Real Fear or Habit?

Life and Happiness, Religion

Worry affects us all. We can sometimes fill up our brains with it, making it hard to function on a productive, daily basis.

As I get older, this worry often frustrates me. I should be better equipped now to cope with whatever comes my way. After all, shouldn’t I be wiser at this point? Shouldn’t I understand the verse, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34)? And yet, sometimes, I feel like my worry and anxiety have often become worse as I’ve aged.

During a recent visit to my counselor, when I’d expressed some anxiety or worry, she asked me, “Is that how you really feel about it or is it just a habit you keep repeating?”

A habit? What did she mean?

It turns out, we can actually thwart our own efforts and progress by repeating and clinging to unhealthy habits like worry. Because, let’s face it, isn’t is simpler to do the same thing we’ve done for years and years than try to change? We cling to those “easy” habits even when they actually increase the stress and anxiety.

For instance, I cry whenever I hear “Amazing Grace” because it was played at my grandmother’s funeral (and many others). It reminds me of her and so I cry. My mom does too. However, the song isn’t really a sad one – it’s a supposed to be a joyful hymn. But when the strains of that first chorus hit – I cry. It’s a learned habit. It’s a repeated pattern. It has nothing, in actuality, to do with the song itself. I’ve assigned sadness to it because it was played on one particularly difficult day in my life. But it’s been played many times on joyous occasions too. I just don’t remember those days as vividly.

I needed to break the habit. So now when “Amazing Grace” plays, I tell myself, “It’s not about the song.” I don’t let my mind go off on its own path – I direct it to more peaceful places. I still sometimes get choked up – habits are hard to break – but I’ve gotten better.

I think we all fear change. Even if the change might be better for us than how we’re currently doing things, we rant, rave, and rail against it simply because of the fear we feel. We don’t know what the other side holds. We do know what this side holds – anxiety, fear, worry. Even though those things aren’t fun, we know how to cope with them. But, sometimes, we’re even doing that wrong.

Some of us like to eat when we’re stressed. Eating only temporarily relieves anxiety and then we worry we’ve gained too much weight and are unhealthy. Do you see how our fears and worries can often just keep snowballing? It’s a never-ending cycle – or so we think. We can change it, but we have to be willing to break out of those habits. By being mindful of what we eat, we can avoid eating just because we’re stressed, therefore eliminating the other causes of stress. Instead, we can turn to God, read His word, pray, or talk it out with a friend.

And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you. (Romans 12:1-2 TLB)

It’s time to break the cycle. It’s time to change our habits that we label as worry.

I’m ready to not be so stressed – aren’t you? I’m ready to shake off these old habits and not let them define me anymore. I’m ready to be a new person. I’m ready to be transformed, not conformed. I’m ready to show I am a child of the King, a new creature, and I will no longer be held back by worries, anxieties, or fears.

How about you?

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A Rough Start

God, Life and Happiness, Writing

Last week I spent some time at a writing conference. It started off rough. You see, my low self-esteem started to drag me down. Since I hadn’t been writing much, I didn’t feel qualified to be there. All too often we can let the enemy direct our paths because we listen to his lies inside our heads. So, I wanted to write down some of my experience in the hopes that it would help someone else.

****

Day 1 at St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference: I shouldn’t be here. I’m not a writer. I don’t belong. Let me hide away. Let me shun these creative types. They don’t want me here. I’m doing nothing with my words. (And I did hide away. I kept to myself in my room.)

Day 2: This is wrong. I do not fit in. Why am I here? *crying* How can I put myself within these same criteria? I’ve squandered my time, wasted my words on unproductive things, and called myself, mistakenly, a writer for too long. (I spent a large portion of this day feeling sorry for myself and believing the enemy’s lies.)

Later in day 2: Had conversation with another “writer.” She said she shouldn’t be here, she doesn’t fit in, she isn’t a writer…. How could she think that? I’ve read her writing. She SHOULD be here!! She needs to be refreshed and she’ll feel differently. (Funny how I thought this about her, but not about myself.)

Still later on day 2: More conversations. More writers express their insecurities and failures. Realization hits. We’re all feeling the same way. We all doubt ourselves.

(Thank you to Fara and so many others who expressed their fears to me, were transparent. I know it was God working in each of us to say, “Yes, you are a writer.”)

Keynote on day 2: (Paraphrased) “You can not be a professional writer if you complain about your life. Your life is the fodder for your stories! Your story is trapped within until you let it out. Your story is clamoring to get out! The idea is the easy part! Find hope in God’s purpose for you!”

God, pick up the pieces.
Put me back together again.
You are my praise!
(Jeremiah 17:14, MSG)

That second night, I wrote in my journal and I started this blog. As the week went on, I was further encouraged by my friends. One told me I was a good listener. Another said I was her “hero.” Another said I was an encourager of others (even when I wasn’t one for myself) and I was an integral part of the conference.

Sometimes when we’re feeling low that is what it takes – the ability to encourage others. I wonder why it’s so easy for me to encourage those around me, yet so hard to encourage myself sometimes. But I’m glad God put others in my life to be an encouragement to me as well. We work together in that way. We love one another, share each other’s failures and successes, work for a greater good, and strive to do our best. And we need each other to do so.

I’m so thankful for my time at conference and I do feel refreshed. I pray I can continue this momentum as I continue to write a new novel I’ve been working on. On the days I don’t feel like a writer, I’ll look back on this post. (I hope you will too.)

 

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. (1 Cor. 12: 4-7, MSG)

When Is It Enough?

Life and Happiness, Religion

If you’re like me, you often feel like there is not enough time in the day to get EVERYTHING done. I’ve been running around for weeks feeling overwhelmed and stressed. The to-do list seems to keep growing and I’m not sure how to make it stop. I’ve even said no to a few people in the process.

I say I won’t take on anymore stuff. But I do.

Why?

Although I have so much already on my plate – editing, keeping house, making meals, writing, helping with various organizations I’m part of – I still often say yes when friends ask for help.

I care for people. I want to help when I can. I believe that by doing it shows God’s love to those around me.

But I get burnt out. So recently I asked myself, “When is it enough?” If I say no to someone, does it have an averse affect? Does it mean they WON’T feel the love of God? If so, what if I say no to that ONE person who truly does need my time?

Recently we’ve all heard about people like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. They’re celebrities, but thousands of ordinary people commit suicide every year. And we’ve all seen those Facebook posts going around, encouraging all of us to “reach out” and “listen to a friend today” – but what if I simply don’t have time because I’m helping so many already? Why does it all have to fall on me?

There’s a lot of guilt involved in those kinds of statements. Yes, I want to reach out. Yes, I need to reach out. But I can’t reach out to EVERYONE.

Conversely, what about my own struggles? When I need a friend, there is often not one willing to hear my issues. They have enough of their own. And why would I want to burden someone with mine when they’re struggling too? But we’re ALL struggling. We all need EACH OTHER.

When is it enough?

When can it be about me?

Where is the balance?

As I write this I realize I feel guilty. I don’t want to sound callous or selfish. I love doing for others and do my best at it with what time I can offer. I love sharing God’s love. I love being His hands and feet. But I feel myself being spread too thin and I simply ask, “When do I say it’s too much?”

So I began to do some research online. Here are three things I need to start doing (and you probably do too).

  1. Take a Sabbath rest. It doesn’t have to be Sunday but it needs to be one day a week. How often am I still working, still doing, every single day, every single waking minute of that day? God told the Israelites to remember the Sabbath day and “keep it holy.”(Exodus 20:11) He sent His son to die on the cross so we could rest! And there needs to be time in my week when I’m seeking out that rest He provides. I need to rest in His care and keeping. I need to let my soul be restored. Hebrews 4:9-11 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
  2. The Need is Not the Call. My husband told me that I offer before being asked. It’s true. I step in right away – a “Get it done!” attitude. But I need to know whether I’m being ASKED. I need to discern if it’s my calling to help or if there is simply a need being expressed. What if we were asked to respond to EVERY need? Do you feel as exhausted as I do thinking about that possibility? But if we all pitch in, if we all try to answer the specific call on our lives, each individual wouldn’t have to do EVERY THING.
  3. Let God direct and give rest.

1 Thes. 3:5: May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

1 Kings 19:3-9 (The Lord gave Elijah rest):

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”  He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

Mark 16:19 (Jesus rested):

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

Yes, we’re often called to do the will of God – to show His love to others. But we’re also taught to rest and we must allow ourselves the rest we need. I’m going to try and I hope you will too. God bless.

Taking Time To Write

Life and Happiness, Writing

I’ve started writing a new novel.

Don’t get excited just yet. I started it once, revamped it, started over using some of the previous text and am now on my way. I think. The first try had over 10,000 words. The second is creeping just up to the 7,000 mark.

Writing can be frustrating, but I keep at it. I’m not the type of writer who has dozens of ideas in my head for novels. And I’m often so caught up in editing for clients that to write a novel of my own seems too daunting a task. Most days I don’t get two words written because I’m so overwhelmed by words that I can no longer put them together in a sentence.

Some friends and I discussed that I should write in the morning. That way, I get my words down before I submerse myself in someone else’s words. But I’m barely awake in the morning. And the muse is usually still asleep.

Ideas come to me at night. Right before I fall asleep. I try to write them down sometimes, but it doesn’t always work. And, in the morning, when I see, “car trip fighting romance?”, it doesn’t always connect with the grand idea I had the night before.

But in next week I’m going to be at my favorite writing conference. I’ll be surrounded by people who write every day. I’ll have time to write! (Maybe.) I hope my own creative juices flow and I can get at least over that 10,000 word mark while I’m away.

My goal is to have this book written by the end of the year. Because goals are important. And so is prayer. So I’m asking each of you to pray for me when you think about it. Pray that God will give me the time and the word and the motivation to get it done. Pray that the book will hold an element of Christianity that I can share with the world. Pray that His words will be spoken.

Thanks, friends. Have a great week.

Is the work you do important?

Life and Happiness, Religion, Writing

Recently my friend Tracy directed me to this awesome podcast, “The Next Right Thing.” I’ve listened to a few of them and I simply can’t get enough. Emily P. Freeman – the host – describes the podcast as a place “for the second-guessers, the
chronically hesitant, or anyone who suffers from decision fatigue. If you’re in a season of transition, waiting, of general fogginess or if you’ve ever searched ‘how to make a decision’ on the internet, well, you’re in the right place.”

Can I see a show of hands for everyone who NEEDS this podcast? Ah, yep. I thought so. You can all put your hands down now.

The other day, I listened to episode 8: Expect To Be Surprised. In this one, Emily talks about a singer that kept working at her craft even when it didn’t bring fame and “success.” She also discusses how we often put pressures on ourselves every day about what awaits us in the future.

So much so, in my opinion, that we often forget to live in the now. We miss out opportunities to love each other, lend a helping hand, or even simply sit and listen because we’re so focused on tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

“How can I be successful?” “How can I make progress?” “Where is this leading?”

There is a constant overwhelming of our senses that tricks us into thinking there is always something MORE out there to achieve and obtain. There is always the hint on the horizon that if we just do X, we’ll achieve Z.

But it never seems to come, does it? Does Z – the end zone we’re so fervently striving for – ever come? How do we know when we’ve arrived?

Here’s something else Emily points out in this episode: ALL the work we do is important.

So what if it’s about the middle, not the end? What if what you’re doing RIGHT NOW, is what it’s about? What if your actions, your work, matters in the NOW.

My little group of friends (we get together every once in awhile to encourage, share philosophies, and sometimes we write) talked about this the other day while discussing how to reach our audiences – how to BUILD our following. One friend just sent her manuscript to her agent to start marketing it for a publisher. She’d love to know the future. Will it be published? Will it reach thousands of people? Will she make money? But I said, “What if it was just meant to reach me and a few other people? What if it never sees any other light than that? Would you still count it as success?”

Her answer was yes.

So why worry about the future? It may have already lived its purpose. Writing the book changed her. The few people that have already read it have been affected. She talks about it – affecting others. She’s accomplished all this and it isn’t even printed yet.

ALL THE WORK SHE’S ALREADY DONE IS IMPORTANT.

That smile we offer to a lonely person. That conversation we start with a new member at church. That old man we help across the street. That blog we write that only a few people read, but they connect with it and it changes their perspective. IT ALL MATTERS.

I’ll leave you with a bit of the end of Emily’s podcast (but you should listen to it or download the transcript and really think about it for yourself).

“Jesus often works in small surprises in the midst of the long haul. But he doesn’t do it in empty rooms, he does it through people, through connection … We make our decisions and choose our next steps, but we get scared when we can’t see
the future. … What if we see God in the yes we say even though we feel scared?
To see him in a random phone call, the kind invitation, a gentle nod. … If we insist on holding on to control, we just might miss the story happening on the other
side of the window.”

This week, think about small things that have happened in your life that affected you forever. Start taking notice of those things on a daily basis. Start living in the now.

God bless.

 

The Hand of God

God, Life and Happiness, praise, prayer, Religion

I have felt the hand of God on my shoulder.

But that was years ago, when I first became a Christian and needed Him to guide an comfort me in a “tangible” way. I haven’t felt that physical hand in many years, but last week, I felt His presence surrounding every situation.

And I was comforted.

Early last week, my mom had some tests for her breathing. Standard tests but ones that she hadn’t done in awhile. She was having them in order to qualify for a new piece of equipment that others had told her would help with her breathing. Going to the hospital or any doctor’s office is always difficult for my mom, but we get through it and she wanted to do whatever she could to qualify.

At the conclusion of the tests, the tech and nurse told us getting the equipment shouldn’t be an issue as her scores were well below the levels they required. Awesome. We went home feeling good about the tests. Although difficult, at least there would be good results for Mom.

As soon as we arrived home, Dad informed us the hospital had been calling. They wanted her back – she shouldn’t have left. Her levels were “critically” low and she needed to be admitted. Because Dad hadn’t gotten good information when they called, he’d asked them to call back and talk to Mom. I waited but no call came so I went home. We had no idea why we’d need to go back. The tech and nurse both knew the levels and had let us go home. It seemed odd and I went home without worry.

Two hours later Dad called me to say they were headed to the hospital. They were still being told Mom HAD to come back. One person even told her she would die if she did not. I quickly called the hospital myself and was told, basically, that they should have never let us go home. She should have been admitted right away. They were covering their own … tracks.

So we went.

Now, for my mom, going to an ER is a scary adventure. Germs of all unknown origins fill each seat and her extremely low immune system could pick up anything at the drop of a hat. On our way to the hospital, I sent out a prayer request via Facebook outlining the issue. My friends immediately began responding with prayer.

When we arrived in the ER, I positioned Mom in a seat (one of two we found in the packed waiting room) and told her not to touch anything.

When the triage nurse took her to a secluded room for her vitals and to check her in, I outlined the issue, emphasizing that the hospital had screwed up, and, according to them, she was in “critical” condition.

I’m not usually so bold, but there was no way I would let my mom reenter the waiting room stacked full of germs. I was there to protect her.

And, soon, I felt the prayers of hundreds of my friends coming to save the day.

The nurse never returned us to the waiting room where others, she’d told us, had been waiting for a minimum of three hours and some up to five. My mom was given an EKG and then swiftly moved into an ER bed through a “back” door that only the doctors and nurses use. (I’m sorry for all those who had to wait so long in the waiting room, but I know this was the hand of God guiding us and ensuring Mom would not get more sick. Perhaps her levels really were critical and God was moving things more rapidly in order to save her life. I don’t know. But I pray each one of you that was there that night got the care you needed in a timely fashion. And know that God will help you too – simply reach out in faith.)

Over the course of the next few hours, my mom was given a breathing treatment to alleviate high CO2 levels in her bloodstream. She was checked for other issues. She saw multiple doctors. Eventually, she would be admitted but we needed to go through the standard procedures first. Along the way, I felt God’s guidance to speak out when I needed to, ask questions about her care, seek to understand the what and whys, and push for medication when she needed it. When they placed the breathing machine over my mom’s face and she started to panic, an unknown force propelled me from my chair to hold her hand.

God was with us even if I didn’t feel His physical hand on my shoulder as I did all those years ago.

It was still a long wait. But at least we were in our own room, without other germs possibly attacking Mom’s already low immunity. When Mom was assured she had a bed waiting for her, we left. It was around midnight. In the waiting room, people still waited.

I prayed for them as we left because I know the power of prayer. Instead of waiting five hours for an ER bed, my mom had gotten admittance to a real bed in less than five. And although her stay in the hospital (only two days) was fraught with additional issues (like not getting a lunch one day and needing to wait for a wheelchair so she could leave because the arm of one had broken off at the last minute), I know in my heart the prayers of many helped us to get to where we are today.

Mom now has the breathing machine at home that she needs. The process was expedited because of this hospital stay. The insurance agreed to pay easily due to her high CO2 levels. And despite fearing the machine (claustrophobia), she has been able to use it successfully each night.

I have felt the physical hand of God on my shoulder in the past. Now His touch is within my heart and guides me and leads me whenever I need Him. No longer do I need to have Him physically guide me – like a child need’s a parent’s hand holding – I can now feel Him inside me, in my heart, in my soul, directing every aspect of my life. I feel the prayers of many working for the greater good. And I am thankful.

Though I am surrounded by troubles,
    you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
    and the power of your right hand saves me.

Psalm 138:7 NLT

 

 

What Is Your Purpose?

God, Life and Happiness, Religion

The other night at Bible study, we were studying Esther and our teacher asked us to consider what our purpose was in this life. I know this is something a lot of people think about and Rick Warren even wrote a very successful book on this topic. I think a lot of people focus on what they’re supposed to be doing for a job, where they should live, and what they can do in some grand way to affect the fate of humanity.

But I don’t see it that way. You see, I think God will direct me as I go in all these things. I think we have a lot of different purposes (depending on your definition) as we go about our days, the least being what job I’ll hold (I’ve been several different things in this life career-wise and I don’t think I’m done yet!). I do think I have a God-given purpose though.

As we studied about Esther and Mordecai, I began to understand that they didn’t really know what their purpose was – except to follow God.

This stirred my synapses a bit. Was I following God in everything I was trying to accomplish? I’m an editor, a writer, a wife, a friend, a daughter … there are many titles I could attribute to myself, but do I put GOD’S CHILD at the top? (Obviously not since I didn’t even list it as one of my titles!)

Then we talked about how King Xerxes called up some of his documentation (Esther 6). As he heard about his reign, he came upon the note that Mordecai had saved him from an assassination attempt years before but had never been rewarded. He decided to reward him now.

Think about that. If you know anything about this king, you know he was kind of a mean, cruel type who didn’t really do anything except what his advisors told him. But here he decides to honor Mordecai without even asking anyone for advice. (Now, he DOES ask Haman HOW to honor Mordecai, but that’s a whole other subject.)

What is Xerxes’ purpose here?

Let’s consider.

  1. Xerxes does not often think for himself.
  2. He could have read any book that night. He could have done any other number of things to pass his restless hours other than read. In fact, he didn’t seem like a guy who’d like a bedtime story to begin with. I would have assumed he’d choose alcohol to get him to sleep based on previous chapters.
  3. He could have chosen to not honor Mordecai at this time. After all, it’s been YEARS since the failed assassination attempt – who would remember? And the fact that Xerxes didn’t do it right away is actually kind of proving him to be an ineffective and careless leader. So why do it now?

So what is the purpose of all this?

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Could Xerxes have also read about his father and grandfather’s reigns that night? Perhaps he saw that both of them had good relationships with the Jews. Perhaps he remembered that both of these men (Darius [see the book of Daniel] and Cyrus [see the book of 2 Chronicles]) had honored God.
  2. Perhaps he has been influenced by his queen. Esther was a Jew.
  3. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is working in his heart as it did his father and grandfather.
  4. Perhaps this is simply GOD’S PURPOSE

So what was Xerxes’ purpose? He didn’t know it either, but God knew. Just as God knows mine. I don’t have all the pieces to my puzzle yet, so I’m unsure what my ENTIRE purpose is yet. But I know that I need to be like Esther – brave, bold, fearless and like Mordecai – faithful, loyal, just and even like Xerxes – open to being led. Perhaps then I can influence people like Haman who are cruel, unjust and lost in the wilderness.

Perhaps simply listening to God’s instruction and willing to be led by His spirit is my purpose. Perhaps it is yours too.

God bless.

Spring Cleaning Writer Challenge

Life and Happiness, Writing

Greetings for spring! (Although it’s still cold here in PA and I’m sick of snow “squalls.”)

I was tagged by the quirky and amazing writer, Carrie Anne Noble for this springtime challenge! And I thought maybe it would spur me into thinking warm and colorful thoughts.

Dust-bunnies and Plot-bunnies: Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)

I’ve been stuck on trying to reorganize and firm up my editing business. So much so that writing has fallen a bit off the radar. I have a book “outlined” (in MY way of outlining) and I’d like to get started on it within the next month or so. I had intended to write during April for Camp Nanowrimo … I guess there is still time.

Which Stage Are You At? Expound!
a. Remodeling layouts (planning the story)
b. Painting the walls in colorful hues (writing)
c. Polishing the windows and scrubbing the floors and putting flowers in vases (editing)
d. Blueprints (not to the cleaning or remodeling yet… just drawing up plans for the very beginning inklings of a story)
e. Some combination of those things (cleaning out a closet)

Welp. I guess remodeling the layouts since I haven’t actually written a single word yet. And remodeling is my least favorite stage to be in….

Treasure From the Back of the Closet (Share one to three snippets you love!)

From What You Think You Know:

I swing my now ripped flannel pant leg over the fence and drop down beside her on the slick, dew-covered lawn. Reaching down, I try to feel how extensive the tear is…it’s bad. My favorite Hello Kitty PJs are now hanging off my leg at a weird angle. Several of the kitties seem to have shredded faces and half of my granny-pants underwear is probably hanging out. Thank God it isn’t quite daylight yet. Maybe we can get this over with and home before I have any embarrassing run-ins. Plus I can feel a bit of warm ooze trickling down my leg. Terrific, now I’ll have a bona fide reminder of this stellar evening—a scar. Note to self: check date of last tetanus shot.

From Summer’s Refrain:

She stopped her pacing and looked at the old woman. Her heart pumped hard against her chest as she considered the man she’d left, unwillingly this time, behind. How many times had she treated Lou this way? How many times had she shut him out? Even today, she’d been about to…. No. This had to end.

She stepped in front of Maude. “Take me back to Lou. Now.”

Maude sighed and lowered her gaze to the floor. “I’m sorry, love, but we’re not done yet. Come.” She held out her hand again for Summer.

What more did she need to know? She wiped her brow and looked at Maude from under lowered eyelashes. She must be insane to keep following this woman, but, yet, without her, how would she ever get back home?

She reached out her hand and felt a spark of electricity as it connected with Mrs. Delwich’s fingertips.

Bonus: Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning of Your Writer Self! (And share a picture!)

I have no idea what this means, but here’s a spring-y photo:

As part of this challenge, I hereby tag K.M. HodgeJoanne Groff, and Jill Thomas! Do as you will, friends!

Here are the rules:

Rules:

1. Link back to the person who tagged you
2. Share the picture
3. Answer the questions below (naturally…) or even pick and choose which ones you answer
3.5. Tag 3 other writers and inform them that you tagged them (via comment/message/email or hey, even carrier-pigeon or smoke signal; I’m not picky)

Questions:

1. Dust-bunnies and Plot-bunnies: Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)
2. Which Stage Are You At? Expound!
a. Remodeling layouts (planning the story)
b. Painting the walls in colorful hues (writing)
c. Polishing the windows and scrubbing the floors and putting flowers in vases (editing)
d. Blueprints (not to the cleaning or remodeling yet… just drawing up plans for the very beginning inklings of a story)
e. Some combination of those things (cleaning out a closet)
3. Treasure From the Back of the Closet (Share one to three snippets you love!)
3.5. Bonus: Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning of Your Writer Self! (And share a picture!)

 

Free Editing Is Not Free

Editing Advice, Writing

I’d heard a lot recently about some websites that proclaim to help authors with editing. These sites apparently use algorithms and other software to help authors “edit” their work. 

As an editor, it concerned me because I know there are a lot of nuances when it comes to editing the written word. Although there are a lot of standard writing rules, all too often these rules can be more of a “suggestion” and need to be carefully examined in context before making a decision.

For example: One website said that only 44 words in the English language follow the “I before E” rule and there are 925 exceptions to the rule!

And it also concerned me because these sites are proclaiming to be the “best” editors for your work. But I know that there is only so much a program can do. (After all, even Word doesn’t always catch all the misspellings or missing punctuation in a document.) So I decided to check out a few of these sites to see how well they actually edited a piece. What I found frightened me.

In all fairness, most of these sites are about “proofreading” a written piece and usually about nonfiction articles – not full-length novels. Proofreading does typically come at the end of the editing process and is meant to pick up minor errors like missing punctuation. And articles are typically shorter pieces that do not need the detail of a manuscript editor. However, if an author is unaware of these facts – many people interchange the words “editing” and “proofreading” and not all the sites make it clear that it does not work well for novels – then they may run their piece through one of these sites and find only minor errors when there are larger mistakes looming.

One site, touted as the “Best Free Grammar Checker,” did not even point out plagiarism to me when I blatantly put in another author’s work. Nor did it find anything except two misspelled words when there were many comma and punctuation errors (input by me). 

In fact, most of the sites I checked missed major errors. However, if you are a habitual bad speller, these sites would be a good place to start. Finding spelling errors seems to be the bulk of what these sites can do well.

However, what about slang words? Dialects in your character’s dialogue? And we haven’t even begun to consider where a paragraph should begin, how the timeline works, or if you’ve completly forgotten to change the name of your character in all the right places. Bill and Jill are both fine names to these editing sites, but if you changed your character from one name to the other – you better have done it throughout the entire piece (including changing “he” to “she”) or your readers will be mightily confused! These sites will NOT find these errors.

What I’m saying is this: Don’t let these sites replace real, live editors. They simply can’t. There are so many aspects to the English language that it is impossible for an automated machine to catch it all. I mean, some of us human editors don’t catch every error!

When you have spent months and months, or even years, writing your manuscript, do not throw all your hard work away by only using these online editing programs. Seek the counsel of a professional editor instead. 

If you want to learn a few ways to self edit your novel, check out my eBook: Edit Your Novel for Less!: Tips and Tricks to Save Money During the Editing Processhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B3XMGRS

 

 

 

 

The Author/Editor Relationship

Editing Advice, Life and Happiness, Writing

Last week, a potential client asked me, “Can you please tell me a little bit more how you work with a new client?”

It was something that other potential clients had asked me and I’d always found it a bit hard to answer. I edit. That’s it. Isn’t it always the same? I look for punctuation and grammar errors. I point out inconsistencies, etc., and I use Word’s Track Change feature to keep track of it all for the author. But after I had taken a Editing Boot Camp a few weeks ago, I realized that not every editor works in the same way. Some ask questions of their author and try to offer instruction (that’s me!), and some simply change whole sentences and paragraphs without any instruction (that’s NOT me). While others seem to only want to completely change an author’s words altogether.

After I had thought about it for awhile, here is how I chose to answer her:

“My motto is: I don’t change voices. I make them louder. It’s more than a gimmick to me. I strive to not change the voice of the author, ever. I want to understand what their goals are for their work and what they are trying to convey to their reader. Very often what I will do in my editing work is leave comments asking the author questions about their piece. This way, the author can scrutinize the sentence or paragraph and determine if it truly is what they intended or if it doesn’t quite work.

I try to approach the content/substantive part of the editing process as if I’m the reader. If I don’t understand something, I point it out. If something conflicts with what I thought was happening, I point it out. If a character seems – well – out of character, I point it out. Very rarely do I change whole sentences or rearrange things without giving the author a firm reason for the change. In the end, it’s YOUR work, not mine. I only want to point out to you what may or may not work. My authors and I often have small debates and, sometimes, they convince me their way is correct. I like to make friends with my authors, but that doesn’t mean I’m lenient! I push my authors in good ways to make their work better. 

With all that said, I hold firm to many writing rules and I use the Chicago Manual of Style or the Christian Writer’s Manual of Style as my guides. These don’t affect the overall plot, but things like ellipses, punctuation marks, and spelling out of numerals – things like that. I like to instruct. I’ll tell you why I’m suggesting a change (usually based on these style guides) and encourage you to learn about this rule to apply it to future works.

I’ve worked with one author for over five years. She writes romance – which isn’t my first pick of genres, but I’ve grown to enjoy her books. We’ve created such a great relationship that I can tell what she means to say even when she says it “wrong.” For her, I often will just fix things and she accepts them because she knows I know what she means. But that’s rare and I only start doing that once I’ve worked with someone long enough to know their style and voice.”

After that, I pointed her to the testimonials page on this website and said I hoped I had answered her question. In fact, because I thought it was such a good response (for once!), I chose to make it this blog post in the hopes that others would read it and want to work with me.

When I say I don’t change voices, I mean it. I know how hard it is to write and I don’t like it when someone tells me to rearrange my whole story. They don’t know what’s in my head – only I do. And I don’t know what’s in my client’s heads either. But I want to learn and I want to help. I want their story to get OUT of their head and onto the paper in the most pleasing, and engaging way.

So there you have it. It’s how I work and I’d love to chat with you about how you work too. Drop me a message or leave a comment below. I’m looking forward to working with you!