Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Everything is Possible

In one of my Seekerville posts awhile back I shared several writerly quotes from the newspaper’s cryptoquote puzzle section. I deciphered another one this week that seems quite apropos for us writers:
“Everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it.” -- Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps
Okay, maybe not everything is possible (for a human being, anyway). But Michael has the right idea. We don’t get anywhere in this business without a huge investment of time, work, and will power. How are you doing in each of those departments?

Time. What’s your writing schedule like? Do you even have a schedule? Even putting in 30 minutes a day is 30 minutes of writing you wouldn’t have completed otherwise. Repeat that five times in a week and you’ve tallied up two and a half hours. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Do an hour a day, and there’s five hours in a week. How many words can you churn out in an hour? They all add up.

Work. How hard are you willing to work at improving your craft? Getting words on the page is important--vital, in fact. But so is learning and study. How many books and magazine articles on writing technique have you read this year? Have you taken any online courses? Attended any conferences? Which industry blogs do you visit regularly? How many published books in your genre have you read and analyzed to see why they work (or don’t)? Have you traded critiques with a wise and honest fellow writer? Have you entered contests where you could get valuable feedback? And afterward, did you evaluate the comments and revise your manuscript accordingly?

Will power. Otherwise known as stick-to-it-iveness. And after 25 years in this business, I know a little about this subject. If you don’t want it badly enough, believe me, it’ll never happen. Unfortunately, you can also want it really badly and it still may not happen. But that’s God’s decision, not yours. To fall back on a favorite Randy Ingermanson quote, “If God has called you to write, then don’t you dare quit. Don’t you DARE!”

If you’re feeling really brave, leave a comment answering the following questions:
  1. How many hours did you actually write in the past 7 days?
  2. What is the most recent craft book, online class, or workshop that made an impact on your writing?
  3. What changes and sacrifices have you made in order to make writing a top priority?
  4. What’s the one thing that keeps you keeping on?
Remember, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NASB).


  1. Ooh, very good questions. How many hours? I try for an hour a day (kid's naptime). I give up my own nap to do it, LOL. The sacrifices we make.
    I guess I keep on because a) I like writing and b)I want it to be my career so that when my kiddos go to school I can stay home and make a little money. Emphasis on little :-)
    Great Post and a good dose of reality :-)

  2. Myra, good morning!

    Janet, sorry I missed you yesterday, sweet thing! I was working and couldn't get to the computer but your post was wonderful. I love that you laid out the stumbling blocks and advice for new pubs. Very nice.

    Myra, this is so true. That stick-to-it-tiveness, the self-discipline. I think when it all comes down to it, that's where the secret lies.

    That and a good supply of chocolate. Necessary reparation for damaged feelings.

    Oops. Cookies in oven. Peanut butter with chocolate icing. Well, the icing ISN'T in the oven. That comes later, but I'll bring some buy in a little bit.


  3. Mmm ... cookies ... Good morning, everybody. I've got the coffee on. It should be done about when those cookies come out of the oven, right after the chocolate icing goes on!

    I try to write 1,000 words a day in the morning, between the time that the kids get on the bus and dinner time. Three days a week b/c of working at the restaurant.

    I'm writing because ... well ... first it was escapism, then therapy and now ... I feel convicted that the Lord gave me a good idea and I need to take good care of it.

  4. Myra, this is such a good reminder and a sweet kick in the pants. Like the month someone spent marketing, I've got a month now doing some marketing/technical junk, so my word count is low for the week. I have more trouble sticking to the market stuff than the writing! I don't know why we always need these reminders and nudges, but we do, and I thank you for one this morning! (Over the years, my biggest thing I gave up was TV. I haven't known what shows were on at night or what soaps were still on in about fifteen or twenty years. TV can eat up a lot of time.)

    I keep at it because I love it, because I write for kids and their world just keeps getting more challenging, and because books changed (and saved) my own life.

    Kristi Holl
    Writer's First Aid blog

  5. Great post, Myra! Very appropos for me after spending a month promoting instead of writing. The past two weeks, I've been polishing my proposal. Once I get it off, the line edit is waiting for Courting the Doctor's Daughter, which goes to show that writing isn't all we writers do. I'll be so glad to get back to putting fresh words on the page!

    I soaked up John Olson's sessions at ACFW and want to get the time to study my notes.

    I've given up watching TV except for the morning news. I've given up drawing and painting gourds. My garden looks like I've given up on it, too. I tend to put off more than give up things. I'm looking forward to deep cleaning our kitchen cabinets and floor. One day.

    What keeps me going? My husband cracking the whip. :-) Kidding aside, I feel God's call with my writing.


  6. Ruthy, forgot to say I missed you yesterday, but I certainly understand with your schedule that you can't always make it to Seekerville. We missed your yummy refreshments and lively humor so don't make a habit of it, okay?


  7. Good morning, everyone! You realize, of course, when I do a kick-in-the-pants post like this, it's because I need a dose of my own medicine, right?

    There's a lot I don't do anymore because writing takes precedence. But unlike Kristi, whom I admire so much (she was my ICL instructor back in the day), I have not been able to give up TV. But it's limited to an hour or so of Good Morning America with the morning paper, one favorite (though utterly inane) soap while I have lunch, and selected evening programs with hubby while we unwind from our workdays.

    The one thing I've sort of given up that I shouldn't have is EXERCISE. Too much time applying seat to chair is not good for anyone! My problem is, I hate to sweat! I also wish I weren't quite so addicted to the Internet.

  8. Cookies are done.

    Outrageously delicious. Here, gals, pass the tray.

    Janet, I hate missing a day in Seekerville. Love seeing who's doing what, catching up with our buds. Feeding them. Old Irish, I guess. Cure everything with food, LOL!

    Myra, the dose of your own medicine is where I think the best blogs come from, the whole been there, done that scenario.

    So human.

    Part of the reason I like God so much. He's absolutely Divine!!!



  9. Wonderful post, Myra! I got tired and out of breath just reading it : ) You pointed out great areas of awareness.

    I can't say I actually wrote over the last 7 days, but rather, I've been asking for guidance on a book that has just stumped me. (Ruthy, I promise I'll finish Rough and Ready this year!!)

    I've been reading Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull. I didn't really need another how-to book on writing, what I needed was a shot in the arm that the Lord had placed this calling to write in my heart, and that it's not all about me. Talk about kick-in-the-butt motivation! If you have spare moments in the day that you just don't know how to fill (grin), this is an Inspirational how-to for every writer!!

    I'm so proud of you, Myra. You are the epitome of *hang in there, God's got great things planned for you*!!

    Thanks for this topic!

  10. Audra, I have to agree -- Marlene Bagnull's Write His Answer is a wonderful devotion for writers. I need to pull it out again one of these days.

    And Ruthy, I love the reminder that Jesus is the "been there, done that" Lord of our lives! What comfort that assurance brings!

  11. Myra, very timely subject for me today -- thank you!! I am out of town on a writer's retreat, and it seems my motivation to write has taken a retreat instead of me!!! But, in answer to your question #4, the one thing that "keeps me keeping on" is that wonderful insurance policy I took out over thirty years ago that says "All things (even lack of productivity in the face of a deadline) work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Wow, that's better than Met Life, Allstate and State Farm all together. And so I press on, knowing that HE has me "covered."


  12. Great post, Myra! I enjoyed meeting you at the conference. Can't wait to see your book in print!

    To be honest, I haven't written a whole lot lately. I eked out a half hour or so of revision time last night. Most of what used to be writing time is now spent on emailing, this blog (:-)) and ACFW Book Club stuff, but that can change later, when I get a contract. But I have made writing a real priority in the last 5 years or so. I've worked hard at learning the craft, read books and taken classes, entered contests, taken advice and applied what I learned to my three ms. I'm lazy about most things, but not about writing. And I've given up practically everything I used to do--gardening, scrapbooking, and I never watch TV, but I don't consider that a sacrifice. :-) Haven't seen a TV show advertised that even seemed remotely worth watching, except maybe that show, Crusoe.

  13. Great post, Myra. We all need to evaluate from time to time where we spend our time and IF writing is important enought to forego some of other life's pleasures. To me it is, and I have a stinky looking flower garden right not that I have sadly neglected. I also have a mss. that I finished this summer amid a bevy of family activities, trips, and crises. So pretty flowers or pretty words (or in my case a lot of words that need to be edited so they are presentable), that is the question.

    Even in writing related activities, there are things we have to decide to keep or give up. The internet and social networking are tough ones for me, but I'm learning that I only get to check out email and blogs AFTER I have reached a certain word count or done another writing task that is part of my overall goal.

    Great insights, Myra. I'll be chewing on this for a while. AND writing.

  14. Writing is a pretty concrete part of my life...at least five days a week. So I'm pretty disciplined there, although I've tried to up my daily word count and can't seem to make the jump to ... warp speed if you will.

    I wrote 3000 words yesterday and hope to do that every day this week. I'm at that same writer's retreat as Julie and it's going well. Far less distractions here... some but far less.

  15. I feel the need to repent and confess. After I thought about it, I actually am really lazy about writing, too. I could write more than I do. When I'm really into my story, I work faster and more than when I'm procrastinating starting the next book, like I'm doing now.

    Fear and laziness are my biggest enemies.

  16. Fear and laziness--I'm sure there are several more of us who could confess those weaknesses, Melanie! Plus a huge helping of procrastination.

    I've found my most productive writing time to be between lunchtime and quitting time. If I can get the busy work taken care of in the morning (e-mail, blog surfing, office organization, etc.), then I'm set free from those concerns for the rest of the day and can give my full attention to writing (or revising, as the case may be).

    Each of us has to carefully consider what schedule best fits our work style and is most conducive to productivity.

    And then the trick is to stick with it!

  17. Julie, what a great thought--that God uses even our down times for good purpose! (And I heard you were sleeping at the retreat instead of writing. Who's to say that isn't what you most needed to recharge your writing batteries?)

  18. Hi Myra,
    Great post! I learned a lot at the ACFW conference in Jon Olson's workshop, which someone mentioned already. Marge Lawson's great. I took her ACFW workshop, and two weeks later, I attended another of her programs at the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference. Visceral response and cliche alerts keep rolling through my mind!

    What have I given up? Evidently keeping my office neat as I look around me now. Something I'll have to tackle when I mail in the next proposal.

  19. 1. How many hours did you actually write in the past 7 days?

    I couldn't count if I tried, and that includes time spent on a structural issue that prevented me from continuing on with a scene.

    2. What is the most recent craft book, online class, or workshop that made an impact on your writing?

    JSB's Revision & Self Editing but ask me again when I return from a writers retreat next week.

    3. What changes and sacrifices have you made in order to make writing a top priority?

    Television time is gone. Movies are almost gone. Time spent with my husband in the evenings resting by his side, talking about our day--gone. I often see him over the edge of the laptop sitting by himself looking very lonely. Another reason we go out and explore the Carolinas each week.

    4. What’s the one thing that keeps you keeping on?

    Deep desire to get that story on the page and hopefully, out the door. I know I'm supposed to do this (though after reading the above, I'm not so sure I'm supposed to sacrifice my husband to achieve my goals!) But I love writing and sharing stories with others, and I love learning more about the craft.

    A favorite motto of mine: It's amazing what you can do when you don't know you're not supposed to be able to do it.

  20. Great post, Myra. I'm not writing new words right now, but hours spent on my proposal this past week was probably 25--about 5 hours a day on week days. Well, I actually worked some on the weekend as well but don't know how long.

    Does all the time thinking in the shower or in bed at night when I can't sleep count? :)

    I also did several workshops at ACFW and am going through Susie May Warren's book therapy blog right now. Oh, and I just bought Camy's synopsis worksheet. :)

    As for TV, I'm with you, Myra! I do Good Morning America with breakfast/coffee, a soap or two during lunch, then some nighttime TV with the kids. Probably too much!


  21. Debby, writers are allowed to have messy offices. In fact, I think it's required in our job description.

    Kimberli, I challenge you to turn the laptop off after dinner and have an actual conversation with your husband. Take a walk. Play a game of Scrabble--anything! Time with our families in invaluable. Don't take it for granted!

    Missy, I recently bought Camy's synopsis worksheet too. I need all the help I can get in that department!

  22. Myra, I was greatly convicted when I read what I wrote, so I'll take you up on your challenge--as long as he isn't watching television. I know he needs downtime in the evenings, but I can't justify exchanging writing time for channel surfing. Honey, just put on the Weather Channel and leave it there. I promise you'll have my rapt attention.

    Dinner? That creature left our house years ago. Our big meal of the day is lunch. We spend as many of those together as we can.

  23. Okay, as a result of reading Myra's post this morning, I put my tookis in my chair and wrote a 4K word chapter-by-chapter synopsis of my soon to be WIP. I'm trying the NaNo thing and hoping to have plotted this book out well enough to write fast.

    I'm not much of a plotter, but I did use the Plot Board that I learned about here on Seekerville recently, and I was amazed at how getting to play with post-it notes (I'm a post-it addict) energized me to plot a novel. I put a picture of my plot board up on my blog today.

    Thank you, Myra, for a great post today!

  24. Go, Kimberli! Let us know how the evening with hubby goes! And lunch is good. My DH is semi-retired and working from home, so we have lunch together almost every day while we crack up over the ridiculous Days of our Lives dialogue and plots. And he has only his dear departed mother to blame for getting me hooked on that stupid show back in the '80s.

    And yea, Erica! Wish I were better at plotting in advance. It just makes me insane. Good luck with NaNo!

  25. Myra,

    Great questions.

    For me the answer to # 4 would be trifold. 1-I LOVE writing and don't want to stop. 2. Obedience. Because I know God asked me to write as worship and takes great pleasure in the fact that I do it. 3. Reader letters keep me going.


  26. Great questions!

    How many hours did you actually write in the past 7 days? None unless you count letters to agents/publishers. HOWEVER, I have spent several hours each day editing a novel for submission and reviewing the galley for a short story. Since my time is limited when I'm writing, I write. When not actively writing I use that time editing/promoting/submitting.

    What is the most recent craft book, online class, or workshop that made an impact on your writing? Other than Bayou Writers annual fall conference, I haven't attended any of these in the last few years but I do read extensively and reading A Passion Redeemed is what fired me up to pull up this manuscript and edit it. :-)

    What changes and sacrifices have you made in order to make writing a top priority? Maybe not as many as I should. I've actually slowed down since my husband's last heart attack/hospitalization and spend more time with him. Before I spent EVERY and I mean EVERY spare minute at the computer. Now, this doesn't seem as important as spending time with him - although I do get at least 2 hours a day in.

    What’s the one thing that keeps you keeping on? I LOVE to write and to share my faith and God's faithfullness with others!

  27. And great answers, Cheryl & Pamela!

    Pamela, what you shared about your husband is one reason I do not do any writing evenings or weekends. In fact, most Sundays I don't even turn on my computer. These family times (even if all we do is veg on the sofa and catch up on rest) are sacrosanct.

    I do feel blessed that our financial situation doesn't require me to work at a "real" job, so I can keep fairly normal business hours as a writer. My heart goes out to those of you who have to balance employment, family, and writing.

    Thanks to all who shared their thoughts and brought a little insight and inspiration to others!

  28. I don't keep track of the time I write. I mostly write in the evenings after the boys are asleep. My focus is consistency, rather than minutes.

    Deb Dixon's GMC book helped me a lot this summer. And it's such a quick and easy read, I see myself going back to it over and over again.

    Less television. Writing on weeknights rather than waiting for weekends, which is family time.

    I love all that I'm learning. I have stories to tell. And the writer community is awesome!

  29. Update: Myra, my plan worked quite well for the most part. After giving dh a sweet CBA approved kiss upon his arrival home, we spent the majority of the evening together. All went well until I sat beside him on the couch. Apparently thinking I meant my husband harm, our Jack Russell Terrier promptly grabbed the hem of my pants with his teeth and wouldn't release me until I moved across the room. Seems when it comes to protecting his humans, he'll protect the one who slips him Scooby Snacks over the one who feeds him dry dog food.

    He'll have to get over it. From now on, I'll spend one hour in the evening on writing unless Kell is busy. I'll fit the rest in during the day.

    Thanks for this wonderful post. You should have seen the smile on my husband's face.

  30. Woohoo, Kimberli! So glad you had a nice evening with hubby despite your puppy serving as chaperone! See, we have to at least try to kick up the romance factor with our spouses once in a while. Otherwise, what would we have to write about? ;>D