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?  

When Blogging Meets the Real World

With my non-writing job, part of the work I do is in the kitchen at a private retreat center. During retreats I’m 100% focused on the cooking and work and behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into making everything (appear) to run smoothly. That means I don’t generally socialize much at all with the retreat attendees, and even if I do, the conversations we have are of a very basic nature. This is because my brain is sorta maybe yelling to me the whole time, reminding me not to let the cookies burn, and did I remember to cover the baked chicken, and goodness, did I get the rice started? (Because cooking flops feel more like disasters when the food is being prepared for 50+ people.)

My scribbled notes to myself to make sure I kept to the right time table. 

Last month during the last day of a retreat I was finally feeling the ability to think of stuff other then meal prep, so when people were going through the breakfast line I introduced myself to several of them. (I stand behind the counter to refill serving dishes and answer questions.)

After I introduced myself to one guy, the daughter of one of the leaders of this particular retreat (she was about twelve and had hung out in the kitchen some), informed me that introductions were supposed to be made on the first day, not the last. I teasingly responded that I liked to wait until the last day to make sure people were nice, cause if they weren’t then I wouldn’t use my real name when I said “hey.”

That day at lunch, when the aforementioned guy went through line he said, “Hey, after you told me your name this morning, I suddenly realized you were that girl.” I was obviously confused and asked who “that girl” was, and to my shock he was talking about me being the author of Noveltea. Yes, for real, folks. He had read my blog before. *cue mouth hanging open in surprise*

And crazily enough, that was the fourth time I’ve had a stranger come up at various places (twice at the retreat, once at my house, and once at a wedding), and inform me that they read my blog from time to time. I can’t even describe the feeling when that happens. I feel so honored to know that these people who are complete strangers to me have taken time to read what I write. It’s also sometimes a little bit freaky, because hey, I know nothing about them and they have the ability to know quite a bit about me. Mostly though, it’s just like “woah.” (I know, so descriptive!)

Blogging is one of my favorite things to do each day, and knowing that I have the ability to interact with people from all over the world while sitting at my writing table is amazing. Thank you, Noveltea readers, for taking the time to read my blog. Thank you for encouraging me with my writing, and going along on this journey with me. You seriously make my writing journey better. And, if you ever see me in real life, please come up and introduce yourself, I’d be extremely delighted to meet you.

Has something like this ever happened to you? What was your reaction? 

Exclamation Points and Their Sneaky, Weasel-ly Ways

Confession: I was pretty pleased with myself.

Back at the beginning of my writing career, I used exclamation points like they were going out of style. This slowly evolved over time until I not only abhorred them in books (except for when someone is yelling or cheering or such), but I rarely even use them on Noveltea. Now, I must admit they sometimes sneak into my emails and texts like a prison-wide jail break, but that’s normally when I’m being frivolous with my writing style anyway.
So, I decided to search When Life Hands You Lymes and see how many exclamation points I had. I figured there would probably be a dozen or so, cause there’s some yelling that goes on, plus a surprise party. 
Y’all. I had EIGHTY-SIX exclamation points. No, really. Eighty-six. How in the world? And right there, the pleased-ness (yes, I just coined that word), I felt at my morphing into a non-exclamation-point-using author vanished. So, of course I had to look at each and every one of those exclamation points and see why in the world they were cluttering up my book. 
Thankfully in the space of two sittings I was able to significantly cut down on that scarily excessive amount of exclamation points and return my book to a much more respectful standing in the library of my brain. 
Here are some examples of exclamation points I change to periods or question marks:
* * * 
* * *
* * * 
* * *

Yet, despite my best efforts there were times when an exclamation point was really needed to convey the way the words was spoken. Take for instance, “Merry Christmas!” is the normal way to greet someone (on Christmas day at least), and if I had just written “Merry Christmas.” then the readers would get the impression that Madalyn wasn’t actually excited about Christmas. And yeah, we couldn’t have that. So, here are some examples of the exclamation points I kept:

* * *

Same thing with birthday greetings. No one texts “Happy Birthday, Best friend.” when they’re wanting to spread cheer and happiness, right? An exclamation point is practically required with that type of text:

* * *
And then there’s the case when someone was surprised and screeched a word in excited happiness:  
* * *
And that, folks, is the saga of my vicious fight with the semi-dreaded exclamation points and how I cut their number from eighty-six down to thirty-seven. I’m still slightly shocked that so many of them worked their way into WLHYL, and that no one pointed them out to me, but I guess maybe they were hidden pretty well… 
What about y’all? Do you have a hard time with those sneaky little bits of punctuation? 

When Life Hands You Lymes Editing Update

Two weeks ago I spent hours staring at my computer screen, trying to make sense of all the feedback I’d received from beta readers (aka Lymeaides) regarding When Life Hands You Lymes. To clarify: Their words made sense, but I had no clue how to incorporate the advice into the actual book. Fun, fun. 
The week was seriously so unproductive that it’s surprising my book didn’t launch an all-out revolt against me. (Or wait… Maybe that’s what the problem was…) Not only did I gaze fixedly on my computer screen for way too long, but I also took lots of random walks where I ate gobs of tingling tart, and sometimes mushy sweet, berries. Normally walks help snap my brain into gear, but unfortunately it was taking a lot longer this time.
On the plus side, I’d recently read a book where I had many of the same thoughts that people were expressing about WLHYL, so it made it a lot easier to listen to them. I’ve been working on WLHYL for so long that Maddie’s story is so incredibly ingrained into my brain that I sometimes forget what’s really in the book and what parts I’ve taken out. That can leave for some jumbled scenes that seem randomly thrown together for no reason, and that’s obviously not good. Since my brain tried to be helpful and kept subconsciously reinserting those deleted scenes, it was pretty difficult to figure out where the problem was. Humm… 

Then at the beginning of last week something shifted and I was suddenly like Oh! NOW I SEE! (Which, probably prompted some excited running around the pond and happy swinging on the swing and large gulps of iced (decaf) coffee, but I won’t say for sure, so you can use your imagination.) Then I hunkered down and actually accomplished a vast amount on the 15th draft, and was excited about the book again instead of looking for someone to rant to about it.

I did a lot of merging scenes and even changed the order of some small scenes. I took out over 3,500 words in scenes, and a few paragraphs. That’s kinda a big deal considering that this is the 15th draft of the book and the story has already been cut down a large amount. I also shortened some chapters so I could take out scene breaks cause they were chopping the book into unhappy little pieces.  Overall, the story now has a much more cohesive feeling then before, so it’s all worth it.

When Life Hands You Lymes still has a distance to travel, but it’s good to see the book moving forward after feeling like it was stagnant for way too long. Maddie’s story has been one that I’ve long been half-way delighted and half-way freaked out about, and it’s good to be in one of the “delighted” stages again.

And that’s it for today, folks. 

Laptop Stands, Set-ups, and Speaking Tools, Oh My! {Writing Health Day 4}

From about November until February I smelled nearly constantly like burned rice. 

See, my wrist/arm didn’t just bother me when I was typing. It got to the point where I could barely hold anything. I wore a wrist brace for months. I filled a sock with raw rice, microwaved it and kept it either across my shoulders or on my wrist because the heat helped significantly. (Hence the reason I smelled like burned rice.) I couldn’t put any pressure on my right arm (which was the one that bothered me the most), or put it above my head for very long at all. Sleeping on my right side is something I still can’t do for more than a few minutes before my hand/arm starts tingling and aching.

In the middle of February I finally made the decision to cut out absolutely all typing with my right hand for a week. I’d cut way back, but still allowed myself to peck out blog posts and such. A week of no-right-handed-typing improved my wrist so much that I did another week. Those two weeks helped immensely and the pain went down significantly. I also found some hand/wrist exercises and worked with them, as well as making sure I didn’t sit at the computer for very long at once. 

It’s a beautiful, rainy Friday here, and today we get to finish up our week-long series about writing/typing posture and health. I hope y’all have been able to learn something helpful and that you seriously consider how you work during your computer time if you do much of it. I posted this series because I want to help other people avoid the pain and trouble I went through. 

Even now my wrist hurts sometimes, but as long as I pay attention to the pain and act accordingly, I’m alright. Today I’m posting several random questions and answers that I thought would be helpful. If y’all have any more questions, you can leave them in the comments and I’ll see if I can find answers for you.

Q. What are the benefits of having a laptop stand? 

A. There’s a condition called “iPad neck” or “texting neck” which results from looking down for long periods of time. To avoid that kind of neck trouble, you want your chin more or less level while working, which means your work needs to be near eye level. Now, a laptop isn’t as bad as an iPad in that regard, but it’s still not going to be at eye level when set on a properly-adjusted desk. So, you may need something like this to hold it up to eye level. And yes, a stack of books – or anything stable – will do in a pinch. Just ask Lydia, readers!

Back in November I had “iPad neck” so badly that I was in constant pain in my neck/head/back. The chiropractor and Jason both offered the same advice at about the same time: I needed to stop looking down and find a way to get my computer near eye-level. Although I didn’t feel justified to spend money for a laptop stand at that time, I did take them seriously and started stacking up a series of items to create the right-height stand. 

I went through books, my fun box that I keep all my white chocolate in, and eventually settled with a cute box of stationary. That’s the set-up that endured and I still use it when I’m at home. Another reason I like it is that I can now have water on my desk without having to be super-careful to make sure it doesn’t spill on my laptop. 

Q. How has having the correct writing/typing/desk set up helped you? 

A. Well, to back up a bit, I would not say I have “the correct” setup. I would say I have the correct set up for me personally. And this is important, because there are lots of people who will tell you what is good for you ergonomically. Listen, but don’t follow anybody’s advice blindly. People come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, with all kinds of nonstandard needs. Ergonomics is more about awareness and listening to your body than about following any particular guidelines.
Fixing my set up – a years-long process that in some sense is still going on – has quite frankly made the difference of allowing me to keep working productively long after pain issues would have otherwise knocked me out. Repetitive stress injury, if ignored, can go from a minor annoyance to a life-altering disaster in a period of weeks. Thankfully, I have people in my life who encouraged me not to ignore it.

I can totally relate to the years-long process part. Although I’ve been working at getting the correct (for me) set up for less than a year, I’ve already been through a number of set-ups. Thankfully, I already owned everything I needed to make the change so the only thing it cost me was the time. 

I started out on a desk, then moved to an adjustable table and adjusted the table several times. Then I used books to try and find a better height (in the picture below you can see the table with books under the legs, as well as my computer with my chocolate and stationary box under it). Eventually I discovered that having the table and the chair at the lowest settings was perfect for me. (Note: I don’t use the arms to my chair, cause they’re too tall. Still hoping to find a way to use the armrests someday…)

Q. What are some other helpful tools you’ve found to aid in being a healthy writer? 

A. If you write a lot, I recommend investing in a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and a good wireless headset. As I write these words, I am pacing back and forth in my office, speaking into my headset. I actually don’t use Dragon NaturallySpeaking for all of my novel writing, but I do quite often use it for things like this – long emails and blog posts that I want to get down quickly, then edit later.
If the ergonomic benefit of saving keystrokes isn’t enough to get you to invest in Dragon, let me also add that you can write lots of words with this software much faster than you could ever type them, no matter how fast a typist you are. Also, it is far more accurate than you’d imagine, and there is a built-in facility for expanding its vocabulary with unique character names, etc.

As wonderful as this sounds, I can’t personally attest to how helpful it is. My thoughts pour happily and well out of my fingertips onto the keyboard, but often refuse to leave my mouth with the same success. But wow, Dragon Naturally Speaking sounds like having a pretty cool secretary on your payroll, but without the cost. So, win-win, right?

And, that folks, is the end of our mini-series. Thanks for hanging out folks, and thank you, Jason, for answering the questions for us!

Keyboards, and Mice, and Happiness, Oh My! {Writing Health Day 3}

Back in November after exchanging a string of emails about posture and keyboards and all that good stuff with Jason, I made the decision to buy a Goldtouch keyboard. It was a decision I have been extremely thankful for many times and have never regretted. 
When I first heard how much the keyboards cost (around $100), I was a little bit like Ouch, but then after I thought about it, I realized that this was a one-time cost, not an on going payment like a series of visits to the chiropractor would be. (At the time I was basically unable to type because of my wrists, and when I visited the chiropractor they said they could help, but it would take several visits to get everything back how it should be.) 
In the eight months since I bought the Goldtouch, I have used it a lot. It’s traveled with me to Florida, Mexico, Colorado, and now it’s at my adopted parent’s house with me. It’s quite easy to adjust to make it lay flat, so therefore it’s easy to travel with. 
Some times (like today), I don’t have the right height desk to work with so I just hold the keyboard on my lap. This might not be the best set-up, but it works a lot better than using my laptop keyboard. (I can tell this even though I’m not an expert, because when I use my laptop keyboard my wrists hurt, but when I use the Goldtouch, they don’t.) 
If you haven’t dealt with wrist issues before now you might feel as though it’s not worth it to buy another keyboard or mouse, but I highly recommend you at least look into it if you spend much time typing. After all, it’s a lot easier to prevent an issue than to fix one. I can tell you after eight months of pain and limitations with typing that I wish I would have paid attention earlier.

I asked Jason to tell us what kind of keyboard and mouse he recommends as well as why he recommends them, and this was his answer: 

Again, my recommendations vary depending on individual needs. For most people, I suggest trying a basic ergonomic keyboard such as the Kinesis Freestyle or Key Ovation Goldtouch. Each can be had for around $100, and will provide a vast improvement over what you’re probably using now. These are my go-to keyboards because both models are extremely adjustable. A straight, wide, flat shape – like a typewriter – works fine for some people, but the angle at which it places your wrists proves to be a problem for most.
For the full-time writer wants the very best typing experience possible – and can afford to pay for it – you might consider one of the high-end mechanical models like the Kinesis Advantage.
Personally, I use a Kinesis Freestyle with an extra-long cable between the two halves, plus the optional V3 center tilt kit. This enables me to keep my arms wide apart and my hands slightly tilted toward vertical. Over years of experience, this position has proven optimal for me.
For the writer, the mouse is probably a lot less important than the keyboard. Of course this is different if you also do graphics work – designing your own covers, for example, or editing movies on the side. Unless you want to splurge for a big fancy Contour RollerMouse like the one I use, I would recommend a small vertical or semi-vertical mouse. The DXT is a good choice that’s easy to use and doesn’t cost too much.
On the subject of mouse used by writers, I would also caution against the overuse of the scroll wheel. When you are reviewing your stuff, you can take that wheel for miles and miles, and it can have an effect on your finger joints. It’s better to mix scroll wheel use with the page-up/down and arrow keys. 
Keyboard shortcuts in general, actually, have the double benefit of saving you time and mouse-reaches. It’s worth learning the basics that you can use during editing, such as the way control and shift interact with the arrow, home, and end keys to select blocks of text quickly.

I plan on wrapping this series up tomorrow, so I’ll see y’all then! 

Posture, and Progress, and Painless, Oh My! {Writing Health, Day 2}

Good Morning, Y’all! As I mentioned yesterday, today we get to talk about healthy writing positions. 

From November 2012 until halfway through November 2015 I wrote almost exclusively on easy chairs, couches, and beds. There were definite pluses to this set up, like the fact that it was very portable, comfortable, and I could easily put my feet up and just chill. Plus, if I leaned at the correct angle I could actually have my puppy on my lap as I wrote which is totally a win-win situation. (Below is a picture from 2012.) 

The set-up obviously had far more detrimental attributes than positive side affects, hence the reason that I’m currently typing at a table with my posture the correct way, using an ergonomic keyboard, and my feet flat on the floor. (If you knew me in person you would understand that having my feet on the floor is a big deal. I basically never have my feet on the floor… Well, except when I’m typing now.)
Before we go into the correct writing (aka typing) posture, I figured I’d introduce Jason via his Goodreads bio: 

Jason McIntire is a 2005 homeschool graduate and entrepreneur, with business experience ranging from marketing tractors to selling ergonomic keyboards. His main interests in life are the Bible and people – especially the intersection of the two in preaching and teaching. Writing is his one hobby of solitude; all his other interests center around times together with friends and family. He likes writing about real people doing real things that readers can relate to.

As way of introduction, I also asked Jason if he would tell us a bit about how he got interested in ergonomic devices:

To put it simply: by necessity. I started out as a graphic designer in 2005, naïvely thinking I had a great ergonomic setup because of my curvy keyboard and mouse wrist rest. (I later found out that mouse wrist rests are not only useless but evil.) Pain and discomfort started within a couple of years, sending me on a quest for new devices – a quest that grew expensive over time. Partly to defray the cost of trying so many new things myself, I started reviewing products for the benefit of others as well. This ultimately grew into All Things Ergo, a blog that I’m glad to say has been helpful for number of people. It’s gratifying to know that I am helping others get out of the painful, unproductive hole where I spent a number of years myself.

And now For some tips on correct typing posture:

Question: Please describe the correct typing posture? (And, if you feel like telling us why it’s important, that would be cool, too.) 

Answer: This is going to vary a bit from person to person depending on your individual build and vulnerabilities. (It would vary even more if we covered writing while standing, but for now let’s limit it to the sedentary side of things.) In general:

  • Your thighs should be approximately aligned with the floor. If your knees are higher than your hips, you need to either get a new chair or significantly readjust the one you’ve got; that arrangement will limit circulation to your legs and really hurt after awhile.
  • You should not be sitting ramrod straight up. Instead, get a chair with some tilt to the back, and lean back a few degrees while you work. Similarly, don’t take extra effort to square your shoulders while sitting. Instead, relax them.
  • Rest your arms on something – usually the armrests of your chair – but don’t dig in and lock your arms in place. Instead, they should be resting “lightly.” Most office chairs with non-adjustable arm rests have them up way too high, creating a shoulder hunch that’s almost worse than no arm rests at all.
  • Your keyboard should be, in general, as close to the level of your lap as you can get it. It’s okay for your hands to hang down slightly as you type, but you want to avoid reaching up at all if possible, as this causes your wrists to bend backward.

Helpful, right? Come back tomorrow to hear some more. 

Wrists, and Writing, and Pain, Oh My!

Happy Monday Morning, Y’all! It’s the beginning of a new week and I’m having so much fun sitting on the porch with rain plinking against the metal roof, empty coffee mug next to me, and a cool breeze blowing. It’s a beautiful setting to work on editing with raindrops ruffling the leaves around me, making them shine, and even more raindrops in the distance creating hundreds of little dents in the pond.

This week I’m excited to have an important writerly topic to discuss with y’all. And, since I’m me, I figured I’d introduce the topic by telling a story. In reality this story starts several years ago, but I’ll skip the (rest of the) preamble and go to last November. 

(That’s ^ us traveling back go November, by the way.)
I’d been looking forward to November for a while. To reward myself for finishing a big editing project, I’d decide to do NaNo, which is short for “National Novel Writing Month.” For any of y’all who don’t know, NaNo is where a bunch of writers and authors take the month of November to write a 50,000 word novel. 
Three years before I’d taken part of the challenge and found it absolutely delightful. After all, when else can you be part of such a huge and fun writing community? There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who do the challenge each year. 
So, I stocked up on juice and white chocolate and nestled down in my easy chair with a computer and exciting plot and I began to write. Eventually my shoulders got tight because I’d also been spending a lot of time crocheting baby blankets, and both typing and crocheting require a lot of the same repetitive movements. When my shoulders, arms, and hands actually started hurting, I simply moved to the couch and typed from the lying down position. That worked for a while and I continued pounding out the words, sometimes writing from the couch, sometimes writing from the chair.
By the fifth day of the challenge I’d wracked up over 50,000 words (plus some typing for my non-writing job). The story was still flowing happily though, so I continued writing. By that Sunday the pain had intensified in my right had the point where I could barely move it any more without wincing, and I even took notes at church with my left hand. 
That’s when I realized I was in trouble. 
I ended up blogging about the pain on Monday and on Tuesday I received an email from someone who reads Noveltea that said something like: 
I noticed on your blog that you’re struggling with pain in your wrists. I know what it’s like to go through that, and I actually make part of my living helping people get over, and stay out of, wrist issues, so I’m here to offer some friendly advice if you’re interested. After all, you only get one pair of wrists. 🙂  
Now that’s a paraphrase, but I was like “Yay!” because I obviously needed help, and even more obviously, he was correct about me only getting one pair of wrists. 
Over the next few weeks we exchange several emails that were very helpful, and I pretty much changed up my whole writing set up (aka no more easy chair typing). Sadly though, I didn’t make the changes soon enough and eight months later I’m still reaping some of the non-fun effects of wrist trouble. 
SO! To help prevent other writers from going through the same issues, I recently asked the aforementioned Noveltea reader, Jason, if he’d be willing to answer some questions about healthy writing positions so I could share the info with y’all. He kindly agreed, so stay tuned to the rest of the week and I look forward to seeing y’all tomorrow. 

Beta Reader Feedback for WLHYL

This week I finally began the 15th draft of When Life Hands You Lymes; and believe me, it’s a lot harder than it sounds. The problem is that I’m no longer sure what’s absolutely necessary to the story, what helps give it life, and what is just excess.

To give y’all a glimpse of what I’m working with, I figured I would post a compilation of some of feedback I’ve received from beta readers who read the 14th draft of WLHYL. I’m also posting some suggestions they had of how to fix it.

*I felt let down by the way a lot of scenes ended
-No hook, punch… making me feel like we’d left off in the middle of a scene
-A concluding statement, but it came separated from the action that made me want to see how the action led to the statement
*Some scenes made me wonder what their point was.
-No solid, intentional ending
-Nothing to build my expectation and then satisfy it
Questions to ask:
  1. What is the purpose of this scene? 
  2. How is this scene carrying the story forward? 
  3. What does this scene reveal about the plot or an important character? 
  4. What will the reader get from this scene? 
  5. How can I communicate that in an effective way that will leave them either with a greater understanding of the story’s events or with a desire to keep reading? 
Scene Endings:
*How does each ending tie a knot after the scene? 
*How does it leave you wanting to read more? 
*How does it convey purpose? 
*By the end of each scene, readers ought to know why that scene is in the story
Felt let down by events or thought processes that were never shown. Consider all the details you include:
*Are they important to the story? 
*Do readers need to know these details? 
*What expectations are they setting up? 
*Will the story fulfill those expectations? 
Only details that should be in the story are the ones that affect the story. 
There seemed to be a fair amount of repetition, especially with emotional scenes. Without anything new, or bigger, or better, it’s hard to keep the reader’s interest
*A steady build toward the climax
*A plunge to this emotional depth where she expresses hopeless and despair
*The next emotional plunge is deeper, where she wonders what her purpose of her life is
*The next emotional plunge is the deepest yet, where she contemplates suicide
Examine each scene and determine how it affects the story. 
*What does Maddie realize
*What does Maddie think
*What does Maddie pray
…that she hasn’t before

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…