Give Yourself a Break

Are you burnt out from trying to reach your goals?

Last week I wrote a reflection about how I’m falling behind with my 2018 goals. I discussed how I was going to refocus, since focus is my word for the year. I realized I needed to focus on God and what he is doing in my life in order to accomplish my writing goals. And I took a deep breath so that I could refocus.

But first, I’m giving myself a break.

I’m burnt out from struggling to reach my goals for this year. I felt like I should be a lot further than I was, and I was beating myself up because I wasn’t. So this week I’m resting. I’m taking a step back from my writing work to give myself a reset.

Breaks like these are necessary to keep going with writing. Writing is hard and lonely work, and it’s so easy to get burnt out. It’s especially easy to get burnt out if you’re struggling to reach goals that maybe aren’t the right goals for you or if something happens in life that gets you off track, like dealing with a medical issue.

I switched writing projects recently, and so am only starting to begin the research on this new book. So of course I’m not going to reach the goal of writing a draft of my book this year. And that’s okay.

Taking this week off has helped me to reset my mind. It’s helped me to relax and refocus, which is exactly what I need to do if I want to write this new book.

However, just because I’m taking a break from most of my work, it doesn’t mean I’m not working at all. I’m just doing relaxed work. Some things I did this week are:

  • Build a 1000 piece puzzle while listening to audiobooks, both fiction and research books for my work-in-progress.
  • Kept up on social media, but only spent half as long online as usual.
  • Had coffee with a writer friend and discussed the themes in my work-in-progress.
  • Not write out my normal daily to do lists on my white board.

I still managed to work this week, but I did so in a completely relaxed, no-pressure-to-get-things-done way.

And because I did this, I feel ready to get back at is next week and refocus.

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The bookish puzzle I built this week.

Are you feeling burnt out too? Give yourself a break. Keep your mind active, but rest. Build a puzzle. Go for a walk. Talk over ideas with a friend. Relax. And get back at it next week.

Refocus

This is the first week of July, which means we’re at the halfway point of 2018, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my goals for this year and see how I’m doing.

Instead of making new year’s resolutions, I choose one word to guide me for the year. 2018’s word is focus, but so far I feel like I’ve done everything but focus.

I started this year off by wanting to focus on writing and on God, which would help me accomplish my writing goals of writing a draft of my work-in-progress, writing a query for that book, and reading 45 books.

While I’m right on track with my reading goals—having just finished my 24th book this year (53% of 45 books), I still haven’t written much this year.

The main reason for being behind on my goals is that I switched novel projects. I shared why I switched book projects in my post Write Through It. Doubts about my work-in-progress and medical issues had been keeping me from working, but then God finally answered my prayers by both telling me what to write and by finally healing my eye.

I’m so unbelievably thankful both that my eye works again and for this beautiful story God has asked me to write. And focusing on God by praying for these things is what eventually brought me healing and this new idea. But I feel like I need to take a step back at this halfway point in the year to take a deep breath and refocus.

That’s what 2018 is supposed to be about for me—focusing.

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Philippians 3:13

I need to put my past behind me. All of the pain and suffering. All of the self-doubt. All of the unfocused and lazy days. I need to focus on what is ahead.

Even though I feel like I’ve wasted half of a year by not producing anything, I haven’t. I’ve learned and grown. I’ve prayed more and trusted God with more of my life. I’m doing research for my new book project. I’m getting ready to write this book that I have a feeling will change my life.

So this is me refocusing:

I’m taking a deep breath.

I’m telling myself it’s okay to not write an entire book this year.

I’m reminding myself that I have to focus on God before I can focus on anything else, because without him our lives don’t mean anything.

I’m reminding myself that like my book project I am a work in progress. But that’s okay. I’ll get there.

Kelly Balarie Guest Post: 5 Tips to Being Battle Ready

I’ve had the privilege to be on Kelly Balarie’s launch team for her new book, Battle Ready, and I’ve loved this chance to read an advanced copy and to help launch this book into the world. Today I have a special guest post to share from Kelly about being battle ready. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

This book can seriously change your life. God is using this book to help me see how my thought patterns have been hurting me and how I can change my thoughts in order to change my life. Battle Ready is full of practical methods and mindsets you can adopt to help you be ready for all the battles you face. There’s a link at the end of this post to pre-order the book and get the accompanying prayer journal!

5 Tips to Being Battle Ready
By: Kelly Balarie

If a baby bird never moves out of the nest, she’ll never fly. If a toddler never takes that one inch forward, fearing falling, she’ll never walk. If a woman never takes a small step, she’ll continually stay, nowhere.

A small step out of move-out faith is mission-critical. Why? Faith brings to life what we cannot see, but desperately hope for.

Where do you stand on the faith-scale? 1-10? Do you see new life arising from your hopes, hunger, and hardships, or are you simply staying stuck, where you are?

You know, my life has lived as a big struggle. I’ve gone through an eating disorder, depression, a health scare that threatened to take my walking legs, financial debt struggles, heart-breaking and joy-stealing relational problems, companies going under, and constant self-doubt. The list goes on-and-on…

Nearly every time, in these situations, I thought: There’s no way out. This is impossible. I don’t know what to do. I am going under. I don’t have the (time, ability, resources or wisdom) to get through this. God won’t really be there for me; He’s got better things to do. I am stupid for letting this happen. No one understands. I’m all alone.

If faith is hope in what we cannot see, I’ve lived hopelessness. If it’s “impossible to please God without faith,” no wonder I felt so displeased with myself. If God says, “everything is possible for those who believe,” I suppose I haven’t believed.

The inclination here is to be angry at myself saying, You always mess up. You always fall short. You never do anything right.

But this is not how God speaks to me. This is not being Battle Ready.

Instead, God restores me by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Knowing this prepares my mind to walk into fearlessness, boldness, and purpose.

God’s grace welcomes in new faith. This is a vital, because faith is our greatest battle weapon. It takes us places, it tames our trials and it forges us ahead, like doubt never can.

So, how do you walk out life-changing faith? Here are a couple tips from my vast arsenal of faith-building, doubt-reducing, and life-changing thought-strategies I’ve discovered on my many battlefields of hardship:

5 Small Steps To Building Battle Ready Faith

  1. Envision Jesus one step ahead of you. If you know God is at the place you’re afraid of, how much more can you trust He’s preparing it for your arrival?
  2. Hear in your mind, continually: God really cares for me. The more we believe God sees us, the more we’ll believe He’ll see us through.
  3. Taste His victory history. If you remember how you felt when God came through last time, you can almost taste him doing the same thing again. Let your mouth water for His “new thing.”
  4. Inhale the reality, God is with you. Sure, there may be bumps in the boat. This doesn’t mean Jesus is sleeping. He’s fully aware of all you’re going through, the path He has you on, and your perfect escape with Him.
  5. Hold a light schedule. If you clear way in your schedule, you’ll make room to experience God’s Word in such a way where it can begin to dwell in you.

Pick up your shield of faith. When the enemy throws an arrow at you, like a random email that makes you feel sad or a rejection from a friend that leaves you disappointed, remember: God is with you, for you, and He is on your side. He is working out something in you and for you that’s even better than you expected.

You can become battle ready and live victoriously. You can prepare in advance rather than emotionally responding and reacting to the hardships that you face. God will give you peace as you learn His wisdom and strategies.

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About Battle Ready: Train Your Mind to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt & Live Victoriously

“The best time to be strengthened against the Enemy’s tactics of doubt, disappointment, and devastation is before he makes his first move toward us. We all desperately need the biblical guidance and preparation found in Battle Ready!”

– Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

Battle Ready is a hands-on scriptural plan that teaches you twelve easy-to-implement, confidence-building mind-sets designed to transform your thoughts and, therefore, your life. You’ll gain practical wisdom, like how to:

  • make new habits stick in just five steps
  • disarm the seven most common attacks that plague women
  • exchange self-limiting thoughts for purpose-driven, love-releasing thoughts
  • implement thirty-second mind-lifters that deliver peace
  • create boundaries so you live life full of what matters

Battle Ready releases July 3rd! Pre-order Battle Ready here.

To download your pre-order bonuses and to get Battle Ready freebies after the book is released—printables, devotional reminders, a customizable daily Battle Plan, and the “Find Your Battle Style” quiz—visit: www.iambattleready.com

DailyBattleReadyPrayerJournal

To order the companion Battle Ready Daily Prayer Journal that will help you practically change your thoughts, then your life, click here.

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Kelly Balarie, an author and national speaker, is on a mission to encourage others not to give up. Through times of extreme testing, Kelly believes there is hope for every woman, every battle and in every circumstance. She shares this hope on her blog, Purposeful Faith, and on many writing publications such as Relevant, Crosswalk, and Today’s Christian Woman. Kelly’s work has been featured on The Today Show, 700 Club Interactive, Moody Radio and other television and radio broadcasts. When Kelly is not writing, she is chilling at the beach with her husband, a latte, and 2-toddlers who rightfully demand she build them awesome castles.

 

 

Exciting News!

I have some exciting news that I wanted to share with you all—I’m going to be writing for the wonderful Christian blog We Are Beautiful!

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For a long time I never wanted to write nonfiction. I thought that truths were better shared through fiction, and so I made that my focus as I grew as a writer. Writing this blog over the past two years has been fun though, and it opened my mind to nonfiction.

And a few months ago I felt God stirring a new dream and calling in me—to write for him directly. Not just through my fiction, but through Christian nonfiction and devotions.

The thought of doing this one day made me both excited and scared. I had no idea what I was doing with nonfiction. And I wasn’t sure if I had something important to say with my own life and with my own stories. Before, if I wanted to say something, I would create a story and a character to tell it. Now God was asking me to write about me, and that was terrifying.

But I could feel him stirring me to keep growing and learn how to do it. I started paying more attention to the devotions and Christian nonfiction I was reading. Like I do when studying fiction, I had to learn how to look past the story to see how the piece is constructed and what makes it work. And after a few months of studying, God has opened a door for me.

And that door is We Are Beautiful. WAB is a community of women that inspires one another and celebrates true beauty. With events, groups, and the blog I’ll be writing for, WAB helps women of all kinds find their true beauty in Christ.

I’m so excited to be writing for them. You can check out their website here, and I’ll let you know when my first post is published to their site!

How to Get Ideas: First Lines

Writers are always asked how they come up with their ideas, but it’s often hard to know exactly where a story idea comes from. Ideas seem to come from anywhere and everywhere, and they sometimes come when you’re not even trying. But for those who are newer to writing and for those who are having trouble figuring out what to write next, ideas can be hard to find and you might have to force yourself to come up with them.

That’s what this blog series is all about—how to get ideas and how to develop stories from those ideas. So far I’ve written about what if questions, titles, and prompts. Today I’m going to take a look at first lines.

How to Get Ideas (1)

The first line of any story should hook your reader into going on and reading the rest of the story. In order to hook the reader, that first line has to be interesting and get the reader curious about what’s going to happen next. The first line should have an inherent question to it that makes the reader keep reading to find the answer.

K. M. Weiland’s book Structuring Your Novel goes into detail about every aspect of story structure. I loved her chapter about hooks and first lines because she helps you understand what exactly makes a first line great. Weiland discusses the five elements a first line can have: an inherent question, character, setting, a sweeping declaration, and tone. The first line should set up some or all of these important story elements in order to make the reader want to keep reading.

Weiland also makes an important observation—that most first lines aren’t that memorable. First lines don’t have to be super-memorable, amazing lines. They simply have to make the reader want to read the next line and the line after that.

I love first lines. First lines can convey so much. They can show you the main character and setting, set the tone for the book, and ask a question that the story will answer. When I write a story, I spend a lot of time on the first scene. I love taking my time on that first scene and first line, working to make them perfect. But I also love creating stories from first lines.

With the very first full-length novel I wrote, I initially thought of it by thinking of the first line: I’ll never forget the day he came. Looking back I know that that isn’t a great first line—it’s vague and not that interesting—but that line just popped into my head one day and it got me started.

You can always change your first line later on when you edit, but you can take a line and use it as your launching point for a story. A seemingly random line—a random sentence, a piece of dialogue, and interesting description—can all be a starting point for you to write from and build a story around.

For me though, first lines usually just feel right. I had the idea for Somewhere Only We Know rolling around in my head for years, but it wasn’t until I thought of a new first line that I was able to write the entire book. I love my first line. It introduces Frankie and Susan, explains what happened to their mother, and asks the question of why Susan is boxing up her books. It piqued my curiosity and made me want to keep writing. I hope it makes readers want to keep reading

SOWK first line

What’s your favorite first line from a book? Do you like creating stories from first lines?

Finding Your Time

Are you an Early Bird or Night Owl?

We’ve all be asked this question before, but I’ve never really liked it because I’ve never felt like either. I like to sleep in a little and take my mornings slow and easy. And, while I do stay up later, I don’t do anything productive later at night.

I’m not an early bird or a night owl. Instead, what I’ve found is that I’m a 10:00 am person.

I take my time getting ready in the morning, relaxing and spending time with God, and after I eat breakfast I get down to work. I can usually be pretty productive between 10 am and 2 pm.

I know that I’m lucky to get to work from home. I get to plan how my days go and can work whatever hours I choose. I know not everyone has that luxury. But the point I’m trying to make is to find your time.

People are not necessarily early birds or night owls, but everyone has a time when they feel the most awake and energized and can be the most productive. Finding that time for you is imperative because fighting your body’s natural rhythm will not help you be productive. This is especially important for creative people because it’s really hard to create when you don’t feel energized.

Once you find what time works best for you, make the most of it. Plan your schedule around it. Save the most important tasks or activities for when you can give them your complete focus. And if you write or create something, do it during this time.

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A great example of someone who has found their time is my good friend Alli. Alli is most definitely an early bird. She wakes up around four every day so she can have her alone time and get stuff done. She gets her workouts done in the morning and often does a lot of work for her bakery business. Alli inspires me every day with how dedicated she is to her work and how she schedules her time to make the most of her most productive hours. Also her cake balls are amazing and you should check out her website here.

Have you found your time? In what hours do you feel the most productive?

My 2018 Summer TBR

I need sunshine. I love the warmth of summer and always feel more productive with the bright and long days. I especially love having a bunch of time to read in the summer. So since it’s finally starting to feel like summer here in Ohio, I thought I’d share what’s on my summer to-be-read (TBR) list.

The Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

I found this series at the library and was completely blown away by the first book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Set in the near future, these books explore how far is too far when it comes to medical technology. The best part about these books is the voice, and I couldn’t put the first book down. I can’t wait to finish the second book and read the third to find out how it all ends!

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Sea of Ink and Gold books by Traci Chee

The Reader and The Speaker were some of my favorite books I read in 2017. You know a book was good when you miss it after you’re done reading it, and I miss Sefia and all of the other characters from this series. I’ve been wanting to go back and read them again. The final book in the series comes out this fall, and I’m so excited for it.

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Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

This novel-in-verse is about a seventeenth century artist who is raped and who tries to find healing and a voice through her art. I’m interested in reading this both for the subject matter and because I’m trying to read more verse.

Now is Everything by Amy Giles

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book from bloggers, and am excited to try it. It’s about a girl trying to escape an abusive household, so again I’m really interested in the subject matter.

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

I’ve already read this book twice in 2018, but I want to read it again. Part historical fiction and part science fiction, this novel is about lives being connected across centuries and just blew me away. This book has also had a huge influence on my work-in-progress, so I keep reading it to try to figure out how Anderson did it.

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Somewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

Yes—I want to read my own book this summer! I’ve been struggling a lot lately with doubting myself. Reading your own writing is important because it reminds you that you’ve done it before and you can do it again.

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What are you reading this summer?