THE IMPORTANCE OF DOWNTIME

DowntimeThis post first appeared on Janet Sketchley’s blog, Tenacity, on April 29, 2016

I’m filling in for our church administrator while she’s on maternity leave. For 30 hours each week, I can’t work uninterrupted on writing or editing. I can’t tend to my volunteer responsibilities. I can’t work around the house—Wait! Scratch that. That wouldn’t be how I spent the majority of those 30 hours anyway.

Since coming to work at the church mid-February—which, for the most part, I really enjoy, by the way—I’ve been somewhat overwhelmed by my To Do list. Granted, the Lord had previously been teaching me how to focus on the Now (this very moment), but until recently, it hadn’t been an undeniably necessity for my mental wellbeing.

MAKE A LIST … AND CHECK IT TWICE

I’ve been a list-maker for as long as I can remember, but these days, I guarantee if I don’t write something down, it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to happen. In the past I haven’t cared if I put too much on my list. I would just move it to the next day. But no more! I have to be realistic about what I can accomplish, especially between 3:00 and 11:00/12:00 at night.

It didn’t take me long to realize there was no way I could keep up the frantic pace without paying a high price. In fact, I became short-tempered with friends and family members if they even suggested I take on something else—even something simple. Beyond that, I found myself annoyed for no apparent reason. Not good.

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO TAKE DOWNTIME

Slowly, I began to give myself permission to take time away from my responsibilities to regroup. I would watch a movie with my hubby, play a game of Scrabble (which I won, by the way), even go away for a sisters’ weekend with NO computer access. Woohoo!

And beyond any of that, I was so busy doing good things that I was neglecting the best thing: time with God. I have slowly begun to again study the Word for the exclusive purpose of drawing closer to the Lord. I still need to devote more time to prayer, but that will come.

And while I was driving the two-and-a-half hours to my sister’s, I popped in a couple of new contemporary Christian music worship DVDs, refused to watch the clock, and simply worshiped all the way there. It was glorious.

PLAN A GETAWAY

This weekend, my writers’ group, which has been meeting for over a decade, is going on our first ever writers’ retreat. That designation is valid because we are all writers. However, from what I’ve heard from the other ladies, it would be better to call it a writing-reading-crafting-napping-walking on the beach retreat. In other words, we all need downtime. I’m sure we will accomplish a lot of writing, but I don’t think that will be the most important aspect of the weekend.

As some of you know, I am an extrovert—on steroids (figuratively speaking). I have found myself desperately needing uninterrupted alone / quiet time. So not me! I am actually hoping we have a No Chat policy for certain hours of the day while on our retreat. I just want to focus on my reading and my writing. I know if I’m not deliberate about this, I’ll chat far too much.

So how about you? What do you do to get refreshed?

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Off to Camp

NostalgiaI’m going to camp in April . . . Camp NaNoWriMo that is.

While NaNoWriMo participants are expected to write 50,000+ words during the month of November, campers get to set their own word count goal. This year my aim is to write 15,000 words in April. Despite my crazy busy schedule, I believe this is a doable goal.

It will help greatly that my writers’ group, Women Writing for Christ, is heading to a cottage for three days at the end of April. Although we’ve been meeting regularly for over a decade, this will be our first writers’ retreat . . . and it’s going to be a.ma.zing!

There are many advantages of signing up for Camp NaNo. Here are just a few of them:

  1. Regular encouragement from those who run the challenge
  2. The energy that comes from participating in a writing community
  3. Decreased inclination to put off writing (After all, you have a word count goal to hit.)
  4. Progress made visible (Camp NaNo uses a picture of an archery target. The arrow moves closer to the middle every time you enter your word count. Plus, they use graphs as well.)
  5. The option of joining a virtual cabin (Share encouragement and virtual s’mores with cabin mates of your choosing or the camp directors’.)
  6. Make new friends—and perhaps connect with new readers for your work
  7. Discover new favorite writers
  8. Hang out with fellow campers on social media sites
  9. Participate in live “write-ins” for an even more tangible sense of community
  10. A “button” to display on your blog
  11. Camp NaNoWriMo merchandise (Though purchasing merchandise isn’t mandatory, it helps keep the challenge going year after year.)
  12. Challenge yourself and encourage your fellow writers to do the same

So . . . will I be seeing you at camp in April? Why not sign up today?

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Are You Taking On Too Much?

Business Man RunningThis post first appeared on Janet Sketchley’s blog on Friday, February 26, 2016.

I usually have my post to Janet well ahead of the deadline, but not this month. In fact, I needed a nudge—even though I had a reminder in my day planner. Sometimes that just isn’t enough.

I have recently started covering for our church administrator while she’s on maternity leave. I enjoy the job, but it does leave me scrambling because of the other responsibilities I am also juggling.

This post may very well be a case of “do what I say, not what I do,” but here goes.

Just how can we determine if we should take on any given task? Here are six ways you may want to consider the next time someone asks, “Oh, could you . . .”

Pray About It

If you’re a Christian this may seem self-evident, but how many times do we take on something without asking the Lord for wisdom? We can’t do all the things that are asked of us—not even all the good things.

Evaluate the Task

How long will it take? Does it fit naturally into our schedule? Will we have to set aside something that should remain a priority? Will it hinder our ability to fulfill our current tasks effectively? Will it steal the downtime that is crucial to our mental and emotional well-being?

Give Something Up

I once heard a speaker say she never took on a new task without setting aside one she was already doing. Talk about self-control! I can’t see myself doing this—at least not yet.

Remember . . . No Is Not a Bad Word

Some of us have difficulty saying no when we’re asked to do something. We don’t want to let the other person down. We don’t want to miss an opportunity God has for us. This is another key reason we need to pray before we take on a task. God promises to give wisdom to those who ask. Plus, He will give us the ability to graciously decline if that’s what’s necessary. We must remember, too, that it is His responsibility to deal with how the other person responds. We shouldn’t buckle under pressure if we are confident God has not called us to a specific task—at least not at this time.

Consult Your Spouse or a Trusted Friend

If it’s going to put a strain on the relationship with our spouse, it’s likely best to beg off. I have such an easygoing hubby sometimes I don’t think to ask him what he things of such and such a decision. He is always gracious and never makes me feel bad about making up my own mind, but I really should keep him in the loop . . . and not always after the fact. And whether we’re married or not, a trusted friend can often give us a perspective we can’t see because we’re just too close to the situation.

Finally . . . Pray Some More

Sometimes we take on something and it’s good for a season, but we just keep doing it even after that season is over. Praying over our schedule regularly is a good habit to get into. As I’ve often said, no matter how much I love my lists, the only To Do list that really matters is the one God has prepared for me. And the only way to discover what’s on that list is to dig into His Word and pray—lots!

So . . . are you taking on too much? Why not review these pointers and make changes to your To Do list as needed. I just may have to do the same.

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Broaden Your Reading Horizons

bookstore2_squareAre all the books in your To Be Read pile in the same genre or on the same topic? I encourage you to read across a wide range. It’s amazing where we, as writers, find inspiration. At times, we even learn what not to do by reading something that has been published.

As you likely know, I’m eclectically interested. The same holds true of what I like to read.

Currently, I am actively reading a dozen books. (I know, I know . . . I’m kind of crazy that way.)

And speaking of crazy, the first book I’ll mention is Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. We’re reading this for our small group study at church. I was thrilled to find four of Chan’s books on Kindle for the price of one.

What happens when God gets hold of a former gang member and white supremacist? Well, He just may pave the way for said individual to visit the death camps in Germany and the poverty stricken in Africa. Mind-boggling! Is there anything too difficult for the Lord? You can read answers to these and other questions in Michael Bull Roberts’ Beyond the Hate.

I rarely pre-order a book, but this one I did. If you write for the CBA (and even if you don’t), you may recognize some of the contributing authors to Writing Success: among them, Karen Ball, James Scott Bell, Mary DeMuth, Tricia Goyer, and Susan May Warren. This book overflows with invaluable information for novice and experienced writers alike.

With my 2016 fitness goals in mind, I’m working my way through Fit for Faith by Kimberley Payne. Payne includes basic info, workouts, exercise descriptions, charts for the reader to fill out, and more.

Humble, Hungry, Hustle by Brad Lomenick is the most unique leadership book I’ve ever read. I admit when I think of books in this category, I think “dry.” This book blows that preconceived notion out of the water. I’m really enjoying it.

Do I say yes too often. <averts eyes and hums> The Best Yes by Lysa TerKuerst helps readers consider why they say yes when they shouldn’t. It equips them to say no in order to prepare for “the best yes.” The author is authentic and genuine and uses examples from her own life. I love that. I highly recommend this book as well.

Although my worldview is far different from the author’s, I am reading Wild Women, Wild Voices by Judy Reeves for an online book club and it challenges me to consider how to express my individuality on the page. And it’s never a bad thing to learn to respectfully express one’s differences of opinions. If we don’t allow emotion to rule the day, we can gain a lot from an insightful debate.

Andrew Gillmore is the son of longtime family friends. I was thrilled to offer him encouragement about publishing his first book. (It turns out he has it pretty much figured out. His book, The Red Fish Project, is quickly rising through the ranks on Amazon.) This is an honest look at living abroad. If you’re offended by certain topics and the occasional use of “colorful language,” you may not want to read The Red Fish Project. But I’m finding it extremely insightful.

My reading list also includes several novels.

During a recent trip to my local library, I found Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s book Between the Lines. It’s unique. It’s fabulous. It’s delightful. Can you tell I like this YA novel about fairy tale characters whose lives are completely different when the book is closed? There’s a second book in the series too. I must add it to my 2016 To Be Read list.

Do you fear the day when gathering with other Christians means you’re breaking the law? When you may be accused of crimes you didn’t commit? When you may be hauled off for interrogation? Sara Davison does a wonderful job in her book The End Begins of revealing what things could be like, all the while offering hope through a spunky protagonist who is not afraid to speak her mind.

Have you ever started watching a movie you didn’t really want to keep watching but you couldn’t help it? Yeah, that’s this book, Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker. It’s as if I’m trapped in the psych ward with the main characters. I feel desperate and claustrophobic just thinking about it. But that’s probably a good thing. Talk about being drawn into the story!

From the beginning I knew The Language of Sparrows by Rachel Phifer was going to be unique. It drew me in. This is one of those books that makes me think, “I wish I had more time to read.” How can a mother help when her daughter doesn’t fit in? When she fears her daughter has inherited her late husband’s mental health issues? When her daughter begins to spend time with a solitary older man?

My 2016 list keeps growing and growing. As the saying goes, “So many books, so little time.”

What’s on your To Be Read list? (That may be a loaded question. It just may make my list far longer.)

Happy Reading

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Achieve Your Writing Resolutions

lightstock_150776_medium_user_6214500Here are four writing goals and six suggestions to achieve each:

Make Writing a Regular Part of the Day

  1. Set aside specific time each day to write and place it in your planner. Keep your appointment as you would any other.
  2. Write even when you don’t feel like it. The point is to write every day, not necessarily write well every day. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
  3. Explain to your family and friends that writing is important to you and ask them to be considerate of your scheduled writing time. They may or may not understand, but hopefully they’ll respect your decision.
  4. Develop a ritual for your writing time. Perhaps you need a cup of your favorite beverage at hand. Maybe you want to begin your session by reading an inspiration quote or writing prompt. Maybe you want to have music playing. When you discover what works for you, stick with it.
  5. If you’re working on a longer piece, you may find it helpful to go back and read a few paragraphs from the day before. This can serve as a springboard for your new writing. Resist the temptation to use writing time as editing time. You’ll have time to polish your work after your get the first draft together.
  6. If you miss a day or two, forgive yourself. If you need to tweak your schedule, do so. But don’t give up on the idea of writing every day—or as many days each week as is reasonable for you.

Develop Writing Skills

  1. Follow skills development blogs and YouTube channels.
  2. Treat yourself to a new skills development book.
  3. Connect with other writers via social media and exchange information about what you’re learning.
  4. Consider attending a one-day workshop or writers’ conference this year.
  5. Remember to incorporate what you’re learning as you go.
  6. Crazy as it sounds, just write. Usually the more we write, the better at it we get.

Blog Regularly

  1. Zero in on your target audience. If you try to write for too broad an audience, it’s unlikely to “hit home” for anyone.
  2. Sign up with a blog host if you haven’t already. (I’m a huge fan of WordPress.) Purchase [your name] [dot] com from a company such as namecheap [dot] com (It’s easier for people to find you online if you use your own name. Because stephanienickel [dot] com was taken, I write as Steph Beth Nickel.) You can always have a clever tagline to let visitors know what your site is all about.
  3. Decide on an achievable goal. When I began blogging, I posted daily, but I am no longer able to do so. Now I post three times per week on my blog and once per week on my website. (I pulled eight blogs together at stephseclecticinterests [dot] wordpress [dot] com before starting stephbethnickel [dot] com)
  4. Create a backlog of posts so new material “goes live” on schedule even if you don’t have time to write any given week. The most important thing is to show up consistently. (I’ve come to love the “schedule” feature of WordPress and other blogging hosts.) Otherwise, it’s difficult to reach new readers and keep your current readers engaged.
  5. Consider inviting guest bloggers to post on your site from time to time. Of course, it’s important to approach bloggers who write for your target audience. It’s also important to approach those who will benefit from reaching out to your audience. For example, if you have 500 followers, it’s best not to approach a blogger with tens of thousands of followers.
  6. Study other blogs. Develop your skills. Then offer to write guest posts for other bloggers. If they turn down your offer, graciously accept their decision and approach someone else.

Get Published in 2016

  1. Write, polish, and self-edit your piece / book. Test it out on critique partners and / or beta readers. Get it professionally edited and proofread. You want to have something that is ready to share with readers.
  2. Consider getting an agent if you have written a novel or book-length nonfiction work. This can be a long, arduous process, but if you have completed the suggestions in #1, it will be more likely. Be very careful to thoroughly research the agent(s) you want to contact. If they require payment before they sell your work to a publisher, run don’t walk in the opposite direction. Reputable agents get paid when you get paid.
  3. Put together a detailed book proposal to interest potential agents and / or publishers.
  4. Research potential publishers. If you are going to approach publishers without an agent, you must know if they accept direct contact from the author (unsolicited submissions) and exactly what they publish. It makes no sense to approach a children’s publishing house with your inspirational historical novel for adults for example.
  5. If you’re considering self-publishing, a great option for shorter works—even for full-length works if you have a fairly extensive following, you will want to do your research. There are countless considerations, including the financial aspects when publishing with a company based in a different country.
  6. And one of the most important aspects of any worthwhile endeavor: Be persistent. Rejection is part of the process. If you want to write, produce the best work you can and, as the proverb goes, get up more often than you are knocked down.

We’d love to hear about your writing resolutions for 2016.

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

12 Ways to Make the Write Resolution

The New Year is rapidly approaching and many of us will soon be setting our goals (aka resolutions) for 2016. Where is writing on your list? If you are reading this post, it’s likely close to the top.

Here are a dozen writing and writing-related goals you may want to include and tips on how to do so:

  1. Be on the lookout for inspiration.

Some people record ideas, snippets of conversation, random words and phrases, etc. in a notebook or on their electronic device. Make it a habit to do so. Don’t simply trust your memory; it’s amazing how quickly “that perfect idea” can vanish.

  1. Set up your writer’s nook.

What do you need around you when you write? Pictures of your family? A shelf of skills development books? A cozy corner with a comfortable chair, your journal, and a stash of gel pens? A clutter-free desk with only your laptop and a cup of your favorite beverage? The busyness of a crowded coffee shop? Create your perfect space and if at all possible, don’t do anything besides writing and writing-related tasks there.

  1. Enlist your support system.

If others take your writing seriously, you are more likely to as well. Explain to your family that you are going to set aside time every day (at least Monday through Friday) to write. Ask them to give you your space, only interrupting if it’s something that legitimately can’t wait. And from your end of things, don’t answer emails, the telephone, or the door during your writing time.

  1. Write every day.

Set aside a specific time every day to write and record the time in your planner and / or set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you—at least until it’s a habit.

  1. Set a specific writing goal.

Do you want to write a new blog post each week? A short ebook or novella for publication online every two to six months? A full-length novel or nonfiction book for print within the year? Break each task into bite-sized pieces and set deadlines for each piece.

  1. Read skills development books.

Read up-to-date books on general writing topics and on specifics that are of interest to you. You may want to read a new book every month or two. For most of us, that would be an achievable goal. Don’t forget to incorporate the skills you are reading about into your work.

  1. Read other books as well.

It’s amazing what you can learn about good writing just by reading a variety of books in a variety of genres. Read with a notebook on hand so you can record words / phrases / sentences that appeal to you. Jot down thoughts about what makes the writing amazing—or terrible. Learning opportunities are all around us.

  1. Enter writing contests regularly.

Entering contests is a great skills development exercise—even if you never win. You learn about writing with specific guidelines in mind. You learn about submitting on a deadline. There are countless contests you can research online. Just a word of caution . . . be sure that the contest sponsor is reputable.

  1. Join an online writing challenge.

I participate in OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month) and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) each year. In October I write 31 poems and in November I come up with 30 ideas for picture books. I often attend Camp NaNoWriMo once or twice a year but have never participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), though I would like to do so one of these years. You can learn about these and other challenges online. Just type “writing challenge” into your search engine and see what catches your attention.

  1. Attend a writers’ conference or one-day workshop.

From skills development to networking . . . from inspiration to feeling understood . . . there’s nothing quite like hanging out with other writers and industry pros. Don’t feel intimidated. No matter how far along the path, every writer has more to learn. And every writer was a newbie at some point.

  1. Join or start a writers’ group.

I had the privilege of being one of the original four members of Women Writing for Christ. Over a decade later, we still meet monthly (except in the winter) and share the adventure of writing. We each write in different genres and for different audiences, but it is a wonderful opportunity to encourage one another. It’s a highlight of my month.

  1. Be patient with yourself.

Remember it takes time to develop new habits. Add one or two new goals each month. It’s much easier than trying to incorporate everything all at once.

Have a Most Blessed Christmas and a New Year overflowing with rich and abundant blessings!

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

And the Award Goes to . . .

Stephanie Nickel and Deb Willows

Several years ago I connected with Paralympian Deb Willows. Deb had long wanted to write her story. She had written a number of shorter pieces, but an entire manuscript was just too much to type by mouth.

Deb had been praying that God would send along a Christian woman who could help her tell her story—and God chose to introduce us through a mutual friend. (And I learned about creative nonfiction through another friend.) Isn’t it amazing how the Lord works these things out?

When I met Deb, I was working as a personal trainer and didn’t have much time to devote to writing. When I asked her about a deadline, she said, “Anytime within the next ten years.” (Just a hint . . . it’s probably best not to give an author ten years to complete a project; she just might take you up on it.) While it didn’t take quite a decade to get from first draft to published book, it did take several years.

When Larry Willard of Castle Quay Books offered to publish Living Beyond My Circumstances, we were thrilled. After the typical back and forth and some unexpected delays, the book was released in January 2015.

When the shortlist came out for The Word Awards 2015, I admit I checked and double checked to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. But there it was: Deb’s memoir, which she insists on calling “our book,” under the Life Stories category. When we’d chat before the awards gala, she would tease me, saying, “It’s still there.”

Deb is a gem, definitely one of my heroes. To me, the friendship that developed is one of the greatest privileges of this whole project. And it was also a privilege to attend the gala with Deb, her folks, and two of her dear friends. As the saying goes, “It really was an honour just to be nominated.”

And it blew us away when we heard this excerpt, which meant we had won in our category:

“See what my daughter won?”

The patrons looked up from their Big Macs and McNuggets to see what all the fuss was about. We were in New York and earlier that day I’d set a world record swimming the 25m freestyle. My dad was grinning from ear to ear. And while my cheeks were burning, I was too. Even the cashier got in on the fun.

“Would it be okay if I took the medal to the kitchen so the rest of the staff can see it?”

“Sure,” I said.

When I’d graduated from high school, I prayed, “God, please don’t let me lead a boring life.” Was I in for an amazing adventure!

Deb has lived a remarkable life—and continues to do so. She considers cerebral palsy only “a slight setback.” She has been involved in many firsts and has had many dreams come true. Writing her memoirs and winning the award are the two most recent. Living Beyond My Circumstances is a book for anyone who wants to “go for the gold.”

And by the way, we are getting together at the end of October to discuss writing a follow-up book.

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

CES Dove Award Winners

DOVE AWARDSNearly eight months ago, CES team members Dixie Phillips and Sharon Phillips learned that the song they co-wrote, “Hidden Heroes,” had been nominated by the leaders of Absolutely Gospel as one of the Top Ten Songs of the Year! A few days ago, after much anticipation, they learned that not only had it been nominated as one of the top ten songs, but that it won 2015 Southern Gospel Song of the Year in the 46th Annual GMA Dove Awards! Congratulations, ladies!

Both Dixie and Sharon’s desire was that all the hidden heroes who diligently work behind the scenes to help others would be blessed and encouraged by the song. Dixie commented, “We do pray that our song raises awareness to the forgotten ones . . . the ‘hidden heroes’ of our society.”

“Hidden Heroes” was recorded by the Talleys. You may listen to it here.

Dixie has served on the CES team since its beginnings as an editor and writer. She is an award-winning children’s author. Sharon and Dixie have now teamed up to offer song writing and editing services to our clients. Read more.

31 Poems in 31 Days

by Stephanie Nickel, CES Ghostwriter/Editor/Coach

It’s October. Woohoo! That means it’s OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month). I participate each year and write 31 poems in 31 days.

Each day Morgan Dragonwillow adds a prompt that participants can use as a springboard. But it isn’t necessary; the important thing is to write any type of poem on any topic.

Not all participants are published poets, but we do enjoy expressing ourselves with only a handful of words.

If you would like to check it out, please do. If you would like to challenge yourself to write a poem a day, go for it!

Here is my poem from October 1:

Break Through the Clouds

Darkness

Thunder

Lightning

“Alone” in the airport

Waiting

Wondering

Hoping

On my way home

Boarding

Rising

Enveloped

Surrounded by the storm

Bleak

Black

Loud

And then it happens

Wondrous

Beautiful

Awesome

We break through the storm

Sunlight

Radiance

Brilliance

The sun dances on the clouds below

Joyfully

Gloriously

Amazingly

And the image is emblazoned on my mind

FOREVER

1015_10_steph_Clouds 3

Overcoming Distractions

by Stephanie Nickel, CES editor/writer,coach/critique specialist

Distracted Driver Word Red License Plate Texting Driving DangeroThere are times the “backside in chair, fingers on keyboard” approach is insufficient for a productive writing session. Sometimes the longer we stare at the blank screen, the more we want to throw up our hands and walk away.

So how do we know when we should walk away—for a time—and when we should persevere?

Let’s consider what’s distracting us.

Are there other tasks calling loudly?

If you work from home like I do, there is always something else you could be doing: the dishes, the laundry, redecorating the living room.

You may find it helpful to actually schedule writing time. Show up as you would to any other appointment and write. It doesn’t have to be great writing. It doesn’t even have to be good. Just write. Practice may not make perfect, but it will make better—much better.

Have we gotten enough sleep?

While it may seem almost hypocritical for me to be writing this post at nearly 11:00 at night, I am being more diligent about getting at least seven hours of sleep most nights. It’s far easier to think clearly and get our words on paper (or the computer screen) if we’re not distracted by the call of our pillow.

Are we hungry?

“Eating at our desk is not a good idea,” says she who just tossed the last few bites of a granola bar into the trash.

Setting specific times to walk away from our computer to eat a healthy meal or snack is good for far more reasons than I have room to write here.

I encourage you to “graze” throughout the day. Small, healthy meals will give you energy and help you think clearly. Plus, they won’t make you lethargic and sleepy like bigger meals can.

Have we gotten enough physical activity?

As a former personal trainer, I could give you a great long list of why we all need to exercise every day, but I’ll share just a few.

We can become distracted if our mind has a tendency to wander. We can become distracted if a writing project takes longer than we had hoped. We can become distracted if our muscles become stiff and achy from remaining in the same position too long.

Regular exercise helps us think more clearly and work more efficiently. It gives us more energy—physically and mentally. It also helps alleviate aches and pains. (Even if you have a chronic condition such as arthritis, I encourage you to check with your doctor to see what exercises they recommend to help minimize the pain.)

Regular fitness breaks throughout the day can be an excellent way to clear our mind and prepare us to get back at our writing.

Do we feel guilty for pursuing our desire to write?

There will always be dozens of other things we could be doing with our time, but if we really feel writing is something we’re meant to do, it is best to sit down with our family members and explain to them how important we believe it is. Why not work out a plan together that includes time for our writing?

Are we at a crucial point in our writing and not exactly sure how to proceed?

Instead of forging ahead, it may be best to do some brainstorming. Sometimes simply doing a freewriting session about the possible next step can help. But we may find it incredibly helpful to bounce ideas off either another writer or just someone who is good at listening. Often we stumble upon our own solution while we’re “rambling.”

Do we feel ill-prepared for the writing project we’ve taken on?

This can be a distraction from Day 1, one we really can’t ignore.

We must ask ourselves a series of questions: 1) Why did I take this on? 2) Do I know deep down that I can actually do this project? 3) Do I have the time to do it? 4) If there’s a deadline, is it reasonable? 5) Do I know where to find the resources I need to complete this project? 6) Can I gain the required skills and knowledge in the allotted timeframe?

I encourage you not to give up too soon, but if you realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, as the saying goes, speak to the person for whom you agreed to do the project and ask for either an extension or for them to find someone else.

I realize each situation is unique. These recommendations are only suggestions. Only you know if they’re applicable to your particular situation.