Don’t Go Crazy, Go Wild! Three Tips for Writers Stuck in a First Draft

Normally this blog is not writing specific, but I am a writer. 🙂 And I believe that everyone has a story to share, a life’s message! I may include tips for writers in this blog from time to time, as well as other areas where I find things that work for me, travel, parenting, home school, etc. “Fearless” is a lifestyle.

Are you writing a story you love, but suddenly hit a wall?

Are you asking yourself if this thing is any good, if it’s worth your time, if you should just trash it and start over?

Before you do anything crazy (i.e.: delete a year’s worth of writing!) , here are a few tips if you get stuck. For non-fiction, these tips can be modified to fit your piece. (Additional suggestions for non-fiction writers can be found at the bottom of this post.)

Three Tips for Writers Stuck in a First Draft

1) Know your message.

What is your message in this piece?

It doesn’t have to be deep, although it can be. It could be “the infinite personal grace of God,” in a book like The Shack, or it could be “sometimes a girl just needs to go to the beach.”

Both have merit, and both have their place. What is the message you want to send? What are you willing to spend time with for however long it takes to write your book?

Knowing the message will help you create a piece with a cohesive theme.

2) Know your endgame.

What happens?

If you are running into trouble, this is a good time to revisit your outline. If you don’t have one, that’s ok! It might be a good time to make one. And it doesn’t have to look like a traditional outline!

Roman numerals are optional, but it does help to sketch out a few things.

Creatively writing characters and events will take you so far, but at some point you need to know the endgame. Yes, darnit, we have to know the ending first.

If you are having trouble in the middle, try plotting through from where you are in just a few sentences. Try different scenarios, and see what you like best.

If outlining trips you up, try writing the last page to your book. If you were the reader, how would you want this book to end?

3) Go wild, and just write the darn thing already!

Remember to have fun with this–and no deleting until you write a complete first version!

You need a finished first draft. Don’t worry about getting it all perfect the first time through. Think of your draft, not like words carved in stone, but like clay that you will work into a clearer sculpture over time.

If your characters are confused about what to do next, what do you wish you could be doing right this second? Take the day off? Take a nap? Quit your job?Ask for a promotion? Lunch with friends?

Whatever you are longing to do right now, write it. The events will have life because they are alive in you. If it doesn’t fit later, it can be edited to something that does, and you may end up with an essay you can use somewhere else.

If that isn’t enough–send those characters to do something wild! Shave their heads! Join the circus! Steal a car!

With this tactic, always err on the side of the extreme. It will free you up creatively, and it will stand out as either brilliant or absurd when you come back through in edits. If absurd, you could change “join the circus” to “buy a food truck.” All the characters can follow accordingly.

Have FUN! Remember Stephen King’s quote, “Write with the door closed, edit with the door open.”

Anything can happen for now–it’s a first draft!

Go wild!

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For nonfiction writers, take these same tips and apply them as fits your piece.

Know your message. Know your endgame:  Rather than a fictional ending, what one line of wisdom do you want your reader to remember when they have read your book?

Have fun, and just write! Instead of sending fictional characters on a make-believe journey, what stories can you share to exemplify your message? They don’t have to be “wild,” but they need to make a strong impact to underline your points.

You can move on and polish later. For now, just get words on the page! All the best as you finish that first draft!

Four Faces of Poverty and One Way to Overcome Them All

Poverty is a life-stealer, a joy-stealer, a dream-stealer.

A thief.

And like many thieves, a poverty mindset is a master of disguise.

A poverty spirit can wear many faces and speak with many voices.

There is no doubt that things happen in life that are beyond our control, and this post is by no means a dismissal of hardships. I have experienced poverty circumstances at different times in my life. I know how hard it can be, but I have also overcome a lot of the mindsets and the circumstances, so I also know it can be done! There is hope. The battle is in our minds. These are a few tips to help you recognize the enemy and win the battle.

Hopeless Identity

The most common expression of poverty that I hear says things like, “That will never work. I’ll never have that. I don’t even want those things. That life is not for me. Life is a struggle. The odds are stacked against me. I was born in this situation, and I’ll die in it. Everyone I know is like me. There’s no way out. I’m poor. It’s who I am.”

This face wears poverty as identity. Usually people who think this way have a mindset that has been passed down to them through generations. This face is marked by hopelessness. The oppression is so great, there is not even a concept of dreaming.

Entitled Resentment

One expression says, “Not only am I stuck with this life, but if I can’t have something better, no one else should have it either!  It’s not fair! I got some bad breaks, so everyone else should have to exist on my level. In fact, those people who have more than me? They should give me some of what they have. They owe me.”

This face wears poverty as resentment, and it is marked by entitlement. The saddest thing about resentment is that it keeps this person from connecting with people who do know how to succeed, people who also had some bad breaks, but overcame them. Resentful, entitled poverty will isolate these people in a cycle of group-think with others who have the same mindset and, therefore, affirm their unhelpful attitudes. This cycle will prevent them from learning other thought patterns that lead to success–and, then, lead them to helping others.

Defeated Heaviness

Another expression will admit that it wants success, but feels too beaten down to go after it. This one says things like, “I’d love to go after my dreams, but I don’t know how. I’m too old/young/uneducated/inexperienced/etc. I just can’t do it.”

This face wears poverty as total defeat and  is marked by a heaviness, an inertia, a lack of movement toward personal goals.

Self-Sabotaging Perfectionism

And the last expression is not always easily identified as a poverty mindset, because it looks different from the outside. This expression will admit that it wants success and will work hard to get it. However, it will self-sabotage all along the way. A person with this expression of poverty will throw tantrums with loved ones. Nothing is ever good enough for them, and they will reject opportunities, gifts, and offers of help because these offers don’t live up to their “standards.”

This expression wears poverty as perfectionism and is marked by an appearance of success, or of seeking success, that is thwarted by self-sabotage. Perfectionism is just another kind of poverty. It will keep a person from ever accepting themselves or any good thing that comes their way.

One Way to Overcome Them All

The way to conquer these feelings, or any spirit, is to cut them off where they started, at the root.

Humans are three-part beings, body, soul, and spirit, so the root has to be dealt with in every area.

For the body, take care of yourself. It’s your temple. It’s God’s temple. You will not feel like you are living the abundant life eating chips on the couch. Well. Not for long, anyway. Proclaim over yourself that any expression of poverty in your body is cut off at the root and allowed no longer, in the name of Jesus! Ask God to replace any poverty in your body with life and life abundant!

For the soul, think abundant thoughts! All behavior comes out of your thoughts. To change a life, change the thoughts. Write down upgraded thoughts, especially from scripture, and post them all over your house, car, and workplace. Proclaim over yourself that any expression of poverty in your soul is cut off at the root and allowed no longer, in the name of Jesus! Ask God to replace any poverty in your soul with life and life abundant!

For the spirit, take hold of your true identity! You are made in the image of God. Every good thing that He is, it exists inside of you! Proclaim over yourself that you are His beautiful creation, and any expression of poverty in your spirit is cut off at the root and allowed no longer, in the name of Jesus! Ask God to replace any poverty in your spirit with life and life abundant!

And for all three:  Ask God to show you the deeper things He has for you. When I started writing this post, I prayed and asked God what He wanted in the solution, and I heard Seneca Schurbon’s name. You may be familiar with Seneca’s groundbreaking work with flower essences. I shared the idea for this post with her and asked for her suggestions.

You can learn more about flower essences at her blog here. Seneca sees people integrating and healing body, soul, and spirit by using her products, and she has an essence called Prosper that she suggested for anyone wanting to try something a little out of the box. Everything Seneca does is done prayerfully and based on years of research and testimonies from clients. The Prosper essence “addresses poverty mentality, scarcity, and lack.” You can try a free sample of this essence and others by following the link; just click and type in Prosper, or browse the site for other possibilities.

If flower essences aren’t for you, ask God to show you what He has for you to do. He is limitless. His ways are high and delightful and creative. He wants to bless you and surprise you with a tailored personal touch on your life.

We all deal with poverty feelings from time to time. When thought patterns try to  come in that don’t line up with your best life, stop them at the onset.

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Would love to hear from readers who have overcome a poverty mindset or something similar.

What worked for you? What would you suggest for others fighting this battle?

Please share in the comments!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Jer29:11

Happy Mother’s Day: The Year of the Women.

I did not want kids.

I did not want a husband.

I wanted a doctorate. I wanted to wear silk suits. I wanted to teach English and write books and hide away in a mysterious house with a cat and read during rainstorms.

By myself.

And then, somehow, I married the sweetest man, and we had the sweetest little girl. And she clung to me like wind to a vine, and I could not leave her.

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My husband and I lived in old houses that we could afford on a young man’s salary. Houses that we made into homes, houses where we saw architecture, and real wood, and potential. Houses where I sewed curtains, and peeled stickers off the walls, and painted cheap paneling a bright and glossy white. Houses where my husband fixed all the broken things, drains and drawers and door locks.

We planted gardens in those places, patches of tall sunflowers that camouflaged the piles of trash in the train yard behind us, onions and tomatoes and peppers that made us feel rich when the harvest came in.

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Houses that we were sometimes mocked for choosing. “You guys are better than this,” we heard.

Those houses are beautiful places in my memory, places where we brought tiny babies home wrapped in soft blankets, where we entertained lifelong friends, where we learned the real stuff of marriage, self-sacrifice and forgiveness. And incidentally, places where we lived below our means instead of beyond. Where we saved money that launched us into home ownership later on, when those same mockers were still renting the same houses on the same dusty streets.

Coffeehouse drinks were a treat. I did not buy kids’ meals when we met at fast food places for playdates. Eating out was a quarterly event. I got my hair cut short and then let it grow for months to skip haircuts. I did not buy designer clothes unless I found them at Goodwill. I pinched my pennies so hard they squealed. And it was challenging. And so rewarding. And I did not feel sorry for myself. I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Ma, homesteading on the plains, building something for the future.

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I did not feel sorry for myself, partly because I was determined not to, but also because of the community of women where I lived.

I raised my young family in a small town in Kansas. I saw women there, educated and socially aware, choosing to stay home with their families.

I say “choosing,” because it was a conscious sacrifice for most of us. I could have gone back to school while my baby was small, but she did not do well away from me. My youngest is not the same; she would have been ok. But my older kids, they needed me in a different way, and I felt it. I surrendered status, cash, respect, and those silk suits for them.

And so did many women I know, for their children.

We cut coupons. We did our own nails. We groomed our own dogs. We cut our kids’ hair, sometimes with greater success than others, but there’s always a hat. We went to yard sales, and we held our own sales every season to earn a little extra cash.

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My kids needed me more than they needed another activity or another plastic toy. And though it hurt my pride, they needed me more than I needed to be known as Dr. Professor. They needed me more than I needed a new car or clothes.

This is not a manifesto of the stay-at-home mom, by the way. It just happens to be my story. I know women who work outside the home and do it well, whose lives are balanced, and their children are great, happy, well-mannered, and well-adjusted.

It is, however, an acknowledgement that both are needed. No woman should be dismissed. All women in all callings are needed.

I’m glad I have women doctors and not just men to choose from for a breast exam. I like going to boutiques and having my hair cut and eating in restaurants where women run it all; I like their style. I’m glad there are women working in the stores where I buy my food and my dishes and furniture; I appreciate their opinions and their conversation.

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The marketplace was just not the life that God had for me.

And I saw how much women are needed in all arenas as I stayed home and watched the world go by.

My house was always the “kid house” because I wanted it to be, and also because I was often the only adult home in the neighborhood. We had after-school snacks for whoever showed up. I thanked God for coupons and for my friend who taught me to clip them like a boss, and I stocked up on crackers and cereal, 20 cents a box.

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One time we lived next door to a little boy, about six or seven, whose situation was not the best. The police were there every other night, and his big brother trained fighting dogs in their yard.

He came over almost every day. I saw that his coat was so dirty from wiping his nose on it that the sleeve had become like a small glacier, hard and flat and stiff. He let me wash it for him while he played with my daughter. When he took it off, I saw little round sores on his wrists. I asked if they were cigarette burns. He said yes. I was scared that his family would know I was the one who called, but I contacted SRS. They sent someone to his house. He got a case worker. Things got better after that, he told me later. The man who had burned him didn’t come around as much.

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Our porch was always full of kids. Sometimes they stole from me or did sexy dances in our yard or walked up and down the street in bikinis. I scolded them like they were my own kids. My house, my food, my kids, my rules. You gonna get it if you eat snacks at Momma’s house.

No matter how I got on to them, they never stopped coming back.

He who disciplines a child loves that child.

And a child somehow knows it.

We had mani-pedi parties for anyone who wanted their nails done for the first day of school. I had video game parties for any teenager home alone in the summer. I helped with homework. I took them for ice cream. I bought kids’ Bibles and told them about Jesus And, in certain circles, I am still famous for my milkshakes. When word hits the street that Mom’s blender is running, my kitchen is full of kids waiting to put in their order.

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These kids have broken my furniture, raided my freezer, and dropped glasses full of ice cream in my kitchen. They have mocked me on the way out the door after sitting in my house for hours, and I call out after them, “HELLO, I CAN HEAR YOU.” And those same kids come back the next day to get a break from their silent houses.

This winter, we had the chance to take a little boy sledding with us. His parents both work and don’t live together. I don’t know their story, and I know they are doing a good job with their son. But after a day of sledding, snowball fights, forts, and hot chocolate, he said, “This was the best day of my life.” I don’t know why, but it still makes me cry.

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I don’t ask all women to do what I’m doing. I just want all women to be appreciated. Every woman in the neighborhood doesn’t have to stay home. Just a couple is enough to keep an eye on things.

Women, we need you, everywhere you are. Moms, you make a difference, everywhere you are.

Thanks for doing what you do. Thank you for all the invisible work that gets done because you sacrifice yourself.

Thank you to the doctors and lawyers who study and work late into the night, because you care about humanity, and then get up early with your own kids. Thank you to the women who clean other women’s houses and check me out at the grocery store with smiles on your faces, even though I know your backs are tired and your feet hurt. And thank you to the brilliant women who decide to stay in houses and guard the home front.

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None of your work is wasted. There is need of your touch in every area.

A year or so ago, I heard this phrase in prayer, “The Year of the Women.”

At first I thought it was limited to 2016 in some way, but a few days ago, I was praying over it again. “Lord. I thought when you said, ‘The Year of the Women,’ it was that one year, but You keep bringing it up.”

And I heard this in reply, “When I say something, I do not undo it. I build on it.”

I was reminded of the many references to time in the Bible, the seeming relativity of days and years in certain scriptures.

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In 2016, I sensed a season of women being heightened, not some emergence that would be highlighted and then fall away. Looking back, it makes sense. Women would not surge forth and then do nothing with their growth and new sense of purpose and confidence. Women continue to be set free.

At the time, I wrote several posts about it, and the first couple were simple and empowering. Things like “God is raising you up! He is strengthening you, women! You have a voice–use it!”

I kept getting more and more insight.

And then I saw the most beautiful part. This movement of women looks different within the church than the movement of women in the world. I kept hearing this phrase, “Going up together.” I kept hearing, “You women will go up, but you will go up together. And because of this your families will be covered. No one falls through the cracks in my kingdom.”

I saw many women standing in circles, linking arms like fishnets. And I saw all the many responsibilities that women have and are so often dismissed.

But these responsibilities make up the fabric of our society.

Things like caring for children, for homes, for older relatives, looking out for neighbors, creating safe places in communities and neighborhoods, just by being present. Often volunteer organizations are run by women, as well as Bible study groups, after school clubs, playgroups for toddlers, and support groups for a million other things.

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As these women stood in these circles, with arms locked, they were catching each other’s responsibilities. I saw children and elderly people in wheelchairs, floating down, and the women caught them, together. I saw these women making meals for each other, I saw them cleaning house for each other. And in this way, they were able to go up, together, with no child staying home alone, no family going without meals, no woman having to miss an appointment or meeting because she had to sit with granddad.

The women covered each other.

They carried each other.

We don’t always bend easily to the solutions God shows us. They nick at the flesh. Community has a way of doing that. You have to deal with actual flawed messy people to have it.

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But God just loves it. He loves throwing us all together and seeing how we overcome and grow and irritate and infuriate and learn to appreciate each other.

That is my prayer this Mother’s Day. That you know how valuable you are. Your very own calling. And you can look at your sister and know how valuable she is without feeling diminished in any way. That you can celebrate each other’s gifts, because her gifts help you accomplish your dream, and your gifts help her accomplish her dream.

Because.

You sisters, you need each other.

And you go up, together.

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Happy Mother’s Day.

Thank you for all you do.