New Year’s resolutions…or not

But I can’t find my list of resolutions.

Anywhere.

So I either 1) put it somewhere I wouldn’t forget, and I’ll find it in another six months or so, or 2) the dog ate it, along with several grocery lists and the instructions for assembling my husband’s new bike, or 3) I never made a list in the first place.

I have a suspicion it’s door #3: I never made resolutions for 2017.

And here’s why:

  1. Years ago, I realized I didn’t have to wait for a new year to begin new habits or improve on old ones. Making resolutions is really procrastination, waiting for the right moment to begin a new project or make a change. Every writer I know has learned the truth – there is no ‘right’ moment to start writing. A new year is not going to magically make it happen. You just have to sit down and write. Now.
  2. Resolutions sugarcoat tough realities. Of course, a writer resolves to write a book every year. Some years, that actually happens. Yippee! Other years, that ambitious resolution gets buried by the nuts-and-bolts of marketing the last book you wrote, preventing you from even picking a topic or plot for the new book you wanted to write this year. Or you have a family crisis that demands all your attention and energy. Experienced writers know that life happens…and when it does, writing resolutions go out the window…until those same writers are ready to process what they’ve experienced and incorporate it into their next book, which may not be the next book they thought they’d be writing.
  3. Resolutions are limiting. Again, life is full of surprises, and when a writer feels tugged in a new direction, an old resolution can be inhibiting. Why keep hammering away on that novel you’ve worked over for years, when an unexpected opportunity to write (or co-write) a self-improvement book presents itself and you find yourself drawn to it? Good writers know they need to welcome growth opportunities, sometimes even before they finish old projects.

So you won’t find me writing resolutions for 2018 in the next week. Instead, I’m going to rejoice in all the satisfying things my writing life brought me in 2017: learning how to build my own website, hearing from a growing number of readers how much they enjoy my books, an unexpected nomination for a Christy Award from my publisher, invitations to speak to groups, returning to writing a blog, sharing my faith with published devotionals, and mentoring new writers.

Wait a minute. I am going to write one resolution after all. And here it is: Thank God every day for the gift of writing.

I know I can remember that. And I’ll never have to worry about the dog eating it, either…

Happy New Year, writers!

How about you? Do you make resolutions?

(This post appeared earlier today at https://wordservewatercooler.com/2017/12/26/new-years-resolutions-or-not/)

Awe – some thoughts from 3 am

I caught the tail end of the Leonid meteor shower this weekend, although it was more by chance than intention. I have a cold, and my cough woke me up at 3 am, and while I sat there coughing, I remembered that the meteor shower was this weekend. Not that I have it marked on my calendar (which is a really good idea, now that I think about it), but because I’ve always been interested in astronomy. Since I knew I wouldn’t be falling back asleep for at least a while – it was going to be another hour before I could take my next dose of Nyquil – I tossed on a robe and slippers and went outside to stargaze.

I wish you could have seen it.

Brilliant stars. Millions of them. And I even spotted a few meteors, streaking across the sky before disappearing in a wink.

No wind and no sound. I could have been floating through space like Matthew McConaughy in Interstellar or Sandra Bullock in Gravity…but without all the life-threatening drama, thankfully.

Seeing that night sky did make me feel sorry, though, for everyone who hasn’t witnessed the spectacle of a star-studded night. The distances and physics involved are mind-bending enough, not to mention the humbleness you feel in the presence of vast creation and the awe it inspires. It makes me want to snatch any kind of screen or diversion from anyone’s hand and shout at them: “LOOK! Life is all around you – get involved with it!”

Whoa.

That’s a bit over the top for 3 am, don’t you think?

I guess I could blame the Nyquil that was wearing off, but the truth for me is that I love this earth, this  life itself, and starry nights always take my breath away in awe and reverence for God who created it all. I wish everyone felt that way – awestruck, blessed, grateful.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission may be impossible…

Good morning, Ms. Dunlap. We have learned from various unnamed sources that somewhere in your 1.5 acres of woods and tall grasses there are four Chuck-it balls, at least 10 tennis balls and two big black Lab/Shepherd dogs.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the dogs and all the balls before they get washed out of the yard in the first heavy rain of the fall. As always, should you or any of your team be caught or killed, we will disavow any knowledge of your mission.

Good luck, Jan.

(Cue Mission Impossible music theme)

 

Natives and dogs are happy here

Restoring native habitat is one of the joys of our life on our new property in the Texas Hill Country. Now in our second fall here, I especially love the tall grasses that blanket the open spaces of our yard, and boy, do we have a lot of them! The grasses reach up to my chest in September and October, which means we have a sea of grasses beyond our back porch. My favorites are the muhli, which look like sprays from fountains right now.

The dogs get a real kick out of running through the grass first thing in the morning, too. They emerge wet from patches of grass covered in dew, while I’m decked out in my tall rubber boots in an attempt to keep my feet and legs dry. Michael, our not-yet-two-year-old Lab/Shepherd mix, has become ball crazy, and while he manages to usually find a ball in the yard, it’s not always the one we just threw. And then, sometimes, he gets distracted on his way to the ball, and ends up chasing Gracie instead. Hence, we have at least a dozen, and probably many more, balls out in our yard somewhere. Every morning when I set out to locate the missing tennis and bright orange Chuck-it balls, I can’t stop the Mission Impossible theme playing in my head.

Gee, maybe it’s time to call in the special ops team for help. Anyone have a direct line to Tom Cruise?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind every writer

And so, since I am committed to transparency in my career, I confess that I, too, rely on a staff to help me produce books. Let me introduce you to Team Jan:

Eddy is my editor. His sharp eyes don’t miss much. In fact, he may be the most demanding editor I’ve ever had. After I’ve slogged and wrestled with a heartfelt devotional or a chapter of plot twists, he often wipes out what I have done with one (paw)stroke on the keyboard, requiring me to attack the material again. And without fail, I have to admit, the second version is always better. He teaches me that patience, diligence, and revision make a better writer out of a good one. I just wish he’d stop shedding so much on the keyboard.

Michael is my personal trainer. He knows that too much sitting stagnates the body and mind, so he insists on frequent breaks from writing to both tone my muscles and clear my thoughts. There’s nothing like a competitive game of tug-of-war with a 75-pound dog to take your mind off character development, and Michael makes sure I sweat through several rounds every day. Afterwards, I’m more than ready to bring a focused mind to my writing project. Or else I take a nap.

Gracie is my spiritual director. We start every day with a walking meditation and prayer that helps set my priorities for the day. Many of my best pieces of writing result from the inspiration I find while in her company; her ability to live intensely in the moment motivates me to pay attention to details in the world around me. Sometimes, she points me to hidden pathways, inviting me to stretch my horizons of experience, which then influence my writing. I try to be open to those new directions, although the one that unexpectedly dumped me into a muddy gully was not one of her better ideas.

And finally, there’s Otis, the perfect project manager. When I’m stressing about a deadline, he calms me down by modeling relaxed behavior, reminding me that too often, I’m the one putting pressure on myself to perform. His easy-going nature encourages me to take my career with a proverbial grain of salt – or in his case, with a couple of Purina Kitty Treats – because in the big scheme of things, writing is just one facet of my life. Like every good project manager, Otis knows the value of balance…and the value of a good belly rub every now and then.

Who’s on your team?

 

 

 

This post is also appearing today at https://wordservewatercooler.com/2017/09/07/behind-every-writer/. The WordServe Water Cooler is a blog “encouraging, engaging, and enriching others throughout their writing journey,” and its contributors come from the WordServe Literary Agency, of which I am most gratefully a part.