Commitment: Making it Happen

One thing I’ve discovered is that after I’ve decided and committed to do something, it’s so much easier to accomplish. All the guess work is taken out, and instead of wasting time thinking “should I or shouldn’t I do this?” the brain power goes to figuring out the best way to get it done.

For instance: Near the end of last year I decided to eat extremely healthily (aka paleo) for 100 days. And I did. There were times that it was hard, but I never once thought of giving up. From the time my 100 days were up (April-something), until when I went to North Dakota in June, I was on and off paleo, but did kinda okay with it. Then when I was in North Dakota I went totally off of it. When I got back to Ohio (not home), went off of grains and sugar, but still wasn’t that healthy. Then at the beginning of this month I wasn’t feeling well and knew it had a lot to do with what I was eating. So, I made the choice one morning after an embarrassing walk/run to be paleo until October 16th. Since then I’ve been paleo without any problem, hardly even craving non-paleo foods.

Another example: One of my 24 before 24 challenges is to write 1,000 words every day (except Sundays) for 24 days in a row. I made several half-hearted attempts to start the 24 days, but it wasn’t until I sat down and prepared and worked on a plot and committed to it that I actually really started. I’m several days into the challenge now and have throughly enjoyed writing each evening.

When I really want to get something done, the best way to see it through is for me to write goals, map out a plan, and then stick to it. Yes, there are reasons to sometimes abandon plans, but measly things like feelings shouldn’t factor into the equation.

Currently I’m training to run a marathon. Knowing this helps me get to bed earlier. It helps me wake up earlier. It helps me eat healthily. It helps me to keep running ten more seconds when I feel like slowing down to a walk. It helps me walk at a faster pace until I can start running again. It makes “one more mile” a reality instead of a wish. I’ve committed to a marathon, so training isn’t something I allow myself to choose any more, instead it’s a part of my day.

When I had a date set for when I wanted to be finished with the 15th draft of WLHYL, I worked on the book many days when I didn’t feel like it. I pushed through, and figured out problems that I’d been putting off. I made changes that I’d had niggling in the back of my brain for several drafts. There were times when I wanted to throw up my hands and set the book aside for another few months (or years…or decades), but instead I kept going.

We all have plans, goals, dreams, or tasks that we need to complete. Knowing how much it helps me when I commit to something helps me be wise with when and how often I choose to commit. What are some things y’all have committed to doing recently? 

Workplace Musings

Last night I was a bit late getting home from work, and I had what felt like a gigantically messy room to clean up, clothes to wash, packing to be done from my last trip, and everything to pack for my next trip. I even snapped a picture of my office/room before starting so I could see what a huge difference I was making with before and after pictures. 
This picture is somewhat amusing to me now, because for the first two decades of my life, I would have considered the room to be clean and good to go. Breaking the constantly-messy room habit was something I worked at for years, but never succeeded with until I made it a goal to have my room clean at least once a week. (Pretty much the best goal I ever set.) Over time my ideal of “clean” morphed and eventually it got to the point where my office hardly ever became a disaster because I was in the habit of cleaning it, and well… Goals. (They’re a pretty strong pull for me, if you haven’t guessed.)
By the way… Those clothes are the ones I pulled out of my bags from last week, washed, then simply dumped on the chair (and obviously the floor), cause this week was crazy-busy. 

 As a writer I find a clean, peaceful, and homey office is delightful to work in, and a messy one drives me crazy. Soft lighting, a flickering candle, fuzzy blankets, and heart-warming music all go into creating the perfect atmosphere to delve into writing or editing.

Thankfully I don’t need to have these elements before I can sit down and focus and pound out a new story, but they definitely make it easier and more enjoyable. Cute, cosy socks are also a plus, and cuddly animals are even better. (Real animals are the best, but stuffed animals work well, too. I have a box of stuffed animals under my writing table and they make my little heart happy.)

The bags on the couch are what I packed for this next trip which I’m supposed to leave for in approximately two minutes and fifty seconds… 

Even though I won’t be able to hang around and work in my clean office right now, it makes my homecoming so much more looked-froward to, to know I’m going to be able to crash immediately in a  clean office.

These next few days I’m planning on getting more editing done, but after I’m finished with the draft of WLHYL that I’m currently on, who knows… Perhaps I’ll even start a new book which would be fantastically amazing. Or, there is a possibility I’ll begin editing Echoes, which would be equally amazing because I’m really excited about that book.

What about you? Do you practically need to have a clean workspace?  

A Little Life Update

After only being home for one night in nearly four weeks (I was gone from June 28th until July 24th), it was delightful to arrive back late Sunday afternoon. I promptly kidnapped my best friend’s (and neighbor) little girl, who quite happily still remembered and loved me. We had fun with books and stuffed animals, which are really two of the best things in the world. 
Then I dove back into the world here with my non-writing job and siblings and normal life. (Haha, as if this crazy life could ever be classified as normal.) I got to cut grass which made me immensely happy, challenged my little brother to a few rounds of Uno, and did my first serious marathon-prep walk/run in waayyy too long. 
Today is another one of those busy days that are so much fun to look back on and feel satisfied about (at least that’s the plan). As soon as I finish this post I’m going to hurry and get some grass cut before the heat really takes over, cause believe me, it’s been hot
Thank you to everyone who prayed for my adopted dad, he’s recovering well which is a huge answer to prayer. He obviously still has a long way to go, but I’m pleased with the progress he’s made so far. (For those of you who don’t know, my adopted dad had a heart attack and then open-heart surgery, which is why I was unexpectedly gone for the last while.) 
This morning I was working on memorizing Philippians, and I was reminded again at how beautiful the book is. It’s not only wonderful and truth-shinning as God’s Word, but it also makes my writerly soul happy with how the words flow together and sound as they fall off of my tongue. 

But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now until God our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Phil. 4:18-20)

This week is shaping up to be really busy with my non-writing job, but I’m hoping to be able to get some work done on the writing front, too, because I’m very, very close to having the 15th draft of WLHYL finished. It’s exciting to see how the story is growing (actually shrinking), and changing and nearing completion. I am so very thankful for everyone who has helped me with the project, because seriously, we (the book and I) really needed the help.

And, this my friends, is just a little random update on life. What have y’all been up to? 

On the Subject of Positive Thinking – Authorish Thoughts

This morning I’m sitting on my adopted parent’s wrap-around porch with birds singing, fans blowing, wind rustling through the leaves, and soothing piano music playing. There are at least five bird feeders within my view, a pond is just across the yard, and we’re at the edge of the woods, so the wildlife activity surrounding me is constant.

Today I’m posting “part two” of my last post, which is actually the reply I sent to the aforementioned beta reader after he replied to the first email (which would be what I posted on Tuesday). I hope y’all enjoy seeing some more of what goes on behind the scenes in my brain when I’m working on a book. 

The email:

I agree with your first several comments, so no need to start there. In fact, most of what I’ve been pondering recently has to do with “positive” thinking instead of the issue of praise. 
First off, let’s define positive so we can make sure we’re on the same page. I just google searched “positive thinking defined” and this is what I found “Positive thinking is a mental attitude in wich you expect good and favorable results. In other words, positive thinking is the process of creating thoughts that create and transform energy into reality. A positive mind waits for happiness, health and a happy ending in any situation.” You might be gratified to hear that I don’t agree with that type of positive thinking, and if you thought I did, then therein lies at least part of the problem.
My definition of positive thinking is more along the lines of “Living life with the knowledge that everything works together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purposes. With that in mind, chose to find the good in every situation, dwell on the positive, and be thankful and rejoice while refusing to be weighed down by worries or negativity.” 
 (Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Luke 12:25 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?
Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.)
With that out of the way, I want to tackle the idea of being “positive.” You seem to assert that the Bible does not support being positive, and I disagree with you there. The definition of “positive” according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is: *Good or useful *Thinking about the good qualities of someone or something *Thinking that a good result will happen *Hopeful or optimistic *Completely certain or sure that something is correct or true. 
All of those definitions besides the last one (which is obviously a different form of “positive”) are pretty much the way I understand Philippians 4:8. 
I agree with you that it’s silly to put our fingers in our ears while chanting that everything will be okay and believing that our words alone will change the outcome, so rest easy there. However, I’m pretty sure you’re missing a vital part of how God has so intricately created us, and that’s what I really want to cover in this email. 
Throughout the years I’ve had the chance (through my non-writing job) to learn some about how the human brain works and it is fascinating how much the words we say and the thoughts we think really do make a difference. Since learning about some of the studies I’m going to share, certain verses in the Bible have made so much more sense to me. 
Although simply thinking about something doesn’t necessarily make it into our reality, it does have a much bigger impact on our reality than some people realize. For instance did you know that studies have shown that when you want someone to remember something it’s far more effective to say “Remember to do _____” instead of saying “Don’t forget to do _____.” This is because our brains have the habit of omitting the “don’t” and simply remember “forget to do _______.” Sounds crazy, but it’s true. 
Then there’s what’s called “The Law of Focus” and it states that “What you think about expands.” Now in reality, the law isn’t saying that it really does expand, it’s more that our consciousness of what we’re thinking about awakens and therefore we notice it more. There are so many things around us each day that our brains have effectively learned how to block certain things until we no longer notice them. (Take wearing glasses for instance, after wearing them for a while I don’t even notice that they’re there unless I think about them consciously.) 
A common example for explaining how the Law of Focus works is to imagine that you’re vehicle shopping. You decide you want a red pickup truck, and begin researching what kind of make, etc… would be the best for you. Now as you drive down the road and a red pickup comes toward you on the other side of the road, instead of simply passing it, your brain consciously observes it and you actually see it it because you’ve subcocniously singled your brain to be on the look out for red pick up trucks. (When I was little I once decided mustaches were freaky and wow, it’s crazy how many mustaches I began seeing.) 
This law makes a big difference in life once you’re aware of it, because it means you can pretty much choose what you become aware of. About four years ago I decided to become more thankful and consciously looked for things to be thankful about. Now when I’m in a difficult situation, my brain automatically begins finding things to be thankful for, which is not only very biblical, but is also quite helpful.
There are a lot more studies, books, and articles about the brain works and I think you’d find them fascinating and enlightening. For now though, I want to switch over to how I think that the Bible is in agreement with these types of discoveries. 
First off, Matthew 5:28 is a pretty good verse for showing how serious thoughts can be. In this verse we see that in certain situations we can commit sin by simply thinking something.
In Proverbs 17:22 we’re told that a merry heart does good like medicine. That’s pretty big. As I said in my last email, my doctor specifically told me when I was getting over Lyme disease that if I wanted to get better, I needed to focus on “good” (I forget the exact word) things to retrain my brain after so much pain. Her advice sounds very much like this verse to me.
Mark 9:23 says: “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things [are] possible to him that believeth.” This verse indicates that what we believe, what we think about, has a huge impact on our lives. It’s not us who has the power to make things happen, but we are supposed to focus on the One who does have the power and on what He can do, instead of negativity. 
For instance, next time you have to do something that totally freaks you out or that you really don’t want to do, think about your attitude. In my case, driving was a big issue for me. I felt like it was important to learn how to drive, but I was scared to death to have that power in my hands. Getting my drivers license was a five year process (which is a long story we won’t go into today). The last couple of years it was simply because life was too crazy to spend time on, but the first couple of years it was a big mind game. Every time I thought about driving in my mind I would be like “I hate driving. I don’t want to drive. I hate driving.” and then I would imagine everything that could go wrong. Not fun. Eventually I realized I was letting fear control me and therefore that was wrong. 
Over time I changed the way I thought and felt about driving by praying and consciously working on my mindset and attitude. Instead of saying “I hate driving” to myself, I began quoting verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheth me” and “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” I also began praying that I would get over my fear and then I would rebuke fearful thoughts because I realized they weren’t from God, but from the enemy. Over time I got to the place where I would be like “Thank You, God! I’m going to enjoy driving today.” because I knew I was walking in His will, so therefore if anything happened, it was okay, because He had it all under control. 
Proverbs 10:24 (What the wicked fears will come upon him, But the desire of the righteous will be granted.) is another verse that helps show that our thoughts are important. 
And, I’m going to end with talking about Proverbs 15:4 (A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit.) and Proverbs 12:18 (There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.) These verses both clearly point out how important what we say is, and I’m going to go a step further and say I think the same “law” applies to our “inner talking.” Aka, when we beat ourselves up or dwell on the negative, I think we’re invariantly crushing our own spirits and piercing ourselves with a sword.
This email is just a little drop in the bucket when it comes to the subject of thoughts, but hopefully it will give you some food for thought.  
Hoping I made sense…

Bookworm Happiness

Two weeks ago when I headed out to North Dakota where my adopted dad was in the hospital I was anticipating a lot of waiting time and therefore a lot of reading time. My iPhone kindle was stocked and I even brought a couple of physical books along with me. 
Then the waiting began and I couldn’t focus at all. It was crazy because normally I can gulp books down in almost any situation. I ended up forcing myself to read a non-fiction book about thirty minutes each day, but other than that my reading was pretty much nil. Multiple times I picked up several fiction (and non-fiction) books that should have grabbed my attention, but after a couple of pages, or sometimes just a few sentences, I would put the book back down, sighing. It was driving me nuts to have so much time on my hands and yet not be reading. Or writing. Or editing. 
In reality our hours were interrupted quite often with doctors giving updates and nurses checking in and all that common stuff, but I really know how to get reading time in, even when busy. I’m the kind of girl who reads while she brushes her teeth. And walks down the stairs. And folds her clothes. So, to not read felt alien and sad. With all that was going on with my adopted dad though, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. (He’s recovering well, but slowly, from his heart attack and open heart surgery, by the way.)

On Friday we {finally} arrived back in Ohio. While sitting on my adopted parent’s porch late that afternoon I decided to give reading another go. To my surprise, I could actually concentrate and understand the words. Throughout the rest of the day I read for a couple of hours, thrilled to have my focus back, at least somewhat. Reading still didn’t have that magical pull I was used to, but at least it was somewhat interesting and I kinda wanted to find out what would happen next.

Then on Saturday I went back to eating healthily (something I hadn’t kept up with while in ND), and I went on a nearly six mile walk. Wonders of all wonders, I gulped down a whole book that day. Sunday I continued the trend and in went another book and a half. This morning I finished reading my third book in two and a half days.    
While walking on Saturday I also felt a twinge of hope that I’d perhaps be able to focus well enough to edit this week. I guess there’s nothing like getting back in familiar surroundings and a well-worn lifestyle to bang the brain back into gear.

This is one of the first times I’ve gotten my computer out in the last two weeks and I have high hopes that my writing work will be back into full swing before long. The atmosphere here is so peaceful and I’m looking forward to spending many hours going through When Life Hands You Lymes for (hopefully) one of the last times before moving on to the next step in the publication process.

In the meanwhile though, it’s quite nice to be able to read again.

An Empty Inbox

I have this thing about emails. For years I’ve been horrible about answering emails, and when I say horrible, imagine having an email over a year old sitting in your inbox, still needing a response. Yes, it was very, very bad.

At the end of last year I decided that era of my life was over and I was going to answer emails in a timely manner. First I had to decide what “timely” meant, and I decided that under two weeks, preferably under one, would be my aim. My next job was to empty out my inbox, so I spent a lot of time in December doing just that. I made it a point to respond to emails even if they were eighteen months old, because after all, two wrongs don’t make a right and better late than never and all that other good advice. Besides, if it was me waiting for the email, I’d probably still remember that the person had never replied even if a good portion of my life had been lived since I wrote to them.

It was beautifully freeing to start out 2016 with a (nearly) empty inbox and the thrill of starting over (at least in mindset) at my fingertips. At that time though, I didn’t realize how much fun it would be to  keep up with replying to emails. Seriously, it’s better than a game. (Or maybe I should say a traditional game, because keeping my inbox empty is a game to me.)

The thing that amuses me the most is that I have nearly as much fun emptying out my inbox as I do receiving emails. It’s especially enjoyable to me when I reply to emails either on my phone or my computer and then I get on the other device and watch as my inbox seemingly magically clears of emails.

I have a rather non-efficent way of sorting my emails right now which consist of over 80 folders. Most of the emails go in a couple of the top folders which I conveniently put “2016” in the title so they’re easy to get to. Some day I need to clear up some of the excess folders, but until then I’ll be quite happy to go along with the system I have.

So far this year I’ve mostly kept to my plan. There might have been a very few times that I’ve gone more then two weeks without replying to an email, but I can’t recall any at the moment. Although I must say, sometimes I kinda cheat at my own game and reply with an I’m so sorry that I haven’t replied yet, a full reply will be coming soon to longer emails. Still though, I’m replying, so that counts.

A lot of Saturday nights I do a somewhat of a mad dash through my emails, trying to get as many of them responded to as possible before the week is over. It’s one of the most satisfying feelings to end the week with the screenshot on my phone of a nearly empty inbox. (And yes, I do screenshot it and then smile happily at the picture.) It’s also a lot of fun to wake up Monday morning with a dozen or so emails waiting to be read, in fact, that’s probably one of my favorite parts of Monday morning.

This morning I had fun going through and answering the emails I’ve had come in during the last couple of days from my Lymeaids (beta readers for When Life Hands You Lymes). It’s encouraging and fun to read their feedback and see WLHYL from someone else’s perspective.

Today is also the day when I finally totally and completely emptied out my inbox. I’ve generally had at least one email in it at all times and was fine with that (I actually like how it looks with just one email). Today though, today was different. I’ve replied to and sorted all the writing emails, all the business emails, all the personal emails, and all the junk emails. So yay!

Deep happy sigh. Now I can simply sit back and wait for my inbox to fill up again. (Which is code for: I need to hurry and get to work at my non-writing before I’m late.)

* * *
What about y’all? Do you enjoy having an empty and sorted inbox?

A More Clear View

It’s been fifteen months since I got my glasses, which in turn translates to the most fifteen headache-free months I’ve had in a long time. Glasses make my world clearer and therefore it’s a lot more enjoyable to do activities like sitting in church, driving, and being in meetings since I can actually focus on what’s going on. There’s even a big difference with what I can see while doing my hair three feet away from the mirror.

Do you know what’s crazy though? Nearly every morning I resist putting my glasses on. It’s not that I don’t like them (because I do). Nor is it that I find them uncomfortable (because I don’t). It’s actually that every morning an annoying, subconscious warning whispers insistently “No, No, No! They’re dirty! Your vision will be blurry! You’ll regret it!” at me. So I often don’t wear my glasses until I’ve been up and working in my office for several hours, which is actually rather silly.

To combat the cringing feeling I get at the thought of smudgy glasses I wash them regularly, including each morning before I put them on. And do you know what? I can’t remember the last time I regretted putting my glasses on.

Before glasses

Putting on my glasses is like getting feedback back from a beta reader. (Y’all knew a writing comparison was coming, right?)

Feedback is so incredibly helpful. It makes my writing and books better; it helps them be more focused and clear. Feedback narrows and enlightens, helps me figure out what the next step is, and helps me see from other people’s perspectives. (If only my glasses could do that…)

After glasses
On the flip side though, feedback also presents me with a whole new stack of problems to wash away and that can be a bit overwhelming. Plus, when I receive conflicting feedback from beta readers, it can smudge the clear view I thought I had of the book and confuse me while trying to decide who’s feedback to listen to. 

That means that sometimes even though I want to get the feedback, I’m also half-way cringing inside as I read it. I’ve discovered a very important fact though: In the end I’m always thankful for feedback, even when I don’t fully agree with it. That’s because feedback, like my glasses, have a job to do and make life better when I don’t shy away from them.

Currently I have a stack of emails with feedback sitting in my inbox, I have my glasses on, the world is clear, and I’m excited (mostly) to tackle today.