Category Archives: The Other Side of the Sky

How I Got Back on Track

For the first time in a little over three weeks I finally got back to work on Sky again.

I left off July 9,  working through Chapter 3 again, because Chapter 3 leads into Chapter 5, and Chapter 5 leads into Chapter 7, which is where I got stuck.

I have felt so lost for so long, I’d begun to wonder what was wrong with me. Then yesterday I had the vague memory that things had been as chaotic for me in the process of writing previous books as they are for this one. Particularly Return of the Guardian King.  I can’t seem to find the writing journal I kept for that one — it might be in my trunk of memorabilia buried at the back of the closet…but I didn’t want to go to all the trouble — and spend all the time — of getting it out. That’s when I recalled that there was probably something up on my old blog which I began back in February of 2006.

Sure enough, there was. I was starting Chapter 11 of RotGK, and having the same sorts of trouble as I am now. The very first entry starts out:

I’m supposed to be working on chapter 11 of my work in progress — Light out of Shadow. But I seem to be a master at self-distraction. The thing is, I’ve enjoyed reading others’ blogs and I’ve been thinking about starting one of my own for some time now. So I guess it’s not a huge surprise when I couldn’t seem to make myself get to work today on account of numerous interruptions and external distractions… that I should suddenly find myself here, completing one step after another (there were more than the three they advertised at the start of this) in setting up this blog.’

And the second one, There and Back Again,  detailed a process of story generation that is very much like the one I’m in the middle of now. It was exactly what I needed to read, to recall that I just have to get something down, that it’s going to change, and that that’s okay. Sure, make it fit as best I can, make it as plausible and consistent as I can, but don’t demand a lot from a first pass.  It’s just my way of getting some sort of framework sketched in.

I’d forgotten that I was supposed to be sketching, and started getting perfectionistic.

The thing I love about what I wrote in There and Back Again, is that it reminded me how uncomfortable and blind my process is. How I can have no clue what to do one day, way too many options, unable to choose and then the next day, one little thing seems to lead to another and before I know it I have a sequence.

It reminded me of how I can look at what I’ve done, be dissatisfied, come up with some alternative ideas that seem to work and then be unable to write them. When I try they just lie there, dead and dull. Then after a couple of days, and a few seemingly minor tweaks, all comes clear. The chapter which formerly was “a disaster” and “ALL wrong” and “never going to come right”  somehow comes right.

One day it’s AWFUL and HOPELESS; the next I wonder what in the world I was thinking, because it’s clearly just fine.

Reading through that post, being reminded of all that helped me get back into Sky today.

I also received a number of hits from the Lord concerning the matter of priorities.

First Pastor John taught on our number one priority in the Christian life being to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Is that really your #1 priority?” he asked.

Well, yes, of course it is, and I know that doesn’t just mean the daily reception of Bible teaching, it also means application of that teaching and, once one has grown enough, operating in the spiritual gift one has been given.

Not an hour later I started listening to a presentation by Thomas Umstattd over at the Bestseller Society on Time Management and in the first 4 minutes heard:

“If you don’t manage your time, the world will do it for you. Anything around you — coworkers, the world, your boss, your family, the TV…  those will fill up your hours for you.”

“When we say, “I don’t have time for something,” what we’re really saying is “That’s not as important as the other things that I do.”

and

“You can tell what your priorities are by how you spend your time. We have what we believe our priorities to be and then we have what they really are.”

All of that together coming in just a few hours, convicted me. I have not been giving writing the proper spot in my priorities.  “Whatever is most important to you,” said Umstattd, “that needs to be the first thing in how you schedule your time.”

So, I’ve reconfigured things a bit, and today using the pomodoro technique (modified) I put in 3 1/2 hours on Sky — first thing after I finished my morning routine. And that makes me very happy.  😀

How To Drive Yourself Crazy

You start out having a contracted book that you are supposed to be writing and having so many different difficulties, intrusions, interruptions, distractions and delusions that you are proceeding at a snail’s pace, seemingly no matter what you do.

Combine with a previous book repackaged and on the market again, and generating  feelings of responsibility in the author for doing something to let the world know.

Add an invitation to join a website that will provide much information and help on how to market your books in a world that is rapidly becoming a continuous, never-ending, deluge of advertising.

Accept the invitation because… um… well, it sounds good, and maybe I’ll learn something.

Attend the first seminar. Take ten pages of notes and end up with TONS of things to do to have a profitable web presence.

[Yes, yes, I know — I’ve said in the past that I’m relying on God to promote my books and what in the world am I doing falling for this? Well… what can I say? I’m weak. Frail. Easily led astray. Rethinking that stand. Maybe it was good for then, but this is now and perhaps I could do some of that now. Not a lot. But some… Maybe this would be a form of stepping out in new ways of using my gift of encouragement.]

Here are some of those things you can do to build your “platform”:

Integrate your website with your blog. Redo both blog and website so that it’s more professional looking, maybe hire someone to do that, which means shop around for various web designers. Or figure out how to do it all yourself.

Write more blog posts. Write better blog posts. Answer every comment.

Go to other blogs and read them. Comment there. Answer any responses to the comment you left. Maybe quote from someone else’s blog and then write about how you disagree. Maybe they’ll link to you and rebut. Then you can rebut the rebuttal and get into an argument. That’s great for getting links to your blog and the attention of the world, which likes controversy and argument.

Learn what Google Analytics is.  Get on Google+.

Learn to write better titles/headlines. Study other headlines. Keep a headline file. Spend as much time writing your headline/title as you do writing your post.

Take a bunch of photographs to use on the blog, because They say that you must have images on your blog. Guest blog as much as possible. Get in as many discussions as possible.

Learn how to start a Facebook Author page and then do that. Find out what a Landing Page is. Maybe set one up.

Interact daily with those who come to your Facebook Author Page.

Make an author page for Amazon.

Learn how to optimize your website/blog and do that .

Get on Twitter. Learn how to write good tweets…  And don’t forget to come up with your own daily blog posts…

Oh yeah. And get that contracted book written. The sooner the better. (That would be The Other Side of the Sky…)

And thus we get to crazy. Too much to do even aside from all that. And with that I am over the top. Which of all those things should I do? For how long? When? How can I balance that with working on the book and the work I have to do around the house?  Where’s the peace in all this? Not there. Maybe I’m just weak… Well, yes. I am weak. But His power is manifest in my weakness, so that’s a good thing.

He’ll do what needs doing. I just have to turn it over to Him and let Him.

And so I’ve taken a little trip without even leaving home these last few weeks. I’ve learned a few things.

Like “A Tomato, A Coin and A Die” is a really bad title. (I should have called it “Two Techniques That Helped Me Get Past Writer’s Block”. Actually I might go back and retitle it just to see what will happen.)

I’ve learned that there are a lot of blogs out there that are highly “successful” (in that they have hundreds of thousands of visitors) in telling other people how they can be successful on their own blogs. Which seems mildly ironic, even a bit disingenuous.

I’ve been praying for direction in all this from the start. And I am pretty sure that I have come full circle on this crazy ride yet again, and am getting off at the platform now, ready to go back home and just focus on writing Sky.

Because the thing it’s all shown me — once again —  is that, yes, indeed,  all that other stuff takes up not only time but mental space.  At least for me. I tend to want to focus deeply on things when they engage me, and when I try to do all that stuff, well, the focus gets fragmented and I get farther away from the world of Sky than ever.

I won’t say I won’t do any of that, but for now I do know that the focus has to be on my WIP.

A Tomato, a Coin and a Die

Today I actually managed to get around to working on Sky for a good five hours!Actual story writing as opposed to  note organizing. A tiny bit of progress.   YAY!

I did so using a new technique that I’ve recently discovered and an old one I’d forgotten.

A Tomato

The new technique, developed to help increase productivity, is called The Pomodoro Technique, so named because its inventor used a red tomato kitchen timer to implement his system. He’s Italian and “pomodoro” is Italian for tomato.

The technique was designed to also investigate where various distractions originated and to provide a means of dealing with them.

I used it pretty much as outlined (click on the link above for the full thing) when I started a couple of weeks ago.   There is a free booklet you can download and some official pages as well:  a To Do Today sheet and an Activity Sheet.

You list the things you want to do on the first sheet. In the beginning, I listed things like “write a blog post,”  “read through all my notes on Sky,”  “transfer information on sheets to little cards,” etc.

Then you set the timer for 25 minutes  (a “pomodoro”) and get started. If you suddenly get a thought to go do something else, you are to make a tic mark in the column next to where you listed your task, then decide if the activity must be done  right now, or if it can be done later. If later, you note it on the Activity Sheet. If you feel it’s imminent — you absolutely HAVE to order that pizza now — you note it at the bottom of the To Do sheet.

One of the iron clad rules is that you cannot spend more than a minute or two on some distraction so if you do get up and order the pizza, then you have to void the pomodoro and start over, even if you’ve only got five minutes left.

It was in intriguing exercise which made me aware of all the things I kept thinking of doing in the middle of when I was supposed to be writing. Internal distractions the developer called them. They seemed to come rapid fire at first. But because I had the timer on, I stopped getting up to go do them and just noted them on my activity sheet. The more I used this technique, the less internal distractions I had. Plus having a place to note them helped a lot.

After the timer goes off, you place an X in the column next to your task, then take a 3 to 5 minute break to walk about, stretch, visit the restroom, or get a drink. Then it’s back to another pomodoro. . After four pomodoros you get a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

It’s not as complicated as it might sound, but it’s pretty regimented and while at first it did a lot to get me back on track, ultimately I rebelled and one day I just couldn’t make myself do any of it and went out to play. I’ve since abandoned the activity sheet, since it’s not all that relevant for me.

I have, however, stuck with the 25 minute increments and the three-minute breaks, the latter because they get me out of the chair and walking around or stretching and that’s good for the body. And the former because I not only have to somehow quantify my task (“work on the book” is not specific enough) but it puts a beginning and an end time to it (as opposed to doing it “until I get tired”)

Before, if I hit a snag there was a good chance I’d just get up and walk out of the room on some inner directed tangent. With the pomodoro, I at least wait until the timer rings before walking off, though even then I haven’t wanted to dive into some other thing.

So that’s the new — modified — technique I used today.

Yes, I know… rules again. But not exactly. I think they’re more just useful guidelines that keep me on track. So for now I’ll keep using them. I have my own “pomodoro” all set up under my computer screen.

A Coin and a Die

The other technique, the one I’d forgotten, was to use a coin to build my characters. I had five male characters who were nothing but names that I needed to be in the scene I am currently working on.

So one of the things you can do and which I had actually made charts for years ago, is to divide characteristics into twos… tall/short, fat/skinny, muscular/frail … then flip a coin to determine the characteristic — eg, heads, he’s tall, tails he’s short.  If you have more characteristics than two, like hair or eye color, use a die — assign a color to each number, then roll the die.

It’s a way of breaking through the blankness. As the characters started to emerge, I found myself thinking, “Wait, I don’t want him to have light brown hair, it should be black instead.”  Or, “No, he’s not going to have a beard, he’s going to be clean-shaven.”  You aren’t bound to whatever the die or coin dictate, but if you don’t care, it’s a way of actually getting something to take shape.

So that’s what I did today using my pomodoros, and my coin and die. I now have five index  cards and five characters with a fair amount of definition. Since these are minor characters, I’m not yet sure how big of a role they’ll play so I don’t want to go too far in developing their profiles. For now, I have enough to work with.

Another thing I did, that came out of nowhere, was that as these guys were coming together I started seeing parallels to some of the Avengers, so I decided to just go in that direction and use the Avenger characters as a rough guide for my development. Oh! Horrors! She’s copying movie characters!

Not exactly. I think it was more a general template and lifting one or two characteristics from each. And it was fun. I know in the end it won’t be noticeable, because once they get “real” for me, they’ll take on their own individuality. Besides, they may turn out to have almost no role at all. I have no idea at this point.

All I know is, it helped me work, and as a result I ended up with one guy who’s a techie and another with anger issues. As an additional bonus, those two qualities triggered thoughts about the setting and the situation and suddenly the whole scene — characters, interactions, setting, situation and action — gained richness and substance and direction far beyond what I had when I started.

Oh yeah, and that new laser TSA is going to be using in 2013 — the one that can read your cells from 164 ft and tell if your adrenaline is rushing, and what you ate for lunch and if you have explosive residue in your fingerprint creases?  Well that’s just perfect for this scene as well. Only it won’t be a laser, and there isn’t any airport. 😀

Dismayed, Dissatisfied and Overwhelmed

Yesterday I noted some of the things that came in to interrupt and distract me from writing daily. Today I’ll note what happened on the days that I did write — which was four days last week and three days — so far — this week.

Last monday I got into the office at 7:41am!  Hooray.  At first I hardly knew what to do. I wrote in my Morning Pages journal (from The Artist’s Way) then got down to work — for almost all day. I have stacks of notecards and papers all over the place, so I took one of the stacks which was on my main character, Talmas, and used it to update my character file on him, then threw the stack away.

Tuesday I got into the office at 7:26am, but then had to intersperse writing with other stuff. In the end I did three pages of back story on another character. I had a bunch of different notes because I’d kept changing my mind about how things were going to go, and finally pulled it together and into line with the other characters’ storylines. I waffled a good deal — is this really the relationship and sequence that makes the most sense and will be believed? I wasn’t sure. Then I realized I just flat-out liked it the best, so I went with that. It doesn’t seem like much progress, but it took most of the day.

Wednesday I thought hard about the book and got nowhere. I was all ready to rail on in my current journal about my frustration, dismay, lack of progress and sense that there’s both too much here and nothing at the same time, then discovered that I’d already done that. In my journal entry from March 1, 2007

Ahem. That’s five years ago. When I was starting The Enclave. Which was mildly alarming — the fact it’s been almost exactly five years since I started a book. Of course it doesn’t seem like I’m “starting” Sky because I’ve been picking at it for about four years now in between all the other things, and do have seven chapters written.  But since it’s been more a process of two steps forward, one step back, maybe it just seems like I should be further along because of the time, not the continuity of work.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote at the start of The Enclave, 5 years ago:

“[This morning] I was bugged, condemned and dismayed because I’d started to look through my notes and was not only dissatisfied — it’s not right, it’s not compelling , it’s not going in the right direction, I don’t like it — but overwhelmed by all the ideas and info and possibilities, and at the same time clueless as to which to choose. When I finished wrestling with it — and by then it was only noon — I was exhausted!”

Exactly how I felt with Sky. And still do most of the time. Trying to get my head around the world, which is only partially conceived, and the characters and some kind of actual plot  is both overwhelming and confusing. Yes, that event would be an okay thing to happen, and that detail of setting is cool, and this conversation would be nice, and yeah, I did have the idea that he would rescue people, and then there are the Mole People, those are cool, but I have no idea how they relate… and the ma’el– Should that be their name or should I change it? — and the Artifacts – how do they fit in? And…

AAAARG.

So I went off to Good Reads, which I’d only just learned about and read some nice reviews about The Light of Eidon

Ahem.

But I did want to set down one more quote from that same journal entry in March of 2007  because it also applies to me working on Sky. I guess it’s not surprising that I would wrestle with the same personal flaws and tendencies every time, but it always seems Amazing and Startling to me when I discover that I do.

So, continuing from the March 1, 2007 entry:

“I realized I’d had unrealistic expectations (ie, “see the entire storyline in pleased and confident clarity”) and that of course it would be like this (chaos, too much to process, nothing that seems good) and I should have set some sort of specific and reasonable goal like, “look through the material and see if anything occurs to me…” rather than beat myself up for reasons that are absurd and even… well… insane…”

So that is what I’m trying to do. Just look through the material and see where God leads me. Without expecting it all to fall into place at once. Or even in a day. 🙂

Update: I’m Still Here

Well, back at the end of April I sure didn’t expect that I wouldn’t be posting for two weeks, but that’s what’s happened. In fact, I was all ready to continue on with more thoughts from Koontz’s book, and had even written a rough draft of a post, but somehow, when I went back to it again, it all fell apart. Suddenly it was no longer saying what I wanted, but wandering off on tangents that weren’t really illustrative of what I was trying to say… In fact, I’m not sure I knew what I was trying to say. All I know is I ended up cutting out three quarters of the words in the post, and found myself with pretty much nothing left.

Maybe that was appropriate and maybe not. My brain felt like mush and I knew I was tired. I’d seen the doctor that same Monday  and he confirmed about the tiredness, even thought I was still trying to do more than I should and that it would be at least two more weeks and maybe four before I felt 100% again.

So for the last two weeks, in addition to letting myself do whatever (which included obsessively making cards), I’ve been paying more attention to what made me tired and when.  Im also getting better at actually recognizing the tiredness, instead of misidentifying it as laziness, lack of self-discipline, feeling depressed or hopeless, feeling guilty and bad cause I wasn’t getting things done….  Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed at my usual time, so I didn’t.  I never stayed there longer than an hour more than usual, but it definitely helped.  I tried to get chores done, but didn’t push it. If I got tired and didn’t feel like doing any more, I didn’t.

I stopped pushing the daily walking, too, but did finally walk three miles around the park with my hubby — he handled Quigley — on May 5. It felt fine at the time, but the next day was Communion at church, which meant a longer service and food preps for the pot luck that were a bit more involved than my normal. When on Monday I had a major crash, unable to do anything but lie around, I knew why.  Tuesday was also pretty bad, but Wednesday I was mostly recovered went ahead and walked again, this time with Quigley and it went fine. I haven’t really had a huge crash since the 7th.

I also haven’t written much of anything. Not email, not blog posts, not the book, not even in my journals. I did watch a lot of TV– for me. I detest daytime TV, but in the evenings in addition to our regular shows, we’ve  plowed through the first season of  The Mentalist and are now almost halfway through the second. Still enjoying it a great deal.

Anyway, sometime in the last week a change began to occur. The messages in Bible class had already begun to change. Both the ones I’m listening to that are current and my fill-in’s from last summer: Pastor Farley talking about Spiritual Gifts in a way that made mine more clearly a “legitimate” spiritual gift than I’ve ever heard. He taught that each person’s gift is unique and even in similar categories of gifts, the way each manifests will be different and unique to the person having it. You can’t look at anyone else and copy them. It’s between you and God the Holy Spirit. That was strangely empowering for me. (I think mine’s exhortation/encouragement, carried out mostly through my writing.) (which may seem like a “Duh” to many people — certainly my close friends — but hey, nowhere in the Bible does it say “writing novels and blog posts” is a spiritual gift!  And I can use anything to psyche myself out.)

 He went on to say that whatever your gift is, you should jump into it with your full effort and focus, knowing God is going to empower you to do whatever it is HE has in mind. He’s already provided everything you need, so you have nothing to fear. Just go forward. 

For a few weeks now I’ve begun to think that maybe God has been giving me a vacation for the last six months or so. At first I thought it was me being bad. Then I moved into “He’s just shutting me down” which was credible because of everything that was happening. But now… with this latest episode coming to an end, I’ve more and more had the nudge that it’s really been a vacation, a time He’s let me do quite a bit of playing… 

And also the nudge that it’s time for that to come to end and for me to get back to being a novelist.

I told Him it better be Him doing it, because for months I haven’t been able to muster any interest, any words, or even any order with this project. I would go in and look at the work and there would be nothing. Just a sense of being utterly overwhelmed. No guidance, no direction, nothing. I really had little idea of where it was going. I’d stare at it, as I’ve recounted here, and then suddenly find myself doing something else. Reading the news, or blogs or watching card making videos, or making cards or… sitting in a chair watching the birds.

I have worked my way literally paragraph by paragraph  (as in one or two a day) through Chapter 5 and every day I’d go in and it would be hard to remember what I’d done the day before, or I’d be so sick of reading the same words and dealing with the same scene that I’d want to leave. But it wasn’t coherent yet so I tried to stay, but more often wandered off.

Suddenly, that’s stopped. I don’t know if what happened today is going to continue, but for now… I worked on Sky almost all day. I have not done that in a long, long time. I didn’t feel the weird aversion… in fact, if anything I feel aversion for the card stuff. Suddenly the power the card projects had to pull me away was not in operation — at least for today.

So. Is it the sea change I’m thinking it is? Time to go back to being a writer? A change being worked in me more than me working in myself? I don’t know.

Did I work more than I should have today, so that tomorrow I’ll be tired again, and not wanting to get out of bed, or flitting around from thing to thing? I don’t know. 

But today. My goodness. The book has come alive again. I feel like I made more progress today than I have in months. Which may or may not be true, but it feels good in any case.

So… we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

The First Draft is a Slog

People often think that professional writers just sit down and start writing something that comes out fully formed. While a few writers may do this, most do not. But even those of us who do not, can get caught up in that lie again if we’re not careful. I have been caught in it for several months now.

I think in part that’s because the experience of beginning a book is much different from that of rewriting one or finishing one. My favorite parts are rewriting and polishing. That stuff is for the most part easy. And fun, because it’s always fun to make something better. I can work fourteen hours a day on rewriting, editing, etc. And while sometimes there are those periods where I have to think about the problem, mostly the words suggest better words, the ideas, the characters themselves suggest improvements, and because you have so much of the work before you, the work itself is a partner in the effort.

In the beginning there is no “work” to partner with. I’m sure this seems obvious, but it isn’t always to me. I remember most the exhilaration of working with a draft already there, seeing how things come together, seeing what isn’t needed, what needs to be added, refined. I’ve been expecting those feelings to manifest themselves now, when that’s not at all what it’s like for me to write a first draft.

Basically, the first draft is a slog. That’s the only way to describe it. I have never been able to breeze through a first draft, just writing willy nilly, come what may. Because usually that just sends me off a cliff, where suddenly words fail me, and I have no idea where I’m going any more. Not only that, the whole direction I was moving in now bores me and I can’t bear to write another word in that direction. I did that with a draft of The Light of Eidon. Wrote 100 pages of stuff that had to be axed in entirety.

So I do it for a bit, usually very roughly, then have to go back and see what I wrote. See if I can make some sense out of it, get a direction out of it, at the very least make it coherent. That part, not surprisingly, I like better than the first part. I think there is also an aspect of memorization involved… I go over and over things and get the events, the world, the people imprinted more strongly on my mind, so that when I start the next bit, I’m not wondering if I chose A or B in the last chapter and what kind of goals and reactions would be reasonable for Character C.

Granted if I had an outline, this wouldn’t be so necessary, but I can’t write one until I’m a little further into the book. There’s the element of “what I really want to write” that plays in, as well. So, if this sounds confusing and ineffecient… it is! It’s why I don’t write a lot of books in a short period of time!

Aggressive Trust

Today I was back to being distracted and doing the avoidance thing in the morning. In an attempt to get myself going, I pulled a couple of old journals off my shelf, wondering if the earlier me might have advice for the later me. Did I really feel this negatively, and flat and blank about the other books I’ve written when I’ve been at this stage with them?

Answer:  yes.

Anyway, I picked one that began in February 2005 during the time I was working on a second draft of Shadow Over Kiriath.  I opened the book and on the very first page — the frontispiece  — I’d written the following:

“The Lord has told me, again and again to trust Him aggressively  and to wait for His solutions with CONFIDENT  EXPECTATION.

To trust Him to guide and to trust Him to come through — that I won’t be ashamed, nor will my enemies exult over me or ridicule me…

…the blankness and the deadness are good things — they call to mind the lesson of stepping back and letting

God reveal things in His PERFECT timing

WAIT

and let God Gather together the waters so that the dry land appears.

***

Sit back, relax, give God time to work in your life. Don’t enter into struggle, condemnation and bondage trying to change yourself. Most Believers have a hard time realizing/accepting that God does not hurry in His development of the Christian life.”

Nor does He necessarily hurry in His development of a book. In fact, as I considered today, I realized that releasing it slowly, releasing things at a very rudimentary, incomplete level, when the story doesn’t seem very good, is definitely a lesson in trusting Him. If it came out great the first time through, there’d be no need to trust and I would unquestionably develop a fat head. Instead, if it comes out ragged, full of holes, wandering around, limpid characters having lengthy discussions about inconsequential matters — all words I need to tell myself the story, even if they aren’t words that will survive to the final draft — it forces me to trust Him. It forces me to have patience, not seeing, and to trust that He will indeed make all things, even this, beautiful in its time.

And having learned that, somehow, in fits and starts, I worked my way through the rest of chapter 1 to page 21.

Another Five Pages

I seem to finally be getting into the swing of things writingwise!  Today I progressed another five pages through chapter 1 (and really that’s chapter 2 because I already have a prologue completed).  I’m back to writing long chapters. Supposedly thrillers like The Enclave have a convention of short chapters (about 15 pages or less), but I don’t by nature write short chapters. Especially not when I’m starting out. This chapter is currently 26 pages long, but I expect that will end up a bit shorter. My comfortable range is around 20 pages per chapter.

I also rediscovered my research books today! Not that they were hidden. They’ve been sitting on shelves in my office and in my bedroom in plain sight all the time. But today it  suddenly occurred to me to take them off the shelves and look inside!

Whoa!  Inspiration on every hand. And I’m not even reading in earnest, just skimming, stopping to read whatever catches my eye. Very fun. One book, called “As the Romans Did” actually has recipes! And actual invitations in which the proposed fare for the dinner party is laid out as an incentive to accept, or in one case, punishment for having accepted the invitation and not showing up:

So! You promise to come to dinner, and then you don’t come!  You will be tried and fined the full cost of the dinner, and not a penny less. My kitchen staff had prepared one head of letuce for each of us, three snails and two eggs each, barley soup along with mead and snow (you’ll pay for the snow first, although it melted right in the dish), olives, beets, cucumbers, onions and a thousand other items no less sumptuous.”

I also, before starting any of it, went outside with Quigley in the midmorning (now that it’s cool enough to do so) and sat on a bench in the shade in our backyard and just drank in the quietness, the peace, the trees and the birds and the grass. It was wonderful. I also wrote a bit in my journal, until suddenly I was moved to come inside and get going.

The important thing now is to keep it going. I think part of the problems I’ve had in all this is that I kept getting interrupted by one thing or another. I’d have a day or two of work, then suddenly events would intrude and I’d not be able to pay any attention to the book. Usually another day like that would follow. And then I’d have lost the momentum and want to do anything but go and start to write again. I feel differently today.

Hopefully tomorrow I can continue this run. As things stand now, it looks as if I can since I don’t have any big plans… but as I know far too well, plans can change in an instant. I also know, though, that my times are in God’s hands and if He wants me to get this book written He’s going to have to at least give me the opportunity to do it, even if I don’t take advantage of it. My intent today and hereafter is to make sure if the opportunity is there that I DO take advantage!

Unrealistic Expectation

Well, it’s been two days since I resolved to be more disciplined and dedicated to getting to work writing “on time.” And both days there were, indeed, problems. Yesterday my husband unexpectedly decided to stay home from work so he could drive to Phoenix to look for  a new car since he’s not been able to find any that he wants here. Before he left there was a strange discombobulation during the making of breakfast, during which I burned the waffles and my bacon fell on the floor right in front of Quigley’s dish — while he was eating!

Needless to say, the bacon disappeared in a heartbeat.

Anyway, after that weirdness, DH took a nap, then left for Phoenix. The original plan was that if he found a car to his liking, he’d buy it, drive it home and then I’d drive him back to Phoenix to pick up the rental he has been driving. That’s a drive of about three hours round trip, if the traffic isn’t terrible, but I was not wanting to do it.  Not only would it be exhausting in itself, but I’d be out of it for probably two days and who knew if I’d be able to make myself report for duty in the office. And even if I did, would I be able to do anything writing-wise in my tired state?

And here I’d just resolved to make writing a priority.

As it turned out, he was able to leave the rental at the Enterprise branch in Phoenix and we didn’t have to make the second drive, which was an answer to prayer — a very specific answer because what I’d asked was that wherever my hubby found the car he wanted could there please be an Enterprise branch nearby? And that is exactly what happened. Only it wasn’t just nearby, it was part of the dealership! He just left the rental right there.

Thank you, Lord!

So, not only was there a cool answer to prayer, the whole situation only made it clearer that it’s time to get back to work and in that strengthened my resolve further.

So this morning I was focused on getting to my desk by 9am. There were to be no distractions today, no reason for everything not to go smoothly, I wasn’t even going to have to fix breakfast because my husband had brought home a sticky bun from his Phoenix adventures and I already had coffee in the refrigerator from yesterday. So I rolled through my morning routine, and was excited to get ALL of it done by 8:40, got out the sticky bun, went to get out the coffee…

Where was it? Not in the refrigerator, though I looked twice. How could it not be there? Where was it? And then it dawned on me… the freezer?

I would have put it there yesterday when I first made it because that’s what I do to get it cooled off quickly. But yesterday, remember, there was that weird discombobulation and in the midst of all the chaos, I didn’t put the coffee in the refrigerator, as I was supposed to,  I put it back in the freezer. So it was frozen solid!

I spent about twenty minutes trying to get it thawed  (couldn’t put it in the microwave because I’d have broken the Pyrex pitcher it was in). Thus the Kingdom of Darkness got in two hits for the price of one with that business in the kitchen yesterday.

In the past I would have reacted, gotten frustrated, given up… but today I put all that aside and told myself I had to just keep trying. It probably was never going to be perfect but as long as I keep trying and keep getting to the desk even if it is half an hour late, that’s all I can ask.  That’s kind of a paraphrase of some of the things Flylady says…  “Housework done imperfectly still blesses your family.”  “Babysteps.” “Your house didn’t get trashed in a day, it’s not going to get fixed in a day.”

It all boils down to perfectionism and unrealistic expectations. Those really need to be ditched. They’re arrogant and unreasonable and really just sap the joy out of life. Rarely will we do anything truly perfect, thus to expect it, or worse demand it, is to guarantee we’ll be dissatisfied.

Besides, if we’ve believed in Christ we’re already perfect through His work on the Cross and there’s not one thing we can do to make ourselves one bit more holy and righteous than He’s already made us. Plus we have an enemy as I mentioned last post. So things are mostly not going to go smoothly, no matter how hard we try for perfection.

A better approach is to just get over the imperfection of our efforts and move forward.

So I did. And I had a very good day. I have finally made a breakthrough on chapter one… cut the first 4 pages, brought the scene on page 5 to the fore and started through it. Things were clicking this morning. It was very cool.

Tomorrow I have no obvious distractions on the calendar, but I’m not going to make any predictions about what will happen. Only that I’m more determined than ever to make writing a priority.