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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year’s Resolution. . .Give Yourself a Break

Keep Me In Suspense was created to help promote inspirational mystery and suspense, as well as to aid writers in development of their craft. This past year marked the growth of the KMIS team, as well as more interviews and more how-to articles.

We appreciate everyone who visited our blog last year. Thank you. In 2008, our readers can look forward to interviews and articles written about and by some of the best voices in the Christian publishing industry.

To kick off the year, I’ve written an article that’s a little different from our usual fare, but it’s certainly apropos for writers. At least for this writer and I know there have to be others out there like me. It’s a reminder of Who is our source of inspiration and strength.

New Years is a time when everyone makes resolutions to develop new habits, exercise, lose weight, get organized, and any number of other noble accomplishments. I’m in no way critical of those things. I love resolutions and lists. I live by them. All right. I admit it. I’m slightly obsessive/compulsive.

However, this year is different for me. I’ve got resolutions, but not my usual bullet-pointed list of things I will never be able to achieve in a million years—things I write down just to kick myself into action because anything in print is serious. Like sending out 50 proposals, completing ten books, losing fifty more pounds, running ten miles, bench pressing 100 pounds, repainting all the interior walls in my house, tiling my kitchen counter, and learning how to reseat a toilet, etc.

Nope. Here are my resolutions. They’re simple.

1. I’ve asked God to restore my joy. I lost it this year.
2. I’ve decided to cut myself some slack and accept the fact that I can’t ever be perfect, so I shouldn't worry about my imperfections.
3. I need to remember that I can’t please everyone. (See #2—I’m not perfect.)

I recently returned from a trip to Washington State where I spent the holidays with my siblings. My first Monday there, I was sitting in a chair in my sister’s family room, mindlessly staring out the window. She was attending to her daycare business. I yanked my attention away from the scenery outside and booted up my laptop to get to work. I had writerly things to do. After all, I had to be productive, even at Christmas.

I listlessly glanced at my document files, trying to decide what to tackle first, wondering at my lack of enthusiasm. I have three books coming out this year. I have a great writing related job. I love everything about writing. So why did I feel like stomping my laptop into little pieces and grinding each one up in the garbage disposal?

Not willing to risk my laptop, I pried it from my clenched fists, set it aside, and stared out the window again. What was wrong? I’d lost my enthusiasm, not only for writing, but for everything in my life. I felt weak and fruitless.

When I was packing for my trip, there was no question in my mind that I would work during the holidays. Of course I would. Thanks to my ancestry, I have a wonderful German work ethic that seems to grow stronger each year. Okay, so it drives me like a drill sergeant.

When I experience pressure in my life, my solution is to work harder. Get out the figurative electric cattle prod. Everything I do is one hundred percent. I exercise hard. I watch television with purpose—to catch up on the news or watch something that might help my writing. When I sit, I must somehow be productive. Even a dancing class I took for fun has become an exercise in being the best I can be.

I never stare mindlessly out a window because it can’t possibly have a serious purpose. . .can it?

That’s when it hit me. I had been bashing my brains out trying to accomplish so much, I burned out. My life had become a treadmill of all work and no play. The things I used to enjoy had become lifeless. Even my life felt lifeless.

How could I possibly write a good book when I don't care about anything anymore?

So, I made a conscious decision to enjoy myself during the holidays. Wow. Who would have ever thought that purposefully relaxing would be so hard? That my laptop screen would stare reproachfully at me and the voices in my head would constantly remind me of my next deadline. P-R-E-S-S-U-R-E. This next book has got to be the best yet. You can’t fail.

Any writer knows exactly what I mean. Those constantly yapping voices that can be so helpful in our creative endeavors can also make us feel slightly insane. So much of a writer’s work is in our heads. It’s always there. Never finished.

But I persevered. I played on the floor with the daycare children. Fed the babies. Danced with the kids to Christmas music. I sat around in my snowman pajamas. That's hard for me because in my mind, sitting around in my pajamas is tantamount to laziness. I watched movies with my nephews and played with Legos. I walked for miles in the desert behind my sister’s house. I took pictures for fun. I laughed. I read a kid’s fantasy book. I helped make cookies and laughed some more.

I began to relax.

Things became even more clear when I attended an advent service at my sister’s church. The candle they lit that week represented joy. The sermon was like a personal, handwritten note from God. Candice, you’ve lost your joy. You’ve lost sight of Me and My purpose for your life because you want so badly to be perfect. To please everyone. You’re trying too hard. You can’t do it all.

BONK! That hit me like a spiritual sledgehammer. I remembered the Scripture in Nehemiah 8:10, The joy of the Lord is my strength. What a wonderful reminder, especially from Nehemiah—an awesome book about restoration.

Like many readers of this Keep Me In Suspense blog, I’m privileged to be an author. That means deadlines and sometimes burning the midnight oil. But I don’t ever again want to lose my joy. A lack of joy means a lack of creativity—something we all desperately need to write good books.

I especially don’t want to lose sight of the little things God has put in my life to refresh and restore me—like staring mindlessly out my window at the scenery.

So at least once everyday, I’m going to stare outside and do nothing. Think nothing. Maybe you can join me.

And if you haven’t already, join our growing list of Feedblitz readers. You’ll receive our articles by email.

And thank you again for visiting us. We appreciate all of our readers.

Candice ( http://www.candicemillerspeare.com/ )

7 Comments:

Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

Wow. What a terrific, and appropriate post, Candice. I've felt this same way before, and came to the same conclusion (thanks to prods from my family!). How can we write about life when we don't take time to actually experience it?

I love this quote:

"Those constantly yapping voices that can be so helpful in our creative endeavors can also make us feel slightly insane."

9:23 AM  
Blogger Lisa Harris said...

Great reminders, Candy!

Lisa

9:49 AM  
Blogger Dineen A. Miller said...

Candace, thank you so much for sharing this. I'm in the same boat as well, I've burned myself out a bit and lost most of my desire to write. I'm praying for God to be in charge of it all from now on and show me what He would like me to accomplish this year. I'm so ready to let him be in charge. Thank you for your encouraging words. :-)

10:58 PM  
Blogger Sherryl said...

Thanks for this reminder - I too felt like this in December. I took a three day personal retreat before Christmas, and then continued the meditation and mindless gazing out the window and reading and *not working* until 1 January. So much of what you said about the work ethic stuff - I must write, I must be producing - is true. I really related to it.

www.sherrylclark.blogspot.com

10:57 PM  
Blogger CHickey said...

Thank you for the reminder! May this be the best year ever!

5:04 PM  
Blogger Christine Lynxwiler said...

Candice,
What a breath of fresh air. I needed this. Keep pursuing true joy. And look for me next time you go out to do nothing. I'm planning on joining you! Praying we both get the joy back this year!

12:50 AM  
Blogger wen said...

What a great post! Here's to a joyful 2008. :) (Oh, and if you need 'proof' that relaxing a bit and taking breaks makes you more productive, studies both with college students and with 9-5 workers--sorry I don't have the citations but they were a few years back--showed this was true. So you can tell that to the inner work ethic!)

1:25 PM  

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