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Considering the fact that I missed last week’s Writing Wednesday post because I was buried under a to-do list that had gotten out of control, this seems like the perfect time to talk about balance.

I’ve noticed that the further I move along in my author career, the easier it is for me to get side-tracked, distracted, and overwhelmed. Back in 2016 when I started writing Light on Glass, that was my only project. I had one book I was writing. I wrote when I had time. I didn’t have any deadlines, pressure, or expectations. I liked the story. I wanted to write it. So, I did.

By 2017, I had two projects in the works. I was revising, and then querying, Light on Glass and writing the first draft of Mission Hollywood. I’d also been told about the importance of the dreaded “P” word…Platform. I started investing time on Twitter and building a community. Another professional told me I needed a website, so I built one.

Fast forward to 2019, I have two book deals, and those brought editing deadlines. Hard and fast deadlines. I also have three more books in various stages of drafting and revising. I have over 10,000 Twitter followers to keep in touch with, a fledgling blog, and I recently started providing manuscript critiques. Suddenly my writing time isn’t just about writing anymore. It’s being divided into chunks of other stuff, being chipped away by a list of things the experts say I have to do and must do in order to be a writer. It has been frighteningly easy for me to get overwhelmed by everything that isn’t writing that a writer is required to do. How’s that for a tongue-twister?

I’m learning the hard way that balance is the key. And I’m not talking about standing on your head or tiptoeing on a high wire kind of balance. Balance in the creative life. How do we balance everything that needs to be done so we don’t get overwhelmed, tip over, and fall? What’s the secret?

I’m not sure if this counts a secret, but for me the answer has come in remembering my primary goal. I am a writer. I do lots of other things, but at the heart of it all, I am a writer. In this day and age of publishing, writers are often told they have to be marketers, bloggers, influencers, reviewers, advertisers, and a slew of other things. But when you boil it all down, strip away the excess, what’s left is the writing.

It’s easy to get skewed, to lose track of time on social media, to spend hours obsessing over ads and analytics, to get wrapped up in platform building. But none of that defines a writer. It’s the words that define us.

If you’re feeling out of balance, swamped by a long list of things people have told you “must do,” go back to your first love. Are you a writer? Put that at the top of your to-do list. Make time to cultivate your writing before you do the other non-writing writerly stuff. Are you an artist? Then put that at the top of your list. No amount of posting, liking, or marketing can match what you create with your unique gifting.

I'm a fairly intelligent woman. I understand how a calendar works. I know that Wednesday comes every week. Right after Tuesday and right before Thursday. And yet, I still can't seem to get myself organized enough to get these Writing Wednesday posts up earlier in the day. But I will keep trying and eventually I'll find a system that works for me. Until then...happy Writing Wednesday evening!

My theme for today is One Word at a Time. This is a deep dark secret about writing that I wish someone had told me when I first started writing novels. My writing adventure began with short stories and poems. That was my forte. My first published book was a memoir which was basically me telling a lot of stories about my life as a Marine wife. From there I did freelance work, mostly blog posts and web content, but I wrote thousands of words a day to keep up with my deadlines.

So when I decided to write a novel, I wasn't overly concerned. I had a whole pack of writing credits by then, I was used to churning out words, how different could a novel be?

This is the part where current me goes back in time to smack past me.

I was unprepared. It was like when I had my second child. I had a daughter then I had a son. How different could two babies be? Oh. My. Goodness. Night and day, east and west, solid and squishy, take your pick of opposites. They were different. So different. The same was true with my first novel.

Sitting down to write a novel is not the same as writing a blog post or an article or a poem. There is something about the sheer scope of the project that makes it different. I noticed it this week when I was working on a devotional that is going to be free to my newsletter subscribers (hint, hint...go sign up for my newsletter and you'll get a free book in April). The book is a 30 day devotional and I'm writing it in one day increments. It doesn't feel like a feels like a series of articles. I have been averaging 2,000 words a day which is something I almost never do when writing a novel. Why? Why is a novel so much harder?

Maybe it's the idea of a writing an entire novel, maybe it's the word count, maybe it's the responsibility of the story. I'm not sure what it is, but the word novel carries heft. It carries weight. And that weight can be overwhelming.

The idea of sitting down to write a novel can be intimidating. How can I get from one blank page to three hundred or so pages filled with words that makes sense? What happens in the middle? How do I fill the space? Tackling something that big can seem impossible. And that impossibility can make it hard to start and even harder to finish.

So here's my philosophy. You write a novel one word at a time. Sounds overly simple, right? It probably is. But if you sit down to write one word isn't that a lot easier than sitting down to write a novel? And if you write one word isn't it likely that since you're already there and the file is open you might write more than one word? Maybe two words? Or even a sentence? Dare we hope for a paragraph? If we stop thinking about writing a novel and focus on writing one word instead, doesn't that take the pressure off a bit? But if you string enough of those words together, you'll end up with a novel.

My friends, it's ok to be gentle with yourself, to give yourself some grace. We live in a world that is rush-rush-rush. Hurry up and produce and move on to something else you can hurry up and produce. Move, move, move or you'll miss your chance! Everything moves so fast t creates a sense of urgency, as if we'll miss the boat, miss our shot, miss our chance. But your writing doesn't have an expiration date. There is no need to rush through. Enjoy the story you want to tell. Savor it. Relish the characters you've created, the world you've built. This rush-rush world will wait for the book you're writing. There is no time limit, no deadline on your writing career.

When you start to feel overwhelmed, when the task seems hopeless, sit down and write one word. Just one. And see what happens.

For today's Writing Wednesday theme, I want to discuss identity. And I'm not talking about a secret identity (if you're actually Spider-Man please feel free to let me know...I have questions) or using a pen name so your neighbors don't find out about the sci-fi world you've created in your basement.

This is about knowing who you are as a writer.

Publishing is a tough business. There will always be people who are ready and willing to give you advice on how to change your book, your platform, your presentation, and even your photo in order to get a book deal. This advice may be well-intentioned, it may even be backed up by current publishing trends. And if you're a writer who has been languishing in the querying slush pile, hit hard by rejection, discouraged, frustrated, or considering giving up, any words of advice might sound attractive.

If you don't know who you are you can easily lose yourself in the trenches of trends and advice.

You are a writer.

Now what kind of writer do you want to be? What kind of stories do you want to share? What is your vision for your books and for your career? What kind of mark do you want to leave on the world? If you identify those things before you dive into the publishing swimming pool, you will be able to hang on to your identity when advice-givers suggest you change.

Rejection may come. And it will suck. Writing authentically invites rejection and the more honest we are in our writing the more that rejection will hurt. It will feel personal because our writing is personal. We may be tempted to compromise our stories, our words, even ourselves just to avoid the sting of an awful rejection email or a negative review.

But writing with honesty, telling our stories the way they need to be told, is what being an artist is all about.

I firmly believe you have been given a story that no one else can tell. You have a unique voice, a style that is all your own. You will be most effective and your stories will be the most powerful when you embrace who you are and pour that into your books. There is nothing wrong with learning more about your craft, improving your technique, receiving constructive criticism and applying it to make your books better. That is a part of the writing process. Authenticity does not erase the need for hard work. But the core of your identity as a writer, the heart of your words, should always be the unique, beautiful quality that is all you.

Be true to who you are. Embrace the stories God has given you. No one else can tell them the way you can. God doesn't want you to imitate someone else, to copy another author, to try to fit in. He wants you to be the person He created you to be.

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