Real Giving during the Giving Season

Are you scratching your head too? I can’t figure out where the year went. Every year seems to go by faster than the last. I could swear time is actually speeding up.

That said, I didn’t get half the things done this year that I’d hoped. Life got hectic (even more so), and sometimes my brain rebelled. I’m sure many of you feel as I do—that you’re being pulled in way too many directions and it’s hard to concentrate. On the other hand, if I look at all I accomplished in the past twelve months, it’s pretty substantial. So I have a choice: I can either be hard on myself and push myself harder, or I can stop and appreciate all the things I got done.

That appreciation, to me, needs to encompass more than just big things, like books published or hitting a best-seller list or making bank one month on book sales. We tend to focus on the big things and value them more than the little things (that really aren’t “little”).

What do I mean by little things? How about cheering up a stranger who chats with you across Starbucks while you’re writing in the corner? Little acts of kindness might seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but they’re overlooked. One elderly man at a nursing home, when asked what was missing most in our modern world, answered, “Kindness.” In this violent world we live in, that’s a rare commodity. I don’t know where you live, but in my country, region, town—the places I frequent—I notice this shortage of kindness.

And contrary to what some people believe, a whole lot of people find the holiday season depressing and difficult. It’s a time of year when we feel keenly the loss of those we loved who are no longer with us. Most people I know dread this time of year. So if we can lift a few spirits with a bit of kindness, that’s a good thing.

Random Acts of Kindness

It’s an attitude more than anything else. We writers are supposed to be observant. We study human behavior so we can artfully and accurately infuse it in our make-believe characters. It shouldn’t be hard for us to notice when others around us could use some cheering up.

But it goes beyond that. When you feel your life is hard and people have been mean, you may not want to be nice and friendly. Maybe you’re having a bad day—a bad life—so why should you smile (fake) and care about other people’s feelings?

I get that. I have days when I surely don’t feel like being uplifting and encouraging. My job demands I be an encourager. But it’s hard to keep that cheerleader spirit going 24/7. Sometimes I just want to lock myself in a cage and scowl. If you get too close, I might snarl and snap. Usually that bad mood is due to feeling that I haven’t accomplished enough and I’m being hard on myself.

Balancing Act

So I’m adopting this word as my theme for next year: balance. I’ve heard it’s a fine art. I haven’t yet learned the nuances of how to be balanced, but I’m going to try. Balance for me means setting challenging goals for myself.

But it also means planning activities that refresh and strip away the stress. It means learning how to stop and take needed breaks. And it also means adjusting my perspective so that I am not so frantic, feeling as if I only have a short time left. Being frantic makes me self-absorbed, and I fail to notice others who might need some kindness.

And here’s a secret that’s not so secret to a lot of people. When you’re feeling down or stressed or upset, instead of throwing a pity party, if you focus outward and see how you can help someone else, it is the best way to get out of your slump. That’s the truth behind Jesus’s words: It is more blessed to give than to receive.

This isn’t just regarding stuff, such as holiday giving. When we give of our time, attention, and kindness, we’re blessed. Even if the recipient of our attention isn’t appreciative, there is a sense of joy and satisfaction we feel when we give. We know it’s the right way to be. To behave.

So part of this balance is about attitude. We can try all we want to balance our activities and projects, but we need a balanced attitude too. We are not islands. We live among and with others. There’s not a whole lot of joy in accomplishing all these amazing things if we don’t have warm, supportive mutual relationships with those around us.

So, bringing this back to where I started, I’m hoping to accomplish a lot of huge things in the next year. I have big plans. But I’m going to make sure I slow down enough to consider those around me. I’m going to find time to de-stress by being kind to myself too (yes, exercising, however miserable, is a kindness to self).

That will include taking my dog on walks, gardening, shooting a few hoops (I suck), baking cookies, and other things that make me happy but aren’t directly related to my writing and editing career. It will also include scheduling in time to help others (feed the homeless, cook at church), and looking for “non-scheduled” ways to show random acts of kindness to others.

I try each day to look for at least one opportunity to uplift someone. There always seems to be at least one. Some days there are plenty more. I know, though, that if I’m in a big hurry trying to get my goals reached, I’ll miss those subtle opportunities to help someone else. To be blessed.

Now that I’ve said all that, since you are a writer, I want to share some practical goals you might consider setting for 2016 that will help you in your writing journey. I hope you, too, find a way to balance these with those other things I mentioned, and schedule in showing kindness as a priority!

  1. Try some new plotting and structuring techniques on your WIP or next project

I am always trying to stretch myself with each new novel, trying out new techniques, new ways to plot, structure, and organize my ideas. For many of my novels I use index cards for scenes. I’ve created character flow charts, character arc charts, and mind maps. These are all ideas I got from other writers—either from their workshops or from books on the writing craft. If it’s in your plans to write a new book this year, think about stretching yourself and forging into new territory.

  1. Try to attend at least one writers’ conference

I was given the advice to attend a writers’ conference many years ago. I had attended a few here and there over the years, and I couldn’t afford to go to many, so I picked the one where I knew I could learn a lot on the writing craft. After attending a great conference, I was hooked. I’ve since gone to many, and my writing has greatly benefited!

This is the best piece of advice I can give you for the New Year, for it has twofold benefits—giving you the opportunity to hone your writing by taking classes and the chance to pitch your book (either idea or finished novel) to agents and publishers. Even if you’re not ready to submit, chatting about your story and perfecting your pitch is extremely helpful.

Now that there are online courses, you have other ways of getting similar in-depth instruction. I’ll be offering a number of online courses this next year, specifically designed to target some real needs writers have in both craft and marketing. So watch for those.

  1. Pick one weak point in your writing and focus on that

We can become overwhelmed when we think of all the weak aspects of our writing. Surely there is room for improvement on so many fronts, and with lots of rejections we can become disheartened and feel like quitting. Make it a point to focus on just one element of your writing that you are weakest in and see how you can improve that this year.

Athletes will spend 80% of their time working on the 10% or 20% areas they are weakest in. We should do the same. And when you see improvement, you will feel encouraged.

  1. Find (or keep and appreciate!) at least one good critique partner

If you have someone who really gives you honest, helpful feedback, that’s a great joy and aid to your writing. You can set them up as an accountability partner, too, if you tend to procrastinate. One author friend agreed to do this with me, and each week we sent one new chapter for the other to edit and critique. This keeps you writing and on target for finishing a manuscript.

You can find critique partners through online writers’ groups and organizations or at local writers’ clubs, And again, by attending a writers’ conference and hooking up with someone you feel a good connection with. I treasure my critique partners.

  1. Apply yourself to becoming a better master of your language

Say What front coverWant an easy way to improve your writing chops? Get my book Say What? It will teach you so much about grammar, usage, and punctuation in a painless way.Since I’m a professional copyeditor and writing coach, it stands to reason that I’m going to suggest this. I can’t overemphasize how much your writing will improve if you learn some good grammar and editing techniques.

So many published authors aren’t great with grammar, spelling, and punctuation. They may feel that’s not their concern—trusting the proofreader at their publishing house will catch and fix all the errors. But my feeling is that when you work hard to write better and more accurately—learning just where commas must go, when to use hyphens or italics, and how to properly punctuate dialogue—your writing will improve.

When you’re not hindered by these things you don’t know how to do, you can focus on writing beautiful sentences and creating powerful imagery. It’s not a waste of time to learn to master the handling of the English language.

Thank you for being a part of Live Write Thrive this year. It’s been a great year on my blog, and I hope all the posts on writing and writing life have encouraged and helped you in your writing journey.

If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter, be sure to do so. You’ll get my FREE BOOK on strategic planning (perfect timing for the New Year) and be kept informed of great offers, new books and courses, and other cool things I find that I think you’ll benefit from. Just click on the blue button on the right side bar to get your free book.

Wishing you all a very safe and happy New Year.

Tell me: what kinds of randomly kind acts do you like to commit? What kindnesses do you really appreciate being shown as you go about your day? What do you plan to do next year to be more balanced in your life?


Are you ready for the new year? Ready to get serious about your writing and crafting terrific books?

Don’t waste time floundering around in confusion. Getting professional help is the ticket. I spent decades writing novels and failing to sell them, without understanding what I was doing wrong. I wish I’d had someone like me to point out what my weaknesses were in my plots and structure so that I could have remedied them.

Studying writing craft books like 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing is a smart way to improve. But getting personalized help is even better.

editing 2Make it your resolution for this new year to get exactly the help you need so you can be the best writer possible!

My recommendation? Get either a ten-page or fifty-page critique. Right away you’ll see what you need to work on. Get feedback on those opening scenes and see how well you’ve set up your premise, plot, and characters. I make it easy for you.

Just click and submit:

10-page critique: $55

50-page critique: $260

If you’ve had professional help with your manuscript, you might want to submit the full manuscript to me. Get on my calendar so you’ll be all set. But if this is your first novel or you haven’t had any critique partners or an editor work with you on it, start with a shorter critique first.

Need editing? If your novel has been critiqued and you feel it’s ready for the next step, hire me and my team of editors to help you! I provide a unique editing service that’s twofold: content edit and proofreading, and I team up with one other editor (a published author as well), so you get two sets of professional eyes on your project! Editing doesn’t get more thorough than this.

Want more info? Tell me about your project, how far along you are, and what your editing needs are. Let’s get started and get your book in tip-top shape! Contact me here.


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