Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: Motivation

Unmotivated in Uncertain Times

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting worn down with all the restrictions and changes going on in our lives right now. I’m not scared or worried. What will happen, will happen. I’m not obsessively cleaning every surface in my home. When I have to get out for groceries or other supplies, I don’t dress in a hazmat suit.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ignoring restrictions and getting together with friends. Like you, I’m finding creative ways to connect. Just last week, the couple my husband and I usually watch wrestling with group texted our way through Wrestlemania. (Yes, I watch wrestling. And no, that’s not my point.)

I’m following guidelines as well as anyone else whose job has been deemed essential. Besides, I like alone time. It’s not a hardship for an introvert to be home. And my family has been blessed with the continuation of our jobs up to this point. Some of that is changing but not as drastically as it has for other people.

Until today, my schedule hasn’t been all that different. I’ve even had more time at home since weekend activities have come to a halt. I should be reading and writing more than ever. This should be a time of creative abundance for me. I’ve often wished I could dedicate more time to my writing. Now, I have it.

Guess what?

If I believed in such a thing, I’d say my muse has fled. My enthusiasm and drive must have gone along for the ride. I’ve read but not enjoyed it. I’ve written only what I’ve had to. I just haven’t had it in me.

What is wrong with me?

In addition to a little extra time to write, I’ve had a few things happen that should energize me more for creating. My first book was on sale for free for a few days, and I “sold” more than I expected. That’s a lot of new people reading what I’ve already written. New people who’d never heard of Faith’s Journey before.

Grasping Hope is on blog tour with Celebrate Lit. In the last several days, I’ve received some great reviews. One person even reached out to me in a more personal way to tell me what the book meant to them. As a writer, there isn’t anything more encouraging than that. You can check out the reviews and enter the giveaway here, https://www.celebratelit.com/grasping-hope-celebration-tour/ .

Still, as I sit facing my blank computer screen, the will to write is not there. It has dissolved in the face of all that is going on with Covid-19. I may not be worried about the virus, social distancing may not bother me, and my finances may not be suffering with the changes. But my job has changed.

I am not an overly scheduled person, and I tend to go with the flow. I do, however, like to settle in and it takes a little time for my body to adjust to new schedules and routines. From the day all this Corona virus stuff began, my work has been in constant upheaval. Every day the procedures change. Every day something new is expected. Every day as a non-people person, I’m expected to people with people who are afraid and stressed. It takes a lot out of an introverted person, and the time off I get is not enough to make up for this new drain on my energies.

I’m trying to make myself do what I can. I have a new book coming out in June, and I’m working on the final round of edits for it. I try to blog at least once a week. I attempt to keep up with social media. But it’s a constant battle, and I could really use normal right about now.

I know and look forward to the day when my struggles are more routine. One day my muse will end its hiatus, and the next season of my writing will begin. Until that time, I’m open to suggestions. If you’re a creative type, I’d love to hear how you’re doing with all this. What tips and tricks have you discovered to keep creativity and production high?

Right Stuff Wednesday: The Places You’ll Go

pillow“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” – Dr. Seuss – Oh, the Places You’ll Go

Do you have a car pillow? We do. We didn’t until my youngest son (who is a teenager by the way) decided the drive to school was the perfect opportunity to catch a few more minutes of sleep since seven o’clock is terribly early to wake up. Even waking him at seven is a process. He has to be woken up at least three times before he stumbles out of bed, dresses, brushes his teeth, and falls back into bed until it’s time to head out the door.

I have a feeling the culprit in this situation is late nights. As much as his morning struggle might cause frustration, I’m aware of the old adage “those who live in glass houses should not throw rocks”. Most days, I live in a glass house. My issue may not be sleeping instead of getting ready for work, but there are plenty of times I need a push, or two or three, to accomplish anything in my writing life. I have weeks overflowing with motivation and accomplishment. But there are also weeks I come home from work, make dinner, and follow that up with making excuses. I’m tired. I can’t think. I just want some quiet time without having to do anything.

My bad weeks are really bad. And writing is something I want to do, something I enjoy. Monday’s excuses become Tuesday’s excuses become Wednesday’s excuses until a new habit has formed. I find myself wanting to write but not enough to get the job done. Eventually, like the third call for my son to get out of bed, something shakes me out of my apathy. Deadlines, inspiration, or encouragement re-awaken my motivation. I turn on my lap top, and the words flow until the next bad week.

I wish I could say writing was the only area of my life where I need the occasional push. I can’t even say writing and housework are the only areas. And believe me, I need a hefty push in the housework department! No, as much as I hate to admit it, my spiritual life takes a hit every now and then when apathy comes calling.

Sometimes the deficit is found in my prayer life or time in God’s word. I know I have a relationship with God. And I know relationships are built by time spent together. I know prayer and scripture are two of the best ways to spend time with God. That, along with strengthening us for the spiritual battles we face, are why scriptures tell us to pray continually and to hide God’s word in our hearts. But sometimes I let other things get in the way. Even though I want to be close to God and strong in my relationship with Him, I choose other things and let time with Him go. Soon, I’ve developed a new pattern that is hard to re-write.

Other times I need a nudge to do what God has asked me to do. Whether it’s doing something kind and unexpected for a friend in need or giving to the beggar on the street corner or taking an uncomfortable step in the direction of the ministry God has placed on my heart, I feel God’s gentle nudge showing me what He wants me to do. I feel it. I want to obey, but I don’t want to enough to get out of my comfort zone. I let my fears, doubts, or desire for comfort or control stand in the way of doing what I know God wants me to do. Soon, my world is revolving around me more than it revolves around Him. I’m stuck.

I have brains in my head and feet in my shoes, but I’m not moving anywhere in times like these. I need to realign my focus on the things God says are important. I need to surround myself with those who will encourage me to continue growing and moving forward in my faith. If music or books or radio preachers inspire me to live out my faith daily through obedience and time with God, then I need to keep those things in my life regularly. When apathy tugs at me, I need to see it as the spiritual battle it is and do what I can to fight the lack of motivation. Only then can God move me in whatever direction He chooses, and that is the direction I want to go in.

Right Stuff Wednesday: The Places You'll Go

pillow“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” – Dr. Seuss – Oh, the Places You’ll Go
Do you have a car pillow? We do. We didn’t until my youngest son (who is a teenager by the way) decided the drive to school was the perfect opportunity to catch a few more minutes of sleep since seven o’clock is terribly early to wake up. Even waking him at seven is a process. He has to be woken up at least three times before he stumbles out of bed, dresses, brushes his teeth, and falls back into bed until it’s time to head out the door.
I have a feeling the culprit in this situation is late nights. As much as his morning struggle might cause frustration, I’m aware of the old adage “those who live in glass houses should not throw rocks”. Most days, I live in a glass house. My issue may not be sleeping instead of getting ready for work, but there are plenty of times I need a push, or two or three, to accomplish anything in my writing life. I have weeks overflowing with motivation and accomplishment. But there are also weeks I come home from work, make dinner, and follow that up with making excuses. I’m tired. I can’t think. I just want some quiet time without having to do anything.
My bad weeks are really bad. And writing is something I want to do, something I enjoy. Monday’s excuses become Tuesday’s excuses become Wednesday’s excuses until a new habit has formed. I find myself wanting to write but not enough to get the job done. Eventually, like the third call for my son to get out of bed, something shakes me out of my apathy. Deadlines, inspiration, or encouragement re-awaken my motivation. I turn on my lap top, and the words flow until the next bad week.
I wish I could say writing was the only area of my life where I need the occasional push. I can’t even say writing and housework are the only areas. And believe me, I need a hefty push in the housework department! No, as much as I hate to admit it, my spiritual life takes a hit every now and then when apathy comes calling.
Sometimes the deficit is found in my prayer life or time in God’s word. I know I have a relationship with God. And I know relationships are built by time spent together. I know prayer and scripture are two of the best ways to spend time with God. That, along with strengthening us for the spiritual battles we face, are why scriptures tell us to pray continually and to hide God’s word in our hearts. But sometimes I let other things get in the way. Even though I want to be close to God and strong in my relationship with Him, I choose other things and let time with Him go. Soon, I’ve developed a new pattern that is hard to re-write.
Other times I need a nudge to do what God has asked me to do. Whether it’s doing something kind and unexpected for a friend in need or giving to the beggar on the street corner or taking an uncomfortable step in the direction of the ministry God has placed on my heart, I feel God’s gentle nudge showing me what He wants me to do. I feel it. I want to obey, but I don’t want to enough to get out of my comfort zone. I let my fears, doubts, or desire for comfort or control stand in the way of doing what I know God wants me to do. Soon, my world is revolving around me more than it revolves around Him. I’m stuck.
I have brains in my head and feet in my shoes, but I’m not moving anywhere in times like these. I need to realign my focus on the things God says are important. I need to surround myself with those who will encourage me to continue growing and moving forward in my faith. If music or books or radio preachers inspire me to live out my faith daily through obedience and time with God, then I need to keep those things in my life regularly. When apathy tugs at me, I need to see it as the spiritual battle it is and do what I can to fight the lack of motivation. Only then can God move me in whatever direction He chooses, and that is the direction I want to go in.

Write Stuff Wednesday on Saturday

My internet was acting like a spoiled child refusing to do what it was asked to do this week. Due to it’s stubbornness, I was unable to post on Wednesday. So, instead of a book review today I’m going to post the Write Stuff Wednesday I wrote on Wednesday. I hope you enjoy it!

“Every scene should be able to answer three questions: Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don’t get it? Why now?” – David Mamet

I finally finished my first book, Faith’s Journey, and I turned it over to our local writer’s group to proof read and edit it. I wanted my story as polished as it could be before sending it out to agents and publishers. What came back was unanimous.

“You need to do something about chapters 4 and 5.” But I needed those chapters. They gave some very crucial information and helped explain the tension in Katie’s relationship with her father and mother. I made some very minor changes and sent the book out. When I received the contract for Faith’s Journey and the subsequent revisions, I was ecstatic finding relatively little that needed major rewrites.  I had a scene that, due to preferences of the publisher, needed a new setting.  But I also had two chapters that either needed cut or combined.

You guessed it. Chapters 4 and 5 came back to haunt me. I still felt the information was crucial, but I needed to honor the publisher’s revision request. The challenge would be to save the information and step up the action. How could I get the same details into the reader’s mind in less time and make all of it more active?

It made me consider more deeply the why behind the backstory. It made me consider my characters’ motivations and what events could help show them to the reader. The need to revise ended up making my writing tighter. I was able to put in more action to show the same themes the back story had originally told. In the end, it made Faith’s Journey a stronger story when I went back and analyzed those scenes with a more critical eye.  If only I’d listened when my writer’s group suggested the same thing!

I think there are times I’m guilty of doing the same thing in my daily life. I want to live the life God would have me live, but I sometimes I fail to dig deep enough into the scriptures to get to the whys. If others were to question me, my only answer would be because of my faith. That’s good enough for most things, but when someone is struggling to believe. Because God said seems a little bit like back story without getting to the real reason behind it, and backstory doesn’t help answer their doubts. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”.

I’m supposed to sanctify God in my heart. I’m supposed to set Him apart from everything else in my life as the One who is holy and worthy. If I’m doing that, I’m going to give Him and His word the time and attention their position deserves. I’m going to spend time getting to know Him personally. And when I’ve taken the time to really get to know God, I will be able to answer those with questions and doubts with passion, truth, and an understanding of why I’m doing what I’m doing. When I take time to understand God’s word more deeply, I live it more honestly and consistently. I move beyond telling the world about my faith and into showing them it in a life changing way.

By the Book: Do you spend more time telling your faith or showing it? Have you seen a correlation between the time you spend getting to know God through His word and your ability to fully live His truth in your life?

Main Character Motivation Monday

why-1780726_960_720Spend a little time with a small child and you’re likely to hear one phrase repeatedly. Why? Why is the sky blue? Why did the light change? Why can’t I have ice cream for dinner? Any answer you give is not good enough. Why did you buy a hot dog? Because I was hungry. Why were you hungry? Because I hadn’t eaten. Why hadn’t you eaten? Because we were busy. Why? Why? Why?

For a small child there is never an answer good enough to stop the onslaught of questioning. Each answer begs a new why. It can be tiring and frustrating as a parent. It’s where the classics “because” and “because I said so that’s why” came from. Not a great answer, but I think all parents resort to it at some point. And as a much as it might work to stop the questioning child, we get in trouble when we take that attitude in our writing.

Characters need reasons. To be believable, they need reasons that make sense. Your character’s actions and reactions should stem from their personalities and their motivations. Our characters are no different than us. They are people who do things for reasons that make sense to them.

I’m passionate about writing, but I spend eight hours a day (nine if you include lunch break) being a receptionist. Why? It doesn’t make sense. If I love writing so much, why would I choose to use the best hours of my day doing something else? My motivation is the reality that since my husband’s unexpected job change came with a serious pay cut, I need to work so my children can eat. I’m just starting out as a writer, and if we lived on that income alone my children would starve. In light of my motivation, my decision to work suddenly makes sense.

I choose to write about books, faith, and life whether it is on this blog or in my books. Why? My faith makes me who I am. I have a firm belief that God wants me to encourage and challenge other believers in their own faith walks. I believe it was God who gave me a passion for reading and writing. I believe God wants us to use our talents and interests to minister to others. These things are my motivation for writing what I write.

Why do your characters do what they do in the ways they do it? If you can’t answer that question, study your character. Spend some time getting to know them. Their motivations don’t have to be complex. There doesn’t have to be some huge master plan driving their choices.

In my book, Faith’s Journey, Katie’s motivation was to escape the hurt caused by her fiancé’s betrayal. As the book progressed, her focus shifted to finding out how to recapture the faith she knew as a child and live it in her adult life. There were other smaller motivations within each scene, but these two played out through all of them. Her motivations, personality, and circumstances worked together in shaping her choices throughout the book.

Knowing a character’s motivation helps you stay focused on what’s important in your storytelling. It allows you to see with more clarity the things that slow your story down, the things that need cut no matter how well written they may be. When authors stay focused on the real story of our characters, the readers can tell a difference. Readers can become more invested in the character. They can understand them and relate to them with more ease. They want to know what happens next because each part of the story is building off the previous part. Knowing our character’s motivation is part of the process that deserves our attention.

Equally deserving of our attention is what motivates us in our lives. As believers, God should have the most important place in our lives. It’s easy to say but hard to live on a daily basis. Even when we do the right things, if our motivations are not in the right place, what we do loses its meaning. Galatians 6:7-8 tells us, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” If we look at Matthew 6:1-4 God’s message is plainly stated. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. ‘Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’”
It isn’t enough to simply do the right things.  We need to search our hearts and know why we do what we do. We may be able to fool some people if our motivations are selfish, but we can never fool God. Serving God is only serving God when He is our motivation.

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