9 Ideas to Gain Writing Inspiration While on Vacation

cruise-6Are you going away this summer?

My husband and I are heading out west for two weeks. And while we’re away, I’m sure to accumulate lots of inspiration for my writing.

My plans to do so might inspire you as well.

Take a book—or two or three.

I recently purchased the third book in Sandra Orchard’s Serena Jones Mystery series. It is a lighthearted mystery that I’m saving for the flight.

I will also be taking my Kindle, overflowing with unread and partially read volumes. I won’t be able to hike all the time. (grin)

Reading a variety of styles inspires our own writing. It appears the most successful writers are also voracious readers.

Keep your eyes open.

Inspiration surrounds us every day. However, most of us are too busy rushing from one thing to the next to the next. A vacation is the perfect opportunity to pay attention to those things that aren’t even on our radar the rest of the year.

Take photos.

While photos and videos make great mementos, they also serve as prompts for new writing projects. I intend to take both my camera and the camcorder I’m just learning to use.

People watch.

While our surroundings are bound to give us ideas for the location of future stories, people watching is sure to give us ideas for characters to populate those stories.

Eavesdrop.

I’m not talking about straining to hear a clearly private conversation. But taking note of snippets of overheard conversation can fuel our imagination and enrich our written dialogue.

Take a deep breath.

Studies show that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory. Describing familiar scents in your writing gives you a closer link to your readers, something we all want.

Make note of the local cuisine.

Use it to flavor your writing. (Pun intended.)

Rejoice in setbacks.

Granted, most of us would prefer to live relatively conflict-free lives. However, conflict fuels story. With that in mind, try to view those inconveniences as fodder for your work.

Keep a notebook handy.

Of course, you may choose to use an app such as Evernote on your phone. Either way, don’t trust your memory to capture all those moments you don’t want to forget. Even a line or two can bring back the inspiration you felt.

These are only a handful of ideas. How do your travels inspire your writing?

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

How Camping Improves Your Writing

Camping

Ever imagined writing the first draft of your novel in 30 days?

That’s the whole premise behind NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. In November, writers from all over the globe sign up to write 50,000 words in a single month. And many of them are successful.

Although I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, I have attended Camp NaNo on a number of occasions. In fact, I’m in the midst of the July challenge now. Camp NaNo is a virtual experience that happens in April and July each year.

Unlike its namesake, Camp NaNoWriMo is not about writing 50,000 words—unless that’s the goal you set for yourself. Instead, you can choose from a few different goals: word count, time spent writing, etc. Plus, you’re free to write nonfiction if that’s what you’d prefer.

This month I’ve set a goal of 10,000 words. That should be easy to hit before July 20, when I head out on holidays with my hubby.

So why participate?

Productivity

As I’ve mentioned, campers set their individual goal. Your homepage included a target and an arrow. As you enter your word count, the number of minutes you’ve spent writing, or whatever measure you’re using, the arrow moves toward the 100 percent ring. It’s fun to watch it move every time you make a new entry. But not only is it fun, it also motivates you to keep at it.

Comradery

Writing can be lonely work. It’s just you and the screen (or the blank piece of paper). And if you’re one of the rare breed, as I am—an extrovert who writes—this community can provide some much needed human contact. Although it’s optional, I would encourage you to join a cabin. You can let the camp directors assign you to one or your friends can choose to camp together. The lady who is hosting my cabin this time round decided to create a Facebook group so we would get notified when one of us posts an update.

Inspiration

The Camp NaNo community is fun, it nurtures creativity and allows campers to be as social (or reclusive) as they choose. You can pop onto Twitter and join the word sprints (which is how I’m finishing this post). There are also write-ins you can participate in. If you’re stuck and don’t know what to write, the team suggests optional prompts to get those creative juices flowing.

Accountability

Whether you join a cabin and report on your progress or whether you simply watch the arrow on your target move toward the 100 percent ring, the process will give you a sense of accountability. I’m finding this kind of accountability is helping me achieve the goals I set out for myself in a few areas: weight loss, decluttering, and writing.

Plus, it’s just plain fun.

From word sprints on Twitter to hanging out with your cabinmates to watching the arrow move toward the 100 percent ring. All of these are optional, but they add to the whole camp atmosphere.

Participation is free, but you can contribute funds so the organizers can keep improving the Camp NaNo experience. Plus, there is camp-related merchandise to purchase. Because I live in Canada, it makes the cost of shipping prohibitive. But if you live in the US, you may want to check out the camp store.

If you’re participating in Camp NaNo or have done so in the past, I’d love to hear about your experience. And whether you “win” or not, you’ll be that much closer to your writing goal.

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Oo, Shiny: How to Make Your Writing Shine

Make Writing Shine

This book first appeared on the InScribe pro blog on May 4, 2017.

Like most writers, I want my work to shine. I’m not particularly interested in awards or acclaim, but I do want it to be the best it can be.

And now for the disclaimer . . .

I want the first draft to burst forth sparkling like a perfectly cut diamond.

I know. I know. Not going to happen!

So what can we writers do to make sure that at least some of what glitters truly is gold?

FOCUS

Speaking of “oo, shiny”—I am easily distracted. How about you? While I am eclectically interested and eclectically involved, there comes a time to reign in those wandering thoughts and firmly affix the blinders.

No matter how many projects we have on the go, we can only work on one at any given moment. It will take a long time to get anything done if we don’t learn to ignore the distractions and focus on the work at hand.

FANTASIZE

Part of focusing is actually allowing our mind to wander within established parameters. These parameters must be narrow enough that we’re not thinking about what to have for dinner when we’re plotting our novel or outlining our nonfiction book. But they must be expansive enough to allow our creativity to take us places we never imagined going.

FORMULATE

Plotters and pantsers alike (I am definitely the latter) must formulate a plan. While a plotter may know every twist and turn before they write “Chapter One,” even a pantser has to have a rough idea where they’re going.

And whether you formulate a plan for a specific writing project or simply set aside time for writing in your schedule, don’t neglect this important step. (Talking to myself here. Feel free to listen in.)

FACILITATE

We have to make time to write. We have to arrange our lives in such a way that putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard isn’t always at the bottom of our list of priorities.

Not only must we make writing a priority, but we must also arrange our schedule in such a way that we have time to revise and rework our piece. This is the only way it will shine.

This leads to the last step . . .

FIX

Since our writing doesn’t burst forth brilliant and dazzling, we must fix it—sometimes over and over and over again.

We must do the best we can to make it shine, then enlist the help of others: beta readers, editors, proofreaders.

That vein of gold or hunk of transformed carbon bears little resemblance to the treasure it can become.

Are you willing to do the backbreaking work it takes to remove the treasure from the rock?

Are you willing to spend countless hours chipping away at the impurities and subjecting the raw material to almost unbearable temperatures?

Are you willing to polish until every visible smudge is removed?

Are you willing to ask for help once you’ve done all you can do?

If so, you will have a piece that dazzles.

Oo . . . shiny indeed!

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Lessons Learned from the Great Declutter of 2017

Nostalgia

Who knew joining Kathi Lipp’s clutter free challenge would impact more than the condition of my house?

As I rid my home of excess stuff—and believe me, there’s lots of it—the most amazing changes are taking place inside of me.

So what principles am I learning that will impact my writing and writing-related projects?

Narrow Your Focus

In the past, I have tried to get my household in order. I would tidy and clean a room only to become overwhelmed by all that remained to be done and would give up.

This time it’s different. The challenge is to toss or re-home a mere 10 items per day. I rarely stop at 10, but once that’s done, I gain a sense of accomplishment and can go on with my other responsibilities.

I’m learning to approach my writing and editing projects in the same way. I add fewer things to my daily schedule and choose one or two main projects for the week.

This has helped me gain a greater sense of accomplishment and you may find it does the same for you.

Ignore the Clock

My hubby and I have been married for almost 35 years. It has taken even longer than that to accumulate all the stuff in our home. I have to give myself a break when it comes to the process of decluttering.

And speaking of time …

It may be a throwback to those old ticking clocks that reminded us just how quickly time was passing. But even without that constant reminder, I find myself checking the time in the corner of my computer screen.

Even though I’ve pared down my To Do list, regularly checking the time reminds me that I’m not going to get everything done that I would like to on any given day.

I find, however, if I focus on the project rather than the clock, I have a much greater sense of accomplishment.

What about you? Does the clock motivate or discourage you?

Rejoice in Small Victories

With each box of books I take to the library, each bag of items I drop off at the thrift store, each bag I put at the curb on trash day, I feel lighter. The same is true of every cleared surface and every emptied corner.

I’ve learned to be satisfied with even those 10 items dealt with rather than focussing on the thousands I haven’t gotten to as of yet.

Do you want to write a series of books? Do you want to win Camp NaNoWriMo? Do you want to publish an ebook?

No matter what writing dreams you have, it all starts with that first chapter, that first paragraph, that first sentence.

And when you get it written, smile, rejoice in your accomplishment, and then get back at it.

To ensure that you stick with it until your project is done, schedule it into your planner—in pen.

Don’t Become Overwhelmed

I look to my left and see one of my catch-all rooms. I look to my right and see the laundry room bulging with items we rarely, if ever, even look at.

But do you know something?

They’re a little tidier than when I start this challenge.

If I considered how much I’ve still got to deal with, I could easily become overwhelmed.

When it comes to anything, including our writing, refusing to become overwhelmed ties in with rejoicing in the small victories. It also ties in with our focus.

When you can, focus on one project at a time.

If that isn’t possible, at least zero in on what you’re doing at any given moment. Devote yourself to it wholeheartedly. Fight the urge to think of all the things you’re not doing.

Stick with It

The current clutter free challenge ends with the close of Lent. However, I have promised myself that I will continue to get rid of at least 10 items per day until our home is the way we want it.

I have many writing and writing-related goals for the years to come.

The only way to achieve these goals is to stick with it for the long haul.

What goals do you have? What can you do today to achieve those goals? How can you ensure that you will persevere until you reach them?

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

A 1 Corinthians 13 Approach to Writing

Banner with Give Love

This post first appeared on http://inscribewritersonline.blogspot.ca/ on February 3, 2017.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV).

Patience

If anyone knows the importance of patience, it’s the writer. We must be patient with others, with ourselves, and with the process itself.

Kindness

Kindness goes hand-in-hand with patience. Being kind to fellow writers, writing-related professionals, and readers is crucial. But we must remember to be kind to ourselves as well.

Envy

Do you feel yourself getting fidgety? Who among us can’t think of other writers we’re envious of? Rather than letting envy take root, we can look to these writers for inspiration and motivation. If we’re deliberate in our efforts, it will become easier.

Boasting

There’s a difference between boasting and effective marketing. It has to do with focus. Boasting draws attention to the writer. Effective marketing considers how a writer can pour into the lives of their readers.

Arrogance

Just as there is a difference between boasting and effective marketing, there is a difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence says, “I have something important to say and the skills to communicate effectively.” Arrogance says, “I am a more capable communicator than so and so.”

Rudeness

Rudeness and arrogance speak the same language. (Just an aside … we can disagree with someone and communicate our perspective without being rude—and without compromising our integrity. This takes great skill and much practice.)

Insistence

Writers must resist the temptation to develop a “my way or the highway” attitude. After all, there’s always more to learn.

Irritability

One need only glance at their Facebook newsfeed to become irritated. The temptation is to react with our words rather than respond. In most cases, this will only inflame the situation. A thoughtful, prayerful response will usually go a lot further in getting our point across.

Resentfulness

Again, the focus of resentfulness is self. Instead of exhorting and encouraging, words written from a place of resentment will likely discourage and dishearten.

Rejoicing in Wrongdoing

Life and writing are full of tension. One of the challenges facing writers is how to maintain authenticity and honesty in the darkest times while not glorifying the darkness.

Rejoicing with the Truth

As writers we can celebrate truth whether we’re writing fiction or nonfiction. As we make that truth accessible to our readers, we have achieved something important.

Bearing All Things

Laundry. Dishes. Vacuuming. Illness. Heartache. Depression. Whether it’s the day-to-day or those unexpected realities of life that we don’t see coming, as writers, we must bear what comes our way—and keep on writing. In fact, these are often the things that fuel and enrich our words.

Believing All Things

If God has called us to write, we must trust that He will guide our steps—when the path ahead is well-lit and clearly marked and when we lose sight of it because it is hidden in shadows.

Hoping All Things

Writers are familiar with hope. We hope that we’ll be able to craft something worth reading. We hope that someone will be blessed/challenged/entertained by our words. We hope that the wellspring of ideas won’t run dry.

Enduring All Things

From heartbreaking criticism to five-star reviews. From flying high to plummeting to Earth. From plain old hard work to free-flowing streams of creativity. Writing and endurance go hand in hand.

Persistence

There is always more to read, more to learn, and more to write. May we all continue to press on.

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

My Theme for 2017: Less

ces-jan-2017-graphic

This post first appeared December 30, 2016 on Janet Sketchley’s blog, “Tenacity.”

Having read Kevin DeYoung’s newest book, Crazy Busy, I came face to face with what I already knew: I spend far too much time doing things that don’t actually propel me toward my goals.

My word of the year for 2016 was more, as in more time spent writing and editing, more time spent in prayer and Bible study, more time seeking the Lord with my hubby and our daughter. My lack of success in these areas could be because I wasn’t focussed on the flipside of the coin.

If we’re going to achieve more, something has to give. We have to do less of something else.

So how does this apply to writing?

We must refuse to fritter away our discretionary time.

“Discretionary time? What discretionary time?” you may ask.

But let’s be honest. Do we watch even half an hour of TV most days? Do we spend far too much time on Facebook and the other social networks? Do we spend hours each week waiting on our children—at sports practice, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities?

You don’t need hours and hours of uninterrupted time to write a book—and certainly not a blog post or an article. There was one author I heard about who wrote an entire book in 20-minute increments during his lunch break. Amazing!

DO THIS: Take a look at your schedule and see where you can “steal” 20 minutes here, an hour there.

We must learn to say no.

Many—if not most—of us are not only busy, but we keep taking on more and more responsibilities. If you’re like me, you don’t want to miss any opportunity that comes along. Thankfully, I’m learning to say no; I’m learning to focus on what’s already on my plate; I’m learning to take on less.

Lysa TerKeurst wrote a book called The Best Yes. It’s about analyzing why we say yes when we are already overtaxed and really shouldn’t be taking on anything more. The book also addresses the importance of saying no or not now so we will be free to say yes when God brings a specific opportunity across our path.

If we feel God has called us to write, we must free up dozens—if not hundreds—of hours. We may find some time by restructuring our discretionary time, but very likely we’ll have to make even more significant changes.

DO THIS: Prayerfully examine your To Do list and choose one or more time-consuming items you are willing to eliminate in order to have more time to write.

We must spend less time making excuses.

There are legitimate reasons we don’t put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, but excuses often outnumber these reasons.

That voice in our head that says …

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said—far better than you could ever express it.”

“Writing is a selfish endeavour. Think of your family and friends.”

“You may squeak out the time to write, but you don’t have the time to hone your skills.”

“And you certainly don’t have the funds needed to get your work published.”

“God didn’t really call you to write. You’re delusional.”

DO THIS: Identify the #1 obstacle that keeps you from writing and create a game plan to crush it. The first step is often to simply pick up that pen or open that Word doc and get writing.

And what will I be doing over the next weeks and months? Hopefully, taking my own advice.

What are your writing plans for 2017?

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

7 Wonderful Ways to Avoid Writing

Just Write

Here’s a list of things that can keep us from writing. You’ll notice that these aren’t “time-wasters.” In fact, they’re necessary, but they can become excuses for not writing.

Books, Blog Posts, and Podcasts

My shelves, both physical and virtual, are bowing under the weight of unread volumes—many of them on the craft of writing.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of blogs and podcasts for writers and we could spend the rest of our live reading and listening. But all the know-how in the world won’t get our words on paper (or the computer).

It’s best to write while improving our craft, not after we’ve learned everything there is to know because that’s never going to happen.

Downtime

Times of refreshing and doing nothing aren’t bad, but rarely will we find the motivation to write while plopped in front of the TV or nodding off in a hammock chair.

I’ve found the more I write, the more energized I become. That’s rarely the case when I’m watching television or sitting in my backyard, though it is lovely thanks to my hubby’s hard work.

I encourage you to limit downtime and honestly evaluate whether it actually makes you more productive.

Eating

I’ve heard recently of a couple of writers, friends of mine, who forget to eat. Let’s just say I can’t imagine that.

Eating small, nutritious meals throughout the day is a good thing. So is keeping water and healthy snacks close at hand while we write. But most of us know what it’s like to be distracted by food. Why not grab a snack after you’ve written x number of words rather than before?

Exercise

As a former personal trainer, I know the many benefits of regular physical exercise and I’m an advocate of making it part of your daily routine.

I would encourage you to schedule cardio and resistance exercises into your week. I would even encourage you to take breaks from your writing to stretch, get up and move around, do a little chair dancing, whatever.

But don’t allow a commitment to exercise to take you away from your commitment to write. It should, instead, enhance it.

Family Time

Time with family is crucial. They should never feel as if we would rather be back at our computer than spending time with them.

As much as possible, it’s best to work our writing around time with family. This may mean sacrifice on our part (less downtime, less sleep, less pleasure reading, etc.), but our family deserves our loving attention.

The temptation is not to make these sacrifices, but if our writing is important, we will make time for it.

Housework

I rarely use this as an excuse not to write. Actually, I rarely use this as an excuse for anything, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a possibility.

I’m not saying you have to let the dishes pile up or wait until your carpet gets “crunchy,” but if you write from home, you do have to avoid distraction. There is always something that needs to be done—especially around my house.

You may have to take your laptop or your notebook and pen out of the house to a spot where you won’t be tempted to grab the vacuum. I’ve heard this is a real thing for some people.

Volunteer Responsibilities

This can be a toughy. And unless you write full-time, people may not understand why you can’t take on a certain volunteer project. But if your writing is to be a priority, you have to know that it’s okay to say no.

In her book The Best Yes, Lysa TerKeurst discusses how to identify why we say yes when we shouldn’t and how to overcome this tendency. If we don’t say no, we won’t have the time or the energy to dive in when our “best yes” opportunity comes along.

I also love what Robert Benson says in Dancing on the Head of a Pen: “Any writer worth his ink stains can think of a small army of things to keep him from writing. If he does not have enough imagination to invent the excuses necessary to keep him from writing, he likely does not have enough imagination to write a book.”

Now go and use your imagination to fuel your writing.

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Branding and Re-branding Yourself by Steph Beth Nickel

old typewriter

This post first appeared on InScribe Writers Online. 

Ask These Questions

What can you see yourself writing about five years from now? Ten years from now?

What is the overarching theme of your writing? What fires you up? What can’t you stop talking—and writing—about?

How do you want to be known? Close to home and out in cyberspace?

If you can narrow your focus in these areas, you just may have found your theme, your tagline, your brand.

Narrow Your Focus

The name of my blog was originally “Steph’s Eclectic Interests.” That should give you an indication of how not focused I am. A dear friend and fellow writer said, “Each blog you post is focused on a single topic.” Talk about gracious!

A few years back, another dear friend said my tagline should be “Riding Shotgun.” And although I gave her a funny look when she said it, when she explained her reasoning, I was humbled and honoured. Because I “come alongside” others and assist them, she thought “Riding Shotgun” would be descriptive of that.

Not being a country music fan (don’t hate me), I never did go with her suggestion, but I don’t suppose I’ll ever forget it.

Like so many other people, I’m what I call “stupid busy.” It isn’t that I don’t like what I do—to the contrary. But it is long past time that I had a singular focus. And just a few days ago, I found it. <bouncing up and down, clapping>

A lot of factors came together to make it happen.

On June 25, I attended the Saturday sessions at the Write Canada conference. There, Belinda Burston stopped me to take my picture. Brenda J. Wood joined me in the shot. And I’m ever so glad she did! That picture is now plastered across the Web. It’s one of those shots that makes me grin—me with my newly dyed burgundy hair and Brenda with her flowered hat. (Who says writers are a stuffy, serious lot?)

That picture was a significant contributing factor to what followed. And late Thursday night, a tagline popped into my head. It was perfect: “To Nurture & Inspire.” I headed off to Dreamland flying high.

I spent the best parts of Friday re-branding myself online. I had to find the right background (thank you, pixabay.com), the right font and the right graphic (thank you, picmonkey.com).

Follow These Quick Tips

So, to close, I’d like to recommend six quick tips for branding (or re-branding) yourself:

  1. Pray. As Christians, it’s amazing to think that God cares about every detail of our life.
  1. Keep an eye out. You never know when inspiration is going to strike. Re-branding myself wasn’t on my To Do list last week, but one thing led to another and then another, and finally, “Poof!”
  1. Get creative. Explore sites like Pixabay and PicMonkey. Let your Inner Creative out to play. It’s amazing how much fun you can have. I admit that I’m more of a “pantser” when it comes to these kinds of endeavours. However, if you like to be more deliberate in your planning, you can find how-to YouTube videos on just about any subject.
  1. Know when it’s time to hire a pro. You may not have the time or the know-how to create your own brand. However, you will want to work hands-on with whomever you hire. You want to be able to say, “If I could have done it on my own, this is exactly what I would have done.”
  1. Your brand isn’t forever. At least it doesn’t have to be. If your focus narrows or changes, even if you just get tired of it, it’s alright to rework it. Don’t get me wrong; if you’re well-established, it may take some time for your readers to adjust, but I would venture a guess that most of them will.

And …

  1. Enjoy yourself. Even if your message is a serious one, I believe there’s something satisfying about choosing a profile picture and tagline as well as colours and graphics that are an extension of your message—and further, an extension of yourself.

Do you have a brand? Are you pleased with it or is it time for some revamping?

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

I CAN DOES NOT MEAN I SHOULD

Should IThe original version of this post appeared on “Tenacity,” Janet Sketchley’s blog.

Oo, shiny!

That’s how I often feel when I hear of a new opportunity. You too?

I have what I refer to as the Butterfly Syndrome. I love to flit from one thing to the next to the next and then back to the first thing. While I don’t think it will ever be my approach, I do admire people who are able to stick with a single task until it is completed before moving on to the next. There are definite advantages to this approach.

But since I have several interests (and am easily distracted), potential opportunities come at me from all sides. I am learning s-l-o-w-l-y that I can’t pursue them all—as much as I’d like to.

Add to my natural tendencies the fact that I’m a Christian and don’t want to miss an opportunity God brings my way and I’m off and running … figuratively speaking. The joke that says, “If I’m running, it’s because something or someone is chasing me” pretty much describes me.

But even as Christians, we don’t have to say yes to every opportunity, every request. (For more on this, I highly recommend Lysa TerKuerst’s book The Best Yes. She guides readers through the whys and wherefores of identifying when they should say no so they’ll be ready to give their best yes.)

I COULDN’T.

Now, I believe there should be a progression in every Christian’s life, every writer’s life. Many of us, when presented with a new opportunity, think—or even say, “Oh, I could never do that.” (At least this is the case if we’re not busy flitting about, trying our hand at everything that comes along.)

MAYBE I COULD.

As we learn more, we may come to the realization that just maybe we could write whatever it is. I’ve found myself thinking, “I could do that? Cool!” Hopefully, there comes a time when we realize we’ve learned enough to at least try our hand at a new writing project, and beyond that, that God has equipped us to do things we never imagined possible. This is an exhilarating mindset. And it’s very in-keeping with my “oo, shiny” attitude.

BUT SHOULD I?

Not that long ago, the Lord brought me to a new realization. It may seem self-evident. And I wouldn’t blame you if you said, “Well, d’uh!” although I know you’re much too polite to do so. The final step in this three-step progression is this: when someone asks us to do something or we become aware of an interesting opportunity, we should … wait for it … we should ask, “Lord, is this something You want me to do? And if so, what should I set aside in order to do it to the best of my ability?”

I’m still learning Step 3. But it really is even more exciting than the second step. After all, knowing God will give me wisdom and direction and will guide me step-by-step … now that is truly amazing.

Will I always flit from one thing to the next? Most likely. But with God’s help, I will try to stay in the same corner of the garden—at least for a little while. Care to join me?

 

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

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