Peaks and Valleys

I’ve noticed that writers experience peaks and valleys in their creativity. There will be some stretches of time where idea after idea pops into our heads. We can work on several projects at once without confusion, and we meet our deadlines head-on, often ahead of schedule.

Then there are times when it’s a strain to come up with anything remotely creative. We may even have a deadline looming, but for some reason, those brain cells just don’t seem to be functioning. Our work, although sufficient, doesn’t meet our usual standards, and we wonder just where those ideas went.

As a writer who happens to be a Christian, I use my peaks and valleys as opportunities to get closer to God. When I’m at the top of my game, I can praise the One who gave me the active brain that came up with the ideas and opportunities. But when I feel that my mind just can’t get hold of an idea, I can pray for patience to see me through to the end of the valley and for guidance to write what He wants me to write. Either way I’m in a win/win situation since God is with me every step of the way in the writing career He gave me.

How do you handle those peaks and valleys?

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Let Your Work Speak For You

Last week I was a guest speaker for a friend’s critique group. My talk was entitled “Step into a Writing Career with Nonfiction.” Even though I was a bit nervous, it went really well. I even had several people come up afterward to tell me about certain points I had presented that they had never considered.

Public speaking is not my strong point. I don’t feel 100% comfortable before a group of people I don’t know very well. But I know the more I practice now, the more comfortable I will be in the future when I take on speaking engagements and school visits.

But coming up with a topic to discuss can be hard. I was given the topic of nonfiction, but I had to be able to come up with my own talking points. After some prayer, I decided I needed to let my work speak for me. I would show how my choice to go after nonfiction work opened up some amazing opportunities I would never had if I only stuck to fiction.

Believe it or not, there was so much to tell that I had to consolidate my speech. I hadn’t realized just how much I had learned over the years. The only true fear I would have was making sure I got everything said within my time limit.

Do you have to give a talk or know you need to have one to offer in the future? Why not let your work speak for you? You’ll be amazed at all the material you’ll have to offer.

Passions

As I develop in my writing career, I notice that I’ve become more passionate about certain subjects. It’s not that my passions have changed so much; it seems they are more fine-tuned. The more I write, the more I see what topics are becoming near and dear to my heart.

I’ve written a variety of genres: devotionals, fiction, nonfiction, Bible stories, early readers, etc., but I have really come to enjoy middle grade, particularly adventures and mysteries. Maybe it’s because I remember the excitement I felt as a young girl when I turned the pages of a great story, sharing in the adventures with the protagonist as she/he opened that squeaky door or entered that dark cave.

Of course, I currently don’t have any of these stories published, but that is a goal I’m tirelessly pursuing. God knows the perfect timing, even if I do not. In the meantime, I’ll follow the doors the Lord has opened up for me, which is currently early American history.

What are your writing passions?

Too Much Research?

The other day I brought home a stack of thick books, filled with the writings and autobiographies of some of our nation’s Founding Fathers. I’m trying to get an idea of their thoughts and attitudes prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This information is necessary as I prepare study guides and school visit programs for my new book, The Declaration of Independence from A to Z.

There is an amazing amount of information for this time period. I have to be thankful for these primary sources. Some may feel I’m going too far in my research, but I don’t think so. The more eyewitness information I can use, the better. I want to do my homework so I can give a good presentation.

Don’t think you’re doing too much research. If you’re using primary sources, it’s never too much to get your information right.

Staying One Step Ahead

I don’t know about you, but I hate being last minute. I don’t like the flurried and flustered feelings when I’m scrambling to get something finished. Now, I’m not talking about assignments that have come in unexpectedly. To me those are little blessings from the Lord. I’m talking about knowing you have a deadline or a talk to prepare for, and you wait until the last minute to get things done.

With four kids and a husband and a writing career, my life can get pretty hectic. So I try to stay at least one step ahead of everything. If I have a talk coming up (which I do in about 3 weeks), I stay ahead by first jotting down ideas. Then when I have a few minutes at another time, I write up a rough outline. This continues, step by step, until I have my talk planned out including any handouts or props I need.

The same goes for other projects. I’m currently working on a study guide for my upcoming book, The Declaration of Independence from A to Z. I started by looking at other study guides to get an idea of format. Then I jotted down some topics I would like to cover. For games and activities, I looked online to find out how I could make my own maze, etc. Plus, I have taken several books out of the library so I can add tidbits of interesting information that I couldn’t include in the book itself. When I have finished gathering all these extras, I will put it all together.

If I waited to complete each project first and then move on to the next, I’d never get anything done, especially since some of my deadlines overlap. So I make the effort to stay a good step ahead. I find I can complete more things in a timely manner, and I can live a little stress-free.