be celebrating every small stepping stone along the way. Rewards are positive and create incentives to write. But when we deprive ourselves of rewards as a form of self-punishment, this generates negative connotations that create a disincentive to write. That’s definitely not what we need. We should never devalue our work as writers!

Incentives serve as catalysts for our creative output, and we deserve to reward ourselves for making our writing dreams come true. Writing is definitely hard work and if we don’t create some little rewards for ourselves each day, eventually all that hard work will suck all the enjoyment out of it. Incentives also make it a lot easier to stick with our writing on those days when we “don’t feel like it,” we’re “not in the right mood,” we “don’t feel inspired,” or we’re “feeling too tired.”

If we are so hard on ourselves that we rarely give ourselves rewards for our daily accomplishments, one way to counteract this tendency is to have a previously prepared list of rewards to choose from. This makes it so much easier to be kind to ourselves, especially on those days when we’ve jumped so many hoops and hurdles before we’ve even sat down to write that it feels like we’ve already lost the battle!

One advantage we have as Christian writers is that God is our partner every step of the way. His Word provides the encouragement and inspiration we need to find our voice and achieve our goals. Even when God nudges us beyond our comfort zone, we trust Him to lead us down the right path. We may often doubt ourselves, but we never doubt God. As we learn from 1 Samuel 3, God is infinitely patient and persistent. He will continue to nudge us until we listen, understand, obey, and ultimately succeed.

What are some of the goals God is nudging you to achieve this year? How will you reward yourself for what you’ve accomplished today?

Photo Credits: Pixabay.com

Nina Faye Morey is a Canadian writer, editor, and speaker. She’s had fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art published in Christian, secular, and literary journals. She’s also contributed to two InScribe anthologies: 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers (2015) and Christmas: Stories and More (2017). Nina’s served as columns editor for InScribe’s FellowScript magazine and is currently the editor-in-chief. She finds working with fellow writers as an editor and through InScribe workshops gratifying. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, travelling, and spending time with family.

January 15, 2019

Go With the Flow - Tracy Krauss

My plan this year is to be less structured than normal. I know that might sound counter-productive when we're talking about writing goals and keeping on track, but I feel it's necessary for me at this time in my writing career. 

To give some context, I started writing more than 30 years ago and it is ten years now since my first book released. In that decade, I've had eight novels, nine stage plays, several short stories, two non-fiction books, an illustrated children's book, and numerous articles published. I've worked with traditional publishers, vanity presses, and tried self publishing. I've acquired an agent and I've lost an agent. I've joined various groups, most notably InScribe in 2010, getting involved in various capacities until I now serve as president. When I look back at my track record, it appears quite productive. Still, there is always the sense that I could do more; that there are so many stories that need to be written. Time is running out and there must be a way to accelerate the process. 

Some reality checks in the past couple of years have helped me focus more on God's timing than my own. I realize that stress can kill - literally, so I try not to take myself and my goals too seriously. Plans are a good thing as long as they don't become an obsession. It's why I felt the urge to purposely decide to 'go with the flow' this year when it comes to my writing. I still have a list of projects and goals,  but I'm giving myself permission to ignore it. 

January 13, 2019

My Main Incentives to Write by Wendy L. Macdonald

God’s nudges are my main incentives for showing up to write each day. My journal is my drawing board for most of my nonfiction writing. It’s where I record my faith journey—and my faith failings.   
One of my main incentives for writing is described in a verse I fell in love with while working through a Beth Moore Bible study. It encouraged me to write for a particular reader. Hints of what my brand should be have shown up at various times in my life, but this verse solidified it:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, 
because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
 to proclaim freedom for the captives
 and release from darkness for the prisoners.
 Isaiah 61:1 NIV

Each morning I choose a verse of the day from the passages of Scripture I’ve read. I don’t follow a strict reading plan. My simple read-through-the-Bible method is: Place a sticky note in the New and Old Testaments to mark where I’ve read to. Some mornings I read several chapters. Other mornings I may only read a few verses. On particularly stressful days, I skip my reading routine and dip into the Psalms for spiritual refreshment.

After choosing a verse, I record it in my journal and write a poem based on it. Later, if the poem is worthy to be shared, I edit it and schedule it and the Scripture verse on my author Facebook page with a nature picture I’ve taken. Often, an entire blog post or podcast is birthed from one of my verses of the day.

God’s Word is literally a lamp for my pen. When I show up and read it, His inspiration shows up too.

My heart is overflowing with a good theme: 
I recite my composition concerning the king;
 my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
 Psalm 45:1 NKJV

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
 because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
 and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free… 
Luke 4:18 NIV

I’m nosy-to-know what Scripture verse has been the most incentive in your writing life.

Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

January 11, 2019

Writing Incentives - Carol Harrison

I looked at the topic for January and thought about what my incentives are to keep my writing on track for this new year. I thought of my goals, my reflections and the challenges I might face and knew I wanted to put things in place to allow growth to happen. I know I need accountability partners, deadlines and most importantly I need Scripture to offset the negative thoughts that threaten to sidetrack the writing. 

I do not usually choose a word to be my focus for the new year. Yet as I reflected on the sermon from the last Sunday at church in 2018 during a morning devotional time, one word continued to come to my mind - faithful. It reappeared at various times during the next few days and I know it is something I long for - to be found faithful. I need to be faithful in my Christian life, taking time getting to know God better and listening for His voice which will help me overcome the negative, internal chattering that too often grows so loud it drowns out what I need to focus on. I need to be faithful in using the gifts and abilities that God has given me and that includes working on the stories which need to be put to paper and shared. 

Reflecting on what had happened in the past year, as is my custom at the end of each year, I looked at memories, completed projects and things still waiting to be worked on or completed. Then I changed from looking back to looking ahead to a new year, new calendars, new possibilities and new memory making moments. A blank slate waited for me.

I thought about my motivation to keep writing, to  keep telling the stories and speaking. Why should I keep on going when fear holds me back from completing some of the projects or the internal, negative monkey voice changes from background chatter to shouting negatives? The word faithful comes to mind. I long to be obedient to God's plan and go where he sends me, trusting that he will supply all I need like He promises in Scripture. 

Psalms 78: 1-6 (NIV) have been verses that have been part of my incentive to continue to tell and write stories.

"O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old - what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us, We will not hide them from their children, we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. 
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them even the children yet to be born and they in turn would tell their children."

My intentions for 2019 include completing several bigger writing projects, continue to write short pieces and submit some of them to various publications, blog posts or simply send to family. I want to capture the stores flitting about in my mind, set them to print and share them with others. 

To accomplish this list of writing goals I need to quit procrastinating the editing, the writing and the process of sharing them with others. I find to do lists helpful and deadlines as well. Therefore I plan to have some self-imposed deadlines added to the to do list in order to focus my work habits in a better fashion – make the goals smarter in the time management area. 

I had a brainstorming session with another author, Kim Steadman, who also likes lists and deadlines. She gave me some helpful tips to prioritize my works in progress in light of any and all obligations I have such as writing a weekly blog article, my Puzzle Pieces of Life programs for Hope Stream Radio and this monthly blog post for Inscribe. Writing down the obligations, the works in progress and ideas still waiting to be written gives me a great way to visualize what I need to have done by a specific time and what I can realistically add in to my schedule.

Yes I need to not only schedule writing and editing time but then take those appointments seriously and actually write and edit works in progress. Deadlines do help me focus and therefore I can add in some self imposed ones to help keep me on track or give me a kick in the seat of the pants to keep working on telling the stories, preserving the family memories and helping others along the way.

The incentive to move forward with my writing intentions for this coming year is to be faithful in telling the stories to the next generations. Life can change in a moment and giving myself permission to be flexible is important as well. Listening to the advice of other writers, reading about their journey, incentives and helpful hints adds to the positive moments in my writing life. I am not alone on this journey. Connecting with other writers also helps build in some accountability as does having a prayer team covering the writing and asking the question, "How is your writing coming?"

When the negative voices grow loud and fear threatens to stop all headway on works in progress I need to trust God. The verse that I have for this year is Isaiah 41:10  (NIV)

"So do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

 I believe it is important to be faithful and use my gifts and abilities to enrich the lives of others, encourage those who find themselves in one of life’s tough spots as well as help people find their voice and work towards their fullest potential through mentoring. 

As a speaker, published author and storyteller, Carol Harrison is passionate about mentoring people of all ages and abilities to help them find their voice and reach their fullest potential. She shares from her heart, telling stories from real life experiences and God’s Word to encourage people and help them find a glimmer of hope no matter what the circumstances. She believes we need to continuously grow in our walk with God and lives out her storytelling passion by speaking at women’s events and retreats, Bible Camps as well as school assemblies and church events. Carol is a wife, mother of four adult children and grandmother to twelve. She makes her home is Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

January 10, 2019

Listen! by Sharon Espeseth

Listen! Unsplash Photo
Have you heard a parent say, or have you said this yourself to your children: "But you're not even listening to me!" Sometimes we might throw our hands into the air in frustration or for effect when our kids don't respond. I wonder if God ever thinks or says this about us: "But you're not even listening to me, my daughter (or my son). When we really listen to someone, we respond in word, emotion, or action.

My word this year is "Listen!" I have made a commitment to be a more attentive listener, to lean in and listen--

To God.  

I have written before of Julia Cameron's method of doing Morning Pages. When I do them, I value mornings as a quiet time for me and a good time to write. Does the following Bible passage appeal to your writerly self? God, through Isaiah, spoke to me. I listened. Here it is from The Message, as translated and expressed by Eugene H. Peterson.  

The Master, God, has given me
  a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
  He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
  to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opens my ears
  and I didn't go back to sleep,
  didn't pull the covers back over my head.
 I followed orders . . ."

This past week, while the Norwegian and I were driving to Edmonton for an early appointment, we watched the sun come up. I "oohed and aahed" about the shifting clouds and changing colours as daybreak unfolded. When we got home that evening, I listened to "Morning" from Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg another good Norwegian.

Sunrise--Photo by Alex Siale of Unsplash

To Others.

One of the best thing we can do for someone is to listen to him or her. Lean in and really listen. Listening shows respect. It's putting down my cell phone or stepping away from my computer and giving someone my undivided attention. I am listening with love. I am listening to how they feel, to their body language. I am listening to what they might not be saying.

Papa and Lacey listening to each other
To My Heart. 

I plan to listen more closely to my husband, my adult kids, my grandchildren, my friends, the clerk at the grocery story, the new person in church, our priest when he speaks, our song leaders when they sing.

 It's so easy, however, to get busy and forget that I am entitled to listening time myself, time to enjoy my favourite music, time to write, time to laugh and play. Time to honour what is important to me. Time to be creative. Time to put those ideas down before they disappear.

Listening to my heart

Giving myself this kind of time is listening to my heart. I see I have some priorities to set and some time management rules to lay down. Dear Lord, I'm going to need some help here.

To My Body. 

I need to listen to my body. A tired body deserves rest. When other demands on my time and energy come, I need to know when to say, No. When I am sick, I need to take care of myself. This is true if I am feeling physically or mentally ill, as in dealing with depression. (I have experience, i.e. a "well-taught tongue" in regard to depression.) It is counter productive to look after others when I neglect myself.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the drive to the city this week when I could watch the sun rise. I noticed and I listened to to the sunrise and that instructed  me to listen to "Morning Song" in the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg, which I am doing as I write. (Google this if you wish.)

I can listen to nature while walking outdoors any time of year. In the summer, I need time to sit under a tree or beside a stream. Did you know that you can "Improve mental health by exposure to trees and nature"?
Writing among the trees and overlooking the lake

This is the heading for an interesting online article on the benefits of trees and nature on mental health. (Look it up if your interested.) I will take more time to listen and savour God's wonderful creation that is here for each of us.

To Silence. 

In this busy world, do you, like me sometimes crave silence or go looking for it? Silence can be beneficial and powerful. Many people enjoy the constant buzz of activity and noise. I, on the other hand, regularly seek silence. Silence strengthens and empowers me.

Warning: If you are an appreciator of silence, West Edmonton Mall is not for you. If you have a migraine, do not go near W.E.M. No quiet places exist in West Edmonton Mall. I tried the mall once when I had a migraine. That day, I thought compassionately about the mall workers. The constant ear-splitting music. The thumping beat. The jangle of bells and whistles in the arcades. The water fountains producing thundering, artificial-sounding noise.

I need a certain amount of quiet, but too much silence can also be deafening. When my husband has been in the hospital for several days at a time, our home is too quiet. (For more on this topic, google "Listening to Silence"by Dr. Samineh I. Shaheem.)

Dear Lord, help us listen for the good stuff, avoid what rattles our nerves and respond appropriately to what you or others are saying to us.

January 08, 2019

Motivation and Intention by Linda Hoye

The year begins with intention, most of them do. We set goals—we dare not call them resolutions—to write a number of words, pages, or other bodies of work, in a set period of time and we sit down at our desk and write.

Then life, and sometimes our own insecurities, get in the way and we start to think that our words don’t matter. Perhaps we even come to believe that it’s selfish to sequester ourselves away to scribble words in a notebook or tap them out on a keyboard. We start to think that we have nothing to say. We ask ourselves why we bother to try at all.

Madeleine L’Engle said, “if I thought I had to say it better than anyone else, I’d never start.” Like Madeleine, we’re wise to remember that we’re not called to do anything better than anyone else, we’re called simply to use the measure of ability given us by God, to honour Him while serving others. Intention, by itself, won’t help us make it past February with our goals. There has to be something bigger behind it.

Intention by itself will not sustain us in our writing life.

When we spend time in God’s presence, we become saturated with grace and changed by boundless love. We come to understand that we who have been gifted with a desire, and a measure of ability to dabble with words are charged to use what we’ve been given to honour our Creator. We don’t have to do it in the same way any other pilgrim does. We’re unique. We seek, in our own way, to find fresh ways to write about timeless truth.

So, we take our writing desire to prayer, and we remember what Jesus told Paul on the road to Damascus: tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future.[1] Simple. Then we walk out the ordinary days of our life, guided by grace and wrapped in love. We look for God in ordinary moments, and when we see Him, we tell (write) about it.

Love is our motivation; intention, simply a tool to keep us moving forward.

When we begin to comprehend the magnitude of the love that the Creator has for us, and grasp our God-given mission (or calling, if you will), we set out on our writing journey with a simple, childlike desire to please our Abba. We write, first and most of all, for an audience of One. We come to the page filled with love, fuelled by prayer, and guided by the Spirit. Whether we pen fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, our writing becomes an outflowing of the love that has been poured into us.

The path won’t be a straight one, and it won’t look like anyone else’s. There will be detours, and potholes, and things that come up that distract us from our goal. Intention helps us stay on track, a tool we wield to help us do the work given us to do. We establish boundaries around our time with God and, flowing from that, establish regular writing times and places.

And so, as we begin this new year, I invite you to take time to abide, lean in and listen, and become saturated with God’s love. Then, only when you are filled, establish your goals and set your intentions.

[1] Acts 26:16

Linda Hoye is a writer, photographer, gardener, and somewhat-fanatical grandma. She lives in British Columbia with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier, but she’ll always be a Saskatchewan prairie girl. She is the author of Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude. Her work has been included in two anthologies, as well as assorted online and in-print publications. She loves Moleskin notebooks, multi-coloured index cards and sticky notes, Uni-Ball 207 gel pens, and soy milky frothy coffee. Find her online at www.lindahoye.com where she ruminates about life and faith every day.

January 06, 2019

Living Is The Trick: It’s My Life by Bob Jones

The timing was ironic. 

Our local “greatest hits” FM station was playing on my car radio. I was traveling south and encountered a funeral procession heading north. 

Reality interfaced with entertainment. 

The irony was the song playing on the radio was Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.” 

As the lengthy procession passed by I wondered if the deceased had ever said, or sung, ”It’s my life! I just want to live while I’m alive.”  How long had they lived? Was their death sudden? Were they happy with their life? Did they accomplish their goals? Were they a person of religious faith? Did they think their life mattered?

Jon Bon Jovi, reflecting on the broad appeal of his song said, “When I was writing ‘It's My Life’, I thought I was writing very self-indulgently about my own life and where I was in it. I didn't realize that the phrase ‘It's My Life’ would be taken as being about everyone - teenagers, older guys, mechanics, whoever. "It's my life, and I'm taking control. Everyone kind of feels that way from time to time.” The song struck a chord and soared to #1 worldwide in 2000.

Talk about tapping into the collective conscious.

Red Smith, the late NY Times sports communist wrote, “Dying is no big deal. The least of us will manage that. Living is the trick.” So how are you doing with that?

January is such a timely month to think about living. Are you happy with your life? Do you know that you matter? What are your hopes and dreams for 2019? What better time than today to make a change.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart." Proverbs 3:5,6

1. You can’t choose where you came from but you can choose where you go from here. Envision new beginnings or start overs. Shed the disappointments of yesterday and schedule purposeful appointments for your success in the coming year.

2. Set aside time to meet with God. Daily. Don’t lean solely on your own understanding. Determine in all your ways to acknowledge God. Trust God to direct your steps.

3. To borrow from Jon Bon, “Each one of you has something no one else has, or has ever had: your fingerprints, your brain, your heart. Be an individual. Be unique. Stand out. Make noise. Make someone notice. That's the power of individuals.”

Writing is a craft that I will amplify this year. I will make 2019 a year to stand out, make noise and leave my fingerprints on life changes for readers wherever God and the digital world take my words.

No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.

Take a lesson from Jon Bon. It’s your life. Make it a hit.

I am a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. My office walls are adorned with our sons’ framed football jerseys, and my library shelves, with soul food. I write to grow hope, inspire people to be real, forge an authentic faith in Jesus, and discover their life purpose.

Please follow my writing at Pointes Of View.

January 05, 2019

Tell It Slant: Review by Brenda Leyland

Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction

Authors: Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola
Second Edition, 2012 (textbook version initially published in 2003)
Publisher: McGraw Hill Education, USA
ISBN-10: 0071781773; ISBN-13: 978-0071781770
Paperback, 272 pages. $24.95 CAD; Kindle $9.99 CAD; Kobo  $19.99 CAD

Over recent months, this new-to-me book has come home from the library on more than one occasion. I was first drawn to the book’s title—it's a nod to Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant”. The authors chose the poem for both title and epigraph because "it so aptly describes the task of the creative nonfiction writer: to tell the truth, yes, but to become more than a mere transcriber of life's factual experiences.” Desirous of deepening my creative nonfiction writing skills, I delved into the book and was not disappointed.

Tell It Slant is used as a textbook, and though many of us might remember dragging through old, dry texts, this book is not one of them. Instructive and comprehensive, yes, but it is far from dull. It's an engaging, pleasing read. Soon I had all sorts of ideas sprouting up, and I had to restrain myself from wanting to mark up my library book.

It is written in three sections: Unearthing Your Material, The Many Forms of Creative Nonfiction, and Honing Your Craft. With rich writing examples and practical prompts to use as triggers, the reader-cum-writer begins to see how to frame the stories in a wider context using, for example, the lens of history, science, sport, nature, art, or spiritual autobiography to engage the reader. “The more particular you make your own experience—with sensory details, compelling metaphors, and luscious rhythms—the more fully a reader will feel the personal story along with you.”

First published in 2003, this book became the go-to text for many instructors and new writers studying creative nonfiction writing. A decade and a half later, it remains a favourite for those who rely on its examination of the many forms creative nonfiction can take. Just ask my college-student niece, who recently read it for her creative nonfiction writing class. What fun to discover we were reading the same book at the same time and both finding it helpful.

If you are looking for help to deepen your own journey in creative nonfiction writing, I'm happy to recommend this great resource to you. If you haven't got a copy, you might want to wait until the new updated/revised version comes out. According to their Facebook page, a new version is in the works—sorry, there is no indication when it will be completed.

Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola are both Professors of English at Western Washington University. Miller has written, among other works, three essay collections: Season of the Body, Blessing of the Animals, and Listening Against the Stone. Paola’s books include Body Toxic and A Mind Apart. Both are award winning authors.

Note: The accompanying website that is often mentioned in the book as an additional resource is, unfortunately, no longer available.

A long-time InScribe member, Brenda Leyland writes from her home in Alberta, Canada. She shares life moments on her blog It's A Beautiful Life and on Facebook