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Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

Becoming a writer is just that – a becoming. Like our 18th birthdays when we become an adult, we know that despite the fact that we are legally recognized as an adult, we are too young to drink and we don’t know anything about what it means to be an adult. It takes years of being of age and feeling the pride, the sting, the work that is required to truly become an adult. Despite all the years of practice, some people never become adults.

Writing is the same. We slowly grow into a writer by studying the craft, learning from successful writers, and practice.

Loads and loads of practice.


We write short stories, try our hand at poetry, launch into a novel. We stumble, fall, are rejected and hopefully, we try again.


Just as infants first roll over, then crawl, stand, and the finally walk, learning the craft of writing (or any craft) is the same. Start by watching others, reading the works of authors who have successfully published again and again. Make this first activity a goal:


Make a list of book you want to read this year. How many books can you read in a month?

Put the list into alphabetical order (or in order according to publication dates).

Start today.

Keep notes on what you read, reflect on why the stories are wonderful

(or not, and you scratch your head wondering why that dribble was published and not your own work?

…this comment based on personal experience :)

books

In between reading, and working your other job, making meals, and finding time to exercise, you should find time to write. I suggest this next exercise with a little hesitation:

For a week, track how many words you write.

At the end of the week, reflect about what you did on the days when your word count was excellent.

What did you do on the days you didn’t write much at all?

Remember you are human and there are people in your life who need you.

This is the basic principle of NaNoWriMo.com. National Novel Writing Month (November for Novelist) is a month-long challenge that provides daily inspiration and motivation to write as much as possible – the goal being a 50,000 words. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this.

Benefit – this is a BICAW (butt in chair and write) challenge. It breaks through some of life’s distractions and focuses efforts into one thing – get the words on paper.

Drawback – The result of BICAW stories is more of a ‘diamond in the rough’ than a polished gem.

If you want to challenge yourself to write a much as possible in one day, one week, or one month, I highly recommend you invest the time beforehand to prepare your story as much as possible. Outline, brainstorm, collect snippets of ideas to have by your side before your BICAW adventure.

The purpose of this challenge is for you to go into writing prepared, but to also keep track of what prevents you from writing. It’s more of an exercise in scheduling and lifestyle; an intentional examination of what works and what doesn’t.

Find the balance to be a present human being and a prolific writer. Yeah…good luck :)


Take a break from the story you are working on and work on the query letter to an agent or publisher.

(For help with query letters, spend some time reading www.queryshark.com )

I discovered a hidden benefit when I work on a query letter – it sharpens my purpose in writing that particular story. Every story need a purpose, a lesson, theme, moral, statement – whatever you wish – but it must be there. Many books on the shelves have less than desirable purposes and morals. That is up to you to decide if you are writing a social justice statement (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird), a tale of to-die-for teenage lust (Twilight), or expressing Christian values (anything by C.S. Lewis, but particularly The Chronicles of Narnia).

When a story starts to fall flat or when I just need a break from writing, I switch gears to work on the query or the synopsis. It’s a nice break from writing scenes, it keeps me focused on the story, and quite often leads to a story break-through.

confidence

If there was a common, and yet thin, connection between these three exercises, it’s that writing does not always include writing. Reading, thinking and, people watching. Seek balance, seek mentors, seek to be successful. Oh, and don’t forget to exercise confidence!

 

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It’s March and we’ve long forgotten our New Year’s Resolutions. The fervor with which we planned the success of this year in January is probably frozen solid…we’ve certainly had the weather for that here in Michigan. (FYI – It was 14 below zero this morning…a temp so common now that school wasn’t cancelled despite the fact that it was when the temps were 10 below zero in January.)

Shake off those March doldrums, pour a glass of something you normally drink in the summer, and roll up your sleeves. It’s time to gear up and resurrect the goals for this year.

Speaking personally, this means that the novel I thought I could wrap up in December needs to be complete by the end of this month. I set an unrealistic deadline for myself during the Christmas season. It happens.

To keep myself on track, I did this for the month of February:

A Plan: Create an editorial calendar for the next month. Write down 5-10 things you want to accomplish and schedule time to  complete those takes on a calendar. At the end of the month, be honest with yourself and reflect on how you did. What worked? What didn’t? Repeat for the next month.

Writing Time isn’t always spent writing. Much of the time, I stare out the window as I need to first visualize a scene before I can write it. Although I appear to be day dreaming…well, that’s exactly what I’m doing, except I do need to come back to my desk to write down my day dreams. That’s where a plan is handy.

In February, I did well planning my journaling and blogging, but novel writing took a back seat. I’m going to work on that this month by spending my Wednesday writing time making notes for scenes. Thursday is my big writing day. Thursday is the day my husband is home in the afternoon, giving me from 1:00 – 9:00 PM to write. I do take breaks, but I’ve set a goal to have close to 3,000 well-written words every Thursday. Lofty, I know.

I’ve taken this exercise a step further and I encourage you do to the same. We’ve all heard that if we want to be a writer, we must write every day. It’s common sense that holds true for anything a person might want to accomplish: runners must run, athletes must practice, students must go to school. My obstacle has always been finding balance with my writing and my family. The solution that is working (for now) is to focus on one thing each day based on how much time I can devote to writing and reading.

Here’s the breakdown:

Mondays are the days I crank out my blog posts for the week. I don’t publish them all on that Monday, but schedule them for later in the week. Each day, I return to the posts to re-read, edit and revise them. By the time they are published, my posts have improved. In order to keep the blog posts as fresh as possible, I keep a notebook on my dining room table to collect ideas.

Tuesdays are reading days. No writing except in the form of notes, comments, and ideas that stem from what I’ve read.

Wednesday are scene plot days in prep for…

Thursdays. As I mentioned, this is my big day each week when I really make progress.

Fridays are too crazy with homeschooling groups to even think about writing. It’s my “Day of Rest”.

Weekends must be spent with families, but I coordinate with my husband to set aside a few hours a weekend to read or write.

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A Pro: Spend time reading Joel Friedlander’s blog/website.

Joel’s website is a treasure trove of information. Set the timer, otherwise your entire day will be spent on his blog and you’ll starve.

A Genre-Mash: Just for fun, re-imagine your novel as a picture book - or your picture book as a novel. Write a few scenes and see what happens.

I’ve done this a few times during my weekend writing hours. It’s refreshing to simply puzzle out a story in a different format. Writing styles, patterns, and techniques mature with exercises like this. What may seem a simple exercise will soon become your power yoga.

Why?

Because my favorite children’s books have quirky characters, surprising plot elements, and very often, rhythmic & rhyming verse. Stretching my thinking muscles to write in such a different format allows me the time to play with words. Instead of formatting sentences and paragraphs to show the story, I can pattern the story into rhythm patterns. Not much I do with this exercise is publishing-quality work – but that’s not the point. Trying something new…that is.

It’s very easy to feel that the success a writer creates is determined by the number of words written. That’s a trap. Don’t fall in! Writing success rides on the back of every unpublished word. The stories that don’t hold up, the sentences that fail, the characters so flat that they can slide under a door – those are the obstacles in writing we must overcome before we publish.

Writing exercises that specifically work on something we have no intention (or pressure) to polish and publish are necessary.

Enjoy the writing fun! Please let me know how these exercises work out for you.

Peace,

Jessica

Other Writing Exercises:

Vol. 1

Vol. 2

Vol. 3

Vol. 4

Vol. 5

 

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How did last week’s exercise feel? Are your creative muscles sore? Shouldn’t be too bad, you watched a movie! :)

This week’s exercise might feel a little, well, it will remind you of the good ol’ days of high school English. What? Those weren’t riveting classes where you devoured the book that was assigned to you? Yeah, me neither.

Exercise 1:

Of all the books you had to read in high school, what was your favorite? No favorite? Well, you’re older now. Go pick the first book you remember being assigned to read and re-read it. (Or read it for the first time.)

For me, the first book I read in high school was A Separate Piece by John Knowles. I enjoyed it… a little. I think I read the entire book, but that was…let’s just say it was a few years ago. I have the book on hold at the library. Apparently, people are still reading it. I’m on a list and should have it sometime in April.

Now, the book that really turned me on to reading was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. A great part of falling in love with this book had to do with the excellent teacher I had in high school. The other part was obviously Dumas’ superior story-telling.

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Exercise 2:

Make a brainstorming graphic organizer (think bubbles, boxes, and lines) for your current story, or a story you are thinking about. Reflect on how this exercise did or did not (because, let’s be honest, it might not work for everyone)  help you think about deeper layers for the story.

This is how I start every story – with a gigantic sheet of paper on the dining room table, a stack of colorful pens, and an idea. In the center, I’ll start with whatever idea I have. It could a simple scene, an over-arching theme, or an idea for a setting. As I brainstorm, I write everything down, connect ideas with common color-lines, and just have fun with it. In the background I play fairly loud music…that part is optional.

This is a great way to set the story ideas down on paper without fussing for sentence structure or feeling the need to organize things too quickly. Let the ideas fall where they will. Once it’s on paper, you can’t lose it.

Exercise 3:

Write a one-page synopsis for your story. Don’t hide the ending. Tell all in a short and interesting way.

Why do this? Many publishers and agents will ask for a synopsis and they are darn tough to write. As much effort as you put into writing your story, almost as much will go into hacking your story into a one-page synopsis. Hint: Don’t look at this as hacking. Make the one page synopsis fun to read. If you can’t shine up your writing to keep a potential agent or publisher interested through one page, they likely won’t ask for an entire manuscript.

Starting next week, I will be interviewing authors who are self-published or published by smaller houses. It’s been fun to read their work as I prepare questions for each of them. There are still a few spots left, so if you are published and are looking for a fresh and fun way to market your work as well as the books of other authors, check out Pay-It-Forward for details.

Did you miss the other writing exercises?

Writing Exercises Vol. 1

Writing Exercises Vol. 2

Writing Exercises Vol. 3

Writing Exercises Vol. 4

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I’ve just returned from a mid-winter break – a concept I’ve fully embraced! For almost 10 years, my family and I have taken a few days in February to stay at a lodge in Northern Indiana that was built in the 1920′s by the CCC and is still the family-oriented destination that features woodland animals but no Disney princesses.

 

This photo courtesy of the Potowatomi Inn.

This photo courtesy of the Potowatomi Inn.

 

As we walked the halls toward the pool, the craft room, or the common room, I was aware how much my children have grown. Our first years at the lodge were spent corralling toddlers and a preschooler. Swimming was a two-person tag team for my husband and I of keeping them above water and in the shallow end. The craft room wasn’t even an option as my middle daughter always painted her face with anything (and I mean anything! Vaseline was the worst.)

This year, I walked those halls with young women. We swam together, painted little cars and wooden statues in the craft room, we put puzzles together. We watched the Olympics at night and read together in the common room in the morning. I thoroughly enjoyed the calmness of their spirits, their willingness to be together with me, and the memories we shared as we wandered the lodge and surrounding grounds playing, “Remember when we…”

As they mature, I’m constantly in awe by their changes. The interests they had just five years ago have changed, as one might expect. From horses, mood rings and dolls to books, musical instruments and, well, horses. I guess, not everything changes.

I wonder what will that lodge be like for me five and ten years from now?

And tonight I’m home. Sitting at the table for the last several hours, I’ve been polishing a poem and drafting a synopsis for a novel that I’ve finished and feel is ready to send to publishers. I started this poem years ago as a short story, but realized that it works better in rhyming, rhythmic meter. The novel began at least five years ago and has grown from an awkward tale about awkward middle schoolers to a poignant reflection on innocent times, changing times, and war times.

Everything around me is growing and maturing.

Day by day my daughters are becoming women.

Word by word my writing is developing from scenes to chapters to books.

And that’s the point: If it’s valuable to you, put your time into it everyday.

My children are my greatest source of joy, pride, and yes, hardship. As any parent, I would give every ounce of my life I have to them. Some days I feel like I really do that :)

My writing is not quite as important as my children, but I still manage to work it into each day. Some days, like today, I have hours to write. Every other day, I have about an hour or two to devote to reading and writing. It’s not much, but word by word, it’s happening.

Perhaps the writing you did today is in the toddler or preschool stage – messy and surprising. As you develop your skills, you’ll need a training bra or maybe you notice your voice is cracking, then deeper. When the time is write, you can marry that writing to a publisher and a great union is formed.

Whether you are a writer, a parent, an artisan, or a crafter, spend time doing the things you love. Little by little, those small efforts lead to a great outcome.

 

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This blog is usually about writing, but on occasion I throw in a post about homeschooling or faith. Today? Self-esteem and how it influences what we do or don’t do.

Something occurred to me a few months ago…I disciplined myself enough to write a book. Heck, not just one book, but nine so far. Why am I not carrying that over to other aspects of my life?

And so I began writing about it. Shocking, I know.

I came to this conclusion:

Life is hard. Get over it and make your dreams real. (cue Disney music)

In other words: Take the tough stuff, feel it, explore it, and cry about it. Then make a plan and move on.

After practicing the ‘deal with it and walk forward’ plan, I began to look at my reflection, my body image, my children, and my house. In that order. Interesting.

I’ve blamed so many other things -diabetes, stay-at-home-mom, too tired, no gym membership, etc. - in my life I wasn’t happy with, I wasn’t giving the joyful areas of my life their due attention. My family, being a mom, being able to stay home, a husband and family that supports our homeschooling, amazing friends, my faith…the list goes on. Sad how body image can become such a wedge to everything else.

I saw myself first. Self centered me. I was not as thin as I wanted to be, but passably feminine. Because I have three daughters, it’s important that my body image and my ‘self-speak’ are all positive. I don’t want to feed them negative images of women, spiritually or physically. After all, is every woman you love able to grace the covers of magazines? No? Really? Same here. I won’t be on the cover of Fitness or Vogue, but in my kids eyes (and hearts) I am fit and vogue. Yes, I rock these yoga pants!

See that? Positive self-speak.

Say it out loud, believe it, and others will follow.

That is, after all, how politics work. For better or worse, it rocks a nation.

Part of changing how I see myself has impacted how my children see me. I have not talked about those last few pounds I need to lose, but I have talked about training for a 5K and then a 10K. My daughters run cross country, so this is something to which they can relate. We train together, talk about running pace, running shoes, trails and sports drinks. This week, we all went swim suit shopping…and it was fun! I actually liked almost every suit I tried on. They didn’t all look great, but I saw beyond my body’s short comings and could see my strength. It’s all about perspective:

If you train for it, the results will come.

The biggest lesson on body image came from my three-year-old son: At Barnes and Noble, as he played with the train set, a little girl joined him and they played for over fifteen minutes without any conflicts. (For parents who have ever monitored the train table, you know what a miracle this is.) As we left, my son whispered to me, “She is so beautiful!” I asked, “What makes her so pretty?” In his preschool ways, he answered, “Her smile.”

Pow! Truth!

The other area I struggled with was my house. Being a homeschooling family in a fairly small house, it’s been difficult for me to keep things clean and clutter free. I really wanted this to change. It’s hard to think in a mess. I don’t have a desk. Instead I use the dining room table and sometimes a lap desk. How could I possibly carve out a ‘writing space’ where I could truly become the writer I want to be.

The reading corner...favorite place to write.

The reading corner…favorite place to write. It’s clean in the picture, but today there is a pile of Legos on the floor.

I started with my heart. If I want this dream of writing to be real, I needed to make it happen. A desk won’t magically make the words come to life. Only I can do that.

Then I moved to the house and the de-cluttering. One room at a time, we attacked the corners, the papers I’ve picked up and set down a dozen times, the stacks of books. Once we had the room just how we wanted it, I took a picture. Now when I ask my children to clean the reading corner, the kitchen, the bathroom, the family room, there is a picture to refer to so everything is done properly.

The result? Cleaner house, faster runner, happier me. Happier me, happier kids, cleaner house. I’ve also written and read more in the past three months than ever before. The organized home, the positive thinking, the focus on forward movement all pays off.

This process has brought to mind five things we can do to change our thinking from self-defeating to forward thinking:

1. Identify where you struggle and be honest about it.

Journal about it. You can burn the pages when you are finished writing, but have a heart-to-heart on paper about areas of your life that are hurting.

2. Identify aspects of your life that you are good at and feel positive about.

Make a list and list everything you like: eye color, your name, your legs, your wide hips. Maybe you make kickin’ desserts or love to cook for others. That’s a huge gift…and if that’s true, I want to be your friend!

3. Focus on those positive things and figure out how to carry that over to the areas where you struggle.

I wrote books. I disciplined myself to make the time to sit down and write. Then I edited. Now I’m learning to carry that discipline over to exercise. Everything I do well in writing can help me do well in other areas of my life. The same is true for you. Explore that.

4. Don’t ever give up. Ever. Giving up on making changes – be it weight loss, career stuff, making a dream come true – only results regret.

In a journal, write a letter to yourself a year from now and talk about all the things you hoped you accomplished. Try writing a letter to who you were ten years ago. Keep it positive, but identify what is holding you back. Give that younger version of yourself some advice. Then take that advice. In ten years, the letter you write should be very different.

5. Remember that you didn’t get to this point in one day, one week, or one month. It will take time to make the changes happen and to make them real. Be patient with yourself.

This was the best advice I was given by a dear friend: Take it day by day, but move forward every day. This applies to so many different people in so many different ways. Sometimes it’s my house. Other times it’s diabetes. Today it was remaining calm with my son. No matter what, take it day by day.

There’s more for me to work on – next on my list is meal planning. It’s 4:30 right now and I have no idea what to make for dinner.

Baby steps.

 

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Do you remember gym class? Outside of the horrifying gym uniforms (think green polyester shorts and a t-shirt with my last name written across my chest with a black permanent marker), the exercises we did at the beginning of each class prepared our muscles for the real work to begin.

These exercises serve the same purpose. Before you start the long haul of working on your latest, soon-to-be best-seller, warm up your creative muscles with one (or all) of these:

1. Go back to the beginning:

Write about the first chapter book you ever read. What do you remember?

Was it a good read or did you not finish it?

2. Take a step into a great challenge:

Imagine you are a first grade teacher and have been asked to include a 68-year-old illiterate man in your classroom. What might come of that situation? Make notes, write a few scenes, or run with it.

3. Go back to the basics:

Print the first two pages of any story you are writing. Circle the first word of each sentence. Are those words similar? If so, re-work the sentences and re-print.

Make these writing exercises more fun – get out of the house, order a cup of hot something (it’s below zero here in Michigan) and write the way you imagine all writers do…over coffee, in the middle of a cute café, capturing the essence of your next character from the personalities walking by your table.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

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So you can finally cross “Getting Published” off your bucket list. Fantastic!

Now what?

You need readers for your book. The prospects of marketing are more daunting that you first imagined. All your friends and family have purchased a copy…and sales have stalled. If you are looking for a way to market your book without investing any money, just a little time, then read on.

indie and small press

I’m putting together a group of dedicated authors who are interested in increasing their readership base, have a blog, and have at least two (2) forms of social media forums. If you request to be a part of this group, here is what is expected of you:

1. You will be interviewed about you, your book and writing in general. Each author will receive a list of questions generated by me that will fit your book and mission.

2. You will have two weeks to answer those questions and return them to me. Sooner is better, but life is busy, I know :)

3. Here’s the meat of this plan: Each time an author’s interview goes live on my website, you will receive an email. Post a link to that interview 2x’s a week for 2 weeks on all of your social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumbler…whatever.

4. Committing to this group will keep you posting these links from March 2014 until February 2015. Anyone who does not continue to share posts, will be removed from the group. Sounds harsh, but think about it – you have your interview and see and increase in sales and blog visits and then you do nothing to help the next in line. Not fair. Pay it forward. Keep the momentum going. It doesn’t take long to post on a few networks, and the results for you and the other authors is invaluable. If we fill the calendar, there will be 24 (plus me, that’s 25) authors who will share your interview, book, and links to purchase on all their social media. That has great potential.

5. Send me a copy of your book, either hardcopy or a link to download the ebook version. (I’ll send you my contact info once you are accepted into the group.) I would like to read the books before I send you questions so each interview is personalized and unique.

The goal of this is to help all of us reach a wider base of potential readers. Potential for increased sales and blog followers in amazing. I took part in a similar author panel last year and have made some wonderful connections.

If you are interested, comment on this post with your name, the name of your book, and a link to your blog.

Then send me an email (jessicaschaubwrites@gmail.com) with your name and contact info. Include the back cover blurb of your book, a link to where it’s sold, and what genre it is. I won’t interview authors who write erotica, include intense violence in their novels, or use vulgar curse words. Yep, I’m old fashioned. I also have a blog that I’m proud to have my children read. My audience is young at heart and simply young. This blog will remain a safe environment for them.

If you have any questions, ask them in the Comments area. I’ll answer them as quickly as I can.

Blessings to you!

Jessica

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If you’ve ever dreamed of being an author of a picture book…listen up!

I copied this right from the website so to give you the best explanation:

 For less than the cost of a single conference, picture book writers and illustrators can become members of 12 x 12 and get access to all the benefits of a writer’s conference — learning from experts, craft advice and assistance, the fellowship of community and the opportunity to submit completed, polished manuscripts — without having to travel. You’ll get the motivation and accountability you need to get those drafts finished, all with the support of the friendliest writing community on earth.

The 12 x 12 offer has three different levels of participation: Margaret Wise BRONZE level (write only), the Shel SILVERstein level (write and revise), and the Little Golden book level (write, revise, submit).

Here’s the link to the website:

http://www.juliehedlund.com/registration-for-2014/?hop=cbkinsider

Why you should consider this:

On any level, the accountability to put your butt in the chair and write is increased through the motivation you gain from the other members. If you only write 12 picture book manuscripts, that is 12 more manuscripts you will have to polish up by the end of the year. If you register for the GOLD level, you have input from other writers and the opportunity to submit those manuscripts to agents/publishers.

This is the cover from my first picture book. If all goes as planned, Frog will have many more adventures this year!

This is the cover from my first picture book. If all goes as planned, Frog will have many more adventures this year!

I’m going to go for it. Take a few minutes and read through the website (above). If the idea is intriguing, join me. If you aren’t sure, think about it for a few days. If the lure is too strong to refuse, join me.

Happy Writing!

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It’s been months since my last post. In fact, you probably forgot you had subscribed to this blog :) But October, November and December were far from useless months. While my blogging went to the bottom of the to-do list, I did spend a great deal of time in prayer, reevaluating my life as a Catholic Christian, wife, mother, friend, author, and public speaker.

In the months leading up to September and the release of a new book, I felt a pull in my heart. I was missing something important. Society told me otherwise. I was published – three times now. I was speaking frequently and book sales were good – considering I’m essentially a nobody. Pressure to establish a platform, to share my expertise, to promote fellow authors and my own work is all very good, but it’s pressure and I caved. My family and my faith were not a part of that ‘success’ equation, but in reality, faith and family are my top two priorities. That was the pull – me pulling away from all the blessings I had to reach for a means of success that really isn’t success.

Two books at Schuler's Book Store in Michigan...dreams do come true!

Two books at Schuler’s Book Store in Michigan…dreams do come true!

Over the last few months, I’ve stayed away from the Internet as much as possible. Instead of checking emails, blog posts, and facebook posts, I’ve been diving into teaching Latin and Logic with my children. I’ve read more, and have written more. I seemed to be on the right track when the screen on my laptop stopped working, forcing me to hand-write my next novel. Oh, I didn’t hand write the whole thing, but I did manage to write 5 chapters and edit all that I have so far.

My speaking calendar is more open and book sales have dropped a bit, but my family is happier. It seems a very fair trade, but with the new year in full swing, it’s time for the resolutions. In the spirit of doing things my way (go ahead and sing it – “I’ll do it my way!”) I’m not going to make any resolutions. I’m going to revolutionize my priorities.

Faith First.

Family next.

I cooked that meal...and helped put together that solar system model hanging from the light. Scoring points for the Super Mom Award :)

I cooked that meal…and helped put together that solar system model hanging from the light. Scoring points for the Super Mom Award :)

Food is important. I’ll make meal planning and cooking priority number 3. I suppose a 3.1 would be to continue to teach my children to cook, to follow recipes, to take chances in the kitchen (not with knives or fire, obviously, but with spices).

Homeschooling is a commitment my husband and I made almost 10 years ago. I’m renewing that commitment and -you guessed it – revolutionizing our format. Maybe I’ll write something about our journey…it’s been quite a trip.

And then I will write. I’ll write to my children in the notebooks I have for each of them; letters of love and encouragement, notes of wonderful things I witness in their lives, and comments on things I see them struggle.

I’ll write poetry. It’s not a natural pace for me, but I love to form the words within the molds of structure, to paint with letters.

Novels. I know I’m a ‘big picture’ kind of gal and writing a novel is my favorite challenge. I finished another novel this year – time to polish and submit. There are three more in the works – time to focus.

If I can focus, motivate, speak truth, model faith, and look for beauty, I can revolutionize my life. Instead of seeing a daunting task of marketing and writing chapter after chapter, I will see smaller tasks that can, when added together, have a greater impact on my overall success as a faithful woman, wife, mother, daughter and friend.

What about you? What can you do this year that will revolutionize your world? Do you seek greater wisdom? A stronger and healthier body? Can you repair lost trust? Broken hearts?

Of course you can. It all starts with you, a plan, and a prayer. Everything else will fall into place.

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I’ve spoken to a few groups recently about the importance of journaling not only as a means to organizing thoughts, but as a family treasure. Several years ago, my sister-in-law passed away. One of the most cherished things she left behind was her journal. We all enjoyed flipping through the pages, seeing her handwriting and getting inside her head. It’s also like having a conversation with her.

Paper doesn’t forget.

writing pics 009

Journaling isn’t just about the ‘Dear Diary’ level of writing. Journaling is, on every level, a conversation. If you are interested in writing for your children and grandchildren, much like Graypay does in Unforgettable Roads, here are a few pointers:

1. Relax. It’s just a notebook and a pen.
2. Don’t over spend. It’s not because of the leather bound beauty of a $50.00 journal that it will be treasured. It’s all to do with the words within.
3. Relax. I sense your shoulders tensing.
4. Writing in a journal takes three things: Pen, Paper, and Commitment.
5. Keep the journal visible. You will be more likely to commit to writing if you see it.
6. Set a time each day (10 minutes is enough) to write.
7. You don’t have to be a writer to write in a journal. Begin with a prayer to be honest and just write how you talk. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. It’s the story, the memory and the lesson that are important.

What do you write about, you ask?

1. What’s the earliest memory you have?
2. Describe your parents.
3. What did your bedroom look like when you were 16?
4. Who was your best friend in second grade? In high school?
5. What did you want to be when you grew up? Did that happen?
6. How did you meet your spouse?
7. What did your parents think of your spouse the first time they met?
8. What was/is your favorite holiday tradition?
9. Did you have any pets growing up? If you have pictures of them, add it to your journal.
10. Looking back over your life, what was your best day? Can’t pick one? Write about them all over the next few days.
11. A little negative, but important: what was your worst day?
12. Did you play a musical instrument? If not, what did you want to learn to play?
13. What are the lyrics to your favorite song?
14. Who was the first person you ever danced with? (parents not included!)
15. First kiss?
16. Wedding day? When, where, what you wore…add a picture.
17. The first funeral you ever attended…who was it?
18. Share an embarrassing moment.
19. Write about a valuable lesson you learned the hard way.
20. What books have you read that you think other should read?
21. Favorite movies?
22. What stories do you wish you had from your parents? Write that version of your own life.

Years ago, I met a mom who had five sons. Instead of spending the evening in front of the TV, she, with the help of her family, recorded the day’s events in a journal. I thought that was a good idea. I’ll admit, even as a writer, I never made that a daily event and oh! how I regret that.

It’s not too late. Start writing now.

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