Posts Tagged 'priorities'

How I Got Back on Track

For the first time in a little over three weeks I finally got back to work on Sky again.

I left off July 9,  working through Chapter 3 again, because Chapter 3 leads into Chapter 5, and Chapter 5 leads into Chapter 7, which is where I got stuck.

I have felt so lost for so long, I’d begun to wonder what was wrong with me. Then yesterday I had the vague memory that things had been as chaotic for me in the process of writing previous books as they are for this one. Particularly Return of the Guardian King.  I can’t seem to find the writing journal I kept for that one — it might be in my trunk of memorabilia buried at the back of the closet…but I didn’t want to go to all the trouble — and spend all the time — of getting it out. That’s when I recalled that there was probably something up on my old blog which I began back in February of 2006.

Sure enough, there was. I was starting Chapter 11 of RotGK, and having the same sorts of trouble as I am now. The very first entry starts out:

I’m supposed to be working on chapter 11 of my work in progress — Light out of Shadow. But I seem to be a master at self-distraction. The thing is, I’ve enjoyed reading others’ blogs and I’ve been thinking about starting one of my own for some time now. So I guess it’s not a huge surprise when I couldn’t seem to make myself get to work today on account of numerous interruptions and external distractions… that I should suddenly find myself here, completing one step after another (there were more than the three they advertised at the start of this) in setting up this blog.’

And the second one, There and Back Again,  detailed a process of story generation that is very much like the one I’m in the middle of now. It was exactly what I needed to read, to recall that I just have to get something down, that it’s going to change, and that that’s okay. Sure, make it fit as best I can, make it as plausible and consistent as I can, but don’t demand a lot from a first pass.  It’s just my way of getting some sort of framework sketched in.

I’d forgotten that I was supposed to be sketching, and started getting perfectionistic.

The thing I love about what I wrote in There and Back Again, is that it reminded me how uncomfortable and blind my process is. How I can have no clue what to do one day, way too many options, unable to choose and then the next day, one little thing seems to lead to another and before I know it I have a sequence.

It reminded me of how I can look at what I’ve done, be dissatisfied, come up with some alternative ideas that seem to work and then be unable to write them. When I try they just lie there, dead and dull. Then after a couple of days, and a few seemingly minor tweaks, all comes clear. The chapter which formerly was “a disaster” and “ALL wrong” and “never going to come right”  somehow comes right.

One day it’s AWFUL and HOPELESS; the next I wonder what in the world I was thinking, because it’s clearly just fine.

Reading through that post, being reminded of all that helped me get back into Sky today.

I also received a number of hits from the Lord concerning the matter of priorities.

First Pastor John taught on our number one priority in the Christian life being to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Is that really your #1 priority?” he asked.

Well, yes, of course it is, and I know that doesn’t just mean the daily reception of Bible teaching, it also means application of that teaching and, once one has grown enough, operating in the spiritual gift one has been given.

Not an hour later I started listening to a presentation by Thomas Umstattd over at the Bestseller Society on Time Management and in the first 4 minutes heard:

“If you don’t manage your time, the world will do it for you. Anything around you — coworkers, the world, your boss, your family, the TV…  those will fill up your hours for you.”

“When we say, “I don’t have time for something,” what we’re really saying is “That’s not as important as the other things that I do.”

and

“You can tell what your priorities are by how you spend your time. We have what we believe our priorities to be and then we have what they really are.”

All of that together coming in just a few hours, convicted me. I have not been giving writing the proper spot in my priorities.  “Whatever is most important to you,” said Umstattd, “that needs to be the first thing in how you schedule your time.”

So, I’ve reconfigured things a bit, and today using the pomodoro technique (modified) I put in 3 1/2 hours on Sky — first thing after I finished my morning routine. And that makes me very happy.  😀

Journal Entries – Part 4: Busy-ness is not Devotion

5 November Saturday – Continued

[Note: I’ve been writing about a series of messages I listened to a couple of weeks ago, and the journal entries they inspired; 5 November is the longest entry of the lot.]

Continuing on the subject of busy-ness, Pastor John taught that one of the most freeing things in his life was when he finally realized that

“knowing your personal sense of destiny simplifies your life. It narrows your life. It throws away a lot of things that aren’t important. It gets you focused.

“Being single-minded is the key to fantastic success. That’s why we get our own spiritual gift and each  of us have our own unique position in the Body.

“Pruning is suffering, but how about looking at it as getting rid of all the non-essentials, narrowing and simplifying your life so you can see clearly the target ahead of you. You have a great Rule now by which you can determine what’s important to keep and what to toss. Part of growing spiritually is a narrowing of focus: Here’s the thing that matter:  “FOLLOW ME.”

Speaking of Jesus, of course. Pastor John contrasted Martha in the kitchen going nuts with her preps and Mary in the living room sitting as Jesus’s feet, listening to Him. I always took that to mean Bible class, and I believe that in part it does. But what about moment by moment? I always took “Follow me” to mean Bible class,as well, but that must be moment by moment. And that includes the function of my spiritual gift, which I’ve come to believe is not only writing novels, but apparently writing this blog as well.

To do that, things will not be about my schedule, my priorities, but me following His leading at any given moment.

Colonel Thieme said we’re not to be led by our emotions and desires and impulses – that that’s arrogance and self-indulgent. And it can be, especially at the beginning of one’s spiritual life. But later I think to some degree that is how the Spirit leads. Suddenly you get an idea to do something and you do it.

But too often, especially in recent years I’ve wanted to write in the journal to figure out what’s going on, what I should be thinking — like yesterday. I remember being distracted from my intent of going in to work on Sky, and instead going in to lie on the bed and think about a subject I’d just read about on a blog. All these words and verses came flooding into my mind and finally I decided I should just go in and write them down. The result was my recent post The World is Not Christian.

I think that was God the Holy Spirit. That’s how it happens. It’s almost like I’m taken over. I always regard such events with dismay because they’re never what I’d planned, never what I’d intended to do.

It happens with the sudden inspiration of ideas for making cards as well. And for solving problems related to housework, storage, etc.  I think His leading is in those things more than not.

Pastor John’s next tack in his lesson relates:

“There’s an idea that we’re supposed to be busy — that that’s the proof of our devotion…”

(I’ve gotten done all the things I’ve determined to do based on my priorities…which years ago may not actually have been correct. Plus, as I said, this is all about me and my plan.)

“…when in  reality it isn’t busy-ness at all, but single-mindedness.   When we get pruned, we become more single-minded, more devoted to the Father and His Son. And HE will prune. HE’S the one doing it. He’s the one who identifies and will do what’s needed to make these things perfectly obvious to you and even maybe get rid of them for you.”

And in my notes I asked, “What does this MEAN? That I don’t have to figure it out?” Well, yeah, that does seem to be its meaning. I guess my question is, “but if I don’t, if I just keep muddling my way along, I won’t have any control (!).  It’ll be chaos. I’ll go along indulging myself like I’ve done for several months now…

Except… is that true? Have I just been lolling about reading novels, letting the house go, eating at McDonald’s every night? No dishes done, eating off paper plates, no laundry done until every last stitch of clothing has been worn? Leaving the dog to fend for himself, letting the clutter pile and pile? That is not what’s happening. Even my computer time is limited to a few blogs. I’ve not let Bible Class go. The checkbook is not a mess of unentered charges….

I feel afraid. That if I turn it over to Him… what? I’ll be lost? He won’t come through?

PJF continues:

“Many times what seems to us as a suffering and a difficulty, turns out to have been the best thing — God removing an unproductive way of spending your time.”

He used as example a sales position he lost years ago. At the time it seemed like a disaster — how was he going to feed his family?

“But it was a job that was mostly about accounting — how many cold calls did you make? How many hours did you spend? It wasn’t focused at all — it was a horrible job.”

And God removed this unproductive way of spending his time. This ties to my Martha mindset of how many tasks have I completed off my list. How many hours have I spent writing. Ohhh… never enough. Never. There will always be more tasks because every one of them eventually must be done again.

“He removes the unproductive aspects of our lives. Then we can go back and concentrate more fully on the broad and vital part of our lives, the productive part: growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord. Being closer to the Vine.

“We don’t bear more fruit by being busier (getting more done) but by being closer to the Vine. He wants us to see more and more of the Life of Christ. That He’s alive, that He’s real and magnificent. That if we more and more devote ourselves to Him, give our lives to Him, He’ll come through in  amazing ways!

“This time is really short and it’s the only time we have to glorify Him.”

We do that by trusting Him in suffering and difficulty. By believing His word even when we can’t see any results or sign that it’s true. And also by thanking Him when He finally does come through. As He always does.

Flipping Priorities

Lately the Lord has been giving me lots of messages from various sources about the importance of focusing, of having priorities and following them, of knowing where your heart is by looking at where you spend your money and/or time. They’ve all been urging me to get more serious about the book and making me think about priorities.

I thought I’d already gone through all that, and had set up my morning routine to take care of things that had to be done every day or week as my first priority. The routine is always done and there’s no dithering about that. You just get up and do it.

And I have been. The first portions of it have become automatic. The second half, not so much. Plus I would often get distracted or sidetracked with some other project before I finished the second half. Was my morning routine too long? Maybe.

Worse, by the time I got around to writing — say between 10:45 and 11:45 — I was tired from all the other stuff I’d been doing all morning.

So I decided to change it up. For the last couple of days I’ve done only part of the morning routine and then went straight into the office to work on Sky for a bit, until I was hungry for breakfast. At which time I would do the second half of the routine (which includes hanging out clothes and doing tricks with Quigley)

So far that has been working really well, not just because I don’t end up out of gas before I get to the writing, but because once I’ve started working on the book, I tend to want to get back to it, and am thinking about it and not new housework projects I can work on. The other way, the new projects bombarded me.

Monday I alternated home chores and writing all day long. Today (Tuesday) I wasn’t quite as good on that, because after all the progress I had yesterday, today was more of a stalled out day. I spent a good amount of time being distracted, still, and being blank. But toward the end of the day I began to find a way to at least collect and organize my thoughts (which are mostly questions and possible answers) in such a way that I’m hoping tomorrow will see a few more pages added to the total.

One of Orson Scott Card’s recommendations is to always has why.  Why are the bombers in the basement? Why did she ask Lago to bring the ambassador up to the office to see the video? Why would she ask him to make the bombers go away?

The problem with that, is that I open up a world of questions I often don’t have answers to. Hence the distractions and protracted periods of staring out windows.

Wait. Maybe I should rephrase that.  “The problem with that is that I open up a world of questions I don’t have answers to …yet.  🙂

And tomorrow is another day. As it stands, in two days I’ve moved from the end of chapter 1 to almost the end of chapter 2.


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