• writing

    100 Bowls



    Before I was a writer…I was a potter.


    I picked up the clay habit on a whim by taking a ceramics class just for fun. Soon it was a craft I spent every extra minute honing.


    No one sits down at a potter’s wheel one day and starts producing perfectly weighted and even bowls. It takes practice. Lots of practice.


    After a couple years, I became decent. We ate many of our meals from dishes I’d created, but I wasn’t satisfied, so I issued myself a challenge. I would focus on the art of throwing bowls, but my next 100 would be for practice only.


    I sat at the kick wheel in my garage day after day, pulling clay into delicate curves. When I was satisfied with the creation, I’d look it over, smile, then press my hands into its soft sides, reducing the bowl to a unformed lump again. And this continued until I reached bowl number 100. Along the way there were a few I was tempted to keep, but my dedication was to improving my craft.


    I tell you this because learning to write has been very similar. Countless stories remain hidden in my laptop where they will stay. Their purpose was like that of the 100 bowls, to learn, to improve, and to find my own individual voice.


    Though you couldn’t bribe me to let you read these stories, I appreciate them for what they taught me. Each unpublished manuscript represents a piece of the learning process.


    If you want to write, or paint, or achieve any creative goal, I challenge you to pursue your art. Don’t get bogged down in self-criticism. Treat every attempt as a step toward success.


    Mastery does not come easy. When speaking of artistic disciplines, mastery may never occur. The beauty is in the journey, the smashed clay, and the hidden manuscripts. While they will never be seen, they are the necessary miles that must be covered.


    “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
    —Ernest Hemingway


    Don’t forget to sign up for the $15 Amazon gift card giveaway. Details can be found here.







  • ACFW,  conferences,  writing

    So, You’re Not at the ACFW Conference

    So…you’re staying home from ACFW this year? Me too.


    St. Louis MBT PP


    For a Christian writer, ACFW is the big event of the year. It’s a place where crazy authors from all over the world meet in one place and feel normal for a few days. A great experience, but one that I can’t afford to attend each year.


    The way I see it, we have a choice. We can watch all the updates on Facebook and dip into I-wish-I-were-there self-pity, or we can take the time we have at home and further out writing careers in a different way.


    Here’s a few things to prioritize this week:


    1. Continued commitment to your writing goals. Monday through Saturday I have a minimum word count goal. Right now, because I’m doing more editing than writing, my goal is 600 words. Next month I’ll start a new manuscript and the goal will increase to 2,500. At the end of the day I mark my number on the calendar and total the week on Saturday. Set yourself goals and stick to them.
    2. Spend time learning. There are so many resources we can access from home. Check your local bookstore, library or writers group for books on writing. Check out some blogs focused on craft. Listen to audio recordings from past conferences. And of course, read a good book in your genre.
    3. Connect with others. It’s easy for my introverted self to nestle in at home with only my laptop for company. Take some time to reconnect with friends. Go out for coffee and just enjoy a good conversation.
    4. Take your writing somewhere new. If you work from home, go to a coffee shop, or the library. A change of environment is a great way to spark new creativity.
    5. Cheer on those who did go. Jealousy and comparing ourselves to others will only serve to zap our energy and passion. Those who are attending ACFW this week are some of our friends, and they’ve worked hard to be there. Let’s get behind them and pray them through the week.
    6. Start making plans to attend a conference. Next year the ACFW conference will be in Dallas, Texas. The year after that, Nashville. Conferences are expensive and time-consuming, but I’ve never left feeling I’ve wasted my money. Start saving now. Consider applying for the ACFW scholarship. If you can’t manage this national conference, look for a local option. Last year I attended Mount Hermon, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had.



    Do you have any other suggestions? Post them in the comments. I’d love to hear them.


    Have a great and productive week,


  • ACFW,  guest blogger,  writing

    Donna Moore’s Take on Procrastination

    Donna Moore is guest blogging for me today. She actually wrote this for me weeks ago, but I PROCRASTINATED. With Nanowrimo behind me and Christmas still a few weeks away, I’m forcing myself to get a few things done. Okay, I’m avoiding a writing project that has me stumped.

    Before I hand my blog over to Donna, I want you to know what a special person she is. About three years ago I was matched up on an online critique group. If that sounds kind of like a blind date, it is. Sometimes the matches work, and sometimes…well, not so much. This group works. Donna is a constant encourager. She has three children and a husband and always shows by example how to love God through loving her family. Donna is always there when I need to talk, vent or when I need someone to pray for me. Her heart is tender and huge. She is one of the unexpected blessings I’ve been granted through my writing career. Thank you, Donna!


    I have learned that my friends on Facebook have nothing to say. Not that what they say isn’t intelligent and important. That isn’t it at all. I have amazing friends. I mean, they simply weren’t updating as often as I was checking. Shouldn’t someone have something to post every two seconds?

    This week I struggled with Blank-Page Syndrome. It is a painful experience for any writer. I was creative this week in my avoidance of the blank page and taunting cursor. I often tell my teenage son not to procrastinate, but when it comes to writing when I am up against a wall of little to no ideas, often I find myself doing just this. It’s another case of do as I say and not as I do.

    It’s not that I’m not productive during my procrastination sessions. Things get done that I would normally put off for another. Yes, procrastination at times rules my life.  In honor of my procrastination techniques I wrote a poem which also served as another way to avoid dealing with my manuscript.

    If you give a writer a blank screen some will take off and write an amazing adventure, but others will clean their house and vacuum the living room twice just to see if the canister will fill up again.

    If you give a writer a blank screen you might find yourself wrapped in the arms of a dashing hero as he woos his lady love, but others will take their puppy on a walk and pretend it was the dog’s idea.

    If you give a writer a blank screen they might have you flying into outer space on in a hot air balloon, but others might check their Facebook just to see if anything has happened in their friend lives within the last two seconds.

    If you give a writer a blank screen you could find yourself sailing the seas with a rogue pirate or coaching a football game of misfits, but others will organize the pantry alphabetically.

    If you give a writer a blank screen they might write about a widower finding his second love or they could go scrub the bathrooms paying special attention to the area around the toilet.

    If you give a writer a blank screen they might pull you right into the middle of a world surrounded with elves and dwarfs, but then others will go and mow the yard instead.

    If you give a writer a blank screen they could take you to exotic locations, but then others will go to the grocery store for the fourth time that week just to walk up and down the aisles.

    If you give a writer a blank screen those who sit down and write have the potential to do amazing things while others, well they will do lots of other things.


    I joke about how much effort I put into avoiding writing this week when I find such joy in actually writing. The advice I have heard the most is “Put your butt in the seat and write every day.” It’s true. You can’t grow as a writer by avoiding writing anymore that you can grow as an athlete by avoiding practicing your sport.  You don’t wake up one morning and decide to run 26.2 miles anymore than you can wake up and write an amazing story in one day. You have to work at it daily with diligence and perseverance.  You have to train even on the days when it doesn’t come easily and everything you write you know will be cut. There are things that you can do to help get yourself in the seat daily. I feel I should reveal that this is an area I struggle with on the days and weeks when writing is hard but then you probably guessed that about me.

    First, set up your area with little distractions. If you are like me, and seeing a messy house distracts you, find a space where you can’t see the shoes all over the living room or the laundry folded but not put away on the couch. I love to write on my swing on the back porch. I can’t see the clutter in the house and if I leave phones inside no one can find me. Salesmen can ring the doorbell all day long, but I simply can’t hear it out back.

    Next, set a time.  I am also going to add, and this is a hard one for me, if you sit down at the same time everyday you will become conditioned to know that this is your writing time. I would also add, you need to guard this time as the jewel it is. Don’t allow others to intrude. Don’t make appointments or set up meetings during your appointed writing time. Avoid self-imposed distractions.  Turn off the internet to your computer while you write. Email, Facebook and other social media outlets will act as distractions. Trust me when I say, the email will wait and no matter how wonderful your friends are, they don’t update enough to check every two minutes.  And really do you need to know that Janet is going to take a nap or Fred is on his second cup of joe?  Setting a time will help you be more accountable. It is easy for writers to move that writing time around each day and if you are a disciplined person, which I am not, that may work well. For those who struggle with time management, put it on your calendar and set a date with your manuscript. Your characters deserve to have their story told and they need the time with you to do it.

    Lastly, what has worked well with my critique group is to hold each other accountable. Set a word count goal or a page goal and don’t get up until you have fulfilled it. Those are the days I feel best because I know I am one more step closer to my dream.  Write to that goal even if what you write isn’t what you had in mind before you plunked yourself down. You might be surprised at what you get, of course you could end up cutting a large chunk, but buried in there might be a ruby of an idea.

    Now stop procrastinating and go forth and write.




  • family,  writing

    Nanowrimo Anticipation!



    Tomorrow is a big day, and not just because of the crazy sugar withdrawals.

    Tomorrow is the first day of NANOWRIMO!

    New story. New characters. New setting.

    I can hardly wait!

    And while I’m waist-deep in story world, my family will not starve, and our home will not turn into a complete trash pile.  At least it didn’t the last two time I won Nano.

    Here’s the ticket (well, what worked for me anyway):

    1. Plan out the entire month’s menu repeating meals each week. This makes even the grocery shopping a breeze.

    2. Have a plan to involve the kiddos in maintaining a somewhat livable home.

    3. Schedule writing time each day and commit to that time. I use a timer to stay focused.

    4. Avoid online distractions. Try a program like RescueTime. I love this.

    5. Cut out extra commitments, which means saying “no” sometimes. It’s so much harder than it sounds.

    6. Learn to be comfortable with lower household standards. You can clean it up in December.

    7. Get up a little earlier each morning. Ouch! I know this one hurts but it will be worth it.

    8. DON’T get behind.


    Here’s the Nelson family menu November:

    Mondays – lasagna (It’s already made and in the freezer)

    Tuesdays – Crockpot Italian Chicken and broccoli

    Wednesday – soup (already made at Safeway) and yummy bread

    Thursday – Taco/burrito night

    Friday – rice bowls with veggies and leftover taco meat and beans

    Saturday – homemade pizza (the kids do a lot of this one)

    Sunday – make your own


    Happy writing!

    Are you doing Nanowrimo? What’s your battle plan?