On Being a Writer: Write

The reason I have been blogging for six months now is to facilitate a more regular pattern of writing. When I have goals set for myself I am much more likely to complete what it is I want to accomplish. Also, when I have people holding me accountable for those goals then I feel even more responsible for making sure those tasks actually happen. With blogging I have sought out a way for me to routinely write and practice writing about a multitude of topics while you, my readers, hold me accountable.

There are many things about the craft of blogging that I have yet to perfect. I want to make it clear that I don’t always follow the guidelines I am about to list. Also, I’m sure that there is a better and more efficient process for blogging. This is just the process that I have found that works for me.  I set out each week with a list of potential topics and ideas. Those ideas get plugged into a Blog Post Planner which I purchased from Plum Paper. I use this planner to track posting ideas, titles, where I am in the process of each post, and my blog statistics.

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On an average week I aim to create six posts, but sometimes life keeps that from happening. I’ve never done fewer than three posts in a week, however. Each post begins with a fifteen to thirty minute session of getting all my thoughts and ideas out. This process is then followed by editing. After I’ve cut and pasted, removed, and added to my original writing I run everything by my editor (my husband). Almost every post gets reviewed by him. He has the permission to be a Grammar Nazi. He also helps me catch any missing information from the posts. So, if you see any glaring mistakes blame the hubby. (No, I’m kidding. Sometimes this step gets skipped and that’s usually when you see the mistakes)

One thing that helps me achieve my goal of six posts per week is the feature on WordPress (my blog platform) that allows me to schedule posts in the future. With this feature I am able to work on posts when time allows and I don’t have to feel pressure to actually create a post every day.

When I am able I like to finish each post a couple of days in advance so that I have ample time to revise and edit each post. This isn’t always the case, but during my organizational phases I could be almost a week ahead of schedule as far as revising and editing go,

I’ve learned that my writing is best when I am locked into a habit of writing regularly. Some days my posts are short and sweet, but they still count as progress for my skill. I enjoy spending time alone with my thoughts and getting ideas out in a timely manner.

How do you frame your blogging or writing process? 

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Reblog: You’re a Good Mom

I have been searching for articles to share every other weekend from bloggers that I follow and enjoy. This week I found an encouraging article by my friend, Autumn, at Welcome to My World. Her article is entitled, You’re a Good Mom.

As a mother of a toddler I can totally relate to Autumn on many levels. In this post she discusses a mother’s desire to be good, but all of the insecurities that keep us from feeling that way. For me, I struggle with a full-time job and all that it entails, friendships, housekeeping, and spending quality time with my family everyday. This article helped me to see that it’s okay to put family first. So what  if my house is a mess 80% of the time? I’ve got a healthy, growing girl and that’s my first priority. It is nice to hear from others that you are doing a good job, but for me validation comes from knowing that I’ve done my best each day to be the mom that my little Arianna needs me to be.

Please check out Autumn’s blog post!

Five Minute Friday: Alone

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is alone. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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I Do Not Know Alone (A poem)

Alone is a place I can never be,

Since the Spirit of God is always with me.

Alone is a word I do not know,

For my God is with me wherever I go.

At times it seems quiet,

Like His answers aren’t there.

Other times I feel broken,

And think life’s not fair.

But through it all He’s healing my pain,

As I cry out He whispers my name.

It’s hard to listen and talk all at once,

Sometimes the silence is all that he wants.

If I take time to notice I see once again,

When I think I’m alone He’s always a friend.

Who will never leave me even when it gets tough,

I’m never alone; My Savior’s enough.

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We all need this reminder. When things get hard and we feel like no one could possibly understand or care about what we are going through there is always someone to turn to. If you feel like God doesn’t hear you or you can’t discern His voice and direction take some time to listen. Stop talking and let God speak to you. This is something I struggle with. I want instantaneous responses and I want them to sound a certain way. I anticipate God’s responses and when they don’t look or sound the way I expect that they should I feel like God isn’t there. Take some time to listen to his still, small voice. At times that voice is just a whisper, but a small voice can have a large impact. Remember: you are never alone.

On Being a Writer: Notice

This is my latest installment on the link-up On Being a Writer based on the book by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Head over to Kate Motaung‘s page to join or read this link-up.

Today’s topic is Notice.

Why is it so hard to take the time to notice the beauty and inspiration around us? This is the hardest part about writing for me. I can generally get words flowing pretty quickly once I have a topic, but noticing the details in life that can become those topics is so difficult.

I struggle with this practice not only in my writing, but in everyday life. We all go through seasons where things get  busy and hectic. We forget to slow down and appreciate every aspect of creation. That’s me right now. I’m hoping for story ideas or writing prompts to appear, but I’m not taking the time to slow down and notice the beauty and creativity around me. A sunset could lead to a poem. A toddler tantrum could lead to a blog post. A conversation with a friend could lead to a creative, Biblical piece of writing.

When we get so busy we miss out on a lot. We neglect to see the possibilities in our writing because we aren’t looking. If you ever feel like me and struggle with what to write take a step back and notice the world around you. Write down what you see. And go from there. Writing is so much more than words on a page. Writing is about seeing the potential in everything, big or small, to make an impact on the world around you. It’s about harnessing those ideas and giving them life. Take some time today to NOTICE.

My First Fix

Over the past couple of months I’ve heard a lot about StitchFix on other blogs and social media sites. After doing my research in the company seeking out any loophole I decided to give it a shot.

What is StitchFix?: StitchFix is an online personal stylist program. As the customer you begin by filling out a profile about yourself and your sizes on the StitchFix website. From this profile a team of stylists selects five unique pieces and sends them in the mail on a regular basis (the duration of which you can decide).

How does it work?: In order to receive your fix you must first complete a personal survey where you list details about your unique style and preferences and answer questions created to make your experience with StitchFix the best it can be. Next, you can schedule how often you’d like to receive your fix in the mail. I chose to not over commit to something I was unsure of so I chose the option of receiving my box once every other month.

How much does it cost?: There is a $20 stylist fee for each fix that ships to your home. That fee can be applied to any pieces that you decide to keep from that shipment. After that original $20 fee each time you only pay for what you want to purchase. If you choose to purchase all five pieces in the StitchFix box you receive a 25% off discount on your order.

What if I don’t like something?: The StitchFix company encourages you to try on every item. Anything that does not fit or that you don’t wish to purchase can be returned in a prepaid priority mail bag that is sent in each StitchFix at no cost to you. You have three days from the arrival of your box to complete the online checkout and resend any items you do not wish to keep. In order to checkout you must visit your account on their website and comment about each piece. If you choose not to keep something write why that piece was undesirable and that helps the stylists find better options in the future.

If you are interested in giving it a try yourself you can CLICK HERE to create your own account and begin filling out a profile. (Please use the hyperlink above as it helps me earn a little extra credit on my account as well. Thanks!)

What I found appealing about this particular company is that I had the power to communicate one-on-one with my stylist. I was able to request certain styles and I provided a link to my Pinterest board which gave my stylist more information about my personal style. She asked me questions, and we dialogued back and forth several times before she sent my first package.

My package arrived this Monday afternoon. I rushed home from work to find this beautiful and exciting package on my front porch:

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As I began to unpack its contents my joy only increased. I received a card from my stylist which highlighted the pieces that she sent me as well as Styling Cards which showed multiple ways to wear each piece within the box.

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Underneath all of the tips, cards, and receipts I found the clothing that the stylist picked especially for me. Here is a picture of each piece: (not everything fit me in the end so I’ll just show you the card for the pieces I did not purchase)

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1. This cardigan was perfect for me. It is something that can easily dress up an outfit and be worn to school, but can also be paired with denim to create a casual look. I chose to purchase this piece because it is so versatile.

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2. I absolutely, positively, 100% loved this sweater. It is an oversized style which is not something I own much of or would have picked for myself, but as soon as I put this on I fell in love. It’s another piece I can wear several different ways. The price was a little higher than I had hoped ($58), but I bit the bullet and purchased this one because I was so in love.

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3. I had asked my stylist for a pair of patterned pants and she definitely delivered. The dilemma with the pants were that they did not fit. The pattern was flattering and adorable, but they didn’t quite fit me around the waist correctly. There was a lot of extra space in them and it ended up looking sloppy once I tried them on. This was disappointing, but at least I was able to send them back at no charge. I redid my measurements in my profile and asked my stylist to send another pair of a different size in my next StitchFix order. The sizing error was on my end NOT StitchFix’s.

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4. When I got to the blouse I was astounded. Wow, does my stylist know me. In fact, she nailed it! The only problem: I actually have a top almost identical to this one that I bought last fall. Again, bummer, but at least this means that my stylist understands my preferences. I sent this blouse back, but appreciated the Styling Card which will help me when it comes to how to wear the top I already own.

5. Finally, I received a necklace by Zad: Melba Beaded Layered Necklace. I decided to pass on this necklace. It was cute and versatile, but I am actually drowning in jewelry and not really in need of another simple piece. If it had been more unique then I may have kept it.

So, my overall experience was great. I enjoyed seeing the styles and pieces that were selected for me. I did end up returning three of my five pieces, but probably would’ve kept the pants if they were in my size. All of the tips and blogs I’ve read online say that the experience only gets better the more that you use StitchFix, because the stylists take to heart the comments that you leave in the Checkout and they use those comments to select future pieces. I have chosen to continue with the company and I am looking forward to my next delivery in October. I would recommend StitchFix for anyone with a flexible budget, busy lifestyle that prevents them from being able to shop regularly, or the desire to makeover their wardrobe. For me, I can go through phases where I get stuck on certain styles and I decided to give it a chance in order to add some diversity for my closet. I love the features that allow communication between the customer and stylist. It made the experience a good one and one that I plan to repeat again.

If you have any specific questions about my experience ask away! I know many of my readers already have a service they use like StitchFix, but I strongly urge you to give this company a try. Once again, if you would like to check it out please CLICK HERE and use my link as referrals in this company can help to earn credit toward future orders.

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The Ameri Brit Mom

*This post contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation as a result of this post.

Meanwhile in the Garden…

Over this summer I have chronicled my first ever venture at gardening. It’s been a fun experience and this week I was finally able to harvest my first vegetables. If you want to check out the step-by-step process you can read my previous posts: My Garden in the Making Part 1, My Garden in the Making Part 2, and The Weeds Were Taking Over.

The following pictures are snapshots of the progress that my garden has made and some of the “veggies of my labor”.

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In the top left corner you can see my very healthy and prosperous cucumber plant. At this point it is taking over the rest of the garden. It’s spread itself the entire width of my allotted space and is producing an abundance of vegetation. So much so that I am practically forcing all of my friends to take some.

In the top right corner you can see the first ever pickings from my garden. On my first day of picking I was able to pluck three fully grown and delicious cucumbers and one lovely green pepper. My green pepper plant has not been as fruitful as the others, but it’s been a wet and hot summer so it’s to be expected.

In the bottom left corner you can see a large plant surrounded by carrots on the ground. I did not plant anything in this spot so I am unsure of what this plant is, but it looks like one of my neighbor’s plants so its possible the seed fell on my soil. Or it could be a weed. It’s definitely a possibility. If you have insight as to what this giant plant is please fill me in. I’m clueless.

In the bottom right corner you can see my lovely tomato plant. I am anxiously awaiting the ripening of my first tomatoes, but as you can see my tomatoes are plentiful. They’re also my favorite of the vegetables so I am excited to taste my first homegrown tomato!

Not bad for a newbie, right? It’s been a great learning experience and I’ve really fallen in love with the idea of growing and caring for my own vegetable plants. I hope to update once again when the rest of the vegetables are ready to be picked.

On Being a Writer: Surround

I am currently taking part in a link-up that will be posted twice a week for a little over a month discussing ideas from the book On Being a Writer by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. To visit the link-up pop on over to Kate Motaung’s page, Heading Home, and check out other bloggers’ writings on a similar topic.
Today’s topic is Surround: 
When I write posts on my blog I oftentimes write about whatever has stolen my attention on that particular day. Some days that means I blog about a book that I’m reading or have just finished. Other days I write about activities my family took part in. At other times I may share a recipe I found on Pinterest or a DIY project that I’ve been working on for my home.
My blog posts always reflect whatever it is that I’m surrounding myself with. If it seems like my topics are widespread it is because I’m passionate about so many things, but the idea that ties every post together is my passion and desire for writing. I blog because I love to write and though my inspiration varies my motivation and reasons for blogging do not. I am a Christian-Wife-Mother-Teacher-Writer-Homeowner-Friend and that is why my blog explores so many topics. I can’t just write about one of those aspects because all of those things make me who I am.
Some ideas I would like to tackle in my writing life would be some more short, creative stories. In order to make that happen I first need to be reading more and taking time to develop my ideas in a more orderly fashion. I’m not the best at collecting my ideas in a nice and neat notebook or file. I think in order to do more creative writing projects I will need to be more adamant about taking time to cultivate topics and ideas. I will also need to put myself in state of mind where I am searching out inspiration as opposed to waiting for it to hit me.
One of the most inspirational places for me to write is at a coffee shop in my hometown. Some of my most focused and productive writing has come from sessions at this cafe. I think whenever I hit a dry patch in writing I need to take some time to myself and venture out of my home to find that inspiration. I also do well to write in serene spaces. Packing up my laptop and traveling to the Great Outdoors is a great way for me to get inspired.
What inspires you? What can you surround yourself with that will make you a more focused and passionate writer? 

Fiction Teaser: From Mid-Manuscript

The following piece comes from a manuscript I am currently working on. It is a portion of a chapter from the middle of the story so there are some details and background that are missing. I’m not quite into the editing phase yet so be patient of any grammatical or spelling errors. I’ve chosen to reveal a little piece of this puzzle which I pray will one day be a novel. Thoughts and encouragement are welcomed in the comment box below!

Michael slammed his Macbook shut with frustration on his large mahogany desk. Writer’s block was real and he had experienced this blockade of ideas and articulation for well over two weeks. He rolled his chair backward and settled on the idea of exiting his office space to clear his head. He grabbed his black and aluminum coffee tumbler and began to walk briskly toward the third floor break room.

“Still can’t shake it?” Michael’s intern, Rebekah, asked passing him in the row of cubicles outside of his four-walled office. Her spiky black heels caused her to be slightly taller than Michael. “Let me grab the coffee this time. You should do a lap outside. I’ve heard fresh air can do wonders for creativity.” She didn’t give him a second to protest and slid the tumbler out of his sweaty hands. At that Rebekah headed down the corridor to the break room and Michael diverted his course to include the stairs to the ground level.

He stopped once the metal door to the office stairwell closed. A deep breath escaped from his lungs. For weeks Michael had been noticing the young intern from Harry S Truman College. Rebekah was no longer the stupid college girl that she had been when his boss hired her, but had become at first a friend and then a crush. Michael tried to ignore Rebekah and keep his feelings a secret, and it wasn’t until this facade of unfazed persona began that he became acquainted with the dreaded writing difficulties. Every word brought to mind the face or body of this beautiful young co-ed. He had once been quite the wordsmith who prided himself on his rise through the ranks at The Chicago Tribune, but he had found that Rebekah was his kryptonite. The trouble was that Michael couldn’t bring himself to say anything to her. She had no idea that her constant checking in on him was actually making the writer’s block worse.

He wasn’t exactly the most happening bachelor in the city. Over the past five years he had done little outside of his profession. Occasionally he would journey back home to escape the city, but apart from those visits Michael’s nose was to the grindstone and his focus was superb.

Rebekah had become the complication that he had not planned for. Everyday he would look at the deadlines that had come and gone and have nothing to show for it. His work was mediocre at best and Michael had never been one for anything less than award-winning. He began each work day opening up his laptop and typing her name. Then her name followed by words he wished he had the courage to say to her in real life. He would delete and write. Delete and write. That was the typical work day for the past few weeks.

Michael bent down in the empty concrete stairwell and laced up his new Nike trainers. He bounded down three flights of stairs right to the opening on the busy city streets. It was another beautiful mid-May day. The sun was beaming and the breeze was a perfect seventy-five degrees. Michael sucked the perfect temperature through his nostrils and for a second he relived his days as a track and field runner for NYU. Back then he had lived for this weather. It was perfect for getting the right amount of oxygen moving through his lungs without the piercing tinge of cold or drowning heat. He closed his eyes and then his feet took over. Despite the fact that he was wearing tight fitting khaki Chinos he began to jog across the sidewalk.

Three loops of the block later Michael’s feet came to a halt outside of the Tribune glass doors. He doubled over to catch his breath. It had felt so great to clear his mind and pretend that he was the carefree college runner that he had once been. The doorman opened the doors for a now winded and sweaty Michael and proceeded to the elevator for the third floor.

Ten minutes later Rebekah appeared in the doorway to his office.

“How was the fresh air?” She kept her distance in the doorway folding her arms and giving a slightly flirtatious smile.

“It was nice to escape. I think it has given me a little edge.” Michael muttered looking up over the laptop at the co-ed.

“It could’ve been the jog, but also I did add a shot of espresso to your coffee.” She pointed toward the tumbler that Michael had practically inhaled the moment he returned to his office.

“Whatever you did keep it coming.” Michael smiled and then refocused on the task at hand. His boss had asked for a business piece over a week ago. He hated to miss deadlines, but at the time he had used up his shelf of ideas and instead had produced a variation of sentences all with the theme, “Rebekah, will you go out with me?” As he typed away he received an email in response to an interview for the business piece and began to lay plans to interview a young duo of entrepreneurs who had recently opened a booming consignment shop for working-class citizens.

Relieved that he had regained a semblance of focus Michael began to jot down bullet point questions to ask during the interview. He was deep in thought when his iPhone began to buzz across the desktop. After examining the screen he realized that his mother was calling. He pressed “save” on the monitor and accepted the phone call.

“Mom, hey, I’m at work.” Michael said before his mother even had a chance to address him. This was his way of saying he didn’t have time or energy to talk presently.

“Michael, are you doing okay?” Mona’s raspy voice echoed through the receiver.

“Yeah, Mom, I’m fine. Everything’s fine. You know how it is. Lots of deadlines. Not much time.” Michael began to make excuses for why he couldn’t spare time to chat.

“I won’t be long. As you know, Evelyn’s birthday is this Sunday. We would all love to see you come around for your sister’s birthday. Simon just said the other day it’s been about five months. Can you spare some time for us this weekend. It would mean a great deal to…”

“I’ll see what I can do. No promises.” Michael cut her off.

“It’s not a long drive. We aren’t asking for more than a couple of hours.” Mona’s voice now had a bit of sadness in it.

“Okay, okay. Sorry, mom, I’m just really behind. I’ll make time though I promise.” Michael began to speak with remorse. It was hard not holding it against his mother that she had started another, younger family with her current husband, Raymond. Evelyn was born when Michael was a junior in high school. He had avoided forging a relationship with her because he knew he’d be leaving and he wasn’t too keen on her father. Simon was born when Michael was already off at NYU. In fact, this new family was the real reason he chose to go to school in New York. Distance was a great excuse to lose touch and pouring himself into his work was a great excuse to avoid the thirty minute trip once he moved back to the Chicago area.

“See you Sunday. I love you.” Mona waited to hear the three words in response that she had been longing to hear for weeks.

“Love you too, Mom. See you then.” Michael ended the call and typed the event into his calendar on his phone. He had to do a little configuring to realize that Evelyn would be eleven. He reopened his laptop and in his search engine typed, “Gifts for an eleven year old girl.”

As he was sifting through the search results Rebekah’s silhouetted figure appeared once again in the doorway.

“Mr. Robinson, I’m about to head out for the evening. My friends and I are going to hit a gallery hop in the arts district. Is there anything you need before I head out? More coffee or a critical eye for editing?” Rebekah brushed her long blond hair off her shoulder. She fidgeted with her tight black blazer and straightened her red camisole underneath making sure it overlapped her black pencil skirt at the waist.

“Have a great evening.” Michael barely broke his glance at the computer while they spoke.

“Thanks you too.” Rebekah half smiled, but got the hint that Michael was not paying her any mind. She turned to leave.

“Rebekah, hold on…” Michael began impulsively. He looked up at her and met her gaze. “Could you help me with a gift idea for my half-sister?” He pushed his palms into his forehead. “It’s rougher than it sounds.”

“Every girl loves a journal, speaking from experience.” Rebekah responded without even glancing at the computer.

“Journal? Yes. Perfect. Thanks.” Michael reverted his glance to the computer.

“Anything else?” Rebekah asked.

“No. Have a great time.” At that she turned and walked away. Michael’s heart was pumping out of his chest. He had held a conversation with her. In his mind he knew that his focus had once again been blown for the day so he began to pack up his computer and put it in his satchel. The interview with the entrepreneurs would have to wait til tomorrow.

It is unlawful to plaigarize any of the original work from The Ameri Brit Mom. Always give credit where credit is due. 

Putting the Hat Back On

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A while ago I posted an article about one of the many hats that I wear on a daily basis. This article was about my journey as the adviser for the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) at the high school where I work. If you haven’t read it yet check out the post One of My Many Hats.

Last night we kicked off our first meeting of my fifth year leading the group. Every year we meet at the home of one of the upperclassmen leaders. This has always been a positive experience. Having these meetings in a home helps to facilitate a family-feel. The students feel safe to open up to one another and there is opportunity for them to also experience what it is like to be a part of a Christian home if that is something they are not privileged enough to have themselves.

Our first meeting went off without a problem. Over fifty students showed up. There was a healthy mix of students who had attended in previous years and those who were new to the high school this year. We began our meeting by introducing who we are and why we meet. One of the senior leaders led a quick description of our goals as a club which is just to grow together toward Christ and lead others in the school to know Christ more. I introduced myself, but the first meeting was almost completely led by students. They organized the meeting and later each stood up and shared their personal story and testimony with the rest of the club.

I didn’t realize how much I had missed every single one of the students over the summer until they began to arrive in carpools to the meeting. The excitement of seeing them for the first time in months was exhilarating. I spent the evening catching up with students who attended last year and getting to know all of the new students in attendance.

As a whole group they played a game that our FCA in infamous for: The Name Game. It involves running. screaming, and embarrassing yourself. So naturally the students all favor this particular game. I was so proud of them as every single student participated in the games, which is not always the case. After the game we moved into a time of worship. We all sat near a fire pit and listened/sang along to a worship song. Every week I provide lyrics to each song for those students who may be unfamiliar with it. This is such an awesome time. How many Christian public school teachers get to have an opportunity to worship with their students?

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Finally, the meeting wrapped up with good food and fellowship. The kids hung around for a bit shooting hoops, playing frisbie and talking. God has blessed me so much by allowing me to serve as adviser for this club. We are so privileged as a school to continue to have an FCA when other schools are told no. The administration at my school is supportive of all kids and their spiritual/emotional health and that is so encouraging me.

Please join me as I pray that God will continue to grow this program and people who are searching for Him will find Him in our family at FCA.

On Being a Writer: Arrange

I am joining a group of writers who are linking-up twice a week for the next month to discuss some of the foundational ideas in writing. The topics for this link-up come from the book On Being a Writer by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. This link-up is being hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog entitled Heading Home

In order for me to pursue writing as an individual I needed to arrange a place and a time that I could devote to writing. As a busy woman who juggled the responsibilities of a full time job and motherhood this would prove to be one of the biggest obstacles for me and my writing. However, I quickly came to the realization that we all make time for the things  we love in life. If I was going to pursue writing as my personal endeavor it was going to mean making some sacrifices, but in the end I would have the fulfillment of achieving some of my personal goals and dreams. I began to set aside an hour every day for writing. Sometimes that time would be spent on blog posts and other times I would work on some of my creative writing projects. But getting into the habit of daily writing was one of the biggest struggles. It is easy to make excuses about why we cannot do something, but in the end if it is something we care about we will intentionally rearrange our schedule because our desire to complete that activity is great.
Currently, I do most of my writing on the living room couch either while my daughter is still sleeping or when she has just woken up and is eating breakfast. I would love to have a space a little more conducive for writing, but for now I’ll take my minutes of writing however I can get them. I do have an established schedule of Saturday mornings setting aside two hours outside of the home to make some progress on a novel I am working on. That time is not for blogging or other writings. It is solely devoted to novel writing. I like that habit and priority. I am so glad that I finally blocked out that time in my schedule and have been making that happen.
In order to make progress in our writing we must ARRANGE for it!