Time to Write with Karen Sargent

Are You Trapped in Your Writing World?

By Karen Sargent

Writing had consumed every aspect of my life. When I wasn’t teaching English during the day or sleeping at night, I was sitting at my desk, logged into my laptop—and logged out of my life. But what choice did I have? I was a new author chasing the dream, and the dream takes hustle. I love the dream. I love to write. But I hated what it was doing to me.

I had many masters, and I tried to serve them all: Facebook groups, writing blogs, reading blogs, my own blog, Twitter, book launch teams, agents to beg, a publisher to please, a platform to build, a book to market, ARCs to read, reviews to post, endorsements to write, contests to judge, writing friends to promote, reading friends to meet, workshops to present, new writers to mentor, a work-in-progress…

And the list of so many good things goes on. But, oh the craziness!

I had what my youngest daughter diagnosed as FOMO—fear of missing out. I was afraid to miss the next Tweet or the next article or the next professional connection that would move me one step farther down “the write road.” I feared missing out on the one magic thing I should be doing—whatever it was—and was in constant search of it.  

The pressures of being a debut author had skewed my perspective. For most of 2016 and 2017, I was so busy trying to write, publish, and promote a story, I missed out on too much of my own story. If a friend asked to meet at the coffee shop, I’d calculate how much writing time it would cost me. If I watched a movie with my family, the plot I was most interested in was the one I was writing in my head.

Living my life was like reading a book by skimming the chapters, or sometimes just the opening and closing paragraphs, or maybe skipping a chapter entirely. You get the gist of the story, but you don’t fully experience it. That was me.

Until life pounded at my door.  Correction: It busted through like a SWAT team and refused to be neglected anymore.  

I was in the midst of my debut’s first year, still deep into building relationships, trying to find my place in the writing community and my way into readers’ hands. And then my mom’s health started a rapid decline. The doctor recommended hospice, and she wished to spend her last days at home, so I wrote sub plans, cashed in my sick days, and moved in for a few months.

From a writing standpoint, the first two weeks were the hardest. I had little time to engage on social media or to read and comment on blogs. I missed my writing friends, and I truly think I suffered withdrawal symptoms. I had to break promises to promote book releases and cancel workshops I had committed to teach. I struggled to fulfill my volunteer role in a writing organization, and I couldn’t post on my blog. Nothing was more important than the privilege of caring for my mom, but I feared how quickly I would lose the relationships I cherished and the connections I had worked so hard to make.

But soon, my real life came back into focus.

I rediscovered the person I once was who had become lost in the writer I wanted to be. Becoming reacquainted with myself allowed me to fully engage in the joy and grief of caring for my mom until she passed in June. In that time, my oldest daughter graduated from college, moved out, and started her career. The rest of summer passed, a new school year began, and I was busy preparing for my daughter’s November wedding. The holiday season followed, and now here I am, looking back at 2018. I can’t say I was much of a writer last year, but I’m proud to say I was a devoted daughter and an involved wife, mother, and friend.

And here’s the amazing part. My writing community didn’t forget me. Before the end of 2018, I was invited to participate in author events, teach workshops, and guest post. My book sales had a little boost in time for Christmas, and occasionally a reader will ask when my next book will be out. I’m on faculty for the 2019 Missouri Writers Guild Conference, and I’ve booked my first out-of-state speaking engagement at a fundraiser for a children’s hospital. The astounding thing is I solicited none of these invitations. In spite of my fear of missing out, my writing community opened their arms wide and said, “Welcome back.” My heart is so full!

The past ten months replaced my FOMO with JOMO—the joy of missing out. I remembered how to enjoy life away from my laptop. Now, as I turn my daughter’s old bedroom into my new office, I better understand how to balance the two worlds that are so important to me. I’ve evaluated how I spend my time in the writing world. I’ve identified where I find authentic relationships, important information, valuable partnerships, and personal progress. That’s where you’ll find me. Everything else is clutter. I’ve set writing goals—and writing limits. When it’s time for me to be a writer, I’ll fully be a writer…guilt free. And when it’s time for me to be a wife, a mom, or a friend, I’ll fully be that as well…frustration free.

In 2019, I’m going to spend less time writing more, and more time living well.

[Click to Tweet] I rediscovered the person I once was who had become lost in the writer I wanted to be. Time to Write with Karen Sargent via @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #writerslife

Writing Prompt: FOMO produces clutter. Clutter steals precious writing time, family time, and energy. Make a list of clutter in your writing life. What can be eliminated to make room for more productivity and joy in both of your worlds?


Karen Sargent is a recovering writing-aholic who does not miss the burning shoulder, lower backache, and 15 pounds that disappeared in 2018 when she ended a long-term relationship with her laptop. Armed with a new 2019 planner, she has scheduled joy back into her life, sprinkled with a moderate dose of writing her WIP, a little bit of blogging, and an occasional workshop presentation. Karen’s debut novel, Waiting for Butterflies, was named the 2017 IAN Book of the Year and received the Foreword Reviews Gold for Christian fiction. Visit her at KarenSargentBooks.com.

New Year – Joy

I’m bad. I never seek a word from God–a one word theme for the New Year as so many do, but this New Year, God gave me the word anyway. Really put it on my heart.

From Christmas onward, it began…the word “Joy” kept popping up everywhere. In sermons at church, in my readings, in dreams, in songs, in my thoughts…

…even on the battered old cup I drink from every day.

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Photo by Holly Michael

So, I didn’t even make a New Years list of resolutions this year. I have my goals, but I don’t need a list of resolutions. I just need to hold onto JOY.

A new year holds promise and hope. January 1st…and for a few weeks, it’s easy to hold on to joy, promises, goals, dreams.

But…then there is reality. We have to deal in day to day stuff, hardships, issues, struggles. Two weeks after starting that new diet, we fail. (At least I did). A few months in to the new year, we often find ourselves disappointed. Our work is boring. Bills still must be paid. Sickness and illnesses still strike us and our families. Those goals we set are still so far from our reach.

James 1:2-4 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Which I take to mean that Joy is the key to Christian living, even if the circumstances of our lives are far from joyful.

Though, I will admit that a couple years ago, during a Bible study, when we pondered on this Scripture quote, I actually got a little bit angry. Seriously? Who is joyful when everything is coming against them? It’s not reality. Life is hard. But as I pondered on that verse…God spoke to my heart. Be joyful anyway. Trust me.

Philippians 4:4 says, Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Baruch 4:36, 5:1-4 says, O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God. Put off, O Jerusalem the garment of thy mourning and affliction, and put on the comeliness of the glory that cometh from God for ever. Cast about thee a double garment of the righteousness which cometh from God; and set a diadem on thine head of the glory of the Everlasting. For God will show thy brightness unto every country under heaven. For thy name shall be called of God for ever The Peace Of Righteousness, and The Glory of God’s Worship.

Fanny Crosby (Mrs. Frances Jane Van Alstyne), a blind poet, wrote thousands of gospel songs including “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue the Perishing” and “Saved by Grace.” She knew how to hold onto JOY. I’m going to take a cue from her.

Here’s a story about Frannie from, Our Daily Bread (August 12, 2003):

Fanny Crosby lost her sight when she was only 6 weeks old. She lived into her nineties, composing thousands of beloved hymns. On her 92nd birthday she cheerfully said, “If in all the world you can find a happier person than I am, do bring him to me. I should like to shake his hand.”

What enabled Fanny Crosby to experience such joy in the face of what many would term a “tragedy”? At an early age she chose to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). In fact, Fanny carried out a resolution she made when she was only 8 years old: “How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t. To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t.”

Let’s remember that “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Let’s also take comfort in the teachings of Jesus, who in John 15:11 said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” When faced with the choice of self-pity or rejoicing, let’s respond with rejoicing.

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photo by Holly Michael

Here’s to a JOY-FUL 2016!

And the writing prompt: Try this…Sit quietly in a comfortable place with a pen and a writing journal or piece of paper. Say the word “JOY” out loud. Now close your eyes. Now say the word “joy” quietly to yourself. Allow the word joy to bounce around your mind. What images come to you? What memories? Open your eyes. Now, get out your writing journal and write down your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

Joy in 2016

By Jennifer Hallmark

joy quoteI’m moving slowly back and forth in the old timey rocker/glider in Mom’s living room. It’s December 30th and
I’m working on my January blog post while I’m here. My stepdad’s health has been declining so I sit with him while Mom goes to the doctor and shops. Thoughts about how my year is ending, similar to how it began, circles in my mind. Without going into detail, the first two weeks of January were bewildering. My word of focus for 2015 was grace, but to me, unexpected or unforeseen would have been more appropriate. In reality, I needed an abundance of grace to see me through last year. I more than understood why Matthew 6:34 is in the Bible.

‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’ NKJV

In 2015, all my worries were for naught. What I worried about didn’t come to pass, but things I never could have imagined did. So I’ve tried to process 2015 the best I can and look forward to 2016.sylvester-1097596_1920

Really.

I mean, Alabama just won the semi-final college football game and will go to the Championship. And even though I ended the year with bronchitis, the holidays are over and I’m entering a writing season. My 2016 focus is set (seek God) and I’m ready.

Or I was until January 2nd.

The ambulance came for my stepdad who had double pneumonia. The back and forth trips from ICU to the waiting room to home and back to ICU began. By the time you read this, I hope he will have made it into a regular hospital room, but he won’t be home yet.

So what do you do when plans continually go awry? Am I the only one?

No. I passed too many people in the elevator, in the hallways, and in the hospital cafeteria to feel too sorry for myself. People whose lives have been disrupted by… well …life.

Should I just chunk 2016 and go to the pity party that waits just around the corner? Or keep writing, helping my family, cleaning house, shopping for groceries–all the things that make life what it is?

‘Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.’ Hebrews 10:23 NLT

BibleWhat is God’s promise? That Jesus shed his blood for us, took our punishment, and opened a new way. The Bible is full of so many promises. We are loved, accepted in the Beloved, a royal priesthood, set apart, and never alone, to name a few.

I love to remember the promises in the quiet, productive times, but I need to remember them in the chaotic times when the ground is shaking, and I have trouble standing.

I’ll step boldly on into this unsteady month of January, writing snatches of work here and there. Cleaning when I can. Resting when able. And I’ll step with joy, knowing God hasn’t left his throne and I’m always cherished and loved.

Today I choose JOY.

Writing Prompt: Let’s take the letters that make up the word JOY. Write a short story which includes one word that begins with a J, one that begins with an O, and one that begins with a Y.  Enter it in the comments for a double entry in our bi-yearly contest.

This Grateful Score: A Poem of Thankful Prompts

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(Photo source:
aesthetic–pleasures
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Clarity
The blanketing warmth of
Grace and Mercy
That silent darkness that proceeds
The newness of day
I’m thankful
Infinite potential rises
Every morning along with the sun

For the working together of nature
Intricate, intimate
Organic harmony
The blending of peoples
The sharing of stories
And the spreading of legacy
For others to follow
Like a trail that starts here
And stops wherever we leave off

I relish understanding
Beginnings and endings
The bliss of engagement
Like violent laughter
And soft rain at dusk
The to-and-fro
The roaring crescendo
These are the “musts”
Of Life’s symphony

It’s the mountains and valleys
We sometimes abhor
But we cannot afford to miss our cues
In this grateful score

And all the tears
Like distant prayers
Though unspoken
Aren’t unheard
Only God knows
The weight of glory
A story that none but the angels
Have overheard

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