Friday, October 3, 2014

7 Survival Tips to Reduce Stress and Retain Your Sanity

Hi Everyone, Audra here. Happy Birthday, Seekerville! 7 years of fun could not be possible without all of YOU! So thank you, Seeker friends and villagers, for all your support and commradery!!!

Okay, back to our topic. As writers, we all know there's nothing we'd like better than to emerse ourselves in our stories and write from dawn to dusk ... or maybe from dusk to dawn, right? Either way, unless you're a self-made millionaire, this is probably not the way your life works. We all have family, work, church, volunteering, and/or many other demands that stretch us beyond possible. I thought I'd share some of the words of wisdom I've realized as survival skills that have taken me from stay-at-home-mom, to 8-5 day job (and often far beyond), and still pursue my true calling in life - writing romance with the essence of Jesus in the hearts of my characters.

Have a plan.
I hear you laughing. What? You don't think Audra Harders has a plan? LOL! I wish I could organize my time as well as Pam, or twist 3 days of work into 1 like Tina, or churn out books with the same ease as baking cookies like Ruthy, but alas, that’s not how I’m wired. BUT, I do have a plan. I write from 7:00pm to 9:00pm weekdays. That’s it. That’s my plan. If I write for more time than this, BONUS!! This is the same concept our tax accountant gave us the year we had to arrange for payments on the income tax we owed for my husband’s business – commit to the least amount for repayment, and when available, pay off more. Right? Write!
And along with this…
Be Flexible.
I’ve set aside 2 hours a night to write. My family is good with this. That doesn’t mean that stuff doesn’t happen, though. I used to worry I wasn’t a dedicated writer if I allowed things to interrupt my schedule. I’d fret and angst over trying to make up the time. What a waste! The number one rule to keeping your sanity while working your writing career is BE FLEXIBLE. If something gets in your way, deal with it, and then pick up your plotting, editing, writing or whatever and continue on. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Weight Watchers’ meetings, it’s if you fall off the wagon, you have to forgive yourself and pick up where you left off.  
Avoid distractions.
This is a toughie. Our world is all about email, text messaging and social media. Communication is the key to building relationships and creating structure for your writing support group. I understand the concept and truly enjoy the benefits and comradery, but you can’t let it get the better of you. Like I mentioned earlier, I only have two hours a day to dedicate to writing, and if I let email and social media have its way with me, I’ll not only lose my precious writing time, but find my final LOL of the night has eaten into my sleep time, too.
This particular survival tip speaks to your priorities. I know some folks can fit it all in and be perfectly productive. I’m not one of those people. I had to go cold turkey on social media and impose restrictions on my email in order to meet my writing goals. Take a look at your particular stress points and be honest with yourself – is too much social interaction keeping you from achieving your goals??
Feeding the Masses.
Don't let mealtime stress you out!! Creative license is allowed in this portion of your writing journey. Since I have a day job, the thought of spending my two hours of free time prepping food for dinner just doesn't excite me. I prefer to cook on weekends, but not everyone has that luxury. So, explore your options. Talk to the hungry souls involved. Delegate. This past summer my son was responsible for creating dinner for the family one day a week. He chose to bring home Taco Bell. No one complained : )
Explore the possibilities of slow-cooker recipes, make-ahead and freeze meals, 3-ingredient meals, etc. Google has become my best friend. I look in my refrigerator and see a head of cabbage. Hmmm, what can be done with this?? Google “cabbage” and it will toss a variety of suggestions at you like cabbage recipes. is my favorite. Check it out. How about Cabbage Jambalaya? I like this one (since I tend to have these ingredients on hand)
Remember, we're talking sustenance, not gourmet. Reward your family with a great meal on the weekend.
Actually, it can be any kind of exercise, but the point is to get out and move. I tend toward Secretarial Spread. Walking a mile or two empowers me to think I have some control over the affliction, LOL!
I love walking the dog down our neighbor’s lane. She’s a rather stubborn Corgi and thinks she’s walking me when I have her on a leash. BUT, once we turn down Bob’s lane, I unhook the leash and start getting lost in the fresh air (knowing the dog will follow). Once I get the blood flowing and clear my mind, ideas begin to form and sometimes I find a whole different perspective on a plot point or conflict I hadn’t considered before. And it gives me an opportunity to hum and sing where no one will hear me : )
Embrace (or rediscover) hobbies.
I grew up sewing. Not clothing, but draperies. I was practically born with a needle in my chubby little fist since my family ran a drapery company. I loved the feel of fabric as I sewed, pressed and finished panels of window coverings. Since it was relatively mindless work, I had plenty of time to make up stories in my head as I sewed. I still sew, but now I concentrate on piecing together quilts rather than draperies. The feel of the fabric and creative exercise of coordinating colors and prints takes me away from plastic keyboards and illuminated computer screens and feeds my tactile creative side. 
Let me suggest something. When you’re stuck on a scene point, try turning away from writing and spend some time on a hobby completely different than typing words. You’ll be amazed at how your mind kind of “resets” itself.   
And Finally…
Make time to read.
Of all my tips, this one is the most difficult for me to embrace with a clear conscience. I love books. I love to read. Yet, sitting down in my comfy chair and losing myself in a sigh-dropping story makes me feel guilty. GET OVER IT. We are in the writing business. We must keep up on trends. We need to support our fellow authors by having a cocktail knowledge across our genre, and the newest releases of our friends and colleagues work. I must confess, my TBR pile is teetering, but with the popularity of digital books and readers, I’m overjoyed to carry around my Kindle and make the most of expected and unexpected waits. I give myself permission to read on weekends…entire books at a sitting. 

And then, I remember why I became a writer : )

How about you? 

  • What is your Achilles' heel when it comes to staying focused and producing? 
  • What kind of short cuts have you come up with to support productivity? 
  • What do you need help with? 
  • What kind of help can you offer? 
  • What keeps you from writing till your heart's content?
  • Any quick and easy recipes?
  • How do you juggle all your responsibilities and writing?
Share with us and check back on Sunday to see if you're the winner of a $10 Amazon card!!

And wait! For a limited time, my indie release, Second Chance Ranch, is available through Amazon for .99! This great price won't last long, so tell you're family and friends and know I love you THIS MUCH!!!

Audra Harders writes "rugged stories with heart" featuring cowboys who haven't a clue about relationships rescued by ladies who think they have all the answers. In real life, she's married to her own patient hero, has two adult children and is surrounded by everything conducive to writing about farming, ranching and cowboys at her day job in the county Extension office. She began writing right after her son was born and sold her first book to Steeple Hill Love Inspired mere months before that same son graduated from high school. Surviving those years in between remind her God does have her plan for her life...and that He has a tremendous sense of humor. You can visit her at her website. Stop by and see what’s new, and sign up for her newsletter!


  1. I'm impressed, Audra with how much YOU get done! And the Ruthy's, Tina's, and so on, we will always have with us, and they do take the pressure off of you. I need hundreds of books a year to satisfy my hunger for reading, so I need lots of great authors. And I love how your post is applicable to me as a farmer too. Except I try to read while you are writing! Thanks. Have a great day!

  2. Good tips, Audra, but thank you most of all for your admonition to read. :)

    Coffee's on.

    Now I gotta go read!

  3. Hi Audra,
    Taking time to read - that reminds me of when I became a Realtor and soon discovered that I had to tour houses all day. It took a bit to sink-in that knowing the inventory was one of the most important aspects of the job. If I didn't know what was out there, I wouldn't be prepared when a buyer walked through the door.

    Reading is like that for me now. It's not to learn the 'inventory,' but rather to train myself on the craft. For me, the best tools for learning POV, pacing and GMC are seeing them unfold in a well written book.

    So just like I never apologized for being out of the office because I was looking at houses, I never apologize for reading. :)

  4. The internet/social media is my Achilles heel.

    And quick recipe:

    1 rack of pork ribs (I use country style so I don't have to deal with bones)
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1 Tablespoon water.
    (When my boys become teens, I'm sure I'll have to double this)

    Mix soy sauce, brown sugar and water in bottom of crock pot, put in ribs and cover. Hi for maybe 8 hours, low 5-6. Done. Steam some broccoli, toast some bread. Viola.

  5. Oh, and flip the ribs once sometime in the middle!!!! Get the juice seeped in on both sides.

  6. I am a very unorganized person and am easily distracted by a book! Will be heading to Amazon to purchase yours!

  7. Social media / internet is definitely my Achilles heal. I'm pretty sure time must go at double speed when you're on Facebook!

  8. Loved the post Audra. I am easily distracted and seem to battle it daily. Then a form of procrastination comes in and I fight a two headed dragon. But I am slowly becoming the victor and I will prevail.

    Have a blessed weekend! Happy Birthday Seekerville!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  9. True to all of these. I have physical limitations that mean I HAVE to go on long walks every day and really watch my posture when I type.

    God bless the popular published writer who admitted that she only wrote three hours a day even though she worked from home. It was what she could do and learned to pace herself. That took away the guilt!

    Peace, Julie

  10. Audra, these are such good suggestions! I'm trying to get started with taking walks. I tend to sit for hours without realizing it. So I got myself this app that howls at me at set intervals. (I started at every 25 minutes but that drove me crazy.)

    Also love the permission to read! :)

  11. Melissa, thanks for the recipe! I love the country style ribs.

  12. These are great suggestions, Audra.
    Thank you for giving me permission to not feel guilty when I read. Like yourself, I love to read, but at times, the guilt can take away the pleasure.
    Happy Weekend!

  13. Marianne, you are too kind. We all try to squeeze too much into our days, weeks, lives. It's trying to keep up with all stuff clamoring for our attention that can drive you bonkers!!

    BTW, I love farmers. I respect farmers. I'm surrounded by farmers at the Extension office.

    Keep reading, Marianne. We'll keep writing : )

  14. I too work from my home office, so your tips struck a chord with me. Thank you for sharing with us; I enjoyed every word you wrote.
    My Achilles' heel is commenting on blogs, as I love interacting with readers and authors (and winning a book on occasion is a lovely bonus in life, since I have read 250+ books per year since 1973).
    Thankfully, I am not on FB nor do I tweet. Still, I'm on the computer too much and also have that "Secretarial Spread".
    I am trying to walk more often. I have asked more and more people to accompany me, and it is finally coming to fruition, as a neighbour has offered to drive me to a trail to join her and others weekly. I'd prefer daily, but I'll start with weekly. (I don't walk in our neighbourhood. There aren't sidewalks, and I feel like I'm "casing the joint" if I walk alone. I also don't have a car at my disposal to drive to the trail like I used to do a few years ago.)
    One step at a time....

  15. I too work from my home office, so your tips struck a chord with me. Thank you for sharing with us; I enjoyed every word you wrote.
    My Achilles' heel is commenting on blogs, as I love interacting with readers and authors (and winning a book on occasion is a lovely bonus in life, since I have read 250+ books per year since 1973).
    Thankfully, I am not on FB nor do I tweet. Still, I'm on the computer too much and also have that "Secretarial Spread".
    I am trying to walk more often. I have asked more and more people to accompany me, and it is finally coming to fruition, as a neighbour has offered to drive me to a trail to join her and others weekly. I'd prefer daily, but I'll start with weekly. (I don't walk in our neighbourhood. There aren't sidewalks, and I feel like I'm "casing the joint" if I walk alone. I also don't have a car at my disposal to drive to the trail like I used to do a few years ago.)
    One step at a time....

  16. Audra,

    Hobbies....can't agree with you more. They relax you and in no time, you've figured your plot out.

    I sew/quilt/embroidery. All of those help me to work out plot issues on my books.

  17. EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, AUDRA! I can relate to ALL of these...a regular writing time is the only thing that allows me to meet my deadlines. I can't do mega-hour stretches to catch up.

    I participate in strength-training classes and am getting back into walking again--I need every bit of sunshine I can glean with the days already getting shorter (and colder -- 28 degrees here in the mountains this morning).

    I'm still eyeing "hobbies" with longing -- like you, I love to sew for the home. Curtains, throw pillows, bed skirts, wall hangings, etc. So relaxing. But guess what? 10 years ago I bought yards and yards of beautiful material for a bed and bath makeover--and it's STILL boxed up. Try as I might, I don't have time to drag it all out and measure and cut and sew. Each year I tell myself I'll take a week off from work in the summer or at Christmas to do that. But I'm always under a book deadline now, so no "play time" anymore. I'm NOT giving up on it, maybe this coming year? :)

  18. LOL, Helen. We were readers before we were writers. We've got to stay true to our roots!!!

    Thanks for the coffee, Helen. I'm bringing every kind of zucchini bread possible to the buffet today. . .

    Chocolate chip
    Walnut and raisin
    Cranberry almond

    ...let me know if you have a favorite zucchini bread and I'll whip it up just for you!! Trust me, we've got LOTS of zucks around here, LOL!!

  19. Good girl, Lyndee! Excellent comparison, too. How can we offer our clients/readers the best products possible if we don't keep up on trends and tones?

    I've torn so many books apart to figure out how they made me laugh, cry, angry, etc. Best selling books are the best research tool out there.

    Keep reading, girlfriend!!

  20. Hi Audra,

    Great tips Audra. I'll be considering how to structure my day to squeeze in more time to write.

    I work retail and have different schedules every day, so I have to be flexible which is one point you mentioned.

    When it's just me and my hubby for dinner, we often eat fruit or salads. In his job he takes people out to lunch often so knowing he gets one "good" meal a day takes the guilt away. I love that your son brings home Taco Bell for dinner on his assigned night.

    Thanks again for the great tips.

  21. Melissa, you are an angel : ) THAT'S an easy dinner!!! My boy is coming home from college this weekend. He loves meat. He even loves broccoli. This recipe will put a smile on his face.

    You're the bestest!!!

  22. Kara, I hear you, girlfriend. I'll hop on the internet after work to catch up on the world events and HOURS would go by. Next thing I know, my husband would be turning off the lights and saying good night. I'd be so frustrated with myself for not getting a single word written.

    I never did find a way to cohabitate with social media, so I went cold turkey. I hope you check back through out the day and see what words of wisdom we get for dealing with that particular time-suck!!

    BTW, my daughter's name is Kara. I smile everytime I see you post in Seekerville : )

  23. Cindy W, my prayers are covering you. Dragons of any sort are not pretty creatures. Together, we'll slay them!!

  24. Julie HS, enjoy those long walks! Now that the days are cooler, I enjoy coming home from work, slipping into my sneakers and heading out the door for 20 minutes or so in the crisp, fresh air. Love it!

    Years ago I read something about how Nora Roberts writes 20K? 40K? A DAY! OMG, I tug each word out of my brain and they just spill out for her.

    It took a while, but I got over word envy. Now I'm happy with my 1-2K a day. Books get written one scene at a time...

  25. Aren't apps great, Missy? There's an app for everything! I have a silly smart phone. I should start learning how to use it : )

    Our wellness program at work encourages us to work for 60 minutes and get up and walk for 5 : ) Isn't that nice of them? This time of year, people come into the office to rent honey extractors which are located in a shed out behind the community garden area. Takes about 10 minutes, so I get to enjoy the sunshine, too.

  26. Hi Jill! Remember the old saying: Reading is FUN-damental? It's a great reminder. I think I'll make a cross-stitch and hang it over my computer : )

  27. Laney, I hear you! I love reading blogs. I've discovered so many great authors and research sites by clicking on links. I KNOW everyone loves the links Tina adds to our WE. How she scours out all the great info is way beyond me!

    Besides walking, I also use our Wii Fit in the winter. Great step programs! The music is catchy, too, LOL!!

  28. Hi Audra - wow, you make me tired just reading about your schedule. So impressive! I just bought Second Chance Ranch and I have scheduled it in for this weekend. So looking forward to it!

  29. Rose, I love sewing baby blankets to give away, since I don't see my own children having babies anytime soon...

    Working with fabric is very theraputic for me. Of course, it's nerve-wracking when I forget to measure twice and cut once, but hey, it's all good : )

  30. So many good points! I'm laughing at your analogy to cookie baking, but if you can fool folks into thinking that's how I do it, I'll play along!

    I think the key to success for anything is good old self-discipline. And that's always been my fall-back strength so when I finally got the nod, I had a LOT OF PRODUCT in the hard drive.

    And that's made a world of difference in merging both sides of my career, but the first thing always, here: self-discipline.

    And COOKIES!!!!! So I brought some of those amazing cookies to share wi' youse! And apple crisp that we had in the cafe yesterdy.... Oh my stars, please eat it before I eat it all!!!!

  31. Melissa Jagears, I'm trying this!!!!

  32. You know, the hobby thing for me is when I'm doing home repair. Now don't laugh, I love painting, scraping, trimming, getting a new look. Maybe it's guilt from this poor place being so stinkin' neglected for so long!!! But I love that, so that's my "hobby". It's like sewing for some folks (something else I love) but I love the nails and hands-on of redoing a room.

  33. Melissa, I have never ever been good at ribs. I don't even try any more.
    But I'm trying this.

  34. My FAVORITE super easy recipe.

    3 or 4 pound bag of boneless skinless chicken breasts.
    1 can pineapple chunks
    1 chopped onion
    1 bottle BBQ sauce...any flavor

    Dump ingredients in that order, into a crock pot, cook all day long or until Chicken is done.
    That's it.
    The only thing that takes any time at all is chopping the onion.

    Also very good
    3 to 4 lb bag boneless skinless Chicken Breast
    I can whole kernel corn
    1 can black beans
    1 small jar Pace Picante sauce
    Cook all day or until Chicken is done. Heat it up by using the hotter Pace.

    When the chicken is done, I shred them with two forks. Turn it into sandwich meat of fajita filling.

    These both have about FOUR MINUTE PREP TIME.

  35. Audra, I missed you at ACFW this year!

    I love your tips. When I was working hard to finish my rough draft before ACFW, I turned email off when I was writing so I wouldn't be tempted to check it. I'm so bad about that!!

    We ate lots of hamburgers for dinner this summer. One of my favorite, absolutely yummy and uber-easy recipes is

    Kalua Pork
    5-6# pork shoulder or pork butt
    2 tablespoons of liquid smoke
    2 tablespoons rock salt

    Cook in the slow cooker about 8 hours. It's very tender and super yummy!

    I'm hoping to stop by later and read more comments. Right now two boys are clamoring into the car for school.

  36. Finding time to write when you work a "normal" job is difficult, but I'm blessed to be able to write in the downtime at work.
    This week I've added more to my word count that I have been lately. :)
    Thank you for the tips, Audra. I love hearing how published authors balance their responsibilities.

  37. Thanks for the reminders, Audra! I can sit all day in one spot—not good! :-)

    I love to read about as well as I like to eat and sleep.

    I live alone and don't have to stop and feed anyone or wonder if everybody has clean underwear for tomorrow, no one cares if my house is clean or not, but—still—I feel guilty when I take a day to read. Ingrained training is hard to overcome!! I'm working on it.:-)

  38. Mary C, I'm trying your 'chicken dump' thing! That sounds yummy—and think of the aroma filling the house...umm!

    Thanks, girl!:-)

  39. Melissa, thanks for your yummy sounding ribs—going to try them too!
    But I'm a country girl, I don't mind the bones!:-)

    Two great recipes—and Audra's post—Seekerville has served me well today! :-)

  40. AUDRA,
    I love this. I'm going to try the 7 to 9 thing.
    I don't "go" on Facebook any more. I'll post something if I think someone would be interested, but I don't troll it like some people. I just check the responses to my own post.
    I'm still struggling with television. I'm doing Sandy's 28 days of writer devotionals for October, and the first one was, "What can you sacrifice?" The only thing I came up with was TV. Sigh.
    The recipes sound good, I'm going to try them.
    MARIANNE, I would be happy to supply you with books. As soon as I find a publisher. :)
    I think it's important to have a regimen, whether it's Ruthy's 1000 words a day or Audra's 7 to 9. It's hard for me because my secular work hours are so irregular (I'm a newspaper reporter and have day gigs,night meetings and everything in between), but I'm going to try.
    I do walk. It's the only exercise I get, but I have to do it because of osteopenia, the prelude to osteoporosis, and the diabetes. I use it to pray and work out plot issues, so it does double duty.
    I read somewhere that women who feel stress, jealousy and anxiety are more prone to Alzheimer's. Sheesh. Another reason to de-stress. I got rid of jealousy back in my 40s, but stress and anxiety are still around.
    Thank you Audra.
    Kathy Bailey
    No longer jealous in New Hampshire

  41. Anything in the crock pot is a blessing, although this year I've also fallen back on rotisserie chicken. With sourdough bread and a salad, we're good.

  42. Great advice, Audra. Especially about the hobbies. They are so important to our sanity.

    I have got to get better about taking one day to prep several meals. It would make my life so much easier. Now I just need to get my butt in gear and do it!

  43. I have an easy vegetable soup recipe that can be prepared in a crockpot.

    hamburger or stew meat or whatever meat you want.
    onions (I use frozen chopped onions)
    1 bottle of V8 juice
    1 bag frozen vegetables (Whatever mixture you desire.
    Bay leaves

    That is it. Very quick and delicious

  44. Great article Audra and things I deal with constantly. You think that being retired will give you more time. WRONG. You have less time. How that works, I'm not sure. But it happens. So these hints are great for me as well. Thanks girlfriend.

    I love the crock pot too. Best thing ever invented. Just throw whatever is in the refrig and it comes out yummy.

  45. Excellent advice, Audra! Lately I've struggled with letting Facebook and email distract me. I've turned off notifications for both on my phone, which has helped some.

  46. Oh, AUDS, GREAT BLOG and one I needed BADLY!!

    My Achilles heel are emails, but I found that once I turned off most notifications on FB, that my emails cut in HALF!! Not only did that reduce my time wading through emails, but it kept me off FB, which is what I've been trying to do since February. :)

    Great advice, my friend, and I SO admire your discipline!!


  47. Great advice all around, Audra!!!

    And I admire anyone who works full-time while also maintaining a regular writing schedule. Not sure I could do it.

    It also helps to have a retired husband who continues to improve his cooking skills!

  48. WILANI, your recipe looks yummy! Do you brown the meat before putting it in the Crock pot?

  49. Great tips on developing and following a plan. I admit to letting social media eat more of my time than it should!

  50. Audra, I love your sensible tips for writers to be productive without losing our minds and bodies. We won't get far without them. LOL

    I read daily but not as much as I'd like. I want to get back to drawing with colored pencils. Oh, and make sure I exercise. Balance is important. Balance is hard.

    My time waster is email but even worse is getting distracted from my goals. Anyone else find themselves getting off on some tangent and wasting time?

    Two or three hours can be productive if I'm focused and know where my story is going. I'm learning that preplanning is essential for me.


  51. Love all the recipes! Melissa, how long on low? Surely longer than on high. Should I flip those?


  52. Glynna, you have even more on your plate than I do! I look at you with awe, especially each time one of your books releases : )

    Strength training is something I should look in to. For years I joked with my husband saying women were supposed to be soft and that I am, it's no joking matter!!

  53. Great plan, Jackie! I'm good with one well-rounded meal a day. I don't think my waistline could afford more, LOL!

  54. Cindy W, thanks for making my day : )


    Second Chance Ranch was such an inspiring, good read. Thanks for setting aside those two hours a day :-)

    My Achille's used to be blogs -- and updates from writing loops. One of the ways I tapered that down was to subscribe to 'compilation' newsletters like Galley Cat and a few others (and Tina's wonderful WE) rather than try to read individual blogs. I went with weekly digests from writing groups, then realized how little I gained from them and unsubscribed.

    Forgiving myself when I didn't meet goals was difficult for a long time. Now forgiving myself is easier and, interestingly enough, I meet more of my goals :-)

    Nancy C

  56. Ruthy, I stick close to you in hopes that good ol' fashioned self-discipline rubs off.

    Apple crisp? Oooo, my favorite! I love the tart, tangy kind. I've brought French Vanilla ice cream, so we can pop the apple crisp in the microwave and melt a scoop of ice cream on top.


  57. Mary, I make your chicken crock pot recipes all the time! My family loves the bbq sauce and pineapple recipe. It lasts up to a week in the refrigerator when my son isn't home. When he is...well, it's gone by the end of the weekend : )

    So fast, so easy, so good!!!

  58. I'm thinking we have a Seekers and Villagers Cookbook in the making ...

    Nancy C

  59. Jeanne, I fantasized about attending the conference this year. I booked the flight and everything.

    Whatever was I thinking??? The 4-H fiscal years ends on Sept 30 and I had a bajillion things to wrap up. I hope ACFW never moves their conference to that last week in September again!

    I can never say it enough ... congratulaions on winning the Frasier!!! I would've given you a big hug in St. Louis...

  60. Courtney, good for you! Make use of that downtime when you can. Even a few extra words a day makes all the difference in the world.

  61. HA, Janet, yeah, I flipped those around! Whoops!

    I have a hard time telling how long to put stuff in the crockpot for because mine ALWAYS goes faster than any crockpot recipe because my crockpot is an overachiever! So yeah, low for about 8 hours and high for 4 or 5. Basically when they're falling apart. :)

  62. Easy recipe? One-pan Blond Brownies which make up easy and for which you can use literally anything in your cupboard. For when your kid comes home and says, "I need something for the bake sale TOMORROW."
    2/3 cup vegetable shortening
    1 ½ c. granulated sugar
    4 eggs
    1 tsp. vanilla
    1 ½ c. flour
    1 tsp. baking powder
    Etc. (see below)
    Preheat oven to 350.
    Grease and flour a 13x9 pan.
    Melt shortening in saucepan, then remove from heat. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla.
    (Do the sugar FIRST, or you’ll have scrambled eggs in your cookies.) Add
    the flour, baking powder and “etc.” to the mixture. Bake 30 minutes, cut into squares.
    I got this when I was first married from a book called “How I Feed My
    Family on $16 a Week.” This recipe got me through raising two girls, 18 months apart, and their various
    “activities.” The beauty of this is that it can use almost anything you have in the pantry – chocolate chips,
    raisins, walnuts, thus the “etc.” These freeze fairly well. They tend to dry out after a couple of days,
    so best to freeze some if you’re not planning on a crowd.
    Chocolate chip and walnut; Plain chocolate chip; Butterscotch chips; Raisin and walnut; Plain raisin; Plain walnut; Brown sugar instead of white. Sprinkle coconut on top when almost baked; lightly brown, take out.
    Frost or unfrost. For the holidays: stir in colored “fruitcake” fruit and ice with white icing. I call this my “fake fruitcake.”
    I got this from Joanna York's "How I Feed My Family on $16 a Week" back in the 80s. I don't think she does it on $16 a week any more, but whatever. This got me through raising two kids, 18 months apart, and their various "activities." It doesn't require sifting, kneading or any equipment beyond the one saucepan and the 9x13 pan, so thus giving Mom more time to write.

  63. Apple crisp? I'm in! (I'm SO in!)

  64. Myra, I have browned and also not browned and did not notice any difference. Now I usually don't brown. It cooks for a long time anyway.

  65. Great post, Audra!

    I love my crock pot! Which reminds me - it's time to stick tonight's supper in will be something with ground beef, but I'm not sure what yet. Probably chili. It's a chili kind of day around here :)

    I think you hit on a key thing for getting that writing done - you've made it part of your routine. That's what I'm aiming for! That and a minimum daily goal.

    And thanks for the reminder about reading. I actually have an hour of reading written down on my schedule. One thing I learned in college is that in order to write well, you need to read well. And voraciously. So I do :)

    Thanks for the zucchini bread!!!

  66. Have a plan - Mmmwahh ha ha hoo hoo boo hoo...
    um, working on that. might have to start at 1 hour.
    Be flexible - can do!!!
    Avoid distractions - have reduced down to one or two. but number one is an adorable four, almost five year old named Guppy. Hard to avoid "Momma, listen you me."
    Feed the masses - not hard yet, but am ALL OVER the grand recipes shared in the comments. y'all rock!!!!
    Walk/exericise - working on that. assist coaching 14 yr old girls vBall one night and play in women's volleyball league one night. so sad when i realize i've been playing volleyball three times longer than the kid across the net from me has been alive.
    Embrace hobbies - can do!!! thanks for the permission, so to speak
    Make time to read -Bless you for helping relieve my guilt. I've defiinitely been reading/studying the great authors Seekerville has and has introduced me to.

    Awesome post Audra. You have given me a ray of hope in the midst of my self-flagellation over what I haven't done. It has inspired me to greater self discipline.

    THANK YOU!!!!!

  67. Distractions are my Achilles heel. I write in my living room while life goes on around me. We are building an office and I'll be so glad when it's finished. Also social media takes up too much of my time.

  68. Oh, Audra, this post has to hit home for so many of us!!! I think the number one question I hear is, how do I find time to write. My answer is usually that it's finding time to do everything else that's the problem, because I ALWAYS make time to write!

    As writing took over more of my time I tended to bake less. Since his retirement I've discovered my hubby enjoys cooking and baking. What a bonus timesaver for me!

    Social media is where I can waste a lot of time, so I limit myself to specific time slots. I'll set goals -- write or research for an hour and take a ten minute Facebook break, etc. During Seekerville's Birthday bash my first morning break is dedicated to checking in here. :)

  69. Great post, Audra. I like the fact that your advice includes fun things like hobbies, walking and that essential of life: reading. Writing's hard work, but your seven steps will make it easier.

  70. Audra,

    This is a great column. I'm feeling less stress already. Thank you for these great tips.
    And thanks everyone for the great quick recipes!

  71. Melissa, thanks for clarifying. I think my crockpot's on steroids. Cooks way faster than advertised.


  72. Great tips, Audra! Thank you!

  73. Ha!! I was almost ready to get back to work and I remembered the recipes. Diving back into the comments to find and copy them out. They sound like perfect solutions for those days when I might have to come up with a meal and hubby isn't around. :D

  74. Mary Hicks, you will absolutely LOVE Mary C's chicken recipes. So easy and it makes enough to freeze for later.

  75. LOL Kathy Bailey! So glad you're no longer jealous in New Hampshire : )

    You mentioned TV being a stumbling block. I must confess, The Voice is the only show I push aside all my responsibilities for. I love that show. And quite honestly, it tends to give me perspective on my writing. It's amazing how the comments and advice the coaches give their proteges (anyone know how to insert accents??) can be applied to writing, too. I learned a lot from Usher last season.

    Who woulda thunk it??

  76. Mindy, embrace the crockpot.

    Pam Hillman has excellent recipes for chocolate desserts in a crockpot.

    As we speak, I have a lasagna cooking in my crock pot for dinner tonight...

  77. Wilani, is the temp turned to low all day or part of the day?

  78. Sandra, from what I've heard, retirement finds you busier than when you had a day job. I think the same it true for SAHMs. Everyone thinks you have so much time on your hands and feel the need to fill it for you, LOL!

  79. Jennifer, I can't go near Facebook without feeling the time fly by. Good move taking it off your phone!

  80. Julie, you are such a social butterfly, I'll bet you begin to hyperventilate when you open your email and find less than 50 people clamoring for your attention!! Honey, I live in awe of your energy and grace.

    And passion. We mustn't forget passion!!

  81. Myra, I admire YOUR ability to fulfil all your writing contracts! Keep writing those emotion filled books!!

  82. Rebecca, social media is a menace to our productivity!!

  83. Oh Janet, when you find that key to balance, please share with us.

    It's not surprising to hear that you draw. I think all writers are multi-faceted artists. Creativity runs through us and indulging in our other talents helps strengthen the quality of characters in our books.

    I just wish I created everything faster...

  84. Audra, Low all day or I have done it on high for 3 or 4 hours.

    Now back to my writing. My goal is at least 1,000 today.

  85. RUTHY--I could NEVER laugh at you for loving painting, scraping, trimming and getting a new look. I don't have the gift of painting, though I do like figuring out new looks from time to time. :)

  86. Great post, Audra! Loved the message you got through!

  87. Thanks for the recipes everyone! I copied them onto a separate document so I can begin using them when I get back into rewrites. :)

    FYI, on my recipe, it seems like I may have forgotten an ingredient but I didn't. I promise. It cooks up pull apart delicious and oh, SO tender.

  88. Audra, I love the way you think. I'd like to create faster too. Maybe if I follow your tips to the letter.

    I don't have characters in my head fighting to get their story on the page. That slows me down. I can't even smack these people to hurry it up. Anyone else have story people who are playing hide and seek like mine are?


  89. Great post, Audra. And love all the recipes shared!
    Count me in for the A. card, please!!
    Happy Weekend to all............

  90. This is all good stuff and I would like to add number 8. Embrace the word no. Because you can't do it all.

    Cabbage Jambalaya? I love cabbage. You need to make this in the Yankee Belle.

    I thought I would never be able to get up early to write. I now can get up at 3 am. After months of working toward it. BUT I must get to bed by 9 or it doesn't work.

    Great ideas, Audra.

  91. Great post, Audra! I am terrible at sticking to a schedule, but I'm just gonna have to bite the bullet and do it. :-P Great recipes, btw!

  92. Nancy C, your comment put a big ol' grin on my face. Thanks for the compliment!!

    I agree with you, it takes me so long to forgive myself. We've got to let go of that "failing" anxiety before it really screws us up.

    God knows how hard we try. That's all that matters : )

  93. Melissa and Kathy, both your recipes are tacked to my board already : ) Those ribs are going to rock and we'll have blonde brownies for dessert : )

  94. Jan Drexler, a chilly day deserves chili, right? Gotta love it : )

    You brought up a schedule which reminds me, when day-timer renewal time comes along (Not the real thing -- my planner is definitely generic), I search for academic planners. The kind that have class schedules in them. Let's face it, my weekdays run pretty much the same, so I ink in the immovables and pencil in the irregularies of the week.

    I'm going to ink in reading time. As long as it doesn't conflict with The Voice, I'll make part of my day!!

    Thanks, Jan!

  95. I made my goal for today!

    I am planning to print today's post because it was so great and an encouragement.

    Plus I will also print the comments since there are some awesome recipes included.

    I hope everyone has a great weekend

  96. DebH, was that an evil kind of laugh I heard as you skimmed over Have a Plan? LOL, I tend to be right there with you, except if I don't have a plan, I will waste an entire day doing...who knows what.

    And any distraction named Guppy needs your full attention!! Everyone called my son Bubby all the way through Junior College. It wasn't until he went out of state to finish his degree that people started calling him Martin. Except his family, of course. He's still Bud to us : )

  97. Jamie, I feel for you. If I had to write in the living room with the television on, I wouldn't get anything done. I probably have to run out to the storage shed for some quiet.

    Bless your heart, you'll have an office soon!!

  98. WooHoo Carol Garvin! You said it all when you mentioned during our birthday month, you start your day with us.

    I just did a Snoopy dance in your honor : )

    Sounds like retirement suits hubby. Let him cook and bake! Suggest he try his hand at cleaning, too : ) You never know what kind of monster you might unleash, LOL!

    Keep writing, girlfriend. So glad to hear finding time to write is not your problem!!

  99. Wowzer Audra, that was an impressive post.

    The point that hit me in the solar plexus was reading. I don't give myself permission to read.

    I miss it. So I shall begin to read again. Thank you for giving me permission.

    BTW, one thing that stops me is playing with my graphic's tools. I love to tinker with covers, learn new techniques.

    How do I stop playing? I haven't figured that out, b/c it's a part of my career, but WHAT A TIME EATER it is.

    Hugs to you and to Seekerville.
    Leslie Ann aka L.A.

  100. Thanks, Amanda. I think we scramble around trying to find the perfect method, time, place to reach our goal of words per day, we forget that there's so much more to life!

    AND, consider this: since we write what we know, our characters depend on us for their skill sets. Suddenly, all your hobbies and reading become RESEARCH.

    Maybe that'll make it a little easier to let yourself have fun.

  101. Deep breaths, Piper. Life was not meant to be stressful.

    Kathy Bailey mentioned stress, jealousy and anxiety make women prone to Alzheimer's.

    No bueno. We've got to cut that out!!

  102. OMG, I breezed right past Lilsis this morning! Sorry!

    I hope Second Chance Ranch is worth the distraction, LOL!!!

  103. Jeanne T, your Kalua Pork is right up my alley, too. 3 ingredients and a crockpot. You can't beat that!

  104. Wilani, 1000 words a day. You go, girlfriend!

  105. Eva, may your life be unstressful : )

  106. Jeanne, is that really enough moisture? Since you live in Colorado too (we've GOT to get together sometime!!), I really don't have to add any liquid other than the Liquid Smoke?

  107. Janet, my characters hide from me all the time. Or they're moody and won't share what's on their minds.

    Kids. What can I tell you??

  108. You got it, Jackie : ) In for an A card, LOL!

  109. Tina, I made the Cabbage Jambalya last night. It IS good. I'll mozy on over to the YB and schedule a time...

    Saying no. Seems like such an easy word to say. No.


    Feels good : )

    All together now...NO!!

  110. Anna, we all have to concentrate on making our writing time a habit.

    Did you see what Tina said?? She gets up and writes at 3am!! OMG, I have a hard enough time getting up at 5am...and I go to bed at 9:30.

  111. Way to go, Wilani!! 1000 words!! Treat yourself to pumpkin cheesecake!!


  112. ohhh, we need the recipes on the weekend edition, so I can see them all.

    Love reading the comments, but...:)

    My one big new idea that works best for me, and one you mentioned Audra, is being flexible. I know I have a word count, and if something comes up, and you all know it does, then be flexible and write more the next day. It's being aware.


  113. Hey Leslie! Glad you stopped by.

    Yes, girlfriend, you have way too many toys to play with. I wouldn't call your graphics programs time eaters in a bad sense. You've created a beautiful cover for your upcoming Christmas novel, Be Mine This New Year's Night.

    Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

  114. Hi Audra,
    Great list, having a plan and being disciplined enough to work the plan always seems to work for me, although I have to be flexible at times:) My big reward for checking things off my daily list is... reading time! No guilt allowed either!

    I'm glad you are dedicated to your writing, I really enjoyed Second Hand Ranch.

  115. Audra, this is such a helpful post for me. I love hearing how writer's with day jobs do it to get writing time in. So far I am not making it work, but I am trying. The problem for me is that I am exhausted after a day of work and just want to come home and collapse, watch TV, get on the computer, etc. So I am trying to make myself write before I can look at Facebook or watch TV. But it isn't easy.

    I am also now spending a lot of time on Seekerville because I want to read all the comments. (That's not a bad thing, though, right? :) ) So scheduling is major.

    Flexibility is also important and thank you for mentioning it. I feel guilty if I set a schedule and then can't always follow it. Flexibility and time management are going to be really important to me in the next few months as I am going to be doing a month-long sub job teaching middle school English in December as well as starting a part-time job at the mall in the evening and weekends. All that on top of getting ready for Christmas and I know I will get stressed out.

    I never feel guilty about reading. I read every night before bed. I also walk whenever I can and that helps me work through my writing as well.

    I downloaded your book awhile back, Audra, and will get to it one of these days. Now that I'm on Seekerville I am really adding to my TBR list. Please throw my name in for the Amazon card.

  116. I'm late arriving, and I'm letting this wonderful blog interrupt my writing time. :-) But what a necessary interruption! Thank you, Audra, for the permission to fix convenience foods when necessary and the instruction to read.

  117. Such true advice that applies to everyone! The tips that I took to heart the most are to avoid distractions and embrace hobbies. I can attest that getting some exercise always increases my energy and productivity! Please include me in the drawing! :)

  118. Audra
    it wasn't really an evil laugh... more of a burst guffaw at how poor I am at planning things. Discipline. Lord knows I need to be better at it.

    And I am a Voice junkie as well. The coach interplay is priceless.

  119. I didn't have time to leave a recipe this morning so I came back to offer this.

    Taco Casserole

    1 1/2 to 2 lbs ground chuck
    1 large onion chopped
    Large can of chopped green chiles
    Two cans (14 oz I think)refried beans
    Pound of grated cheese of choice.
    Two packs taco seasoning
    Sliced black olives

    In 9 x 13 dish or pan, layer the refried beans then the green chiles. Brown the ground chuck and add the taco seasoning. Drain. Layer the ground chuck over the beans and green chiles. Layer cheese, enough to cover, more if you like. Then sprinkle the olives.
    Cook in 375 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

    Serve with Fritos and sour cream.

    Happy Friday!

    Smiles & Blessings
    Cindy W.

  120. Great tips, Audra! Aren't crockpots the best? Believe it or not I've actually burnt something in one! It was a Barbeque flavored pork loin. What I didn't realize was that it was precooked. Just needed warming up. It was covered in bbq sauce and I just dumped it in and cooked it for about 5 hours. : /

  121. I have enjoyed reading all of the tips from you fantastic ladies and I especially love the recipes. I am keeping all of them!
    Thank you so much!

  122. Tracey, I love it! Complete your plan and enjoy the rewards.


    Glad my book made it on your list. Thanks!!

  123. Sandy, I agree it's tough juggling day jobs and writing. You need to keep the flexible component in mind. The good Lord knows what He's doing when we find ourselves in the situations we're placed.

    Be content and do the best you can in every situation. If I write one book a year, I'm happy with it. If it's more, great!

    I'm glad you're spending time here in Seekerville. We try to offer helpful posts and entertain along the way.

    And of course, Ruthy feeds you : )

    Stick with it, girlfriend. Good habits take time to develope!!

  124. Meghan, Taco Bell is always an option : )

  125. LOVED this post, Audra - - thank you so much! (Adding to my Keeper File) :)

    I love to read and have lots of books on my TBR stack, but need to stop "feeling guilty" when I take time to read (another reason I needed your post today with #7). ;)

    And even though I'm later joining in today,I want to share a super easy and yummy crock-pot recipe.

    Patti Jo's Easy-Peasy Chicken and Rice:
    Place 4 thawed boneless, skinless chicken breasts in crock pot (can also use chicken tenders).
    Pour over chicken: 1 can cream of celery soup AND 1 can cream of chicken soup.
    Cook on high approx. 4 hours.
    Serve with the "boiling bag" rice (so easy---takes only 10 minutes).
    I also serve at least one green vegetable and a bread to complete the meal. If you're feeding more than a few people, you can easily increase the amount of chicken and cans of soup. :)

  126. Heidi, you got it, girlfriend. Avoid those distractions and maybe daydream while your walk. Couldn't get better than that!

  127. DebH, we'll be cheering on the teams together! Should I say this? Go Team Blake!! Of course, I think Pharrell is an absolute cutie!!

  128. Cindy W, thanks for the recipe! Ground beef and taco kind of dinner.

  129. Donna, LOL! That sounds like something I'd do : )

  130. Connie, glad you stopped by today!

  131. Patty Jo, chicken and cream of anything soup is always a winner! Add rice and broccoli and I'm in love. Thanks for sharing.

    Keep reading, girlfriend. We love you : )

  132. It's taken me months and back to back deadlines to work myself up to three am.

    It's not a big deal if you go to bed early.

    This is part of the Ruthy School of Prolific Writing.

    And look at Melissa Jagears and Virginia Carmichael. They function on NO SLEEP and write in the middle of the night.

  133. And Glynna. Don't forget Glynna gets up super early to write. I can't even imagine trying to keep up with her schedule.

    2 hours a day works fine by me...

  134. I love to read,too. A good book is a gift from God as well as from the author.

    My favorite relaxation is Sudoku. However, I will submit that I have an annoying fascination with one FB game. (An LI author I won't name, though I will acknowledge that she is a friend of Seekerville, shares the same addiction, so I'm in good company.)

  135. Audra, Thank you for your blog and your survival tips. This week in particular I really needed to read this. Knowing other writers have similar experiences can be inspirational.


  136. Audra, I need a huge dose of discipline. I think you already have that.

    I didn't know you're a quilter. When I lived in Vermont I quilted and loved it.

  137. So late...

    Love your mention of reading. Recently, I haven't had time to do much reading for fun. Must find the time.

    Also a hobby! Which I don't have right now. Another important suggestion.

    Thanks, Audra. Laughing at the Secretarial Spread. The writer's plight.

  138. Walt, those FB games are KILLERS.

    When my daughter was in college, she invited me to join in some aquarium game with her. I can't admit to all the hours I spent collecting fish and feeding them.

    Sign me: Grateful Those Days Are Behind Me : )

  139. Hi Tanya, thank you for your kind words on today's post. We all have the same battles, that's why need each other to share our joys and our tears!!!

  140. Cara, I am as distractable as they come. Any shiny object or furry creature can nab my attention just like that, LOL!

    I love to quilt, or should I say, piece the fabric together. The quilting part tests my patience, but it's all good.

    I didn't know you quilted either. We'll have to chat patterns rather than plots sometime!

  141. Great post Audra. Lots of really good tips. Thanks for sharing them.

    Janet Dean, I don't have characters running around in my head either. For a long time, because of that one thing, I felt that probably meant I really wasn't supposed to write. Even though I had a huge desire to write and thoughts of writing would creep in at odd times. Sometimes I still wonder but am trying to learn the craft anyways lol.

  142. Debby, it's never too late : ) I'll always welcome you, dear.

    Reading is the joy that made us the authors we are today. How silly we can't find time to enjoy that good thing in life.

    Heavy sigh.

    And as far as secretarial spread goes...well, it keeps going until I rein it in, LOL!!

  143. Hi, Audra!!

    I enjoyed your post on "7 Survival Tips to Reduce Stress" - I'm not a writer, but enjoy learning more about the journey of writing and think these tips could be applied to most everyone - in whatever field.


  144. Thank you for sharing everyone. Most interesting.

  145. Audra,
    Great comments! Unfortunately my Corgi doesn't like to take walks!I've set aside from 5-6am and 8-9pm to write. I do editing on my lunch break, and write 3-4 hours on Saturdays. But I am easily distracted, so I try to apply BICHOK - Butt in chair hands on keyboard!

  146. All good reminders! I like your phrase "Secretarial Spread." I call it "nesting," as I sit on my couch and have my piles and notes spread on either side! personally, I need to focus on "other" hobbies [you know, like cleaning the house! LOL] I am an artist as well and need to paint and draw... Thanks for a great article!
    ~ Robin E. Mason