Monday, February 12, 2018

3 Reasons Why Breaks Reduce Stress





Most people would agree, a break in the routine can be a good thing. We spend hours devoting our lives to work and creative pursuits, family and community, and other required and voluntary commitments. While these are all noble, good, and necessary, we need a change of pace on occasion.

Take writing and blogging, for instance. They both require big chunks of time and energy. Inspiration and creativity are necessary too, to yield good results. When you add these activities to an already busy schedule, sometimes it's all you can do to keep up.

I think that a pause in the routine, whether a quiet afternoon alone, a long weekend or vacation, a blog break, a night out with your spouse or friends, a walk in the woods, a leisurely drive, a day trip, or whatever else you enjoy, is a good thing. Here are three reasons why: 

1) Mental and physical space are essential to function well. 

With today's technology, we're potentially connected all day, every day. There are benefits to this, but hazards as well. Do we want this connectivity and screen time to consume our waking moments? Influence relationships (or lack of them) with important people in our lives?

Real life happens to some degree on our laptops, tablets, and smartphones. If we're honest though, genuine living happens mostly apart from these devices. So we need to set boundaries and allow healthy space between us and them. We need uninterrupted time to think, to communicate in person, breathe fresh air, and see sunsets and other amazing wonders in God's creation. These are good and necessary activities that refresh, stimulate, and stretch our minds and bodies.

I read an article recently (sorry, can't recall where) that said that due to too much screen time, some adolescents have difficulty functioning in real life. They don't know how to communicate effectively or how to form and maintain relationships. They are experiencing high levels of depression and dysfunction. While there are other causes for these issues too, it's sad to see how the potential overuse of technology negatively impacts these young people.

We can't run on the hamster wheel 24/7 without feeling the effects. Setting parameters for mental and physical space will benefit our relationships, productivity, and quality of life. 

2) We need to get away to maintain health and peace.

Years ago, I heard a pastor say it's important to "Come apart, before you come apart." Being self employed for over 30 years, my husband and I've learned that this is true, and essential for our health and sanity. Getting away from the routine does wonders for one's perspective, allowing time, space, and rest to breathe and regroup. 

3) Rediscovering our creativity is a wonderful thing.

Life's constant demands can leave our creativity high and dry. I liken it to being on a treadmill. While it has its benefits, it has its limits too, and it only takes you so far. When we step off the treadmill, our world opens up, offering creative refreshment and opportunities.

While all this is nice in theory, it's harder to practice. What can we do to facilitate more breaks in our routine?


1) Just do it. 

Treat breaks like any other item on your list of commitments. From a vacation to a day off, add it to the schedule and go for it.  Be open to a spur of the moment hiatus too, once in a while, for a breather and change of scenery. Call a friend, meet for coffee, take a brisk walk, or whatever floats your boat.


2) Be purposeful.

This is your time off! Be determined and stick to it. Set boundaries, limit time on social media, do whatever is necessary to ensure that you actually get that break. Make a list if that helps, stay focused, and don't stress. Your break is intended to produce healthy benefits.


3) Get off the treadmill.

We often don't realize what we're missing until we get off. The world around us has much to offer and is worthy of exploration.


4) Remember that it'll all be there when we return.

Life as we know it will continue to move forward in our absence. And that's okay. We can jump back in when the time is right.

Speaking of breaks, I'm taking a short one next week for President's Day; will return on February 26. See you then!

How do you get a break and recharge your creativity? What kinds of breaks will you take this month? I'll be taking some walks outside to enjoy February's scenery. Anyone care to join me? :)

Happy writing,

Karen


Photo credit: Pexels

Monday, February 5, 2018

Are You Yourself?






"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

Oscar Wilde


Today's original post isn't done yet. Last week was full of deadlines, and there are more in the queue this week. So rather than stress over finishing, I decided to save it for next Monday. I hope you don't mind. :)

This quote has always intrigued me; it causes me to consider who I am and where I'm headed. Not a bad thing for the new year, yes? Speaking of thinking, if you happened to miss this recent post, Training Your Brain, we had an interesting discussion about where our thoughts take us.

What's your take on Mr. Wilde's quote? Do you believe your writing reflects your true self? What are you working on this week?

Happy writing,
Karen



Photo credit: Pexels

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Visit with Susanne Dietze


Susanne Dietze, one of my more recent favorite authors, is celebrating a new release this month. Her book, A Mother for His Family is a lovely and heartwarming story. I thought it would be nice to have her stop by and share a little about this engaging tale. 


Susanne, congratulations on A Mother for His Family! I'm so excited for you. :) How did this story come about? Was there any particular inspiration?

Thank you, Karen! I appreciate you celebrating with me. 

I have always wanted to write a marriage of convenience story featuring a house full of children. I also wanted to write a story where the heroine struggles to see herself as Jesus sees her (which I confess is something I struggle with sometimes). Helena, the heroine, appeared as a minor character in my first Regency novel with Love Inspired Historical, The Reluctant Guardian (Helena is the cousin of the hero from that book). Her role is tiny in that story, but she comes across as cold and judgmental. One day I realized why she was the way she was, and my heart broke for her. I was honored to write about her overcoming her difficulties and stepping into her new identity in Christ. 

It sounds like a wonderful basis for a story. I'm glad you decided to tell it. Which character was the most challenging to create? Which was the easiest? 

In some ways, Louisa was both the easiest and most challenging to write. She is five years old, her personality, perspectives, and attachments (in this case, Tabitha, a sticky doll in need of a good bath), were fun to explore. 

Louisa is also blind, and I wanted to write about her blindness as accurately as possible. I researched blindness in the Georgian era—a time before Braille or much in the way of education or institutions to assist individuals or families. At the beginning of the story, Louisa is treated more like a doll or a baby than a little girl, which was not necessarily out of place for the times—although Louisa’s situation was heightened by her mother’s fears for her. 


I was blessed to ask a few authors with experience in the area of blindness and education for their advice: Laurie Alice Eakes and Kathleen Fuller. They graciously answered my questions, but any errors in the book are mine alone. 

It's interesting to learn how the sight impaired were treated back then. Society has made tremendous strides, hasn't it? Was any additional special research necessary for the story? 

In addition to learning about blindness (then and now), I spent time researching the Peterloo massacre of 1819 (when people in Manchester demanded better representation in Parliament), the death of King George III, and how peerage worked in Scotland during the Regency. My hero, John, is a Lord of Parliament, a Scottish title that, despite its name, doesn’t necessarily serve in Parliament. One of my favorite things to research, no matter the story, is the fashion of the times, and this was no exception! 

That detail about Parliament surprised me as well. I had no idea. And the Peterloo event, how terrible was that? I learned a lot from reading John's and Helena's story. So, what's next on the horizon for you? 

At this moment I’m working hard on proposals! However, I do have two novellas coming from Barbour this year. In April, my story First Things First will appear in First Loves Forever, and the heroine in that story, Georgie Bridge, first made her appearance in For a Song from The Cowboy’s Bride Collection! In the autumn, I’m thrilled to have a Christmas story out: Star of Wonder in Victorian Christmas Brides. Both stories are set in the 1870s: the first in Texas and the second in England!

I remember Georgie! Will look forward to reading about her story soon. Sounds like you've been super busy writing and editing these past months. Appreciate you stopping by this week. May you enjoy great success with all your books! :)

Thank you for having me, Karen! 


My Review of A Mother for His Family 

It’s July 1819, and Lady Helena Stanhope has a dilemma. Due to an interesting set of circumstances, her reputation is questionable at best. Her parents wish to remove her from society to avoid further scandal, so they arrange a marriage between her and a Scottish Lord of Parliament. John Gordon is a widower in need of a mother for his four children. With his busy schedule, he’s looking forward to having a responsible young woman assume the duties of caring for his family. 

Helena and John marry and become acquainted within the boundaries of friendship. They hit a few bumps in the road, but begin to earn each other’s trust. The children – twin boys, a blind little girl, and an orphaned niece provide ample mischief, which often complicates Helena’s and John’s growing relationship.

As if four busy children aren’t enough to test the newlyweds’ mettle, the author throws a little blackmail and a series of robberies into the mix. This isn’t your typical marriage of convenience story. The twists and turns are intriguing and entertaining. It was enlightening to watch the main characters evolve and work through the hardships and events thrown their way. The result is a captivating story that will make you stay up way too late because you just can’t put the book down. (This may or may not have happened to me.) 

Susanne Dietze is a wonderful storyteller, and has written another captivating and heartwarming tale. Helena learns that she is loved, and that God’s redeeming power can restore what’s been lost. I was challenged and able to identify with some of the main characters' inner struggles, and found myself considering my attitude and actions lately.  This delightful story will appeal to historical and other fiction fans, as well as anyone who loves a happy ending.

Find Susanne

Website
Books
Blog
Facebook
Twitter  - @SusanneDietze


What is your favorite genre to read in winter? Do you have any questions for Susanne? What type of research do you conduct for your writing?

Happy writing,

Karen

Monday, January 22, 2018

Miscellaneous Monday






What have you been up to so far this year? Any new projects on the horizon? Here are a few links that might help in your creative pursuits.

If you've been puzzling over how to create a good brand and platform, check out Jennifer Brown Banks' recent post, Is There a Disconnect in Your Brand Messaging? This award winning blogger has helpful insight for this important topic.

Want to write compelling dialogue? How to Write Dialogue That Captivates Your Reader, by seasoned author Jerry Jenkins, offers six no fail tips that will engage your audience.

Thinking about writing a memoir? Not sure how to begin? C.S. Lakin at Live Write Thrive offers encouragement and pointers in Important Considerations When Writing Your Memoir.

Looking to broaden your skills? Consider enrolling online at the Coffeehouse for Writers. Classes include How to Quit Your Day Job (Making a Living as a Full Time Freelancer), Blogging for Profit or Pleasure, Writer's Basic Boot Camp, Writing for the Chicken Soup series, and more.

If you need a little inspiration to get those cold weather cobwebs out of your head, check out Stimulate Your Mind with These Writing Exercises. They're quick and easy, and might give you the spark you need to light that writing fire.

 
Author Susanne Dietze stops by next week to discuss her latest book. Hope you can join us!

What's on your January reading list? Are you working on any special projects this month?

Happy writing,
Karen 




Photo credit: Pexels

Monday, January 15, 2018

Training Your Brain





How are you? Hope this finds you all doing well and settling in to 2018. What does a new year bring to you? A fresh start? Time to reflect, adjust, move forward? Yeah, me too. :) 

One theme that's been constant for me in 2017 and now this year, has been my thought life. What thoughts do I allow to dominate my days? Which ones are good, fruitful, and healthy? Which are of no value, unproductive, and even destructive?

I've long known that our thoughts can be a guiding force, forming patterns and contributing to our worldview in nearly every area of our lives. Our self talk - what we speak to ourselves, and thoughts we allow to roll around in our mind can often mean the difference between failure and success in even the smallest things.

Harmful thoughts - those we allow to reside in our heads, can be death to a healthy spiritual life, relationships, and life and success in general. Think about it, what kinds of thoughts generally trail through your mind? Negative? Positive? Or both, depending on the topic? Can they contribute to an overall mindset about your traits, relationships, situations, and worldview? We have been, and daily continue to train our minds based on the thoughts we allow and perpetuate. While knowing this is helpful, it doesn't always translate into better awareness or change.

Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a book I read last year, offered great insight in this area. Dr. Leaf, a communication pathologist and audiologist, has worked in cognitive neuroscience for over 30 years. In a nutshell, her book explains the connection between our thoughts and physical bodies, and how altering harmful thought patterns yields healthy changes, mentally, physically, and spiritually. 

Dr. Leaf said, "When you think, you build thoughts, and these become physical substances in your brain." The best part is that negative, unhealthy thought patterns can be changed and yield positive results. Her extensive research illustrates the brain's function and capacity, from individuals in everyday circumstances to those with learning challenges and brain injuries. What I found most intriguing was how these scientific finds support Biblical principles of how our lives reflect our thoughts and mindset. What wonderful creations we are! Our God-given capacity to think and live is just amazing.

I was impressed and encouraged by her findings, and would highly recommend her book if this topic interests you. She does get a bit technical, so when I felt in over my head (no pun intended) I read the summaries at the end of each chapter to help process the info.

So how does this relate to writing and other creative pursuits? Our thoughts are key to peace, healthy function, and success. We can begin the year with a positive outlook, training our brains to do what they were created to do, flourishing with productive thoughts that translate into healthy living in all areas.

Although it is an intriguing book, it isn't necessary to read Dr. Leaf's book to begin. We often follow where our thoughts go, so we can start by tuning in to what's going on in our heads. Here are a few things I like to do to help with this process:
 
1) Actively replace negative thoughts with positive ones. My bottom line is this - I'm a child of God and a writer. No matter what's going on or how I feel, this is what God has called me to do. When I find myself being swallowed by the negative, I make an effort to replace lousy thoughts and regroup mentally. One question Dr. Leaf tells us to consider, "What thoughts do we want to become part of us?" (My paraphrase.)

2) Hang out with positive influences. In the writing arena, this includes all of you. Your support is a great treasure. You've been such an encouragement to me. This also includes other friends, like fellow church and other group members, etc. We cannot always avoid negative people, but we can be aware of this and set good boundaries.

3) Stay grounded by tapping into your faith. For me, this is being attentive to God's word and meditating on His principles. Our perspective is always better when focused on the right things.

4) Find good resources. From books like Dr. Leaf's to blogs, continued education, writer's  groups, etc. we can glean good things from seasoned creatives, teachers, preachers, and so on.
 
5) Heed sage advice. When my kids were young they watched a cowboy preacher by the name of Gospel Bill. GB told his young audience, "Garbage in, garbage out," Sowing negative things into our heads and lives causes us to reap the same. Sowing the positive and valuable reaps great long term benefits. Love this simple reminder.

Have you ever considered the impact your thoughts have on your writing and life? What steps do you take to stay positive and productive?

Happy writing,

 Karen






Image credit - Pixabay