Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Habits: Breaking Old, Making New--Part 1

I bought these today.

Well, I bought the Moleskines. I meant to buy a timer, but I forgot. This is my kitchen timer. Vintage Cracker Barrel. It actually crows. It will do until I buy one that better fits my writing room decor.

Anyway, I've been thinking over last week's post and comments, and I've started to formulate a plan.

Key word: Started.

Currently, my morning routine looks something like this.

Cell phone alarm goes off. I open phone slightly and smack it closed.

Cell phone alarm goes off. I open phone slightly and smack it closed.

Cell phone alarm goes off. I open phone slightly and smack it closed.

Cell phone alarm would not stop yesterday. Because the alarm was really the ringer. Jeremy trying to call to tell me his truck broke down on the way to work. I kept hanging up on him.

I should probably change the ring tones.


Once somewhat awake, I say good morning to God and tumble out of bed. I quickly make the bed (if Dennis is up), which amounts to throwing the comforter up and fluffing the pillows. It helps to have gone all white.

Then I stumble across the hall and turn on the computer.  Next I head downstairs to go you know where and do you know what and brush my teeth. While still brushing, I go back upstairs to hit "enter" so the computer can wake up. Then back downstairs to spit.

Then to the kitchen to flip on TV news, drink some water, and make coffee. Then back upstairs with my cup (see how much exercise I've already gotten?) to settle in and check Facebook and Twitter and do a blog run.

Yup, before devotional time.

Or writing.




So here's my new plan. Just a morning jumpstart. I can only handle so many new habits at once.

I will start my day in silence. If Gracee is here, I will have to get up earlier. When my feet hit the floor, I will force myself directly downstairs. I will not turn on the computer.

Repeat. I will NOT turn on the computer.

Before I leave the you know where, I will shower and pray and let ideas flow.

Then to the kitchen. I will not turn on the news.

Repeat. I will NOT turn on the news.

But I will start the coffee.

And I will open one of my new journals and begin to write. A prayer. Dream memories. Freeflow thoughts. Whatever comes to mind. For 15 minutes. By the timer.

Then Jesus and me time.

Finally, I will get dressed, slap on some simple makeup, and catch the headlines while I break my fast.

No more bathrobe garb. I am a perfeshunal.

Then and only then will I turn on my computer.

So if you see me online at 6 a.m., you know I've been up at least since 5. Or even 4:30.

That's as far as I'm going for now. Obviously I need to work in some exercise and decide on my best study times and writing times.

Stay tuned.

What do you do during the first hour of your day?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Friday, March 26, 2010

One Has My Name - She Speaks

All I have to do is get myself there.

Can you say, "Road trip?"

Proverbs 31 Ministries sponsors an annual "She Speaks" Conference with tracks in speaking, writing, and women's ministries.

I've been brooding over it. Praying over it. For months.

The timing's perfect. After Alpenfest. After the new grandbaby and great niece arrive and settle in.

And now Lysa TerKeurst has three Cecil Murphy scholarships in hand that include conference registration, two nights at the conference hotel, conference materials, and meals! In North Carolina.

One of those scholarships has my name on it.

Some of my favorite people will speak like Lysa and Cec and Mary DeMuth and Renee Swope and . . . well, go here and see.

And they developed several topics with me in mind like Pursuing Excellence as a Speaker, The Power of a Story, How to Write a Book, So You Wanna Write a Novel, and  . . . well, go here and see.

And some things I'll learn include how to develop a theme audiences can't wait to hear, how to tell stories that keep my audience engaged, how to create a "grab-'em-by-the-throat-and-won't-let-go" book proposal, spiritual warfare, what makes writing great, how to schedule writing time and keep a balanced life, how to discover my unique voice, and . . . well, go here and see.

I love that this conference can help equip me to be more effective in both writing and speaking. Because chances are I don't have too many more years left to reach my dreams and make a mark for eternity. Not that I'm "old" or anything, but the time is now. And whatever I do, I want to do with excellence.

And so I am entering this contest just as the last bit of sand falls from the hourglass.

You can enter to win one of the scholarships, too. Just go here.

But hurry. Today is the deadline.

And remember, only two remain.

Because one has my name on it.

No, I'm not excited.

"And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion?" Esther 4:14 (Amplified)

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Need a Plan

It's been brought to my attention (by me) that I am not using my time wisely.

In fact, I am even (gasp) wasting time.

Don't even mention Bejeweled Blitz.

I need a plan. A system. A schedule.

I used to be a good multitasker, but now--not so much.

I'm not even a very good start-and stop kind of person. I mean, if I start writing in the morning, I don't want to stop. I may not eat. I may not feed anybody else. I may not get dressed until 5 p.m. If at all. And if I start household chores first, well forget the writing.

Operation Declutter helped some--a lot--but I'm not there yet.

There's no point in dividing tasks into writing and nonwriting, because as we all know, a writer is writing when not writing.

So I need a plan for:
  • Blog writing.
  • Blog reading.
  • Blog commenting.
  • WIP research.
  • WIP writing.
  • Article writing (for money.)
  • Writing craft study.
  • Book reading (nonfiction and fiction, contemporary and classic)
  • Devotional and worship time.
  • Inductive Bible study.
  • Preparing lessons.
  • Social networking.
  • Household and yard chores (cleaning, laundry, cooking, groceries, weeding.)
  • Financial planning/organization and bill paying
  • Exercise and diet (other than rolling my chair from desk to bookcase and back while munching M&Ms.)
  • Sleep.
  • Family fun time.
  • Do-nothing dream time.
  • Time to plan a plan.
That's too much to devote a day to each. So I've got to break up my day and learn to breakaway.

That's my mission--should I decide to accept it.

And I do.

Have I forgotten anything? Do you have a plan? How do you break up your day?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Four Baton Lessons

I transferred from a small school (50 students K-12) to a big school (about 83 graduates) in my sophomore year. Gaylord had a band.

I loved football Fridays. I loved the half-time shows--the drums, the horns, the cymbals, the marching, 

I wanted to join that band!

Bad. Really bad.

But I couldn't play an instrument. None. Zilch.

Dead dream.

But . . .

What if I learned to twirl?

But how?

My mom knew a little about twirling. She showed me with a broom. And then bought me a real baton.

I spent the whole summer learning to twirl in front of me, pass behind my back, pass under my leg, spin with one hand, throw and catch.

Practiced. Practiced. Practiced.


I showed up for tryouts in my junior year. I thought I would throw up.

But I made the cut! Although now I can't really remember if they cut anyone. But at least I didn't stink enough for them to say, "Strut on out of here."

Miss Majorette. Band member.

 That's me with the glasses.

Lesson 1: If you want something bad enough, you can find a way.

I reached for a star and caught its tail. We majorettes practiced alone and then practiced with the band. I loved "strutting" on the field. I loved dodging horns and drums to take positions through the ranks. I loved freezing football nights when my baton turned to ice and strangers loaned me blankets. I loved throwing (and catching) my baton. I loved feeling like I had done my best, put on a good show.

I remember the band instructor had a saying that went something like this.

"Michigan State walks on the field. U of M marches. We march!"

Obvious what school he favored. But a call to excellence.

Lesson 2: Learning doesn't stop once you realize a dream. Strive for excellence.

My senior year. Head majorette. I don't remember how, and I think my only job was to schedule practices. But I got to wear a big furry hat! And I had to learn how to balance it while still dashing through the horns--who thought it was fun to try and run us over.

The majorettes led the band in parades. I loved marching to the drum cadence and then breaking into our routine when the band struck up the music. One day my hat crashed to the pavement. I hesitated in momentary horror. Then I did what any professional would do. I stepped over it and kept on going. I don't know who rescued it and returned it to me unscathed at the end of the parade.

Lesson 3: Sometimes you just have to step over obstacles and keep going.

The summer after graduation, I ran for Alpine Queen (now Alpenfest Queen.) I chose to perform a routine with my baton, probably to a Sousa march or something. I don't remember. Anyway, I threw the baton up. And missed the catch. The baton hit the stage and bounced on the large rubber end--right back into my hand! And I kept on going.

Some thought I recovered well. Some thought I intentionally incorporated that into my routine.

I knew I messed up.

But I WON the talent competition.

Lesson 4: We might experience failure, but winners always bounce back.

I still have that baton. I think I'll dig it out and hang it here in my writing room.

How have you claimed a dream? What obstacles have you had to step over? Have you had to bounce back from "failure?"

NOTE: Thanks to Jody Hedlund whose posts on dreams this past week inspired these memories. If you haven't checked out her blog, Author, Jody Hedlund, you should!

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Tragedy of the Unopened (or Underused) Gift

Last night I sat here for three hours and couldn't think of a thing to write. And to think that followed my post on head pain!

Oh, I had lots of ideas. But nothing I thought anyone would really care about reading. I flipped through page after page of writing books looking for inspiration.


Why in the world did I start a writing blog anyway? What do I have to say that others who know more can't say better? I mean I haven't even worked on my WIP for--I don't know--weeks? I researched some while I was sick, but then I had classes to teach and income taxes to do and now I have a cold. Oh, and the time change. Yeah. That.

Anyway, after I dozed off and bonked my head on the table and wiped the drool off the keyboard, I went to bed. Awake now, I picked up the book--If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg.

Chapter two. Boat Potatoes.

And I couldn't help but put the whole chapter in the context of writing.

John wrote about the tragedy of the unopened gift. He told about the most beautiful china his grandmother had collected over the years--and stored in the attic. "So my grandmother went to the grave with the greatest gift of her life unopened."

When we went through my mother-in-law's things, we found many that were never used--some beautiful placemats that she never took out of the box and some embroidered towels with a note pinned to them. "Please give these to Lucille. She made them for me."

Lucille would not enjoy them, either. She had already died.

And that reminds me of all Mom King's pretty china I inherited--still stored in the bottom of the buffet. Waiting to be passed down to a child who likely won't use it. Because it has no meaning.

Anyway, John says when we receive a gift, we can choose to respond in two ways.

1. This gift is so valuable it can't be risked.
2. This gift is so valuable it must be risked.

John uses the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) to illustrate that God is Lord of the gift and that we have a responsibility to use that hand-chosen, specially-designed gift. God will hold us accountable for how we use or don't use what He gives us. And He won't let us blame external circumstances or play the "when-then game."
  • Comparison is not an adequate excuse for the tragedy of an unopened (or underused) gift.
As writers, we can't compare our talent with others, whether writers of best-selling books or writers of encouraging notes--though we can strive to increase our gift like the first servant.
  • Fear is not an adequate excuse for an unopened (or underused) gift.
The last servant was afraid to risk, so he buried his talent and did nothing. Maybe he spent a lot of time reading books on how to invest or networking in the marketplace.
  • Sloth is not an adequate excuse for an unopened (or underused) gift.
We writers are all good at finding something to do instead of what needs to be done when it comes to writing. Procrastinating. Or clutching comfort instead of challenge.

So how about you? Have you opened your gift? Do you compare yourself to others in ways other than to grow? Are you afraid to risk rejection or bleed on the page? Are you just plain lazy? Are you using your gift to its full potential so others can enjoy and benefit from it?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How to Capture Shower Ideas

They pelt my head like little needles. Batter my brain. Tease me.

Sometimes I see them dancing on shampoo bubbles. They dart in the shallows like little minnows and nibble at my toes. Then they swirl away. Gone. Down the drain.

Sometimes they laugh at me and leap over the edge. I jump out after them. Naked. Water drips everywhere. I try to lasso them with toilet paper, stick them to the windowsill with toothpaste, or seal them in the mirror steam. I chase them through the house, grab a pen/pencil/crayon/knife, and write/carve on whatever is closest--a napkin, a newspaper, a bill, a table, a wall.

Yes. It's the Secret of the Shower. That place where words and ideas gather in the pipes to plan the next attack on an unprepared writer.

But no more! Shock and awe soon to commence. I will win the Battle of the Brain Drain with new high-tech weaponry!

At first I considered a permanent marker to write directly on my body.

Then I considered bathtub markers.

Supposedly they wash off easily. But I have better things to do that clean my tub/shower/walls/ceiling. Like write. Anyway, some reviewers claim they can still stain. Scratch that idea.

And then a friend suggested something that her forester husband uses. She wrote:

"I was right. There are notebooks out there for your shower reveries.

"Rite in the Rain" brand notepads with a coating on the paper making possible to write clear, readable notes even during a rainstorm. Pocket-sized, spiral bound notebooks are $4 to $5, depending on the exact dimensions you would prefer. They also have traditional paper sizes, and even computer printer paper for printing charts that won't run or ruin.

The source: Ben Meadows catalog. 800-241-6401. OR benmeadows.com.

Order number: JBO 32311 or JBO 32310, depending on if you want to put it into a big pocket or a small one.

(Side note: I don't have pockets in the shower. Is that TMI?) 

Now, as I was relating my unusual request to my husband, my grown kids were hanging on every word and making conversation impossible with:

Oh, I know! She could just put a tape recorder in her bathroom and as she got ideas, she could just sing them into it, sorta like singing in the shower, or even singing in the rain!!!!!!! Sighs. Guess you had to be there. I could hardly speak for laughing.

So there you go--everything my whole family knows, delivered to your door with a smile."

They even have special pens! So a writer can capture every sense of a rainstorm--in the middle of the storm!

Thanks, Katharine!

And then I found this product.

Maybe a little more pricey, but with suction cups for pad and pen!

So there you go. No more ideas down the drain!

Both products on order. I'll let you know what works best. So glad my husband bought me a new hot water heater for my 60th birthday.

Now does anyone manufacture a waterproof computer?

How do you capture shower ideas?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wordless Recreation for Writers

"Too much reading is very bad indeed."

Yep, you read that right.

That's what Dorothea Brande said in her classic book, Becoming a Writer.

Say what?

She says writers tend to take too many "busmen's holidays." In other words, they tend to spend their "off time" doing writing-related activities (such as reading or talking shop), like a bus driver who takes a bus tour for a vacation.

And how many of us tether ourselves to computers and cell phones on "vacations," unable to totally relax?

How many of us are addicted to multitasking?

We all seem to have a little trouble in the relaxation department or chilling in a ring of silence.

"A certain amount of shop talk is valuable; too much of it is a drain. And too much reading is very bad indeed."

Too much reading? How can that be?

Ms. Brande says all of us, writers or not, are so used to words we can't escape them.

And she wrote this book in 1934!

If we starve ourselves long enough in a wordless void, we'll eventually start talking to ourselves. We'll start feeding ourselves words.

We can test it by spending some time alone. Resist books, papers, magazines, and the telephone. Turn off the TV. Shut down the computer.

When one is "sentenced to silence," words and ideas clamor for attention.

If you want to stimulate yourself into writing, Ms. Brande says, amuse yourself in wordless ways.

And don't be in a hurry to reengage.

Before long you'll find that "words have rushed in to fill the wordless vaccum."

She talked of one friend who used to lie out in the back garden and stare at the sky--until some family member came to join him for a chat.

"Sooner or later, he himself would begin to talk about the work he had in mind, and, to his astonishment, he discovered that the urgent desire to write the story disappeared as soon as he had got it thoroughly talked out."

So then he disappeared to a park bench every day and stared at pigeons for two hours.

Taking two full hours every day might be too stressful for most of us, but for a least a little while every day we could pursue wordlessness.
  • Listen to a symphony orchestra or sound tracks or "spa" music.
  • Take a long walk.
  • Ride a horse or a bike.
  • Play some solitaire (or Bejeweled Blitz!)
  • Do some kind of needlework or craft.
  • Whittle.
  • Fish.
  • Watch clouds. 
  • Noodle on a harp (!) or other instrument.
  • Sort some pictures.
  • Take a long bath or shower.
  • Swim.
  • Sit on a beach or a dock.
  • Color a picture.
  • Paddle a boat.
  • Rock in a chair or seek out a swing.
  • Throw pebbles in a lake.
  • Plant some flowers, weed, mow the grass.
  • Wash windows, fold clothes, scrub floors, or paint walls. (Come do mine. I'll be quiet.)
Rhythmic activity. Monotonous activity.
    Alone. Wordless. 

    She says books, theaters, and "talking pictures" (I suppose that means movies and TV today) should be very rarely indulged in when you have any piece of writing to finish.

    " . . . it is to be noticed that successful writers, when talking about themselves as writers, say little about curling up in a corner with a good book. Much as they may love reading (and all authors would rather read than eat), they had all learned from long experience that it is the wordless occupation which sets their own minds busily at work."

    To put it another way, we need to spend more time pursuing wordlessness so words can pursue us! 

    "Too much reading is very bad indeed."

    How are you at spending "quiet time.?" 
    What wordless recreation stimulates words and ideas for you?

    Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    How Do You Track Article Submissions?

    Tracking submissions the old-fashioned way

    I excavated some memories from deep within the burial grounds of an old filing cabinet. Here's an example of how I used to track article submissions. This little devotional (saved on white carbon tissue) had some adventures and ultimately found a home at Living With Hope for a grand payment of $9.00. At 20 cents to mail and 20 cents for a SASE, I would have made a grand total of $7.00 for about 300 words.

    I say "would have" because the magazine went out of business before publishing the article, and I never heard from them again.

    Rejected and Accepted

    Anyway, this is how I tracked those early submissions. And I used different colored stickers on the files--yellow for still brewing, green for traveling, red for crash and burn, and blue for an acceptance. A blue letter day! And a gold star when the piece published and I got paid.

    So now that I'm gearing up again in the high tech age, I need a new system--although to be honest, I still kind of like this old way. But since I'm planning to write a lot of little ditties in addition to working on my books, and since I'm all about decluttering and the simple life, I need a little help from my friends.

    P.S. My blogs are a little out of control, too. I started by creating Word documents and pasting into Blogger. But now, I create right in Blogger and don't always remember to save. I'm gonna get burned soon if I don't straighten up and fly right, as my mom used to tell me.

    So how do you track your article submissions?

    Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Classic Medical Bloopers

    The church bulletin bloopers posted over at Author Culture last week inspired me to collect some from the medical world. Luckily we know the true meanings. Or do we? 
    1.  Apparently the next day she developed this rash on her hands, and the feet had gone away.

    2.  The patient left the hospital feeling much better except for her original complaint.

    3.  She slipped on the ice and apparently her legs went in separate directions in early December.

    4.  The patient has been depressed ever since she began seeing me in 1983.

    5.  On the second day the knee was better and on the third day it had completely gone away.

    6.  The patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

    7.  Patient was alert and unresponsive.

    8.  Past medical history significant for a basal cell carcinoma on her head which was removed recently.

    9.  She fell and hit her left forearm against a rock which remains painful and swollen today.

    10. The patient fell while rollerblading on his left hand.

    11. The patient had a similar episode in the past when she was exposed to cats with severe wheezing.

    12. She lost her cool this week and apparently blew up her husband and her daughter.

    13. She sometimes has difficulty initiating her legs to start a walk.

    14. She is ambulatory with her father at discharge, who happily sucks a popsicle.

    15. The patient lives at home with his mother, father, and pet turtle, who is presently enrolled in day care three times a week.

    16.  By the time he was admitted, his rapid heart had stopped, and he was feeling much better.

    17. The patient refused an autopsy.

    18. When she fainted, her eyes rolled around the room.

    19. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

    20. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    The Green Card

    Note: This is a repost from my Beholding God blog.

    In the bottom drawer of a file cabinet, I just discovered a thick folder filled with "poems and inspiration." I thumbed through it as I searched for examples to use in my message for ladies Bible study. Out fell this green card.

    It's signed "Beverly." My brain strains toward a faint recollection of a women's speaker who visited our little church in Tampa. I cannot remember the article she speaks of.

    The card sports a push pin hole, so it must have once resided on a bulletin board for inspiration and encouragement. I think it deserves a frame now.

    I heart this card, and I breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for Beverly, for BBA, who took the time to send it and affirms me once again--25 years in the future.

    "Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." ~1 Thessalonians 5:11

    "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone." ~1Thessalonians 5:14

    How have you been encouraged in your writing? How have you encouraged another? Who will you encourage today?

    Copyright © 2009 by Sandra Heska King