Sunday, August 31, 2014

a labor of love

I don't get it. Labor Day is observed every year on the first Monday of September as a tribute to the achievements and ethic of the great American worker. The holiday offers a well-deserved respite from the daily grind, a chance to kick back with friends and family, or to catch up on sleep if that's what you need. But let's face it...not everyone gets Labor Day off. Some people have to get up early and put in a full day's work as if the tribute wasn't meant for them. If you pump gas, or wait tables, or work in retail...chances are you won't have the day off. You'll be busier than ever because today everything is on sale. People need to gas up the car to get to the mall. They'll need to stop for lunch somewhere. Thank God for you!

If you're a fireman, a police officer, or a health care worker...chances are you'll have to go in today, too. If you work at an animal rescue, or a nursing home, or a homeless shelter you may need to be there because some things just can't wait until Tuesday. Trust me...your dedication doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated. You should take a bow for serving mankind when you should be enjoying a day off, too.

If you're a writer or an artist or a composer and you plan to stay home today...chances are good you'll be working, too. Revising a chapter or starting a new story, touching up a painting, or polishing up a melody. Why? Because that's what you love to do...and you have the whole day to enjoy it.
If you must work today--or you choose to work today--I hope yours is a labor of love. If it is, it won't feel like work at all.
"After love,
the most sacred gift you can give
is your labor."
~Donn Alan Pennebaker~
Happy Labor Day


Sunday, August 24, 2014

time off

If you go to a "real" job every day, it can be problem when you have to miss work. Maybe you're sick or you've been injured. Perhaps there has been a death in the family. You can't go to work and you're sure you'll never get caught up again. You feel guilty because someone else has to take on your work load.  It makes things difficult for everyone. And then there's the missed paycheck. You can't afford to take a day off.

But, if you're a solo writer and you can't write because life has other plans for you, there is no one who can fill in for you. Nobody realizes you're missing so they don't know you're sick or injured or grieving.  No one cares if you don't make your word count for the day.

Unless they have an impending deadline to meet, it's easier for writers to take a day off from time to time. You don't have to be on your death bed to justify it. You can blame it on writer's block. Perhaps you need a "mental health" day, aka. time to relax and play.

Or, perhaps like me, you're in the middle of preparing for a DIY wedding in your backyard. Meaning you have to get the place ready. In my case this has involved:

Repaving the driveway

Repairing the pool

Taking out a few trees

Re-fencing the pool

A little landscaping

...not to mention meeting with caterers, scheduling deliveries, fetching various odds and ends, and cleaning the house.

It's things like this that can keep a writer from writing. The good news is that it's all fodder for great storytelling later on. So maybe it's not time off at all!


If I disappear for a little while, it's because we are less than two weeks away from the wedding, but I'll be back!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

a writer's dilemma

  • How many pens is enough? Can you have too many?

  • If this is your workspace, how can you cook? Why would you bother?

  • Wine or coffee with your chocolate?

  • What will you do when you run out of space?

  • You've been writing for hours. Your companion is lonely. How can you say "no" to that face?

Theses are questions I face every day. What do you have to deal with?

"Do what you can,
with what you have,
where you are."
~Theodore Roosevelt~

Saturday, August 9, 2014

time well spent

Last week I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with award-winning author, international speaker, and marketing expert Karen Whiting ( ).

Image of Karen H. Whiting
I had a list of questions for her. I wanted to know how to create a marketing plan for a non-fiction book proposal, and when to begin actively building a platform for a not-yet-published book, among other things. We never got to any of that.
First, she asked me what my book is about.
"Navigating life's darkest moments without giving up on God," I replied in under ten words. Yay!
"What image will your readers come away with when they read your book?" she said.
Image? I met her gaze with a blank stare. I'd never thought about that. I haven't heard it mentioned in any of the workshops I've taken or in the books I've read. But she picked right up on the word "navigating."
"Do you use any nautical terms in the book? Do you spend a lot of time on the water? Did you grow up near the ocean?" she asked.
Water ocean waves sea wallpaper
"No. No. No." I shook my head. In fact, I don't really like the water all that much. I'd rather vacation in the mountains than at the beach. I have a pool in my own backyard and I haven't been swimming once this summer. I don't even care to drink water.
Yet, once I started to think about it, it turned out that my manuscript is full of nautical images: God as an anchor, faith as a compass, the rhythm of the tides, the unpredictable current of life, a sinking boat.
Anchor, download royalty-free vector clipart (EPS)
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Hebrews 6:19
She suggested I work with these images as a framework for my narrative, for the cover of the book, even its title.

Well, that certainly put a new spin on things. I think this is going to be fun--elaborating on these images, weaving a nautical thread through the stories, searching for relevant quotes.
Thank you, Karen Whiting, for time well spent. You opened up a whole new world of marketing possibilities with a single suggestion.
Is your WIP wrapped around an image that the reader can easily visualize and identify with? Are you writing with this in mind?
"A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor."
~Franklin D. Roosevelt~

I enjoyed this brief video from Ira Glass: . I hope you like it, too.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

inspiration 101

I just returned from a four-day writing conference, and as usual I came away from it feeling energized and motivated. Perhaps slightly overwhelmed and a bit confused, but definitely inspired. Not to mention exhausted.

At the conference I learned how to write a non-fiction book proposal with Dave Fessenden, how to write flash fiction with Ben Wolf of Splickety Publishing Group, and how to format a book for publication through CreateSpace with Bart Palamaro, founder of
But what made this conference stand out was its inspiring message. What set it apart was the fact that it was a Christian writing conference, That alone put a totally different spin on the word "inspiration."
We tend to look to different sources for inspiration. For many, the beauty of the natural world captures the imagination:
The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

For some, it might be a word of encouragement or support from a respected mentor or friend. Witnessing someone else's success can propel us forward. On the other hand, we might be inspired to take action because of someone else's loss. There are as many paths to inspiration as there are people along the way.
Among Christian writers, though, there is one fundamental source of inspiration, and that, in a word, is God--the font of all creativity, the arbiter of all experience, and the giver of all gifts. The writing life for people who identify themselves as Christian writers is centered on faith. It manifests itself in joy, optimism, and surrender.
Make no mistake about it: a Christian writing conference feels different from a secular conference. Instead of meeting up in the bar for drinks at the end of a long day, you gather in the chapel.You feel like a loner unless you join in prayer, raise your voice in song, and lift your gaze to the heavens like everyone else...

...which, personally, took me out of my contemplative, somewhat agnostic comfort zone. Nonetheless, two agents are looking at my book proposal...while I pray to God one of them accepts this project! Seriously.
What inspires you?
How do you inspire others?
Have a great week, even though summer is already slipping away...