Thursday, February 8, 2018

Finding the Joy

Cheryl St.John
By Cheryl St.John

As writers we have to make progress without supervision or the constant oversight of a group. We look forward to the final payoff, but meanwhile, the task at hand requires us to chip away at the job on our own. It’s so much easier to do that if we love what we’re doing. If we can get excited about our story, it can make the solitary task of writing pleasurable. If we can find the joy in what was once a hobby or a dream, that pleasure can make the task more palatable. For the past three years “Find The Joy” has been at the top of my goal list. Joy in my relationship with God, joy in my marriage and family, joy in the tasks I perform, and joy in my writing.

Writers are creative people, a breed of our own. Contrary to stereotype, we creative types are not flakey free spirits or unsocial. We are problem solvers and fact gatherers. We analyze plots and people and people’s motivations. We plan how to build stories and settings and worlds. Even the most impulsive seat-of-the-pants writers need discipline to accomplish their goals. Creativity takes logical thinking, preparation, endurance and a lot of self-control and discipline.

There is so much more than creativity involved with being a writer. The creativity itself is something huge and rare. It’s that mysterious quality that makes people ask us, “Where do you get your ideas?” when that’s something we don’t really stop to think about.

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But there is more than creativity. Just listen to the questions of those new to this arena. They ask about formatting manuscripts, they ask about agents. “How do I submit? Who do I submit to?” It’s no small learning curve. There is the skill of the craft one has to master. The WritingWith Emotion Tension & Confict parts. I don’t know if anyone ever feels as though they have it all pulled together as far as writing skills are concerned. There will always be books to be read and tips to discover and processes to change. We’re always evolving, growing, learning.

Educating ourselves on the publishing process could be a job all by itself. Any of the components of being an author could be its own job, really. There are editors who do nothing but edit. Book designers create covers. Website designers make websites. Marketing people handle book marketing and promotion. But we do many those jobs ourselves.

We have to be experts at using a computer, knowing the intricacies of our Word processing programs, and learning everything the actual physical part of writing entails, like fiddling with printers and surge protectors and updates. And just because you learn something once doesn’t mean you have the skill in the bag. The process will change. There will be newer versions of computers and software. Technology will improve. When we’re having computer or software issues, it’s pretty difficult to find the joy.

Research is another major part of your job as a writer. Research is time consuming. Sometimes frustrating. Sometimes so engaging or fascinating we have to call a halt to write the book.

There is always networking to be done. The writer who does this job in a vacuum is rare. I don’t know one, although sometimes I wish I was one. Some genres lend themselves more to face-to-face contact and schmoozing than others, but if you want to know anything about the business, the editors, the rapidly changing face of publishing, the industry professionals, or even other authors, you have to be proactive. There are publisher sites and contests and editor blogs and agent blogs and market updates, all important if you can weed through enough to know which is beneficial. Someone looking in on us would be surprised to learn how much more than an imagination it takes to be a writer.

If you’re independently publishing, you have to relearn everything you knew about formatting a manuscript. You have to learn about .html conversion. You have to find designers and outlets and track sales, then keep track to figure taxes on income.

The arena in which we work requires us to have a wealth of knowledge in many different areas. Social media is a huge part of being a writer and online portals could be another full-time job. Marketing can be overwhelming. And even though we’re mired in an ocean of book promotions, authors and readers, we can still feel very much alone. And somebody will always be doing it better – and with more skill or flair or natural poise and style. We can’t compare ourselves to others. If we do we’re in big trouble.

It’s so easy and so accessible to look around every day and see others who seem to be zooming along a million miles an hour, winning awards, effortlessly getting the right agent, landing the coveted multiple book deal, having their books promoted in the publisher’s catalog, having their book turned into a movie, etc. etc. etc. No wonder we struggle with feelings of being overwhelmed or a lack of confidence or thinking someone else is doing it all better or wondering what the heck we think we’re doing.

I’m here to tell you, “You’re not alone.”

Here’s where self-discipline serves us well. We have choices and combinations of choices when it comes to feeling inadequate about where we’re at.

Wanting the same thing another person has isn’t wrong. It’s natural. We don’t wish we had it instead of them. We can be happy for them, be proud of them, admire them. We have to acknowledge all of our feelings and make plans to reach similar goals. Acknowledging how hard a person worked for their achievement makes all the difference, but sometimes we see all that and let our inadequacies get in the way.

There was a time when Romantic Times/Booklovers magazine was the end all--be all--the Who’s Who of romance authors and readers. Often reading through those ads and the interviews and the lists of books made me feel like I was lagging behind. Like everyone was more prolific and made more money and was—well, more successful. I unsubscribed and bought an issue only occasionally.

We have the option to pull back from anything that is making us feel bad about ourselves—anything that is sucking the joy from our day or the process of writing. We can’t be ostriches in this fast-paced business, but we can dial it down. Some people can handle it all, and if you can, more power to you. But we don’t have to do it all. That is an impossible expectation we place on ourselves.

So, don’t compare yourself, but do develop good role models. We won’t imitate a role model’s every move, but when we see how well their method is working, we can apply the same techniques. We might see a pattern of work ethic that’s panning out for another writer, so it can’t hurt to try something new that might improve our routine. I know there are a lot of writers who could share how they kept their commitment to their goals and made sacrifices to accomplish them.

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Because we reach and move through different stages in our writing life, it stands to reason we will want to change our role models as we progress. A role model should reflect the level of self-discipline or the level of success we want to reach. Know enough about the person you admire to pick out areas of achievement or their work ethic that you could follow. Your role models can come from anywhere, and aren’t restricted only to writers. Maybe you admire an athlete or a teacher. The point is to look at someone who is focused, someone who is moving forward in their thinking or their career. Someone whose performance makes you want to stretch yours. And remember, you’re not comparing yourself to anyone. You’re looking for a dynamic that works for you.

What I want to make sure you know is that there are legitimate roadblocks. There are valid reasons for getting behind or missing the mark. Life happens. In a big way. In unexpected ways. Emotion tension and conflict is what we give our characters. It makes for a compelling story. It isn’t, however, always conducive to writing.

I’ve gone through situations where writing was a catharsis. I dealt with the circumstance on one hand, while on the other and I shut out the world and wrote. I’ve also gone through situations where writing a book was the last thing I could think about, even if I wanted to.

If you become overwhelmed by a life circumstance, give yourself permission to take a break. If you need kindness and patience, be kind to yourself; be patient with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. Ask for help when you need help.

If you do get derailed, give yourself permission to re-evaluate. Then set new goals. It’s always a good idea to revisit goals. If you’re on track, well and good—have a party. If you’re behind, don’t beat yourself up. You get a do-over. One mistake or failure isn’t a reason to throw in the towel. Neither are two—or three. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from rejections. Or from a book that didn’t sell as well as hoped. Or from a promotion flop. You look back at those numbers and have to say, “That sucked,” and move on. We can’t be great at everything all the time. We have to be realistic. We’re not perfect

Motivation to reach our goals has to come from within. When we’re working toward a goal that comes from the desires of our hearts, we are naturally inspired and compelled to do our best. Direction and satisfaction come from working toward those things we believe in. Completing a book is gratifying.

Congratulate and give yourself credit for every accomplishment. Celebrate small steps as well as large. Take a good look at the people you admire and choose some qualities and habits from a role model (or more than one) as you move forward this year. If you don’t already, find someone to be accountable to and report your goals and achievements.

And never ever compare yourself to anyone, because you’re special just the way you are. You have the ability to dream a dream no one else can. You’re going to write the books only you can write. Most importantly, take time in every day to find the joy.

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Find my newly released Writer’s Digest book, WriteSmart, Write Happy. There are no reviews yet and in fact, my advance copies are late going out. To my dismay I learned that the editor had quit and no one knew what to do with them. Something are just out of our control. (Lord, let writers find this book anyway.) Here’s the amazon description:

Writing is a vulnerable occupation; it is both personal and intimate. The act of writing, cycles of revision, and the confusing publishing industry can shatter a writer's confidence, leaving you feeling like an imposter, overcome with rejection. Survival--and success--requires commitment, honesty, courage, resilience, sacrifice, and miles and miles of heart.
You have everything you need as a writer--it lies within, in the form of consistency and self-confidence. With Write Smart, Write Happy, best-selling author Cheryl St. John will help you unlock your skills, guiding you to overcome every hesitation, obstacle, form of writer's block, and procrastination habit you have. Within these pages, you'll learn to:
·       Organize your writing life by using a planner, scheduling your yearly goals, and acknowledging career plans.
·       Sharpen your saw by recharging your creativity, developing positive motivation, and creating healthy writing habits.
·       Affirm your beliefs by overcoming self-doubt, learning to use affirmations, and altering your thinking.
·       Conquer remaining fears by releasing tendencies towards perfectionism and establishing strategies for habitual success.
Written with a no-nonsense attitude, St. John's "advice from the trenches" will help you take an introspective look at your own writing habits and life. Through examples and inspiration from writers who struggled with--and overcame--rejection and reservations, discover the path towards writing smarter and happier today.

58 comments:

  1. Hi Cheryl,

    It's so good to meet you! You packed so many gold nuggets in this post, it's definitely a keeper. I'm heading to Amazon now to check out your book before I even grab my first cup of coffee. I'm so sorry for your trouble.

    Thanks again for sharing!

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    1. Hi Jackie! Pleased to meet you on Seekerville. I'm delighted some of the insights are helpful. Thanks for checking out the book! As for the roadblocks, I'm remembering not to sweat the small stuff-and it's all small stuff. :-)

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  2. Cheryl, welcome back to Seekerville! So nice to have you here!

    This is a lot of stuff...

    I just deleted what I was going to add because not everyone would take it all right... So I'm staying mum. :)

    But let me say that I think a job that requires personal self-discipline isn't made for everyone... because self-motivation is a huge part of writing success.

    So glad to have you here, Cheryl!

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    1. Oh, Ruthy. I deleted stuff from the text of the book, too. And then I put it back. :-) I've been watching from between my fingers to see what the reviews say. I am a painfully honest person. xoxo God bless you!

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  3. Good morning, Cheryl! And welcome back to Seekerville!

    Your new book looks great (!), and thank you for sharing a "taste" of it with us today. It looks to be jam-packed with encouragement and practical, applicable practices. Something we ALL need, whether writers or not!

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    1. Hi, Glynna! It's always a joy to come share on Seekerville. We do all need encouragement!

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  4. Good morning, Cheryl and welcome to Seekerville. You said, "If you become overwhelmed by a life circumstance, give yourself permission to take a break." That is excellent advice. I know because I've had to do just that this last year. Between rotator cuff surgery, a cross-state move and renovating a house, I barely had time to conceive a thought, let alone collect any. Giving myself permission to step back from writing alleviated that pressure to perform. But God is good and He still allowed me to get a healthy proposal cranked out in the midst of our chaos.

    Thank you, Cheryl, for a such an informative and encouraging post.

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    1. Good for you, Mindy. It's important to realize we are not super women and don't have to be everything to everyone. I understand a challenging year. Here's a {{{HUG}}}.

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  5. Some very good points, Cheryl. I think it's easy to motivate yourself when you have clear goals you haven't reached yet. My problem seems to be that I've reached my goals and now I need to make new ones! But one of them is to pay bills, and that can be quite motivating too! Especially when you're supporting two kids, one in college, with your writing. And while there is a certain joy in being able to support your kids . . . this is an area I struggle in. I do love writing, but the first one-third of a book takes me about three times longer to write than the last two-thirds, which is more fun to write!
    Anyway, thanks for writing about this, Cheryl. It's great advice and great food for thought!

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    1. Melanie, absolutely so true that providing for our families is a motivating goal. It's perfectly okay to say this is my job. Sometimes we write because of the passion, other times, it's all about the paycheck. Blessings!

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  6. Cheryl! It's so great seeing you here! Great post, full of great information. I am doing a Bible study on I Am Loved. This is what I've learned: Contentment is the lack of comparison. Each of our walks are different, whether it's our publication journey, our writing, our lives. We need people around us to pray for us, cheer us on, help us. But we don't need to compare our walk with theirs. We all go through different things, handle things differently etc. Thanks for sharing, Cheryl!

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    1. Sally, I love the word "contentment." I started thinking about it intentionally after taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course. Contentment combats a lot of bad financial decisions. But then I realized how many other areas of my life would be filled with peace if I learned to be content in those as well. I haven't mastered contentment. I often have to step back and remind myself to be content.

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    2. Good to see you, too, Sally, my friend. When we understand how important and special we are to God, we gain self-confidence. God created me and gave me the desires of my heart. No one can write the books I can. No one can write the books you can. Isn't God good?

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    3. Yes He is and that's so true! You are you and no one can be a truer you than you! And God uses who we are, what we're going through, to encourage and lift up someone else.

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  7. Good morning, Cheryl!

    I think you've described the writing life perfectly! A mixture of so many skills that are counter-intuitive to the creative process.

    When I think about it, it's a miracle that I have ever been published...except that I'm not doing any of this job on my own. Not only are there wonderful people in this same business to learn from and to cheer me on, this is a task that God has called me to. I know I can always fully rely on Him to accomplish what He has called me to do.

    I think that one problem new writers have is that often they don't realize how steep the learning curve is. I've talked to many writers who have never taken that step to become a published author. Yes, they write well and enjoy writing, but once they see the cost (in time and energy and self) that's involved, they back away.

    BTW - the people I'm thinking of aren't in this group!

    Thanks for the encouragement...and now I'm heading over to Amazon to snag your book. :-)

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    1. Honestly, Jan, if I knew how steep the learning curve was once I finished my ms and started thinking about publishing, I'm not sure I would have done it. Now that I'm on this side of it (and still learning), I'm so glad I did. But...oh what I didn't know...and how much! I guess it's like having a child though; you forget the labor pains after a while. :) -- Gee, I hope this doesn't discourage anyone who is seeking publication. It's worth it!

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    2. LOL, Karen!

      Would you have done it if you had known the joy of having a published novel, even though you knew you would have to go through the "labor" of the learning curve?

      Your analogy is perfect!

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    3. You're so right, Jan. How many people do we meet who say they'd like to write a book, too? We put in the work and make it happen. This business isn't for sissies. Thanks for getting my book! xoxo

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  8. Hi Cheryl! Good to see you here this morning. This was a great post. It is always a good reminder not to compare ourselves to others. I bought your book Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict with an Amazon card I got for Christmas. I have not started it yet but I know it will be helpful. I will have to get Write Smart, Write Happy. I know it will be useful, too.

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  9. Hello, Cheryl. Your post today is EXACTLY what I needed! It helps me to know successful authors recognize valid roadblocks. This past year has been a roller-coaster ride and I'm adjusting and functioning with the Lord's help and the prayers of family and friends!

    I appreciate your admonition to "develop good role models." The Seekerville community is full of great examples...their work ethic, their kindness, encouragement, faith and honesty...AND, of course, their fabulous sense of FUN!

    I purchased your book and am anxious to read it! Thanks for being a beacon of inspiration!

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    1. Kathryn, you made my day. As I wrote this book, my desire was to speak to writers struggling with the issues we all experience. It's always helpful to know we're not alone. Thank you so much for getting the book!

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  10. Thank you, Cheryl, for your joyful encouragement!

    "Congratulate and give yourself credit for every accomplishment. Celebrate small steps.." I'm in the tiny steps phase as I struggle with the perfection demon....waiting for the perfect time to write, finding the perfect conflict for my story, and searching for the perfect words.

    Thank you for the reminder that my heart finds JOY in writing. Your new book sounds perfect! :)

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    1. Sherida, I understand that perfectionism thing! Allowing ourselves to be imperfect, to make mistakes, to write badly and fix it later is empowering. You're not alone. FIND THE JOY.

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  11. Cheryl, your post is good therapy this morning!

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  12. Thanks Cheryl. I often forget about the JOY in writing, but whenever I remember to look for it, I always find it. I am excited to read the book!

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  13. In case anyone is wondering where Cheryl is this morning - Cheryl, our own Mary Connealy, and Sherri Schackleford were on TV! KMTV in Omaha!

    I hope they'll give us an update when they get back!

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    1. Sorry - I spelled Sherri's name wrong. It's Shackelford. :-)

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    2. Thank you for making my excuses for me, Jan! xoxo
      We had a lot of fun on The Morning Blend in Omaha. There were kittens on after us, so we were in the green room with -- KITTENS!!

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  14. Cheryl and Mary great job on "Morning Blend" today! Wonderful interview and a great shout out for Romance!!!! Well done!

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  15. Here is the link to Mary, Cheryl and Sherri on "Morning Blend" this morning! MORNING BLEND SHOW!!!

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  16. Wow! The three of you rocked the "Morning Blend" show! Great job!

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  17. Excuse me while I pull myself together. I am such a BIG FAN OF CHERYL'S WRITING and I LOVE her writing-instruction books.

    Whew, okay, I'm calm.

    Cheryl, what a delight to have you here, sharing your hard-earned wisdom. A few years ago, when we were teaching at a conference in Omaha, I sat in on your class on showing vs. telling, and I wondered to myself it the students realized what GOLD DUST you were spreading around. That class was so excellent and hands-on and valuable!

    I have been looking forward to the release of Write Smart, Write Happy for months! I can't wait to get a copy in my hot, little hands!

    Now, I'm off to watch you and Mary and Sherri on TV!
    Squee!!!

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    1. Oh my, Erica. I am humbled by your praise. I hope the book lives up to your expectations. There are advantages to -- um -- maturity. Hopefully wisdom is one of them - another is telling it like it is. I'm praying this new book is gold dust to writers who are feeling vulnerable and alone.
      Blessings, my friend!

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  18. Fantastic interview, Cheryl, Mary and Sherri. I'm not sure how I would have responded if I'd been in your place when they asked about romantic inspiration, but you all handled it perfectly without missing a beat. Great job!

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  19. Great job in the TV interview, Cheryl, Mary, and Sherri!

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  20. Cheryl, this post is a great reminder not to let discouragement keep us down. I also love how you tell us that someone else's success doesn't take anything away from us. That's so true! We should cheer for each other and support each other.

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    1. Yes, exactly! We're the cheering section!

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  21. I loved the TV interview!! Y'all did such a great job!!

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  22. Thank you, Cheryl. I have "Writing With Emotion, Tension and Conflict" and it was a game-changer for me.
    Really ready to quit this week, overwhelmed with things that need tending to. Not jealous of other writers (been there done that), not angry with myself (been there done that more often), but really upset with my situations. It has been One Thing After Another since the first of the year. I need to learn not to let my emotions control me and most of the time they don't, but...Thank you for this. With blogs and the Internet it's not as lonely as it used to be, but it's still up to us.
    Late to the party, but wanted to at least post something.
    Kathy Bailey
    Well it's winter in New Hampshire what did I expect?

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    1. Kathy, bless you, dear. I get it. Life does get overwhelming. Everyone else looks so pulled together, don't they? Keeping it real and being honest with each other about our vulnerabilities lets us know we can do this. Relationships are imperative. Prayers for an awesome 2018.

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  23. Great blog post, Cheryl! I know your new release will help so many writers. We all need joy and sometimes the work takes too much from us. As you mentioned, we need to revise our own lives and find new ways to be creative! Thanks for proving another motivational pick-me-upper today!

    I just finished a book that was a joy to write. Now I'm starting a new story with a tight deadline and part of me wants to return to that last book and the characters I knew so well. My new hero and heroine aren't being forthright about their inner journeys and I'm struggling to get to know them better. GRRR! Hopefully, all that will change. I'm heading outside to take a walk and clear my mind. Perhaps then, I'll see my story a bit more clearly.

    BTW, I caught a portion of your TV interview! You gals were great! So poised, so beautiful, so inspiring.

    Thanks for being with us today!

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    1. Thank you, Debby! Don't you LOVE it when a book is fun and easy to write? If only they were all like that. Hoping you find your groove with the new one. You always do. :-)

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  24. Hi Cheryl,

    Great to see you here! I've enjoyed reading your books :)

    I checked your new "Write Smart, Write Happy" book out on Amazon and it said there are only 4 copies remaining so something is going right with it, I hope, for your sake. I'm going to add it to my wish list.

    May God bless, encourage and guide you and all of Seekerville!

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    1. Hi Phyllis! Well, boy howdy! Super cool to know they'll be going to another printing. Hope they send me mine. lol
      God bless you too! Thank you for reading my books!

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  25. I needed this post today. Thank you.

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  26. BIG THANKS to all who visited and commented and left such encouraging posts today! Mary and Sherri and I had a great time on The Morning Blend. Afterward I went to get my 10 week old granddaughter that my daughter took to work with her so I could do the show.

    In yet another season of my life, I'm taking care of her for her first year. We're working into a schedule so I can write while she sleeps and work in the evening as well. It's taking some getting used to.

    Blessings to each one of you! Write Smart and Happy!

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    1. Cheryl, congrats on the new grand baby. It's the best job in the world. :)

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  27. Hi Cheryl! Thanks for the great post. I love what you have shared and really appreciated what you said about comparison and finding a role model. Learning from those we look up to is the way to go! Such great information. Thanks again!

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  28. This article is stunning! Should be required reading for all authors :)

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  29. I'm not a writer but I love learning more about what authors do to make their books the best they can be :-) And posts like this are so enlightening for me as a reader!

    I also have seen this time and time again, don't compare yourself to anyone. I agree wholeheartedly because as soon as we start comparing ourselves to others we begin to lose who we really are. God has given each of us a unique set of skills and talents and it's up to us to figure out what they are and how best to use them. Whether it be in our day jobs, or watching kids or grand-kids, or in writing, or whatever the case may be. I have to remember this quite often myself, so I'm preaching to the choir, lol!

    Great post, thanks so much for all the information you shared here!

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  30. Cheryl, thank you for the great post! Comparison is a set-up for failure. I want to be so in love with the Lord that His thoughts towards me are the only ones that matter.

    Blessings!

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  31. Thank you, Cheryl, for this awesome, inspiring post! I have WWETC sitting right beside me, and it is a gem! Conflict has been hard for me to write, and this book is toughening me up!

    Loved the show...it's great to put voices to the authors!

    Blessings,

    Marcia

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  32. Cheryl, I love your post. I could relate to just about every word. In the seven years I've been writing, I have overcome a major health issue, problems in my marriage, changes in my friendships, and a change in living condition (pending). One of the disappointments I have experienced so many times is, those whom I thought would support me, are the ones who couldn't care less. Someone who could hold me accountable: a lead singer in a rock band from Kentucky. He wants to get his big break. To do that, and still make time for this wife and sons, he works harder than any musician I've ever known. That only makes me want to work harder. What's also awesome is, he sees more to me than I can.
    As for delaying progress of a book due to inadequate research, I can relate to that.
    As for learning of some other author's progress, I have learned to not be critical of myself. In fact, there are many people I know who say I inspire them, because I made it happen to publish four books (the most recent one went live this morning) in less than four years.

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