Hey Writer—Highs, Lows, and the Everyday Flow

The Highs, Lows, and Everday Flows, jjhoweHey, Writer! I’ve got a question for you: What is big in your mind? When you answer the first time, just assume you need to ask several times to go deeper and mine the nugget of truth waiting for you. I tossed out casual answers the first two times, but found the revealing, transforming stuff when I gave the question the time it deserved.

Answering the Question
My first answer was words and word count—those were big in my mind. A writer writes, so words are artfully crafted and tallied. Without words to count I couldn’t call myself a writer. Writing must be about the words.

On the heels of that was readers and platform. It only made sense the words must have fifteen minutes of fame in front of a reader. A writer writes for an audience; that means readers, and publishers want lots of them. It’s all about the platform, or so I thought.

My third go-round landed at message. The message soars on wings of words with the wind of a reader supporting it. The words need a guiding message to hem them in and give them significance. The reader can only understand the words in a message that connects to their mind, heart, or story. The message is large and in charge.

Then Gut-level Honesty…
When I quietly leaned into vulnerability, I had different answers, answers that changed like the weather or depended on the day.

The highs and lows registered as big. A writer can find the highest highs and the lowest lows overwhelming.

This post went viral! Viral? That’s crazy-awesome. I wrote that. I’m crazy-awesome. I can’t wait to get the next installment published!

Four thousand words today? Amazing! I wrote every one of ’em. I’m so proud. I’m amazing!

Brian says my message matters. My message matters. My message matters. My message matters! My message matters! I’m on it!

The last post went viral.  *Checks stats for the 20th time.*  Zero views? Zero? I am nothing!

A negative word count? How does that happen? Another week of this, and I quit! I suck.

Who would read this? Nothing new under the sun, they say. Why bleed on the page if it’s already been said? This is pointless. It’ll never see the light of day.

Oof! Highs and lows could kill a writer. I know them because I’ve been there and done that. I can laugh (now) because I’ve seen the other side of every high and low. Neither lasts forever, and a writer does well to remember that. Enjoy the highs and know most of us don’t live in them. Guard your heart in the lows—and know most of us don’t live in them forever either.

Keep writing on the roller coaster of the writing life. Whatever you do, don’t let a snapshot along the way define your journey. I’ve found I’m not always applauded or amazing, and I’m not always a nobody writing nothing. Be encouraged! It’s a journey with lots of learning along the way.

The Everyday Flow
As a writer generates content, sometimes the words that flow reflect the big things in life. What’s big in your life? Is it the highlight reel of your everyday life (like most Facebook statuses)? Is it the lowlights that have been endlessly chasing you? When a writer captures the everyday flow of life, it can land in the carefully constructed positive perspective or the negative one.

Writer, may I challenge you? The highlight reel is fun. The lowlight reel is tough. If we major on one or the other, we have reel life, not real life. Life ebbs and flows; we move from one moment to another. We can write life authentically including ourselves in the scenes, but it takes some effort to avoid landing in a single reel of life. A reader may like reading about the ordinary, the mundane, the good-bad-and-ugly of it all. The same reader, sensing an unrealistic, plastic life, may decline to engage. Or, sensing there is no joy to be found, may choose to find some elsewhere.

What if a writer chose to describe real life, rather than reel life? It might be interesting for your reader to know there are highs, lows, and everyday flows. Keep things real and in proportion. Give it a shot!

Hey writer, what do you think? Do your emotions ride the highs and lows? Do you write about the reel life or real life? I’m curious. Share away!

~Jennifer

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Hey Writer, Mind the Margin

Speed. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? A drawn-out sigh escapes when the laptop takes longer than a few seconds to boot. Four minutes is forever when the microwave turntable holds a potato. Red lights are always too long as we hustle from one thing to another in our booked-solid schedule. Once upon a time the drive was precious thinking time—creative, playful, plot twist and storyline exploration time—it’s nothing like it was. Rush hour traffic stole it all away, then the rush hours’ intensity and anxiety bled into every part of the day.

Wait. No, really—wait.

The writer’s mind should be tended, cared for with gentleness and respect. Honestly, this is for writers, but it’s not just about writers. Don’t we all find our RPMs too high every so often, or too often? There’s noticeable wobble happening at a certain point. (Don’t make me out to be a liar. You experience this too, right?)

It starts innocently enough. Where did I leave that _______? Why am I in this room? (I was looking for something.) Ooops! I really meant to be there, but I never got the meeting into my calendar. The deadline is when? You get the picture. My though process gets loose and disorganized; and forgetfulness begins to sprawl, affecting more and more brain cells. When I notice these things, it’s time to take the early warning signs seriously.

Additionally, I find the important, scheduled things in my days are dismissed or overlooked altogether. I have a favorite morning practice that feeds my mind and soul. When I see I’m rushing off without some quiet, focused time in the morning, that’s a  serious sign that I’m living too fast.

Writers are mindful of the margin because there are guidelines for assignments, papers, projects, and contest and publishing submissions. The white space is not only necessary but also clearly directed. The reader’s eye and writer’s mind need white spacend the writer gives the margin a close look when red ink feedback is found there.10 2018 Margin jjhowe

Back to the white space in life. The mind needs margin rest. We like to think we can be high-capacity people with off-the-charts productivity. While hard work is necessary and even recommended six days of the week, rest is critical. I even press for something a little more gentle—white space within the day for your mental, physical, and spiritual well being.

The care and feeding of the mind and soul of a writer should include white space in life. That slow (read: boring) time in the schedule allows for creativity not found in frenetic activity. It feeds the mind, and that feeds the theme paper, creative project, or good words a writer hopes for.

More importantly, the writer’s soul needs tending. The good words flow from the soul that is rested, fed, and well-loved. The writer who leans into the emotional state to create needs a stable soul to share the vital message or story that resides deep inside. To share significant, meaningful content, the writer must have significant, meaningful “stuff” inside. That, my friend, comes from reading and thinking and precious relationships.

In my life that comes from reading life-changing, truth-filled words in my Bible, thinking about how I live my life differently because I read that, and talking about the truths with God and good friends. That fills my soul! I wonder what fills yours.

I hope this helps you begin to plan the margin, the beautiful white space, in your schedule. I’m betting, if it’s not planned, you’ll never fit it in. Nature and schedules abhor a vacuum.

Feeling bold? Share how you plan to adjust your margin below. This could be really helpful for those who struggle to know how to make a schedule that feeds and cares for the body, mind, and soul.

Thanks for reading!

~Jennifer

My One Word: Diligence

Some years I have taken the time to select a word I want to delve into a bit more. I want to grow personally, and having a word for the year has proven to bring my mind back to the “theme” fairly often in that year. Last year, I tried to spend time thinking about what life might look like with a heart of humility. This year I’ve settled on diligence.

I’ve got to be completely honest. This year’s word feels more challenging than the last. You see, I have a creative mind, and one of the beauties of that creativity is it’s paired with a “lively mental nature” (read: a wee bit of a focus and follow through problem). Some call it the “Oooooh, shiny!” part of life. Others call it the “Squirrel!” life.

If you’ve followed along, you know I’ve got projects going behind the scenes. I’m beginning the year with a speaking-teaching engagement mid-January. I have the honor of writing at a beautiful collaborative site with my friends (facetsoffaith.com). The writing ideas I have for my own blog clamor for attention. A little draft of an ebook waits in the wings closer to finished than I want to admit (admitting how close it is would probably mean it should’ve been done by now). I have another deeply-personal behemoth of a project that cries for attention (this one’s like eating an elephant one bite at a time). I’m negotiating another large editing project (that I’m really excited about!). I’ve been developing some new online educational course content in the Moodle-Collaborate environment (more slowly than I’d really like). My son needs to finish high school coursework. And then there’s this other little thing I wonder if my husband and I will pursue in the future.

*D-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-eep breath!*

Truthfully, I’m a little overwhelmed at that paragraph up there. I think my heart rate just quickened by 15 bpm. Those are just the spinning plates that I know about right now. As 2018 rolls along new ideas, projects, and responsibilities will appear on the horizon more than a few times.

I think that’s why my word is diligence.

Sometimes I’d like to have more hours in the day. Isn’t that what most of us would say? What I think I really need is better use of the time in a day. I don’t know if this is true for you, but I’m a little surprised every time I tally my time. I don’t really want to know how much time I’m using on social media, but I need to be honest about it. I don’t really want to count the time spent on Celebrities: Where are They Now? and Royal Family Members Doing Royal Things and Dogs Doing Dog Things slideshows. (I’m not the only one that gets sucked in by those clicks, right?) And so—I thought diligence would be a great focus this year!

I took the time to create a “reminder” for me in my social media accounts. I’m pretty sure this is about the same as a sticky note. What do you think?

2018 TW Diligence

When distraction comes knocking, I’ll be the one refusing to answer the door! I’ll be trying different things to streamline my focus (by eliminating any distractions I can manage).

Do you take the time to select a word for the year? If so, I’d love to know what yours is. Share away!

~jennifer

Hidden Gems in Unlikely Places

If we sat down for coffee and got to know one another, you’d learn something about me very quickly. I love a bargain when I can get one. Much to my husband’s chagrin, this leads to rifling through the racks, stacks, and shelves at my favorite spot: the thrift store. (Somebody tell me I’m not alone!)

And if we shopped together, at some point you’d see me moving at a snail’s pace by the book shelves. Treasures are just waiting to be found on those shelves, I’m convinced. I’ve found wonderful reads for a buck or two, and since writers read, I’ve got a good excuse to peruse the shelves very carefully.

As it happened, my last trip ended as most do—with a book shelf “crawl”—and a book caught my attention. The title was interesting, but then a cute little card boasting an adorable kitten and puppy photo op fell from the inside and drifted to the floor. Filling the inside and spilling to the back was a personal note from one woman to another. And yes, you guessed it. I chose to eavesdrop on the half of the conversation that had been passed along. (You would have done it, too, right?)

I immediately knew I wanted to take the book and the card home with me. I purchased a book I will definitely read, but I really purchased the beautiful, cursive encouragement that overflowed the card. It was perfect for me to read, and I was a little thankful the woman who first received it lost track of it. Then I thought, “Maybe this is something I could share…” 

We are stepping into an example of correspondence the way it used to be. So, from my anonymous friend to you all—puppy20kitten20card_zpsyws0ztte

Dear [friend]:

I am praying God will show you how to have victory in your present family conflicts + show you how to be an overcomer, even if no one else changes.

Remember [in] Eph 6:12, that these are spiritual battles + they will not be mastered by fleshly means. Also your victory or progress in the Lord is not dependent on what others do.

In Matt 6:33 we are told to seek first the Kingdom of God + its righteousness + all the rest we need will be given.

We know we cannot force people to fulfill our ideas of right + wrong. We can only hope to influence them by our Godly example + let God do the rest. I found the scripture I was mentioning to you the other day—I think it is God’s way for us to have influence, in your particular case Godly. I read it in the amplified Bible + it reads as follows

1 Pet 3:1
“In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands, subordinate yourselves as being secondary to + dependent on them, + adapt yourselves to them so that even if any do not obey the word, they may be won over, not by discussion but by godly lives of their wives.”

But of course all people have free will so we are not sure of any outcome but I think God’s advice for any problem will be the best chance for a victory.

I pray for you + your family always for Godly wisdom to know how best to deal with all situations we find our self in. But take heart in what God will do for you as you keep working on the person he wants you to be no matter what others around you are doing
(over)

Because in the end God knows the only person we can control is ourself + that is the one we will be accountable for some day. In the meantime have faith that God will do his work in others lives also—doing all He can to bring them to a sanctified end.

Love,
R

So here we all sit, eavesdropping on the conversation between two women, and I want to imagine what their friendship looks like in real life. Do they sit at a kitchen table with tea or coffee? Maybe they stand in the lobby chatting just a little longer than the rest of the busy people shuffling in and out on a Sunday. Are they joined in heart and separated by generations?

We’ll never know, but I love the idea of imagining these two women doing life together. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all part of the package. Sitting patiently with one another during tough times is the real deal. Tears and a box of kleenex seems to be woven into this season of friendship between these two women. Providing encouragement and tangible resources is, too. One lends hope to the other with her words. I love that!

I said we needed to find our tribe in a previous post, and we sure do. But we need to find our real friends, too, whether they are part of our “creative clique” or not. More importantly, I wonder if it’s not crucial for us to find someone near us and pass the tissues to her when she needs them….

What do you think about this little half-conversation we’ve overheard in this card? I’m curious to hear what you think.

Thanks for reading!

~j