write!

What’s Stopping You?

This morning I was listening to a podcast whose host was talking to a woman about what was holding her back from pursuing her dreams. The woman's dream? To write. She said she has wanted to write since she was a kid and she was afraid it might never happen. (Or something like that.)

And what I thought, as I listened, was, “What's stopping you?”write!

Anybody can write. If your dream is to write, then write. All you need is a piece of paper and something to write with, and you can write, write, write, write, write. Nobody can stop you.

Nobody should ever have an unfulfilled dream to write, because you can write any time you want to. So if you are (I am) saying that you/I have an unfulfilled dream of writing, then what you are (I am) really saying is, “I want to be published.” Which is a different thing entirely.

If your dream is to write, then get at it, my dear. Pick up your pen, boot up your MacBook, and get to writing.

Dream fulfilled.

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Dallas, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Podcast: The Productive Woman
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

Three Words for a New Year

Do you make new year's resolutions? Or set ambitious goals at the beginning of the year?

I'm one who finds myself drawn to milestone days–the first of the year, the first of a month, a birthday, an anniversary. I use those milestone days as reminders to look back, and look forward, to take stock, re-evaluate the path I'm on, and make adjustments. In past years I've used the last week or so of the year to make lists of resolutions, some of which I've kept and others of which have faded before the calendar turned to February. The past couple of years I've found meaning in the “One Word” trend, with my words being grace one year, gratitude another.

This year I've modified that approach a bit. Inspired by some articles written by writer/thinker/business coach Chris Brogan, I've instead settled on three words that will serve as guides and touchstones for 2015. I encourage you to click on Chris's name (or here) for his post explaining the concept behind this approach. The gist of it is that the three words create focus for the goals I set, the choices I make, and the projects I undertake for this year.

Fog on the Alps

I spent much of December 2014 thinking and praying about this new year, and seeking guidance for what my three words should be.

The three words that I chose are: Connect. Build. Simplify.

Each of these words has many meanings and applications for me. Some are deeply personal and won't be shared with anybody. But as examples of how they are shaping my thinking, here are some of the ways I see these words being applied in my life in 2015:

Connect

  1. Connect with Mike – communicate better, travel together, be more intentional about making time for each other
  2. Connect with God – more time reading the Bible, praying, listening
  3. Connect with clients – better and more focused service, more thoughtfully targeted business development activities
  4. Connect with the TPW (The Productive Woman) community (listeners, prospective guests, other podcasters)
  5. Connect with friends – travel to visit? more intentional and consistent communications
  6. Connect with myself – my passions (what do I really want?), my fears (what am I really afraid of and trying to avoid facing?)
  7. Connect with the present – be in the moment more, celebrating and enjoying my life and experiences as I'm in the middle of them, instead of always looking for something different or looking to the future)
  8. Connect with family

Build

  1. Build my faith
  2. Build my character – do the right things more consistently, exercise self-control
  3. Build my relationships
  4. Build my health
  5. Build a sustainable life (by being more realistic and disciplined in spending time and money)
  6. Build a business
  7. Build a writing career

Simplify

  1. Possessions
  2. Needs
  3. Workflows
  4. Start weeding out stuff
  5. Focus on the people and things that really matter
  6. Identify what matters, and pursue that, letting everything else drop away
  7. By connecting with my true passions and fears (see above), I can quit filling up my life and mind and time with things that (inadequately) compensate for not pursuing my passions and that (ineffectively) distract from the things I'm afraid of

The lists above are not my goals. They are my thoughts on how each of the words can be applied in my life. These are the source–as I said above, the touchstones–to which I will return regularly as I formulate and evaluate my goals for this year.

I've written these words on sticky notes and put them in various places to remind me of my focus. I've written them at the top of the big year-at-a-glance calendar posted on the wall near my computer. I will be thinking about them often, journaling about them as I draw out exactly what each means for me, this year.

What about you?

Do you make new year's resolutions? Choose a word? Some other approach to starting the new year off right? If you want to, share in the comments so we can encourage each other. Or send me an email.

I look forward to hearing from you, and to sharing the adventure of life with you in 2015.

Happy new year!

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Dallas, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Podcast: The Productive Woman
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

Blog Hop! A Little About My Writing

I've been invited to participate in a “blog hop”! The assignment is to write a post that answers four specific questions about my writing, and then tag three other writers who will do the same in their blogs. Be sure to see the links at the end to their blogs–you'll want to get to know these amazing ladies! Thank you to Sandy Ardoin for inviting me to be part of this. You can find Sandy's answers to these questions on her blog. In the meantime, here are my answers:

Kangaroo

What are you working on?  I am still working on my first novel. Do No Harm is women’s fiction, the story of a young female obstetrician who’s struggling to overcome the trauma of a delivery gone very wrong, while trying to fit in with the women of the church where her husband is the new worship pastor. I wrote the first words of this manuscript in 2012, and if anybody had told me then that I’d still be working on it in May 2014 … I probably would’ve cried. But here I am, plugging away, word by word, trying to get it right.

I’m also working on capturing some ideas for a second novel, and trying to be more consistent about blogging. All this is in my “free” time outside my day job.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?  I’ve often asked myself that question. One of the things I struggle with most in my writing is the feeling that everything worth saying has already been said, more than once, by better writers than I. But I’ve been reminded multiple times that no one else will say things quite the way I do, because I bring my own perspective, colored by my lifetime experiences. So there’s that.

I think my work also might differ in that I try very hard to be honest and transparent, to not skirt the tough issues. My goal in all my writing, fiction and nonfiction, is to tell the truth, because I really do believe that the truth will set us free.

Why do you write what you do?  I write the things I want to read. I write to explore the questions I have about life and human relationships, because I need to believe that I’m not the only one who feels the way I do, and I hope that by telling the truth as I see it, somebody else will feel a little less alone.

How does your writing process work?  My writing process works s-l-o-w-l-y. I have to make time for writing while still practicing law full-time and trying to be a decent wife and mother.

Do No Harm started as a question–the proverbial “what if?”–that turned into a stack of index cards. On each card I wrote one little sentence or idea for a scene or an event. Then after I had a good-sized stack, I sorted them into an order that made sense, then copied the scene ideas into Scrivener (the app I use for writing), and I just started writing, one scene at a time, fumbling for words as I tried to find my story, get to know my characters. I generally try to write from the first scene through to the end, but sometimes the next scene in order just isn’t there for me, so I’ll look through the list of scene ideas and pick one that catches my eye.

I have an overactive internal editor who sits on my shoulder when I write, telling me what I’m writing is stupid and badly written. To shut him up, sometimes I’ll set a timer and just start writing the first words that come into my head, as fast as I can, without stopping or editing or correcting. I’ve learned that the purpose of a first draft is to get words on paper. They don’t have to be pretty; they just have to be written.

Once I have paragraphs, pages, scenes, chapters written, I can edit them. I LOVE editing. Moving words around, playing with sentence rhythms, finding a better word, a better way to say what I’m trying to say.

Tag, You're It!

I’ve enlisted three of my favorite writer friends to pick up the hop from here. Sometime in the next couple of weeks each of them will answer the same four questions in their respective blogs. Be sure to watch for their posts. They are:

  • Amory Cannon writes romantic suspense as Amryn Cross. She and I met through the American Christian Fiction Writers’ big online critique group, so I had the privilege of reading some of her wonderful work-in-progress early on. Her debut novel, Learning to Die, will release in September 2014. Amory/Amryn blogs on her very cool website. Watch for her answers to the four questions there in the next week or so.
  • Laura Hilton will post her answers at her blog. Laura leads the small critique group I’ve been privileged to be a part of for the last couple of years. She writes wonderful Amish fiction, and has published several novels in that genre. I’ll confess that I’d never been a fan of Amish fiction until I started reading Laura’s chapters–she adds humor and a bit of sauce to the genre that makes it tremendously appealing.
  • Dana McNeely is a semifinalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest in the historical category. She's been such an encourager to me in my writing journey, so I'm excited to see where her writing is taking her. Watch for her answers to these questions in a few days on the Christian Writers of the West blog.

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

I’m Running Away From Home (and We Have a Winner!)

As this post goes live, I’m packed and ready to run away from home. This weekend I’ll be holed up at a Dallas hotel with a writer friend of mine. She and I were talking a few weeks ago, both of us lamenting how close we are to finishing our respective manuscripts, but our daily lives and writerly insecurities keep getting in the way of typing “The End.”

In The War of Art (a book I recommend highly for people who pursue creative endeavors of any kind), author Stephen Pressfield writes about “resistance” as a force everybody has to overcome when attempting to do anything that matters. He says that resistance increases as you near the end, and boy, has that been true for me!

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

So my friend and I decided to run away from home (together) and spend the weekend in a marathon writing/editing session. I don't like being away from home for the weekend, but I’m hoping this focused time will help me get over the hump so I can finish this project in time to meet my goal of sending it off by the end of the month to the agent who asked for it 8 months ago! If you think of it from time to time, I’d appreciate your prayers for a productive time of writing.

Before I disappear for the weekend, though, I wanted to fill you in on a few random things:

  1. The winner of Sharon Srock’s new release (see the post about it by clicking here) is … Zoe McCarthy! Sharon will be in touch with you to work out the arrangements for getting your copy to you.
  2. If you didn’t win this time, take heart. Come back on Tuesday, May 14, to read an inspiring guest post and sign up for a chance to win 16 great novels in CrossReads’s “Spring Cleaning Print Book Giveaway.” Don’t miss it!
  3. As a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, I'm honored to have the opportunity to guest post on the ACFW blog on Wednesday, May 15. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the question of being “called” to write, and I’d love to have your feedback. Please stop by and check it out, then let me know what you think.
  4. I was surprised and honored to learn last week that Do No Harm was selected as the winner in the women’s fiction category of The Write Stuff, a fiction contest sponsored by the Connecticut Chapter of Romance Writers of America.This contest was particularly worthwhile because the judges gave really helpful, detailed feedback on my 30-page submission.
    Write Stuff list 2013-05-09

One last request: If you’re a pray-er, I’d appreciate prayers for my sons:

  • Benjamin (the newlywed) started Army bootcamp this week, so we'd welcome prayers for both him and his new bride back in San Diego.
  • Sam just finished his freshman year in college and is home for the summer, contemplating big changes for next year.
  • Matthew will be moving his wife and sons from Hawaii to Connecticut this fall as he starts his next post in the US Navy. His new assignment is a big opportunity and an exciting challenge for him, but the move means a huge change for his wife and boys.

So what about you? Are you battling resistance with respect to something you’re trying to accomplish? What do you do to overcome it?

See you next week!

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

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Winning the Olympia

As I mentioned in an earlier postDo No Harm (my current novel-in-progress) won the 2013 Olympia, a contest sponsored by Clash of the Titles. As the winner, I received some great feedback from the amazing final-round judges, a gorgeous plaque, and an interview by author and blogger Cynthia L. Simmons. The interview is now live on Cynthia's podcast, so if you're interested, you can listen to it by clicking on the podcast link earlier in this sentence. You can also read the COTT story about my win. There's a link to Cynthia's interview of me in the right sidebar of the COTT story.

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Can I just take this opportunity to thank the judges and coordinators of the Olympia contest? Participating in the process of this contest has been such a blessing to me, and it would not happen without their hard work and generosity.

For my friends who are pre-published writers, I encourage you to enter a few carefully chosen contests. Whether you win or not, the process of learning and complying with the submission rules is a valuable exercise for anyone who wants to get published. And the feedback from the judges is invaluable in improving your craft and your story. Check the COTT website for information about how to enter the next Olympia contest.

Your turn: If you're a writer, have you entered your work in any contests? How do you feel about the experience? And if you're a reader of fiction, what do you look for in the books you choose to read?

 

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me