Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Carving Out a Writing Life with Your Soul's Passions

This week has been a difficult one for me in that I'm learning to focus all of these things about myself into my own writing. I'm still working on other authors' work, but finally, I'm pulling those things from my life, so I can go where I want to, as I develop my own writing career further.

A writer and co-author friend of mine told me I had to do a couple things:
1. Answer this question: If you were taking a trip on a plane, and had to choose one book or author, what would the book be? (Wow. That is a very difficult question for me. Also, she said to exclude the Bible as this is an essential book to all Christians.)
2. List all of your favorite books (of all time.) Number them from favorite (number 1) to least favorite of the favorites. (ha) Go with your first instinct and don't agonize over it. (Boy, does she know me, or what?)

I have to admit to you right now--I have maybe a thousand books.(First step: Admit your illness.) I am not kidding you. I did give hundreds of books to a church library and also quite a few to schools. (I'm a book reviewer since 1998.) This was not easy for me. One of the books I let go of was instantly the pastor's favorite, and since he is also a dean of students at a local Christian university, he is influencing a whole community there with this book. (I may have to buy that book because I did love it, too. Drat.) My therapist, (I mean, my friend,) tells me I have to distill from my life, and my collection of books, the things that are in common with all of them--those threads of passion.

At first I looked at these books and thought, "These books are about as different as Cajun food is from baby's pabulum--A through Z! Ack, I'm a mess! (There are people who agree with this--about me being a mess.) But then, the thick smoke started to dissipate, and common threads appeared--strong, clear and bright--and they ran through my entire soul. I saw them and it was amazing to me. And what I saw, I liked. I liked it in the books I loved, and I liked it about me. I thought that I was all over the map with my favorites and my habits, but I'm not, really. Not only did I have a false view of myself and beat myself up for having those loves, I had no confidence to embrace those true things in myself. I did not give myself permission to love stuff that was uniquely mine. It's no good, I told myself. In coming to this realization, I even began to appreciate what other people liked, or had interest in, and to appreciate their loves and passions. That was them. This was me. And sometimes I share a lot more with people than I thought possible--certain loves or appreciation. It's sweet.

I think wrapped up in this exercise of my soul's passions is a realization that I must bring these threads into my life every day to be whom God intended for me to be. If I do this, I will discover the happiness that is in my life, even on a bad or sad day. We rob ourselves of joy if we do not keep these threads running in our daily lives.

Ok, so what? you say to me. How does this apply to me? Here are the threads to keep running constantly in your life (and mine) that I have discovered:  

1. Have a sense of curiosity and feed it. 
2. Keep inspired. 
3. Help someone else. 
4. Do something you are good at. 
5. Read. (Easy!)
6. Don't watch so much. Do something. 
7. Love what you do, and if you're not loving it, find a way to get rid of it.(This is only in what you do. Just say no.) 
8. Exercise. (Your body, mind/creativity and spirit.) 
9. Face up to your fear(s). Meet them head on and stare them down. Call in back up in the face off (I think God is big enough for that role for me, but it's ok to have friends in the trenches with you.) 
10. Believe in what God already knows about you--and embrace it. It is what is true. 
11. Stay close to your family, friends and those people who are positive to you. (Limit the poisonous relationships or set boundaries.) 
12. Follow your heart whenever it is something good--don't follow your temptations, evil or unethical, immoral impulses. Discern which is which!

Hope these things help you as much as they are helping me in learning to be happy with living in my own skin. As a writer I have stories to tell and I want to tell them my way. After all of this time to find that I'm OK to be who I am is a great freedom.

Suggested reading:

1. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson
2. Make a Name for Yourself: Eight Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand Strategy for Success by Robin Fisher Roffer (I know, I know, for women. Guys, suggest a book for you in the comments?)
3. 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life: A Psychologist Probes the Mystery of Why Some Lives Really Work and Others Don't by Dr. Henry Cloud
4. Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

What are some of your greatest obstacles in carving out your writing life?(And if you say "my day job" I'm going to argue with you.)

Crystal Laine Miller is a...
Freelance Christian writer and editor who enjoys motorcycles, golf, trapshooting, music,the outdoors with dogs thrown in between the pages she reads, edits and writes. She's also rescued a few cats in her day. Married to an ER doc, they have four sons. Life is always on the edge with grit and joy combined.


  1. So true, Crystal. If it is your day job in the way, I too will argue along with Crystal in that my last post suggested ways around that kind of struggle. This time of year, for those of us working retail, can be overwhelming.....but there are always ways to find writing time.

  2. LOL, I guess then I'll have to be honest, my day job does get in the way, so it's probably procrastination, when after work I should open up the computer but don't. Oh dear, I can feel Crystal gearing up to give me a stern but loving boot in the pants. I deserve it. :o)

  3. Darren, I know people in medicine who write, and those people never have a "slow time" of year or even in a day. I sympathize, of course. :)
    Same for you, Christine... :)

    And it is true, that some have more energy than others. Just don't beat yourself up for the little time you have to write. You have to do what you have to do to live and be obedient to the Lord, but if you really want something, you will carve out minutes or even just a day off with a couple hours.

    And I know so many who (like Diann Hunt) would set their alarm extra early and write before going to a full docket in the day job (she was a court reporter, busy wife, mother at the time.)

    I guess the poster child for this "I-have-a-day-job" is Cara Putman. Cara is incredible, has more responsibilities than anyone alive, and she now has many books published. I don't know if I can even list all she does.(She does have a good support system.)

    But I am sympathetic to each person's schedule. Do read the book above called Margin. :) See how much you actually need to keep up with what you're doing. :)

  4. Pretty awesome list!

    I will say my day job because it leaves me mentally tired at much that I must force myself to sit down and write.

    Lately, I've been doing some writing before work.

    Great post.

  5. Loree, being mentally tired means you are not getting "fed" enough to keep up your energy.

    What energizes you? Maybe spend 15 minutes every day doing something that will energize you. My husband has a job that is mentally, physically and emotionally tiring, but when he comes home, he will spend 15 minutes (more if he has time) playing his guitar, practicing new songs.

    Maybe set the timer and spend 5 minutes writing something just for you, doing an "exercise." Then, you can set the timer for however long you think you have to write on your WIP.

    This is such a common thing with writers--what gets your energy going?

    Maybe you need a competition to help jumpstart you. Brainstorm some methods to try and see what happens.

  6. The stratagies I came up with (in my previous post) really seem to help me get some good writing time, even though I live the retail life. That inspired me to blog about it and share my strategies with others..

  7. I'm realizing more strongly that distractions form my biggest obstacle. Too often I've planned to write, and then I do allow new jokes, photos, or emails to distract me and fritter away huge portions of time for writing. I need to set aside those things for later. They're not evil, but they lead me away from something more important. Better to limit those things to evenings when I'm too tired to create, or to a few minutes during lunchtime, etc.

  8. Thanks, Sharon!

    And exactly, Rick. Knowing your own limitations and your best times to create really help.

  9. First, I'll admit I can procrastinate. But I plan on tackling that habit of procrastination and overcome it. Starting tomorrow.

    Second, I echo Rick's point on distractions.

    Third, I'll add over-commitment. I've given up my weekly Toastmasters club (visiting occasionally, but not regularly and not putting in any prep time). But then there are the crits I do for my crit group. There's writing Amazon reviews. There's doing work to promote my writing. There's dishes, lawn-mowing, keeping things neat, etc., and I don't plan on delegating all those to my wife, as if she'd let me! There's bill paying and church responsibilities and developing friendships. And then there's exercise. I don't believe any of those should be given up and sometimes I don't have enough time for all the non-writing things.

    Oh, I know. I'll stop watching the Colts. Wait -- I haven't watched a whole sporting event for three years! But I refuse to give up the Thanksgiving day dog show on NBC. I'm a bulldog on that activity.