Friday, March 14, 2008

A Heart Check

A good thing about a big writing related push is I get to let household chores slide. :-) My husband understands, helps out, but even he, a man with a servant's heart, has limits. Ironing is one of them. Last fall while I tackled that teetering basket of wrinkled clothes, I called an out-of-town friend who’d recently had a heart attack. She sounded great, just like always. When she listed the lifestyle changes she’d made, I knew she’d had a wake-up call.

After we hung up, I thought how we never know what tomorrow, or even today, will bring. My friend’s heart attack reminded me each day is precious. I'm blessed to write inspirational novels and hope what I write will help readers in some way. One thing I'm certain of—the writing has helped me. It’s enriched my life, brought me wonderful friends, given me satisfaction, and yes, added stress and pressure, too. Nothing good comes without a price.

When putting words on paper vies for time with those I love, including God, and writing wins way too often, then others may be paying that price for me. One of those others just may be me. Even without a day job or children at home, I'd felt frazzled more often than not. Not healthy. Perhaps you feel the same. How can we find a balance between the writing and the living? I wish I knew.

But I have discovered a few things that help. I’ve learned to:
Start my day with devotions.
Squeeze in exercise 3-5 times weekly.
Set up the chance for a good night’s sleep by avoiding the light and stimulation of the computer an hour before bed.
Multi-task when I can.
Give up or put time limits on non-essentials. I watch the clock or set a timer when doing e-mail.
Protect my writing time by not answering the phone or getting sidetracked with household chores.
Set aside time for others and for myself. And then revel in it. Time for me may be a leisurely bath or reading in bed.
When I have more on my plate than I can stomach, I try to remember something I read: The difference between feeling pressured and feeling relaxed depends on my attitude—not on how much I have to do.
If attitude is important when handling time pressures, it’s vital in managing emotions. As writers we deal with the harsh realities of this business: low contest scores, rejections, and poor sales, just to name a few. When we attempt something big, we're bound to fail. I don’t want to let the negatives drain the joy out of my precious, not-to-be-wasted days.
To foster a positive attitude I’ve learned:
I’m a failure only when I don’t try.
God loves me. My family loves me. I will love me and stop beating myself up.
To stay connected with other writers. Seekerville is a great place to live. :-)
To look for good in the bad. It’s always there.
I try to turn things over to God. He’s got the power and wider shoulders than I do.
Getting the right balance with our time and with our emotions isn’t easy and I never get it right. But when I take a daily heart check, asking for God’s wisdom on setting my priorities and His strength on controlling my outlook, I’m well on my way.
Any ideas you care to share for holding it together?



Tina M. Russo said...

Oh, boy that was good. It sounded peaceful, even.

Balance--not only the fine art of juggling all the balls but of learning to breathe while you do it.

This is a weak area for me. I'm so bad at it that my only defense is to avoid people so I won't be challenged and then be forced to use the NO word.

I have finally gotten to the point where my hand no longer shoots up independently to volunteer for every need on the planet..finally. Yet, even when overwhelmed I have a hard time turning someone down.

But reading your suggestions certainly gives me hope!!!

Janet Dean said...

Tina, I've learned to say no to lots of things, but not to my kids. Or grandkids. :-)

You're working full-time. That's got to make like crazier. You always appear calm. How do you manage that?


Mary Connealy said...

Janet, doesn't your book get wet?
I've always loved that image of soaking in a tub reading, but the book got wet the one time I tried it.
So impractical.

Also, I grew up with eight brothers and sisters in a one bathroom house, so hello, no soaking.

In fact, my mother seemed to be all for us NOT taking a bath.
"You're clean enough, don't hog the bathroom."

A person just has to be practical.

And in my house we've got one bathroom and raised four daughters, again, pressure to hurry UP!

So no soaking.
But balance is nice.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet says:

Any ideas you care to share for holding it together?...

Ruthy says:

Um, drug-induced coma sounds good some days!

Janet, what a wonderful perspective on time management. Like Tina, I find my plate-juggling skills severely tested of late but reality makes it tough to stop and take that breath.

Thanks for reminding me that the flowers only bloom for so long.

Ruthy said...

Janet, this is a great list. I'm going to print it out as a reminder of how to allow God to bring peace and joy into my life no matter what the circumstances.


Janet Dean said...

I grew up with one bathroom. For a brief period while my parents built our house, my dad hauled in water. All five of us took turns bathing in a galvanized tub, using the same water.

My leisurely baths aren't daily, but I do have them periodically. Do you gals remember hearing about the writer who wrote in the tub? Maggie Shane????


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, I don't know how you do it all, but whatever you're using-
:-)-you always keep your wonderful sense of humor. I'm adding that to my list!


Janet Dean said...

Jae, thanks for stopping at Seekerville and for your lovely comment. God bless you.


Katherine Harms said...

I certainly identify with your issues. It is hard to exercise the discipline required to give all my priorities their due. I hate multi-tasking, too. My mind is always taking input from a dozen different directions, but I can only do one thing at a time. I don't even have children at home. It's just my husband and me, all the more reason not to shortchange our relationship.
I am fortunate, like you, to have a husband who supports and encourages me to live out my calling. It means that when we need to work out time and energy sharing, we aren't warring about my sense that I need to write.
I thought that when I quit working as a consultant, I could discard my organizer. I have learned the error of that idea. I'm glad that I am not alone in my struggle to balance work and life in a way that is obedient to our Lord's call.

Janet Dean said...

Katherine, we are blessed indeed to have such supportive, giving husbands. A couple of my non-writing friends are jealous of mine. He's not perfect, but a man who cleans can be forgiven much. LOL. Seriously he's a great guy. I doubt I deserve him, but don't anyone tell him I said that.


stampedwithgrace said...

I really enjoyed reading your post, thanks so much for sharing with us!

Janet Dean said...

Thanks so much for stopping by Stamped By Grace.


Gina Welborn said...

When we moved to our new house last September, I finally got a bathtub I could enjoy taking a bath in. At our old house, we had a tub--a midgit-sized tub. No offense to any midgit seekers...or midgit-sized seekers.

But the tub is one of those jetted ones, which means to really enjoy the bath, the tub has to be fairly full. My brain calculated the cost of a bath. Thus I limit my bathing experiences to one, sometimes two, a month. The rest of the time I stink. ;-) But at least I'm a frugal stinker.


I'd love to, but I think I'm geneticly predispositioned to singular tasking. Preferably the kind that involve me and a book and a large bubble bath.

Anyhoo, great post, Janet. My husband organizes housecleaning on the weekend because he's finally realized after 15 years of marriage that I'm good as a co-pilot, not as a pilot.

Oh, you don't look old enough to be a granny. So I'm assuming you had your kids when you were twelve. Like I did. ;-)

Mary, remember yesterday when you mentioned one of your Genesis entries and how it was good but had too much backstory? Well, last night I read a hardback romance where the first almost 25 pages was backstory.

I actually think it was well done. If I hadn't known about the hero's dead fiancee and their relationship, then I don't think I would have cared about his obsession to find out why she committed suicide. His grief was strong but not to the point of me wanting to slap his cheek and say "snap out of it."

When did the heroine appear?

Almost at the 1/2 point.

If I was judging the book's first 15 pages and a syno in the Genesis, the story wouldn't score well. But I think the story worked well outside the "rules."

Of course, the book was 75K+ words. The format and pace wouldn't work in a Heartsong or Love Inspired.

As a single title romance, though, I liked it.

I also picked up Susan Elizabeth Philips's NATURAL BORN CHARMER from the library without reading the cover flap. Once I did, I couldn't read the story. The hero is a Tom Brady-like guy--hunky quarterback who models underwear.

I'm sure the story was great. They leads got married at the end because I checked. :-)

Tammy said...

Janet - I love to read while soaking in the tub. A few wet pages is a fair trade-off for the time alone (alone so long as my 2 year old is already in bed - kids have no respect for personal time!) I also write while soaking, sometimes. But I love my computer so I write more out of the tub :-)

Ruthy - I love your sense of humor. I used to love telling my co-workers that sleep is highly overrated. In fact, breathing is highly overrated, too! Now I like to be put into a medically-induced coma for about a year or so. Ha Ha!

Oh, and Tina, no is one of my favorite words. Especially in conversations with my son (the 2 year old), you can't eat the whole bottle of vitamins. no, you can't play in the flooded basement. No! please don't pull the dogs tail or ride her like a pony....boys are so much more work than girls (at that age, anyway) LOL

Janet Dean said...

Gina, I hear you about the waste of water, which is why I don't use the jets in our tub often, but when I do, it's the greatest. Until I get so hot I feel like a lobster on his way to someone's plate.

I do my best multi-tasking while talking on the phone. I dust, run the swiffer, start laundry, put on my face. It's pathetic when I go all day waiting for someone to call so I can look like less like a hag. LOL. But I can't write or do e-mail while doing anything. I can't even listen to music. Right now I'm listening to the sound track from Jersey Boys and I can't stop bopping in the chair. Hope I'm making sense.

Thanks for the compliment, Gina, but my picture may be airbrushed. Not sure. I asked to look ten years younger. The photographer is a magician.

The book you mention sounds great. I'm sure it wouldn't have scored well in contests, but I'm guessing it wasn't the author's debut novel either.

Gina, you always liven things up. Thanks!


Janet Dean said...

Tammy, ah, the wonder of two year olds! I remember the no and why conversations. We have a three-year-old grandson who's having fun testing mom. If he wasn't so darn cute, his life might be in jeopardy. :-)

Thanks for stopping at Seekerville.


Kim said...

I guess your level of organization truly depends on where you are in your life journey. I work full-time and have two teens at home so I've learned to say no to a LOT of things! I place my priority on spending time WITH my family not directing traffic as we run in separate directions. My house may not be neat as a pin, but it is bathed in lots of love and laughter!

kimfurd at hotmail dot com

Janna said...

Okay, I love a good soak in the tub and I am definitely a tub reader, but when you've lived in a house for 3 years and there is no shower, only 1 tub and 9 people - those soaks are few and far between (and my idea of relaxing would be a hot shower :-)

As far as keeping things balanced - with 5 kids and 1 more on the way, I find that sometimes I just have to push everything else aside and color with my 3 year old or play a game with my older 3 or read a book to my 5 year old. That can be the most rewarding and stress reducing thing I can do... yes, the dishes are still piled and the clothes still need to be washed and don't even get me started on the piles of stuff in the dining room - but when you can take a deep breath and know that you made a difference in your child's life by spending a few moments of your precious time with them - that is stress reduction in its purest form.


pat jeanne said...

I'd been a stay at home mom with little time for myself after taking care of everyone's needs. I had little peace and less joy until my hubby took early retirement. It's been wonderful to have him here helping with the kids and encouraging my writing.
At the moment he's vacuuming the carpets. I feel SO grateful.

We need to take of ourselves before we can help others. Thank you, Janet. I can add nothing to your post.

I can also relate to growing up living in a house with only 1 bathroom and many people.

Great Weekend to All

Janet Dean said...

Kim, you're one busy gal, but you've found a balanced life. I suspect the need to be a perfectionist creates major stress.


Janet Dean said...

Janna, you're a wise woman. Enjoy those little ones. God bless your family!


Janet Dean said...

Pat, supportive husbands are worth their weight in gold. Glad the joy is back.

The amazing part to me is my husband treats my writing as if I broght in big money. We all know it ain't so. But the respect he gives my writing, the money he earned but encouraged me to spend on contests and conferences, well, my dream is to earn enough bucks to do something good for him.


windycindy said...

Your list is exactly what I need to absorb and follow! I often can't sleep because of too much stimulation before bedtime ( Nancy Grace, computer, laundry, etc. )! Thanks very much for sharing your help aids. Cindi

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tammy, I hear ya' on all counts. And I think boys are more work until at least age 30...

By then they're usually the wife's problem.



And Gina, what's up with you and the Brady dude. Let it go, darling, it eats at you like ants at a picnic.

Now Derek Jeter...




And that's all I'm saying about the Yankees to-die-for shortstop and team captain.

Let me repeat:




Deep sigh.

And Kim, neat houses are drastically over-rated. Seriously. When you're running teens places, working, cooking, cheering, sewing, washing, drying, more running...

A good friend of mine taught me young that if it can be cleaned up to be presentable enough to not embarrass you in twenty minutes time, it's not really dirty.

The twenty-minute cleanup became our mantra. Whatever works, right?


Mary Connealy said...

Sleep is overrated

I credit insomnia, and thus the ability to write eight hours a day, all at night, to be the secret to my success.

Lorna said...

Janet, when I read your post today, I had to laugh. I had just told my teenage daughter that a woman must be able to multi-task. A man might be able to get away with doing one thing at a time, but a woman never will.

But what I enjoyed most about your list was the emphasis on prioritizing your day. A wise woman at our congregation once gave a lesson on the scripture "give us this day." She spoke about living in the moment of that day and asking God's guidance on priortizing your "to do" list. I've often found that when I give God the day, He has has an amazing ability to make it all work out.
When I don't, I'm toast.

Like Tina, I'm still working on the saying "no" part.

Gina Welborn said...

Ruthy, I'm generally okay with sports jerks. But Tom Brady really irritates me. Maybe it's because he's such a jerk and things keep going well for him.

Of course, the way I figure it, everyone needs a sports person to despise. He's mine. Well, not literally. Dating him would violate my dating rule #2: Never date anyone you feel smarter than.

Hmm. I just realized the rule says "you feel" not "you are."

I think I have an ego issue.


Which only adds to my funk because my agent e-mailed me this morning to say Revell passed on both my manuscripts. And with "no comment."

That's gotta be the worse.

Oh, BTW, Janet, I did pretty decent with your list today.

Quiet time--done

Exercise--done (I walked around Cost-co pushing a shopping cart for 30 minutes and skipped going to Starbucks later.)

Set aside time for myself--done (I Baby's taking a nap, 4-yr-old is playing outside, other two are at friends' houses, oldest is at his daycare, and hubby is running errands. Yes, I should be cleaning and not checking e-mails, but cleaning is over-rated.)

Multi-task--done (I'm babysitting the messy house, pile of laundry, dirty dishes, sleeping toddler, wacked-out dog, andrambunctious 4-year-old, and I'm at the ready in case the phone rings. Occasionally I close my eyes and take a nap.)

Debby Giusti said...

Love your post! I've been in a whirlwind for too long and needed some of that lovely peace your post exuded. Thanks for being a breath of fresh air!

Janet Dean said...

Cindi, if I took my own advice I'd get more sleep. :-)Thanks for stopping!


Janet Dean said...

Mary, for an insomniac you have loads of energy and a great outlook. How do you manage that?


Janet Dean said...

Lorna, I believe men can't multi-task. But maybe it's must mine.

We can think of God as our Palm Pilot. We input our day and He keeps us on track. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, I love the idea of the twenty minute clean-up. Great mantra! My house looks picked up, but don't open a closet or drawer.


Jess said...

Just popping in to say... I remember Maggie Shayne. She created quite a stir with that promo pic of her in the bubble bath. But guess what. After all these years, there are a lot of us who remember. Talk about BRANDING. :)

Great post, Janet.

Janet Dean said...

Gina, sorry about the passes. We've all been there and it stinks.

I salute you and all moms with young children. Good job prioritizing your day.


Janet Dean said...

Debby, bless you for saying my post was a breath of fresh air, not a blast of hot air. LOL.


Janet Dean said...

Jess, thanks for remembering Maggie Shayne and spelling her name right. :-) RWA did a big splash on her bathtub writing promo one year during Awards night.

Thanks for stopping!


Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Janet! Very inspiring.

Gina, so sorry for the R's. (For any readers among us, that stands for Rejections.) Hope you have some time to indulge in chocolate to help you feel better. (For me to recover, it takes both a pity party and chocolate.)


Ausjenny said...

Janet some of your tips are what we were taught with a home business. i do creative memories but more hobbist now with only a few customers. but things like limiting computer time, not answering the phone at certain times were some tips.
some of the ladies have a time set for the family where they put the phone on answering machine and devote say one hour to just family with no interuptions. Many also have a cleaner or someone do ironing and use it as a deduction (not sure how that works) But they use there earnings to pay for this.
They also set business hours which there family and customers etc know are for business

Melanie Dickerson said...

Great post, Janet. Unfortunately, I'm a person who's easily overwhelmed. Fortunately, I'm pretty good at saying no, but I still find myself feeling overwhelmed a lot. However, I think I'm getting better. God's been working on me a lot (not fun, but helpful). I keep thinking I have to get a handle on it now before I get lots of contracts and deadlines and people begging for my autograph.

Julie Lessman said...

Wow, Janet, I needed to read this blog a LOT sooner than I did today. Just got home from work and your words are almost as good as the glass of cabernet I had for dinner! Okay, AS good as the cab I had for dinner -- which is HIGH praise, indeed!!

Thank you for the encouragement and wise advice. Now to put it to practice ...


Tina M. Russo said...

Ha ha ha, I just got back to this.

How do I stay calm?

Yes, I concur with Ruth, I keep valium in the cookie jar.

This week I didn't pay the maid as she did not clean the house.

I don't have a maid. You should see my house.

I stay calm because you know what I learned the last six years since a loss of a loved one?

You are not in control, so you may as well just give it up. Relax and surround yourself with people who support you and love you. (Seekers)

BTW I am with Mary, have never understood baths. You get in, the bubbles disappear and the water gets cold and the book gets wet.

Janet Dean said...

Jenny, sound advice for finding time to creat some memories of our own. I'm sure you've made some beautiful scrapbooks.

Janet Dean said...

Melanie, here's to all of us getting the opportunity to flex our calm muscles under the pressure of deadlines and book signings.

Janet Dean said...

Julie, comparing my words to a cab is high praise indeed!

Hugs back at you. :-)

Janet Dean said...

Tina, wise words from a wise woman and a great place to end for the day.

Thanks all for sharing.

Ausjenny said...

well i have the scrapbooks does that count!!!!!!!!!!1
no i do enjoy doing it when i get the urge. this weather its not right but i am wanting to get my canadian and hawaiian photos in albums.
im a procrastinator but if needed can get something done. at school i was the one up 5am the day something was due in. i didn't plan it that way but it nearly always happened.
i admire anyone who dedicated to writing. I am proud i read over 50 pages today. I am loving the book but its smaller print and involved so takes more to read. Its also gives a bad indictment on what some countries and people out to make money have done to smaller countries. but im now half way so i feel good.

Jeannelle said...

Very enjoybable and interesting post and comments! you really write all night?

I'm sure a supportive spouse would be a necessity.

squiresj said...

Balance - that is hard when one is disabled and finds it hard to stand for a long time. But balance is what I have to do to fulfill any housework at all. Since I broke my ankle 10 years ago, have rhuemotoid arthritis and osteopenia, the only way I can work is to balance. So I work awhile, then sit at computer, relax, and my favorite time is at night resting in bed reading a new author's book or some of my favorite authors.
God Bless