Check-in

Writing Fiction When the World is on Fire

I am not one to make excuses when I’m not productive. I am remarkable at abstaining from any activity that would challenge or stretch me. It would not be totally incorrect to call me lazy.

Oddly enough, this week, I found that I had a great desire to work. For five days straight writing is all I wanted to do. And not just journaling. I wanted to sit my butt in a chair and get real work done. I reordered ten chapters of my novel in progress, revised several sections, and wrote a new chapter. I got a lot done.

Under normal circumstances I would be proud of myself, of my recent stint with discipline. However, it doesn’t feel OK to do so. Not this week. It feels like, in the midst of all that productivity, I might have been hiding.

While I’ve been writing, in a number of cities around the U.S. protestors are challenging American’s comfort. Families are mourning. And while world changers are fighting for accountability in high places, I am making up stories. I am escaping.

I’m writing this post mostly to check in with myself, as I’m not sure if it’s OK to do this: to work, to create, to focus on anything other than the world and all of the many troubles that are yet so close. I’m not looking for anyone else to accept my guilt nor to tamper it. I am writing this post because I don’t know how to transform it. I am writing this because I don’t know if I have the right to.

Check-in, Uncategorized

Reviewing Your Goals

I am a fan of the Success Wiz app. I’ve mentioned it before. It’s a great app for identifying and organizing goals.

It was recently brought to my attention that I wasn’t as focused as I thought I was. I didn’t know where I was heading but I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go or why. Because of prayer and the Success Wiz app, I can now see what I am working toward and have identified some of the steps I must take in order to get there.

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One of the greatest parts of the app is that once a month it notifies me that it is time for me to review my goals. Do I still want to accomplish what I wanted the previous month? Why do I still want it? Is it still a priority?

Until recently, I didn’t realize that the act of wanting requires work. I can’t call a dream a goal and expect a return on it. I have to think, plan, make progress and review. Reviewing is important.

Last month, I deleted some of the goals I’d outlined because, after thinking and hearing from God regarding them, it was clear that it wasn’t in the right season to be productive in those areas. If I hadn’t stopped and created the space for God to help me see how better to focus my attention, I’d still be wasting much needed time and effort.

I urge you to do the same. You don’t need an app to do a monthly review. Grab a pen and paper and set aside ten minutes to reassess your plans. Make room to hear and be honest with yourself. Focus only on the goals that fit this season. Don’t lag behind or jump too far ahead. Trust me, this is the season to be intentional. Every season is.

Check-in, Time Management, Uncategorized

Reframe How You Define Success

I took the week off. No going into the office. No answering emails. I didn’t even let myself think about work. Instead of earning money, I planned to spend seven days concentrating solely on writing a twenty-page paper for school.

Unfortunately, by Tuesday I’d done little more than drink coffee and eat donuts. Not because I was distracted or lazy, which is normally the case, but because I’d changed my mind about the topic and had to wait for the arrival of new research materials.

pexels-photo-236817I felt like a failure. I felt like I’d wasted time and money. I felt like I should call my boss and try to reschedule my vacation. I felt like giving up. But I didn’t. Instead, I asked myself a few key questions:

  1. What CAN You Do? I knew I couldn’t work on the paper without the research materials, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t prepare. I could free-write, continue my research, write an outline.
  2. What Else is on Your Agenda? I am a planner. My notebook planner and my digital calendar, both stocked with to-do lists, are always within reach. I always know, at a glance, everything I have to do at any given time. I could have easily picked another task on my list.
  3. What Are You Behind On? Truthfully, I’m always lacking in some area. Usually, I haven’t done something, and that something is normally whatever it is I don’t want to do. And as we all know, not wanting to do a thing, doesn’t mean we can get out of it.

After wasting time on a ton of anxiety and worry, what I learned is, if I’m going to be intentional, effective and impactful this year, I have to be able to adjust my schedule. Things will happen. I’ll change my mind. I’ll make mistakes and I can’t stop working because of that. I can’t get bogged down with regret. I have to keep going in spite of. I have to learn how to readjust at a moments notice. I can’t waste my energy.

Apps, Check-in, MFA, Time Management, Uncategorized

Update Fail One

I called this post Update Fail One because I am sure that if I do nothing else, I will continue to fail at updating this blog on a consistent basis. How shameful is that?

Yet, onward!

It’s no secret that I am failing in every area of my life. If you read this blog you know that already. What you don’t know is that I have a solution. This week I got a life coach! Not a human. I’m broke-ish and can’t afford a human. But what I (sort of) can afford is an app.

It’s called Success Wiz and I’m hoping it will help me get my life together. Like a lot of people in the social media age, I have big dreams. The trouble with me is that I want it all right now and have no idea how I can make any of it happen. I am inconsistent and easily overwhelmed. I get anxious when I think about all I want to do and instead of working towards my goals a little at a time, I whine and complain and resent myself and everyone else… and that’s not productive.

Because I listen to Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast, I know that I am an obliger. I know that I need to be accountable in order to effective. In the case of the Success Wiz app, I’m accountable for the money I will be spending every month on the pro version. It’s only three bucks, but I can’t see myself throwing three bucks out the window for an app I won’t use. I’ll either use it lose it. That’s for sure.

Over the next week, I hope to see a difference in my focus and work ethic. I have to turn in my submission packet to my MFA mentor. I need to create a registration list for the classes I’m helping to admin. I have to read a book and write annotations. I have to work and spend time with my son. I need to read submissions for the literary magazine I edit for and lead the outreach push. I have a lot to do over the next seven days.

My plan is to come back this time Saturday morning and write about whether or not the app helped me to do any of the things I just listed. And since app developers don’t pay unknown inconsistent bloggers to write about their products, you don’t have to worry that I won’t give an honest review. I’ll keep it 100%.

(And do me a favor this week – keep your fingers crossed. I’ll need all the help I can get.)

Check-in, MFA, Uncategorized

January Check-In: Failing at Staying Energized

It’s only January 11th. Eleven days since 2018 started and I’m already out of energy. Seriously. I’m completely tapped out and I haven’t yet done anything.

My excuses are somewhat comforting: I live in the Midwest and for anyone who hasn’t heard, it’s been cold. Really cold. Below zero cold. Curl-up-in-bed-with-a-book-as-soon-as-you-get-home-from-work cold. Nevermind-that-you’re-a-student-and-you-have-writing-to-do cold. Nevermind-your-dreams, just-don’t-freeze cold.

Plus, it gets dark early and it’s hard for me to function without the ever necessary Vitamin D… *insert side-eye here*

What I don’t understand is why no one else seems to need the comfort of a well-crafted excuse? Why isn’t anyone else hiding under a blanket and enjoying the spoils of laziness? Is it that they don’t know how to make excuses or are they too busy producing content to take the time to come up with any? (I may not be great at commitment, but I excel at coming up with reasons to remain stagnant. I could help them out. It could be my first writing job!)

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While I work hard not to covet, several of my Facebook friends finished manuscripts at the end of 2017. They’ve gotten published in lit mags. They started successful blogs. They’re actually working on 2018 goals while I eat cookies in my bathrobe. It seems that everyone is beating me in the race towards success because they won’t stop moving.

I know what I need to do. I’ve always known. I need to overcome myself. I need to get up and get writing. I need to move. Only, it’s hard and I’m tired. Plus it’s cold, and I mean really really cold… change-into-sweatpants-and-watch-Netflix-for-twelve-hours cold.

Believers, Check-in

What if Your Faith Fails?

Christians are supposed to be believers. Believing is our thing. Our Christian walk is based on it. We believe God and it’s accounted to us as righteousness (Gen: 15:6). We don’t have to see God in order to believe that He is and that He is a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). We can be poor and in debt; we can live check to check; we can have bill collectors calling us at work, and yet believe that if we allow God to prepare us, our financial abundance is on its way. We can do this because we walk by faith.

Or… we’re supposed to anyway.

This week, I failed in my faith walk. Because I’m not 100% seeing, I’m not 100% believing. It seems I’m only 92% believing and the other 8% is calling the 92% stupid for hanging on. The 8% is shaking its head and casting judgment on that faithful 92%. The 8% is laughing a long, hard and heavy belly laugh.

I try to read the Bible every day. I don’t always prioritize it the way I should, but I do try. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out what we’re supposed to do between God notifying us of His plans for us and when He brings those plans into full manifestation. What did Hannah do? Or Sarah, or David, or Elijah?

How are we supposed to keep going with our lives when what we’re believing for doesn’t show up in a reasonable span of time? What do we do with our days (and our empty bank accounts) while we’re waiting to move forward?

I’m not doing as badly as I could be. The Holy Spirit has been leading the way, and I’m grateful for it. But that doesn’t mean I understand what’s happening. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not tired. However, I know that no matter what, I have to keep going. I have to keep the faith. And if I do fail, I have to get right back up and keep on moving, no matter what.

Check-in

Am I Growing?

On the first day of the eighth grade, my son and I went to Meet the Teacher Night. He hadn’t seen any of his school friends all summer, so he was surprised when they showed up and were, according to him, as tall as NBA players. No joke, everyone, even the girls, towered over my son by at least a foot.

A year later we found out that he had an issue with his pituitary gland. It wasn’t producing, so he wasn’t getting any taller. In order for him to grow at the rate he was supposed to, the doctor would need to treat him with hormone shots.

He had a doctor’s appointment today, nearly a year after the first shot, and we got the news that he’s gotten nearly a foot taller, with room still left to grow. And we are both overjoyed. It was a surprise. While we mark the doorframe every few months, we hadn’t measured with the tape. We saw the progress, but he had no clue of the numbers. We hadn’t quantified his growth.

Which leads me to wonder, how am I going to know, over the next year, how far I’ve grown? How will I know when I’ve moved passed failing? How will I know when I’ve won?

I’m not even sure if there is a tried and true way to quantify success. What if I don’t make more money over the next twelve months? What if I still haven’t finished a novel? What if I’m still a nagging single mother? Can I still be a winner? Or will I have gotten stuck failing?ver the next twelve months, I’m going to have to complete yet another task. I’ll have to figure out a way evaluate my own success. Does anyone have any ideas on how?

I decided today, in the car on the way home, that over the next twelve months, I’m going to have to complete yet another task. I’ll have to figure out a way evaluate my own success without driving myself crazy. There has to be an easy way to figure out how.