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How Fifteen Year Olds Helped My Writing Schedule

This is a real story about something that happened to me last week. Let me preface it with a bit of background.

I am EXPECTING this year to be successful in many areas.  One of those areas is my writing career. I took the time on January 1 to make a very detailed and specific daily schedule for myself in hopes of increasing my productivity.

And then I started watching a TV marathon…

Argh! I’ve threatened more than once to unplug the darn thing (and probably should). Instead of beating myself up too much, I determined to move forward, forgetting the week of wasted evenings.

Except, the struggle to get up at the appointed time is real! Strike two!

As my return to work as a secondary school teacher approaches, a new solution presented itself. Part of the preparation involves what’s called ‘work hardening’ – going in on a voluntary basis for short stints to acclimate myself back into the environment.

I went in for eighty minutes and, well… it was terrible! (See the picture at the top? It wasn’t like that…)

Last year’s Grade 9s hadn’t really matured that much… The crashing of lockers during break. The raging teenage hormones. The overall chaos! I’m experiencing tightness in my chest and shortness of breath just thinking about it!

When I go back in February, I will be returning on a half time basis. I can choose which two of my regular four classes I want to teach.  Originally it made sense to me to go in during the afternoons. The detailed schedule I’d worked out for myself in paragraph two had me up early to get some writing done and then off to school after lunch. But that meant taking on English 9 followed by a mixed group of Drama students.  After that first experience, it occurred to me that Grade 9 might not be the best option when I had the choice of a much more mature group of English 12 students first thing in the morning. The only problem with that scenario is, I really want to take the D block Drama class, but that would leave several hours in between teaching assignments.

Then it hit me. If I went in first thing in the morning to teach English 12, I would have three and a half glorious hours to do my writing before it was time to teach Drama. Not only would I avoid the Grade 9s (the Barenaked Ladies didn’t make a song about it for nothing… just sayin!) I would also be forced to get up early each day instead of frittering my time away. Perfect!

Funny how a possible negative can turn into something positive. Thanks to last year’s Grade 9s for helping me see the light!

Five E’s for Expectation

This year, the year of EXPECTATION, I’m trying to be more intentional about my writing career. As part of that, I have been doing some analysis in order to become more focused. Unfortunately, (or fortunately – depending on how one looks at it), I am a bit of a chameleon when it comes to genre. Am I primarily a playwright or a novelist? What about my non-fiction? This can be somewhat of a quandary, especially when it comes to branding. However, I’ve decided not to stress over it too much.

Instead, I came up with five ways I want my writing to serve readers. (Okay, once i started I intentionally stuck to words beginning with ‘E’…)

  1. Entertain
  2. Encourage
  3. Enlighten
  4. Expand
  5. Evangelize

  1. Entertain – My primary purpose is to entertain and provide an escape for the reader.
  2. Encourage – I hope to encourage them in their Christian walk.
  3. Enlighten – I often bring a potentially difficult or controversial topic/issue to each book such as racism and prejudice; native spirituality and cults; pornography; addictions, abuse, intelligent design, evolutionary conspiracy theory – all topics that are relevant in the church and that Christians may struggle with, but which are not necessarily being talked about openly.
  4. Expand the reader’s viewpoint. This is tied to number three, since my purpose is not to offer a definitive answer (other than Jesus – period.) I try to stay away from a ‘hardline’ fundamentalist or legalist viewpoint and focus instead on grace. I intentionally try to leave some loose ends and unanswered questions for the reader to ponder, hopefully coming to their own conclusions or delving further into a topic.
  5. Evangelism is not my primary focus since my assumption is that my target audience is already Christian. However, the gospel message is usually included, so someone could come to Christ or rededicate their life.

Do any of these resonate with you, either as a reader or a writer? I would love to hear your comments. 

Great Expectations

2018 is the year of EXPECTATION.

I often choose a word or a phrase each year as a motivational tool to help keep me on track and this one came to me way back in October and has been reaffirmed several times through various means.

Psalm 62:5 says, My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my EXPECTATION is from Him. (KJV)

The word expectation means the act of anticipation – looking forward to something. It also has to do with probability and the likelihood that something will occur. God has birthed in me many expectations for my family, my personal wellbeing, and my desires. I am expecting God to deliver on His promises this year! At first glance this might sound selfish.

Godly expectation is not about getting stuff, however. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Expectation is about FAITH – believing God’s promises even when I don’t yet see the evidence of their fulfillment. Expectation is about TRUST as I allow God to work out the details and timing in ways that don’t always make sense to me.  Expectation is about SURRENDER – the act of intentionally laying each area of my life at Jesus feet, be it physical, mental or emotional. It’s giving up my ‘rights’ to each person, idea, or desire and putting faith and trust into action.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” This is what the word expectation means to me for 2018. The past year, 2017, was a year of tremendous growth for me, although there were many trials physically and within my family. My word for 2017 was ‘Accountability’ and I feel God really took me to task in making me accountable to Him for my faith. It was a year of great change, much of which was painful, but which has brought about much fruit. The groundwork has been laid. Like Joshua and the children of Israel, I sense God’s call to move forward in 2018. To ADVANCE, as it were, into the promised land, with the EXPECTATION that He has great things in store.

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; at the end it shall speak and not lie. though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come. It will not tarry.” Habakkuk 2:3 (KJV)

A Surprising Gift for Christmas

Christmas…

Excited children, twinkling lights, the smell of fresh baking…

Sweat pooling under the armpits as you  trudge on the treadmill…

RECORD SCRATCH

Okay, maybe that’s not what comes to mind for most people when they think about Christmas. But this year, it’s been part of my ‘MO’ for quite awhile now.

I’ve been faithfully attending cardiac rehabilitation for almost ten weeks now. My last session is on December 22 – just in time for Christmas. I started going back at the end of August but had some ‘setbacks’ (namely two trips to the emergency ward and more time in hospital) so ‘restarted’ in October. Since the program is not available in my community, I have been driving almost two hours one way to attend in Fort St John. Fortunately, I have three children who live there, so I’ve invited myself to stay over most weeks, and have been spending a lot of time with the grandkids. I sometimes feel as if I should just move permanently!

Kidding, of course. I am amazed at how much stronger I feel. What a gift! I jokingly say I haven’t felt this physically fit for years.

Most of all, I am grateful for the gift of life. Near death experiences will do that to you. For those that don’t know, I had a heart attack in May of this year and then had to have triple bypass surgery. Many people shrug when they hear those words – bypass surgery. It is a common procedure these days and most people know someone who has gone through it. No biggy, right?

For those of us who have experienced it, let me just say, I hope to never have to go through that again. Having your chest cut wide open and having your heart stopped so that it can be operated on, is a bit disconcerting, to say the least, no matter how ‘common’ it might be! The months of painful recovery are no picnic either. It’s why I am so amazed by the fact that I can sustain a ninety minute work-out that actually makes me sweat.

Reasonably good health is a gift not to be taken for granted. It’s the one I’m most grateful for this Christmas.

My Two Favourite Online Courses For Authors

I love learning. I’ve read tons of books on writing craft and marketing books, as well as taken several online courses. There are many good options out there, but to save on space (lest I overwhelm with too many good options) I’ve narrowed it down to my two absolute favourites.

  1. Learn Scrivener Fast by Joseph Michael

I’d been using Scrivener for about five years, give or take a few months. I loved it from the moment I started just for the way it organized my writing, but I never used it much beyond a word processing tool. Last summer I watched a free online video by Scrivener coach Joseph Michael. I realized there were so many more things Scrivener could do – including formatting everything from epubs to mobi files to paperbacks to plays and more!

But, as a long time Scrivener user, I thought I should be able to figure things out for myself. The software comes with tutorials and there are tons of videos online, so I took those free tidbits from Joseph Michael and continued on my merry Scrivener way.

Things changed drastically when I tried to format a book. About forty hours later, bleary eyed from watching confusing youtube tutorials and upmteen ‘trial and error’ compilations, I gave up. Compiling my files for publication just wasn’t as intuitive as I had thought. In desperation, I signed up for Joseph Michael’s course.

AND IT HAS BEEN THE BEST INVESTMENT I HAVE EVER MADE FOR MY WRITING CAREER!

I’ve managed to format and publish multiple ebooks, paperbacks, and pdfs. I organize my blog posts using Scrivener, and I even do a lot of my outlining using the corkboard function. I can’t imagine writing without it and whenever I run into a snag, all I need to do is go to Joseph Michael’s easy to follow videos and – voila! Problem solved!

If you’re planning to delve into indie publishing, this is the course for you. It is worth every penny hundreds of times over!

  1. Your First 10k Readers by Nick Stephenson

I’m sad to list this course second, because it has also been such a good investment for me. Nick Stephenson has appeared on multiple podcasts with the likes of Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Joel Freidlander and others. He talks about ‘lead magnets’, permafree books, automations etc. all with step-by-step videos and very useful cheat sheets and other helpful resources. You can find many similar courses out there on creating ‘systems’ for writing and marketing, (like Shelley Hitz’s ‘Author Audience Academy”) but I happened to come across Nick’s back in the summer of 2015. I took the risk and signed up – my first time actually spending hard earned cash on an online course.

It has been worth the cost ten times over. It’s not that I’m now rolling in cash. Nick cautions students right up front that his system takes work. It is not a get rich quick scheme or a fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants way to fool people into buying your books. What it is, is a really smart and well laid out system for growing your audience while offering value to your readers – all in a step-by-step format that keeps that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling from taking over.

I voraciously listened to the entire course in the first week or two upon receiving it, but there is so much content and so much detail that there is no way I could implement everything at once. Heck, I’m still taking baby steps two years later, but I’ve managed to make some significant inroads. Another wonderful thing about Nick’s course is that he continues to add new content and update old information without adding to the cost. Plus, he’s a very funny guy, so it’s quite entertaining to listen to him teach. You’ll see what I mean if you watch his free training videos. (Excellent, but the entire course is so much more in depth.)

Of course, there are many more valuable resources out there but these are my two all time favourites.

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