Monday, January 17, 2011

The Fudge vs. Broccoli Choice

The Fudge vs Broccoli Choice
By Missy Tippens

My husband handed me a folded newspaper section the other day and said it was a good article I might like to read. And I admit, I mentally rolled my eyes and wondered what hint he was dropping this time—would it be about eating right, losing weight, sleeping enough, exercising or drinking gallons of water?

So being the stubborn person that I am (and knowing I wasn’t in the mood to be convicted about living a healthier lifestyle), I set it aside. Several days later, he asked if I had read it yet. In a bit of a snit, I yanked it up and read it. And was actually very intrigued! (I’m a science geek, what can I say?)

The article was from the January 4th Athens Banner-Herald, titled Brain Might Sabotage Success of Resolutions, by Lauran Neergaard (AP). And all I could think about as I read it (besides the fact that I need to quit eating in front of the TV!) was that this info would make a great blog post. So I’m going to try to boil it down so maybe we can figure out why writers sometimes struggle to sit in a chair and write, even when they love writing.

The article talks about how hard it is to keep New Year’s resolutions and says the problem is that bad habits get wired into our brains. But the good news in the article is that they know some tricks that can help replace the bad habits with good ones.

The key: we’re fighting against the power of an immediate reward. I got my title from the author of the article saying, “It’s the fudge vs. broccoli choice: Chocolate’s yum factor tends to beat out the knowledge that sticking with veggies brings an eventual reward of lost pounds.”

So take, for example, the fact I like to eat my breakfast and have my coffee in front of the TV with Good Morning America every morning. The creamy cheese of my omelet, the rich, sweet creamer in my nice strong Double Black Diamond coffee and the camaraderie of my favorite morning show hosts cause a release of a pleasure-sensing chemical in my brain called dopamine. It conditions me to want that experience again and again. And each time I do get the reward (every day!), it strengthens that bond. A dopamine-rich part of my brain then memorizes the rituals and routines so that eventually, the environment itself triggers my brain to pretty much make certain behaviors automatic.

So now, I sit down to watch Castle at night, and I want to eat something rich or sweet or to make coffee.

Scary, huh?

Okay, time to look at writing habits. I can tell you one that I have that I’ve been working on breaking. It goes like this:

Open laptop.
Click on Safari (Internet browser).

Yep. It’s automatic, like some kind of reflex wired into my fingers. And it’s BAD, BAD, BAD!! My new goal: retrain the brain to click first on Word.

Here are some other bad writing habits I’ve either experienced of witnessed with friends…

--Plan to get up early for writing time but hit the snooze. I need to sleep today. I’ll get up early tomorrow.

--Plan to write at night after the day job. Oh, man. Today was awful. I don’t have a brain cell left. I should wait until tomorrow when I’m fresher so I don’t write garbage.

--Have a deadline and need to work through feeling stuck in the story.  But gosh, I’ve got four more months. Maybe I should stop for a while and see if inspiration strikes.

--The next scene is going to be really difficult to write. I don’t have the energy/time/experience/research to tackle it just yet.

--Have a request for a manuscript from a conference. What was I thinking when I made that appointment? I can’t send out this book. It’ll never sell.

--General negative self talk.
I’m such a fake at trying to act professional in the writing world.
What made me ever think I’m qualified to write inspirational fiction?
I’ll never sell a book.
I’ll never sell another book.
My editor doesn’t believe I can do this/won’t like this book/must hate me.
That agent/editor will laugh her butt off when she reads this.
I’ll never be able to do this job.

--Decent contest scores and even contest wins on a manuscript—from fourteen contests over three years. I think I’ll make some more changes on this fifth version of the mss and see if maybe Editor so-and-so will like it better this time.

--Need to write x-number of words a day to finish a story in time for contest or deadline. I only have thirty minutes now and maybe twenty minutes later, so I might as well not get started. I can’t write anything in short bursts like that. I think I’ll have a few hours this coming weekend.

--Have just a few chapters to go to reach the end of a manuscript. Oh my gosh, I just got the best idea for a new story! It won’t leave me alone, so I think I’m going to go ahead and start it.

Do you recognize yourself anywhere in there? Or can you pinpoint your own bad writing habits? Never fear. The article says there are ways to re-train our brains.

1.     Repeat the new behavior over and over. And they say to do it at the same time each day to form a new routine. I know this can be difficult with our crazy schedules. But find the time that works best to write for the most days each week, and do it as often as you can. The brain will eventually recognize the new habit. Then you’ll feel bad when don’t do it.
2.     Reward yourself with something you really desire. Again, this helps re-wire the brain. Did you write all you planned to write this week? Reward yourself. I don’t suggest food! But aren’t we all a little weird in that we get our jollies by things non-writers would never think of-- like office supplies? Reward yourself with a trip to Staples for a new pen. Or maybe with a book you’ve been wanting (like maybe pre-ordering A Family for Faith by Missy Tippens!). A month of the new good habit? How about a pair of conference shoes or a new tote bag/computer bag. Or a movie with friends.
3.    Exercise actually raises dopamine levels. So if you’re feeling needy and old habits try to creep back in, get out and take a walk. Then come back ready to be positive and jump in with all the good you’ve been working toward.
4.    Be extra aware during times of stress. The author of the article says, “Stress can reactivate the bad-habit circuitry.” In such a case, I’d suggest the exercise to help release the stress. Lots of other things to do for stress, but that’s another post. :)
5.     Here’s one last tip. And it’s a biggie. Cut out the rituals that go along with the bad habits. Is the last week before a deadline linked with eating bag after bag of potato chips? Break that link. Does the sound of the alarm clock make you dread turning on your computer or make you hate your story? Break the link. Does the thought of typing the last five chapters of a book send you to brainstorming a new one every single time? Break the link.

This may take some work to figure all this out. But try to figure out your triggers. Investigate your environment and create a new, positive connection. I can do it. You can do. And we’ll be more productive for it.

I hope you’ll share your triggers and what you’re going to be doing about it so we can all learn. Also, say ENTER ME in the comment to be entered in a drawing for some chocolate. Unless, of course, you’d prefer broccoli in your new environment. :) In that case, let me know. I’ll see what I can figure out. ;)

Oh, and in case you missed the moment of shameless self-promotion above, I just last week found my upcoming book from Love Inspired, A Family for Faith,  is available for pre-order! 


When Faith Hagin sees widower cop Gabe Reynolds every day in her coffee shop, she can’t help but feel for the struggling single dad. She’s raised a teenager of her own—and sadly, knows what not to do. But thanks to his matchmaking preteen daughter, Chelsea, the whole town’s praying for Gabe to find a wife!

Even though Faith thinks she’s content being just friends, spending time with him and Chelsea starts to feel like a fresh start at having a family. And their love may be the answer to everyone’s prayers.


Helen Gray said...

The coffee pot's all set. Plenty to last several hours.

Hmm. I happen to be a broccoli lover. And no way am I going to list all my bad habits.

I walk on a fairly regular basis when the weather is pretty, but during the winter I hibernate--and GET SUGGLISH.

My reward is always a Coke.


Mary Connealy said...

Missy has been spying on me AND reading my mind.

I think that's very rude.

CarolM said...

/looks around wondering where the cameras are/

Spying on me? Seriously?

[and then I notice Mary's post... ;)]

Let's see...

Snooze? Yep.
Write after the kids are in bed? Yep.
Deadline? Not yet, but betcha it will be.
Don't have time/energy/etc.? Oh yeah.
MS at a conference? Oh my cow yes.
Negative self-talk? wrote the book on that...

I only have 30 minutes... actually, not so much anymore. I've realized that I can write up to 800 words in a 15 minute timed span. I do better that way [normal is more like 4-600 depending on what I'm writing]

New MS? Uh... well... the first scene WOULD NOT leave me alone. Literally. I just needed to get IT on paper. Didn't realize the opening scene was 46K long... /cough/ right.

Okay - moving right along...

Matt laughed at the pen as a reward thing then proceeded to tell me he wants a new wrist rest doohickey for his computer at work. ;)

Exercise... right. It's on the to do list.

I'm working on remaking habits. I know it's going to take a while. And Castle is a must but I tend not to eat during Castle, Criminal Minds, NCIS, Bones, etc type shows. I gross out too easily ;)

Okay - I need to go to bed now. Cuz you're supposed to go to bed and get up at about the same time every day. And I'm sure 1230 isn't supposed to be that time...

carol at carolmoncado dot com

Ausjenny said...

Ok please dont enter me I dont need chocolate (say Jenny who is eating some of the chocolate Cheryl Wyatt I mean Santa sent for Christmas)
But I dont need more.
Good advice. I know I have some ok lots of bad habits. the internet is a real trap. I find it steals times and I honestly think that facebook is not a good social network its more anti social network as I know I have wasted time there saying just one me game and 2 hours later!

I dont have the problem in the morning but would love to know how to go back to sleep! Im now waking at 5.40am. Whats with that I mean I dont need to be up till 8 or later the past couple of days.
I cant even say its to get ready for Hawaii cos it would be 9.10am there the day before.
I found doing school work I had to turn the internet off and have short bursts on it but basically not go one much at all. It takes dedication and training to make it work.
Ok I rambled to much (put it down to the 5.40am wake up) 3 more sleeps to I leave here for Hawaii.

KC Frantzen said...

Shameless plug for a new book with a rockin' cover? Now that's a habit we all can enjoy! :)

You early posters are cracking me up!

My one word is "breakthrough" so I'm working on a few (!) habits. One thing that seems to be helping is writing down anything I eat and drink. It's been good.

My book is about ready for publication too, so maybe I will start that new habit!

Please enter me. I eat a little choco daily. (Just have to write it down...)

May at may the k9 spy dot com

Now I want to study that drawing!

Jenny! Aloha and enjoy. Give us an update, ok? How are things there now?

Anita Mae Draper said...

I'll take the broccoli! Love those little trees. LOL

Habits - yes...

- sneaking a cookie - because then I crave more and can't stop

- having toast for breakfast - it fires me up and again I crave 'doughy' stuff

Oh - you mean for writing...

- checking my watch list on My eBay because then I go exploring

- clicking on Facebook or Tweetdeck because then I need to see what everyone is doing

- checking for iPhone app updates because then I want to check out all the new apps

- leaving my document screen to do a bit of research because then I see my eBay, FB, Tweetdeck and blog windows open and need to check them out

My best writing days are when I:
- only turn my document on; and
- stay out of the kitchen

Anita Mae.

Ausjenny said...

KC the floods are still bad Queensland is getting back on track with water receding but some areas are still under or going under again. at least one community is basically gone almost all the buildings are gone or will be.
there is now floods in New South Wales but more urgent in Victoria. A few places have just had the worst flood since records began one place the 4 rivers overflowing.
Now the there is flooding just over 2 hours east of me where my mum grew up. Horsham she remembers a flood when she was a little girl and her house was flooded but this one about to happen is the one in 200 year flood with around 500 housed and properties going to be affected and will cut the town in two and the main highway from Melbourne and Adelaide. The problem is the areas had been in drought for 13 years and now with the rain this past spring and summer the land cant take all the water and now the river is overflowing etc. So the Country really does need prayer. Thankfully in Queensland the rain stopped and the rain has also basically stopped and we just need it to keep away awhile longer.

I am looking forward to Hawaii only yesterday they said the golf in Hawaii was delayed because of flooding rains!

Keli Gwyn said...

I've prayed for years for night owl me to become more of a morning person like my hubby. A couple months ago, I began getting up at 5:30. Within three weeks, I was actually waking up before the alarm went off, proving this dinosaur can learn new tricks.

Of course, my new habit works better if I'm not online at midnight as I am now. I foresee some yawns tomorrow. Thankfully, I have a fun day planned, so I think I'll be too energized to get drowsy.

G'night all.

Sandy Elzie said...

Great article. Yes, I saw myself in some of those excuses, but I've worked past a couple of them in the past and if I can do it, well, yep, anyone else can too.

Please enter me in the chance to win the chocolate...I'll share with hubby...honest, I will!!! LOL


Renee Ann said...

Thanks for sharing all the helpful tips for forming new habits, Missy! Hope I can put some of them into practice. Your new book cover looks great. Blessings!

Tina Radcliffe said...

This was an excellent post. And you didn't just tell us what we were doing wrong you told us how to fix the problem.

Love your new book cover. Just as sweet as can be!!

Debra E. Marvin said...

okay, let's say I don't automatically go to my browser...and then my blog list and then...

okay, so I would get more writing done but the morning just does not seem right without a visit to Seekerville.

Leigh said...

Interesting stuff, Missy. I've fallen into several of those bad writing habit traps and need to find ways to rewire my brains. It's pretty slow a lot of days, so maybe there's hope for tricking it.

For the first time ever, I'm working on more than one story simultaneously. It actually seems to be going OK at the moment. If I'm stuck on one or can't get motivated to work on it, I just open up one of the others. It'll take longer to reach 'the end,' but as long as I get there, I'm happy (no deadlines looming, lol). They're all MG or YA, so I'm not dealing with word counts on Julie's level ... thank goodness! :-) My goal is to finish at least 2 of them this year, possibly 3.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yikes, I'm with Mary. Have you been spying on us????

Terrific article. I need to print that.

And of course bad habits are there because of the pleasure. I noticed recently an actual physical rush every time I win at Freecell. I found it intriguing and thought maybe that is how gamblers get addicted. So needless to say, I don't turn on the computer that has Freecell unless I want to waste a lot of time.

LOVE love love your new cover and can hardly wait for your book.

Thanks Missy for the great article and thank your hubby too.

Lindi said...

This goes hand in hand with the sermon we heard at church last night. I do have some of those habits. The biggest one I need to work on is the a.m. one. Sleeping just a bit longer. And Kelli is tackling that one, too. (And winning! Great inspiration.)I'll be working on getting up earlier to get more done.

Loves 2 Read Romance - Laura said...

What a neat article. I love chocolate and it's tax season so I would love to win! I usually stock the candy bowl at work with chocolate but the boss has been bringing in hard candy. Which is fine with me cause I don't eat it nearly as often! I remember how hard it was for me to switch from drinking soda to tea. I had to make sure I had my caffeine and I don't like coffee so I had to use tea. I now don't drink soda nearly as much. In fact soda has gotten to sweet for me now.

Glynna Kaye said...

Great post, Missy! We ARE such creatures of habit. Get in major ruts that lead us repeatedly down the same old paths of least resistance -- and we don't even realize it. Have to consciously get off the well-beaten path, create new paths, new & better habits.

Missy Tippens said...

Good morning! Helen, thank you for starting us off with some fresh coffee!!

That Coke is definitely a reward! For me, though, it's Diet Dr. Pepper. :)

Rose said...


Love your cover.

The internet lures me away from my writing ALOT so I think I will try your suggestion of clicking on Word first.

Missy Tippens said...

No, Mary, I have not entered your brain. I briefly considered it, but thought, no, that's just too scary a place to go.


Missy Tippens said...

LOL, CarolM!! I'm still sitting here laughing at the 46k word long scene!! And also at not eating during gross cop-type shows. :) :)

No, I promise no hidden cameras. Just consider yourself a totally normal writer type.

We can beat this, though! There is hope. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jenny, I so agree on the Internet and Facebook thing! I actually got over FB pretty quickly. I only get on there in quick 5-minute bursts when I get email alerts that I have messages. I only answer people who contact me. And I only post status updates about once a week these days!

It sounds to me like the early waking is from excitement over your upcoming trip. I do that, too. I bet once you're home afterwards, you'll go back to normal. :)

Missy Tippens said...

By the way, have a great trip, Jenny!!

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks on the cover, KC! I think it's cute. :)

Breakthrough is an appropriate word for this post! My word for this year is truth. As in listening to the Voice of Truth (from the song by Casting Crowns). I came up with that word soon after Jan. 1, but it's really appropriate for this post as well. No more listening to the negative self talk! I'll only listen to God's voice.

Missy Tippens said...

Anita Mae, thank you!! Those are great habits to look for that I hadn't thought of.

E-bay and shopping addictions! And also open windows on the computer. They call our names down there at the bottom of the screen!

I'm the world's worst about pulling up Safari to look for a tidbit of info I need on my story and (by habit!) going straight for email. And hour later, I'll close Safari and then realize I never looked for the bit of info that was the whole reason I got on there for.

It's easy to get a bit ADD while online!

Missy Tippens said...

Jenny, we've been thinking of and praying for your country. So very sad.

I hope you don't have rain on your trip!!

Missy Tippens said...

Keli! Thank you for sharing a success story!! I never would have guessed a night owl could change, so you give me hope!

Enjoy your day today! And thanks for visiting us last night. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, and Sandy, too! I'm so glad to see people have successfully changed habits.

Hey, if you win, remember I have your phone number. I can call your hubby and check! ;)

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Renee Ann and Tina! The great folks at Steeple Hill have done such a great job on covers. They really do look at the art fact sheets the authors fill out! The coffee shop and characters look just like I described!

Lianne said...

You ladies are a hoot! I love reading the comments. :) Great post, though like you, Missy, when your husband gave you the article to read, when I saw the title of this one I almost put it aside. lol. Not really. I knew it would somehow turn into something writing related.

I'm guilty of too many of the bad habits listed, but primarily the not-writing-at-the-end-of-day-job because my brain is dead after trying to keep eleven 6th graders in line all day. (And I only have eleven students! I can't imagine what teachers with REAL-sized classes do!) But God has been convicting me of putting my gift on the shelf for the past two and a half years, and your article has reinforced what He's been saying. So thank you. :)


Missy Tippens said...

Okay, Debra, you make a good point. We don't want our Seekerville friends to consider us a bad habit!! Maybe all our readers can wire their brains to read, be inspired, then close their browsers and go straight to writing works of pure genius.

Okay, y'all, as soon as you read all the comments, get to work!! Then come back later as a reward to check in again. :)

Missy Tippens said...

You know, Leigh, if it's working for you that way, then go for it! I was talking more about people who are scared to work through the hard part. I know it's easier to get excited about a new story than to fight plot problems. escapism allowed. But if you work well on multiple stories, then it's not causing a problem. In fact, it can help train you for writing one story while working on a proposal for another. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, I bet (pun intended!) that you're right about that rush and gambling. :) Sounds like you've got a good handle on your Freecell addictio--er habit. :) I think with any of our bad habits, identifying the problem is half the battle!

Try using a game of Freecell as a reward!

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Missy, this is a great post and so timely. I am doing the One Word process and got a post reminding those participating that we pick a word and then think the changes will automatically happen, become engrained, etc! Now I know why that is the case.

In order to break out of bad habits like obsessing or feeling stuck, I do rote tasks allowing me to meditate: sorting laundry, decluttering, emptying the dishwasher. The reward is in the straightened house at the end of the day.

Does anyone else really like Mary profile pic? Why haven't I noticed it before?

Since we should go overboard with food rewards, I am putting out designer sticky notes and highlighters for all.

Peace, Julie

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Lindi! Your schedule is busier than any person I know. So be sure you're going to bed earlier if you're going to work on writing in the morning. You need to get enough rest!

Julie Hilton Steele said...

I guess that should have been "shouldn't". Such a Monday!

Missy Tippens said...

Laura, you may have given us a coping method for our chocolate addictions! Replace the mini-candy bars or Hershey's kisses with...peppermints.

Ick! As much as I love peppermints, they could never beat out a mini-Snickers. So that would definitely break the reaching for the candy bowl habit. :)

Thanks for giving us the great idea this morning!

Missy Tippens said...

Glynna, that's a great way to put it--the path of least resistance. This will take some work but will be worth it!

Thanks for stopping by this morning!

Missy Tippens said...

Rose, thank you!

Yes, let's work on that one together. I wonder if we can set up some kind or electric shock with opening the browser?? :)

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Great post, Missy! I have seen myself somewhere in the past and NOW! Thanks for sharing!

Abbi/Barbara said...

This does work. For a year I had to live on only 3-4 hours of sleep after a night shift. Now, even if I can sleep more hours after a night shift, my body won't let me.

Keeping all those tabs open with my e-mail, gmail, google are my bad habit.

Great post, Missy.

No chocolate for me, though. I love broccoli.

Abbi :-)

Missy Tippens said...

Lianne, working with kids can be draining! I used to sub and would be so tired when I got home.

I think the trick for those who work a full-time (or even part-time) day job would be to find one time each day (even if only for a short time) and make sure to write at that time each day. If it's too hard to write at night, then try something else. Get up 30 minutes earlier? Find a place to eat lunch and write? Have a break during the school day? Write a few minutes before cooking or even while cooking dinner?

I know it might take giving up something. But I always think of Ruthy taking an extra job to make money for her writing. She'd get up before her rooster Blackie to go earn that money so she could pursue her dream.

We can do this!

Okay, I'm over my cheerleading moment. Just got carried away there for a minute. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Everyone note that Missy first signed in at just after eight a.m. So, since she is now waking up at five thirty (right Missy?)
She's gotten three hours of writing in before she stopped in at Seekerville. Good discipline, girl!!!

Missy Tippens said...

Julie! Thank you for the sticky notes and highlighters!! What a treat. Just as good as food any day. :)

I love your plan for when you get stuck: do mindless chores that need to be done anyway. Thank you! Such a great suggestion. The only thing is for me is to watch hopping up every 5 minutes to go check the load of clothes that are washing. Maybe, instead, I could put a basket of laundry right beside me. I can match a few pairs of socks while working through a problem. Kind of like when Camy knits.

Missy Tippens said...

BTW, also meant to say that I, too, love Mary's new photo!!

Missy Tippens said...

Good morning, Jenn! Glad you stopped by.

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, Abbi, I just realized my offer for chocolate may sabotage someone's resolution! Now I'm going to worry! :)

I love broccoli, too. The poor veggie gets a bad rap. Good for you for being healthy.

Now, on to those open tabs--that problem you and I share. Our new mantra should be: only one tab open at a time. We can do this! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Okay... Just got back from picking up pieces of what I think is a Kong. Could be another brand though. But still, how can my 45 pound dog destroy what's supposed to pretty much be a bomb-proof toy??

Debra E. Marvin said...

I swear by the reward system, but for me it's a DVD. Most definitely costume drama.

And see, I'm back here now because I'm procrastinating.

Good bye. I'll never get to Sir Guy of Gisborne if I don't finish Chapter 21.

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, NO WAY! I'm not a 5:30 riser and don't plan to be! :) I usually get up at 7 and don't plan to change that habit.

Last night, though, I had a date night. (kids are out of town on ski trip!) So we went to this nice, romantic Italian restaurant and spend a good while there. I drank 3 or 4 glasses of Diet Coke. I could NOT sleep last night! Went to bed at 3 am.

Since there are no kids to wake for school today, I set the alarm for 8 instead of 7. Dragged out of bed, fed dogs, made coffee. I have to admit I have not been up writing early this morning!

Missy Tippens said...

Yay, Debra!! Go, go, go, go! Chapter 21, huh? You must be near writing The End. Be sure to let us know when you do!

Pam Hillman aka "Ma" said...

Did I see myself in any of the above scenarios?

Missy, darlin', you've GOT to be kidding!!!

Where did I NOT see myself.


Jan Drexler said...

Thanks for the great post! The best way for me to break a bad habit is to replace it with something else - if I try to just "quit" it never works. I wanted to break a bad facebook game habit recently, so what did I replace it with? You guessed it - a daily visit to Seekerville!

Missy Tippens said...

And now I'm going to go start on my word count for the day. I'll check back in later!

Joanne Sher said...

I have been working on EVERYTHING but words on my MS lately. EVERYTHING. Gotta change that. Do I EVER have to change that. Great article.

Enter me!

Anne K. Albert said...

Super article, Missy. I can especially relate to the above comment "Stress can reactivate the bad-habit circuitry". After walking faithfully for many months, stress happens and I'm back to being a couch potato.

Thanks for bringing that to my, onto the treadmill!

Kav said...

Um...ouch...that's all I'm gonna say. Only does this mean I have to stop eating breakfast at Seekerville? My oatmeal won't taste as good, I just know it. Of course today I slept in and have arrived late anyway. I guess I'm breaking that link.

I'm thinking reading is one of the links on my chain but I'm not ready to break it. Sometimes I use it as a bribe. Like if I write a chapter I can read a chapter but sometimes I sit down to write and I think...oh I'll just a read a couple of pages first, you know, for inspiration, before I settle down to write anything. And then a chapter goes by, maybe two and I'm done for.

Congrats on the new book. That one somehow escaped me. I will go order it asap. I can't keep up with all the good stuff coming out of Love Inspired!

Kirsten Arnold said...

Terrific post, and as Tina mentioned you told us how to fix the problem instead of just listing the problems. Thanks.

I definitely need to work on clicking on Word and going to my story instead of clicking on the Firefox icon (hmm...hmmm like right now) :o)

And I just recently started a new wip with only two chapters left in my old one. Like a child with a new toy when the new story started calling I dropped it. I decided I need to start taking notes on the great new idea, but finish current projects.

In January, a friend and I started doing e-mail checks daily. Everyday we e-mail each other with how long we exercised that day and what we accomplished in our current writing projects. It's been a great way to keep on task with both.

Love the cover of your new book! I'll be heading on over to get it pre-ordered.


Janet Dean said...

Excellent but disturbing post, Missy. Disturbing because it points to the need for change and how hard it is. I like my ruts--easy to move down the road. Trouble is I may not get where I'd like to go. Most everything I want to accomplish requires discipline. Discipline is my word for 2011. I don't like discipline but need it. Thanks for giving practical ways to rewire our brains for good habits.

I love your cover! Can't wait to read A Family for Faith!!

I brought hardboiled eggs and raisin toast to nibble on this morning.


Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Missy! Sorry I'm late! Wow, you already have 59 comments!

I had to break my habit of just checking email, doing marketing type stuff and reading blogs all day instead of writing. Thank goodness my friends asked me to write a novella with them. Just knowing I would let my friends down if I didn't write that story forced me to get it done. I learned I could actually take my laptop with me and write while my husband was driving us to church, write at my kids' friends' house while their mother was teaching piano, and even--gasp!--write at home again! Woohoo! The writers block is over.

And yes, ENTER ME for the chocolate! As you know, chocolate is my favorite food group. I am fasting chocolate until the end of this month, but I will be ready for some chocolate come Feb. 1st!!! :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, and I do love your new cover, Missy! Cops are so cute.

Missy Tippens said...

Pammy, did you know you're still Ma in your photo?? :)

You do know I had a secret camera at your home, didn't you? In went inside your head. It's not quite as scary as being inside of Mary's though. ;)

Missy Tippens said...

Jan, we like that you use Seekerville as a new, good habit! Consider it an investment in your writing career. :)

Seriously, I think visiting a couple of blogs or drinking a cup of coffee or eating oatmeal (Kav!) to start the day is fine. I'm just talking about watching for habits that derail you. Like my relexive opening of Safari. It's not a choice I make. It's automatic to check my email every single time I open my laptop. So if I get control of that habit, I'll be able to visit Seekerville when I want to or plan to. And I'll be able to open Word when I plan to.


Missy Tippens said...

Joanne, I hope it was helpful!

Missy Tippens said...

Yay, Anne! You've broken the link. Good for you!

Missy Tippens said...

Kav, see my comment above about the oatmeal! :)

You made a really good point. We have to make sure that our rewards don't turn into hurdles and excuses. I, too, use reading as a reward. Otherwise I sit and read and never write! :)

It helps me to keep my word count for each day. That way when I'm done, I'm done and can actually let it go. It's like leaving the office--very hard to do when we work at home. I'm the worst!

Missy Tippens said...


I started a book idea file just for that reason. :)

Great idea to have a friend help keep you accountable! I know that works well for a lot of people.

Missy Tippens said...

Janet, thanks for bringing the food to go along with the sticky notes and highlighters! Man/woman cannot live by office supplies alone.


Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Mel! You reminded me of something that can become habitual if we're not careful. Promotion. It can eat up all writing time for the next book if you let it.

The month a book releases can be chaotic, so I suggest writers plan in extra time for promotion that month. But then try to get back on your regular writing schedule as soon after that as you can. Our main job is to write the next book!!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, I know, Melanie! Don't you just love guys in uniform!!

Debby Giusti said...

Great post, Missy. I like broccoli, but I love chocolate!

Okay, what about housecleaning? My house needs I'd rather do anything right now rather than sort through the clutter that has piled high while I was on deadline.

And what do I do with my stacks of books...books that I don't want to part with but don't have shelf space to accommodate. Maybe a future blog topic?

So, if I clean, I can have chocolate?

I'll report back later and let you know my progress!

Kimberly said...

Man. It seems so obvious but it's sooo hard to manage! When I did Nano this year, I found I could work much more creatively and efficiently if I limited myself to only tea while I typed (saved a lot of time staring at the fridge) and wouldn't turn the TV on at all until I'd met my quota. I guess I had to build dopamine up via story. Of course, December first I picked up the remote and fridge-stared with abandon. Why is that?

LoRee Peery said...

Wow, reading along, I wondered if you were inside my brain. Great post. Lots of "meat and potatoes" as my hubby would say. But drat, no more chocolate rewards? Keep writing on, everyone, during the most productive hours of your days.

Chazley Dotson said...

Oh, that one about turning on the internet as soon as the computer starts up is a big one for me. I also make a cup of tea in the morning, and I always say, I'll just relax for a few minutes while I drink my tea, then get started. Three hours later, my tea cup is empty, and I've accomplished nothing. Maybe I should match up the two and not start drinking my tea until my word doc is open. Great post!

Myra Johnson said...

Broccoli . . . chocolate . . .


Here's how I solve that dilemma. I eat the broccoli first like a good girl, and THEN I eat the chocolate for dessert! (Seriously. A tiny piece of chocolate after every meal except breakfast. Every day. Without fail.)

Kind of like my usual workday. I do the chores, errands, and busy work in the mornings to get it done and off my mind. Then after lunch my reward is getting to write for 4-5 hours nonstop!

Julie Lessman said...

Okay, put the gun away, Missy, I get the point ... right between the eyes!!

Seriously, girl, FABULOUS POST, and oh boy, did it speak to me LOUD AND CLEAR!!

My bad habit is opening e-mail before I excercise/read the Bible/pray, which is DEADLY!!! I get up about 6:30 or 7:00 AM and have my hazelnut coffee and peach oatmeal -- WHICH I obviously can't exercise during or pray with any focus, so I think, "I'll just read the Seeker blog while I'm eating and then glance at e-mails. BIG MISTAKE!!! Two and a half hours later, I still have an hour and a half of treadmill and devotions to tackle, and it's almost 11:00 AM or noon. Sigh.

So I have started a new habit where I do NOT open e-mail until the exercise and devos are done ... like today! We'll see how long THAT lasts ... :)


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Missy, I tried that. I would use it as a reward. But then I found myself rewarding myself way too often.

Type a sentence. Reward myself with a freecell game. LOL

These comments are a hoot.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Wonderful post, Missy!
The "I can't write in small snippets" is SOOOOO me!

Oh my gosh...were you peeking inside my brain? LOL.

And yesterday I got snagged up all day because I felt compelled to research more because the story I'm working on is not a contemporary but in the nostalgic era. I'm not confident so I keep researching the era rather than writing! LOLOL!

I like to crunch on baby carrots when I write so I'm glad I never got started on eating bad foods when I write.

I reward myself with sweets and treats only after I've finished the word count. That helps motivate me for sure!

LOVE the cover of your new book! Can't wait to read it.


CarolM said...

Did I mention that I can actually tolerate broccoli now? I've eaten more veggies in the last year than I have in my life. Broccoli is one of the ones I tolerate.

The 46K "scene" will probably end up at about 30K by the time it's edited [if it ever sees the light of day].

One of my new habits [starting tomorrow?] is getting up early and hitting the elliptical before getting the kids up. Yeah. We'll see how that works out... ;)

Casey said...

Love the cover for A Family for Faith, very charming.

I LOVE broccoli. Yes. You read that right. Fried in a bit of hot olive oil in a cast iron pan over wood heat.

Yes. You read that right. My family is kind of foodie-esq. SO GOOD!!! Missy, you could enter me for that. ;)

Oh, bad habits. Grooooooaaan! I have so many of them and have been working on cutting back, like spenidng too much time on the internet when I should be writing.

How I've been cutting the link: every time I go to the hairdresser, my favorite bookstore, see a person I know that knows me, I get asked the infamous question. "hows the book coming??"

I HAVE TO HAVE AN ANSWER! And I won't have an answer UNLESS I work on it! I also had a relative offer a monetary support to hopefully attend ACFW this year.

I HAVE to be worthy of that for myself mentally. SO I HAVE TO WORK ON IT!

I tell you, that is great motivation for getting the work done. I want to be able to thank God at the end of the day for what I did do, not apologize for wasting the time He gave me.

Speaking of which...I get the day to go write, since it's a holiday! Woo-hoo!

Great post Missy. :D

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Great post Missy!

Did you know that when you eat sugar, your body craves it more, hence the unending cycle. Oh, so much to think about :)

CarolM said...

@Kirsten -

Andrea [who hangs out here] and I have started the accountability thing. We send each other our 'to do' lists and have to be honest with each other about what actually gets done. We both struggle with housekeeping which our hubbys like us to do since the writing thing isn't paying off for us just yet ;). /crosses fingers and prays the editor who has her MS now likes it/ If there's actual deadlines, it's one thing, but self-imposed ones... not so much... ;)

Speaking of self-imposed deadlines, I should probably go make the kids lunch then try to get some writing done while DH and a friend go play poker [going to a tournament about an hour away - sadly won't be home in time for me to go to my Bible study tonight :( had forgotten about that when he asked if it was okay if he went].

So much for hitting Panera for a bit ;).


Missy Tippens said...

OH, oh, oh!!! We have big news today! One of our Seekerville friends has left the island!! And she even quietly posted today but didn't mention it--shame on her.

Woot woot!! But i don't want to steal her announcement. Instead, I'll just point you to her blog. :) But darn it, I can't do links in comments. So just copy and paste:

Missy Tippens said...

Debby, you've asked the wrong person what to do about cleaning and clutter!! People who've seen my house would laugh hysterically. :)

Let us know what you figure out on that one. I think that's a post for you to do. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Kimberli, it sounds like you got a good habit started. Just pick it right back up. I bet it won't take long at all. I'm sure it was because your month was over. Now just make it a year-long leading to forever habit. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sorry, Kimberly! I spelled your name wrong!

Missy Tippens said...

LoRee, I'm sure dark chocolate in small amounts are just fine as rewards. :) My problem is I would want a king size Snickers or a whole pan of brownies. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Chazley (I love your name, btw!), I think saving the tea for Word is a great idea. As long as you don't spill on the keyboard! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Bingo, Myra!! You've discovered a key I hadn't thought of! Silly me.

The writing IS the reward! Now why didn't I think of that??

Myra, thanks for your comment. We really should treat our writing like the gift it is.

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, you've left me speechless. You spend an hour and a half on the treadmill every day????

Man, no wonder you look so great! I'm inspired.

Missy Tippens said...

Cheryl, it is difficult when needing the research to make sure the story works. But once you get all the basics of the period down, that'll move faster.

Love the carrots idea. Wish I could do it. I have to dip carrots in Ranch dressing to eat them, and I'm afraid to have that near the computer. I"m more likely to do popcorn, which isn't so terrible. Still nice and crunchy which is what I need to work out those plot problems! LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Casey...outstanding attitude!! You said:
tell you, that is great motivation for getting the work done. I want to be able to thank God at the end of the day for what I did do, not apologize for wasting the time He gave me.

And I say, WOW! Excellent approach! I think I need to write that on an index card and post it.

I'm so excited to hear you may make ACFW!! You'll just love it.

Missy Tippens said...

Eva Maria, sugar is something I have to watch, especially while working. It makes me so sleepy! And I don't need a sedative right before starting on my book! There's nothing worse than falling asleep while reading your own work. Doesn't bode well. LOL

That's why I have an egg white omelet every morning. I don't do carbs until lunch. Well, except for my flavored creamer. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Thanks for the shout out, Missy.

What you heard is true. My agent extraordinare, Rachelle Gardner, sold my 2010 GH story. Seekerville gal pal and my wonderful CP Anne Barton is hosting a party in my honor today. Her post is called Of Cupcakes, Cats, and THE CALL. She's got cupcakes and a drawing for pretty pink goodie bags. And she asked me to share my call story.

This milestone wouldn't have been possible without the help of my Seeker pals. You introduced me to cyberspace, invited me to be a guest, judged my stories in contests and gave great feedback, gave me helpful critiques, taught me to have a thicker skin, helped me to lighten up and laugh more, educated me through your great posts, supported and encouraged me, wrote great books that showed me how it's done, and served as excellent role models. You're the best.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kirsten Arnold said...


The email checks are working wonders for both my friend and I in exercise and our writing. Neither one of us wants to be the one who writes and says nothing was accomplished that day (although we both have). It's worked so well we decided to start a virtual Bible study.

I hope the checks are working as well for you and Andrea.

Missy Tippens said...

Woo hoo, Keli!! I'm so glad you stopped back by! We couldn't be happier for you.

I just loved that story when I judged it! I knew, knew, knew it would sell!! :)

Cheryl Wyatt said...

KELI!!!!!!!!!!!! WAHOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

This made my day!!!!

SUPER congrats, girl!


Debby Giusti said...


Thrilled to hear your good news! Bet you're still floating, right?

Do you have a date yet for when your book will be released?

Snoopy dancing in Georgia!

Mega congrats and lots of hugs!!!!

Debby Giusti said...


I cleaned one bathroom and then ate chocolate.

Now, I'm checking email and reading blog comments.

If I get time, I may clean another bathroom because then I can eat more chocolate.

I really like your blog! :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Debby, the contract didn't include a release date. Once I "meet" my wonderful editor, I'm sure I'll get all the deets.

Casey said...

KELI!!!!!!!! I am SO THRILLED FOR YOU!! You said, you don't have a release date yet, but how many books did you sign? Have great fun on the mainland. :D

Missy, thanks. :) I'm exciting at the prospect too, but have remind myself I will go when GOD wills not when CASEY wills. :D

Keli Gwyn said...

Casey, the contract is for one book. I'll just have to wow them with my revision prowess and promo efforts so they want to keep me around.

If that doesn't work I'll tell them I hang out with Seekers and Alley Cats. That ought to impress 'em, right? =)

Ausjenny said...

Way to go Keli Im excited for you too. congrats.

Missy Tippens said...

Debby, I like that plan! Clean a bathroom. Eat chocolate! LOL

Kirsten Arnold said...


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my stars in heaven, a great, wonderful Missy-post AND our buddy Keli SOLD HER BOOK!!!!!



Diet soda!


Egg nog (that one's a little old, I think...)

A toast to a wonderful gal who is doing a GREAT JOB of busting loose...

Just a little.

So proud of you!

Snoopy dancing in upstate NY!!!!

YAY! And more YAYS!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Okay, and to the new cover of MISSY'S book....


And I love this whole post, it's like you were in my head. And I think I must love Terry because anyone that can make MISSY TIPPENS roll her eyes (cause she's jes' so darn sweet!!!!) is a hero in my book, LOL!

You rock, Tippens.

Walt M said...

Enter Me AND chocolate.

Brain wiring. OK.

I've recently done a bit of this myself. I'm instituting a habit to write at least 500 words per day. Last Monday, to stick to my schedule, I wrote 500+ words during the Auburn-Oregon game.

Helen Gray said...



May it be only the beginning of great things.


Keli Gwyn said...

Thanks for all the congratulatory messages. They mean more to mean than you can possibly imagine. ~ Keli

Missy Tippens said...

Now, Ruthy, you do remember that I only INWARDLY rolled my eyes. He has no clue. Unless, of course, he reads this blog. :)

Thanks on the cover!!

Missy Tippens said...

Walt, you're amazing. And your team won!! I know you were a happy camper. I thought of you and some other friends while the game played in the background. I didn't watch much of it but mainly just admired the Ducks uniforms! Loved the bright green accents. :)

Susan Anne Mason said...

YAY, KELI! (Okay so this is my 3rd congrats message but who's counting!)

I'm SO, SO Happy for her. She's been our group (The Pixie Chicks) biggest FAN and it's so nice to be able to cheer for her! YAY!

As for bad habits, I have all the same ones. Reading endless blogs, linking to websites in dizzying circles so that I don't even know where I began, and of course the emails!

What did we use to do before the internet??


P.S. No chocolate for me. Just finished my Christmas stash and must be good for a while.

Audra Harders said...

Missy, love the new book cover! Pre-order available? I'm on it girlfriend!

That whole snooze thing is an issue I have to resolve. I'd much rather get up at 5:00 and write than try to get creative when I come home from work. And it's not because I'm dead tired either. Since the kids left for college, my husband is bored and wants a!

Thanks for offering solutions, too. It's easy to say yes, that's a bad habit, but I need to try and fix it, too!

Fudge or broccoli? Can you believe I take broccoli? I love chocolate, but fudge just makes my fillings tingle, LOL!!

Wonderful post, Missy!! Thank your husband for the inspiration!

Kelly Freestone said...

Great post, Missy.

Thank you :)

I've figured out a few things with my eating habits, and it wasn't easy. I have a feeling it's going to be the same with writing.

I saw myself in the alarm clock beater, the stress choclateer, and the "New idea!" story desserter...

Now I've gotta do some research of a different kind...ppeeeerrrssoonnnaaaaaall research. Lord help me :s

BTW, I get the same feeling with Castle and The Biggest Loser and So You Think You Can Dance
Loooove Castle!

Rethinking the rebel ice cream binge on the Biggest Loser nights and the extra chocolate for Castle, haha.

I just loved this post, gal.
Thanks again, btw, better pass on the chocolate.
Lemme know when the book's the prize ;)

Missy Tippens said...

Sue, can you imagine being a writer before the Internet?? How lonely and SLOW everything must've been!!

Missy Tippens said...

Audra, I'm the same way with fudge! I'll only eat peanut butter fudge. It's still sickenly sweet, but I can handle a tiny bit.

Just more proof that yep, we're definitely twins separated at birth!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh my gosh, Kelly F., did you see the previews for next week's Castle!!!!????? Aahhhh!!!! I DVR'd it and just got to watch it last night at 2 am during my Diet-coke induced insomnia. :)

Oooh. I CAN NOT wait!! It better not do anything stupid like snow again and block our satellite dish!

Missy Tippens said...

By they way, any of you on any of my prayer loops... my kids got home from the trip safely! Thanks for praying!

CarolM said...


I totally saw that preview!!! Can't wait for it =D.

Still won't eat chocolate while watching it though ;).

Kelly - with you on the Biggest Loser snack thing except that my Captcha is EXERS which um, is a bit convicting... ;)

Pam Hillman said...

Keli said: A couple months ago, I began getting up at 5:30.

Hmmm, now I wonder what in the world triggered that, Keli?

Ausjenny said...

Oh Audra you just reminded me I have fudge in the fridge I made before chirstmas over half still there. I forgot about it but its so sickly I guess I wasn't really wanting it. guess another thing to dice before I go away.
If I have to choose between fudge and broccoli it would be vanilla fudge but I cant eat much its just to sweet.
(thinking of the next task I should be doing I guess it would be putting straw around the roses.)

Jan Christiansen said...

Fudge, please and Castle YES!

My life has been so busy lately that I haven't had much time to write.

How many times have you heard that before? How many times have I said it before? (Way too many!)

Seriously, though, I did just regain about 4 hours in my day, so if I just apply my butt to the chair and fingers to the keyboard for those 4 hours I could write the next great American novel in no time at all!

Go ahead and ENTER ME and bring on the chocolate!

Missy Tippens said...

CarolM, were you about squealing when you saw that preview like I was?? Of course, hubby was asleep, so I had to hold it in. Can't wait!!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, and I love that capcha! LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Pammy, I bet you're right! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jenny, I can't wait for spring and flowers again. I'm tired of winter already!

Missy Tippens said...

Jan, 4 hours added a day sounds fantastic! I know you're thrilled and will glue yourself to that chair. :)

Cara Lynn James said...

I have tons of bad habits and I'm terrible at fixing any one them. Maybe I should start one at a time...

Great post, Missy!

Loves 2 Read Romance - Laura said...

Your welcome for the idea Missy. The candy bowl at work has some mints but also some sweet candies as well. I just don't like them nearly as much. I also noticed that the candy seems last longer when it's not the chocolate. Seems everyone in the office doesn't eat as much candy when it's not chocolate.

CarolM said...


Or I would have been if a friend hadn't spilled the guts.

I squeeled to her about the whole Esposito thing but didn't want to spoil it and she was like 'oh, you heard about ____' [in case someone's trying to go spoiler free...]. Ah well ;).

Tomorrow's supposed to be my first day getting up at 530 so I can hit the elliptical before getting ready for school/work/etc. so...

And I keep meaning to say this and then get sidetracked...



So happy for ya, girlie!

Captcha: vings - How German's sing that one song... You are da vind beneath myyyyyyyy vings! =D

Janet Kerr said...

I have been reading about writing rather than writing....
Enter me please so I can eat while I write!
Thank you,

Missy Tippens said...

Cara, picking one sounds like a plan. LOL
Jan K, I've got you entered.

I'll go back through tomorrow and look for all who said they wanted chocolate the the winner will be announced in the weekend edition.

Thanks to all who took part today!

Christy LaShea said...

Missy, I need to break several of those bad habits! I don't sleep through the night anymore, so when my alarm goes off, I need to go ahead and get up. And I do get up, I go into the next room where my alarm is strategically placed and I turn it off, then go back to bed! I don't get up until my second alarm goes off. Sad, sad, sad. If I got up for the first alarm, I'd have a whole extra hour.
Thanks for sharing, a great article, indeed!

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Christy! Glad you stopped by. Boy, I sure know about that double alarm thing. I used to own one that had 2 separate alarms on it!

Julie Lessman said...

MISSY!!! I just now read your comment to me and laughed out loud!! An hour and a half on the treadmill???? Not even close! My treadmill is in the family room downstairs along with where I do my devotional, so I spend about 30 minutes on the treadmill and then 45 mins. to an hour on prayer/Bible time ... and on a good day (or bad, depending how much I need to cry to God that day), up to an hour and a half on my devotional. :)


Rita Monette, Writer said...

Awesome book cover by the way. And for me, I guess I choose the chocolate over the broccoli. Thanks for the tips on breaking those habits. And I guess you've listed just about all of mine in that list.

PatriciaW said...

Missy, did you miss ANY ONE in that list of negative writing behaviors? Sheesh!

As I contemplate the one or two, or seven, I need to change, am I allowed to reward myself with chocolate after I've completed my writing for the day?

apple blossom said...

fudge vs. broccoli will that is a no brainer. hehehehehe

Missy's book looks good too. I'd settle for a coke too M&Ms would be good.

Anne Baxter said...

Put me in the ranks of those who are feeling a bit of paranoia now. I'm checking all the doors and windows to make sure it's not me who inspired you to write that post.
Fine, then. I'll do the broccoli, but I want it with cheese on a baked potato.

Kelly Freestone said...

AHHH!!! I KNOW! I'm so excited!

I'm countin' down the days!!!

But NOoooo chocolate this time ;)

(phh yeah, okay.)


Missy Tippens said...

Oh, I see I missed some late visitors! Since I'm finally drawing a name today, you're included as well if you mentioned chocolate.

Jan said...

CHOCOLATE! I won CHOCOLATE! There is a God and He loves me!

Thanks, Missy!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Jan! :) Yes, and He would still love you even if you won broccoli. But aren't you glad it's chocolate instead! :)