I was fortunate to be able to attend the Novelist Retreat that Yvonne Lehman puts on
at Ridgecrest near Ashville, NC. It was a time of getting to meet other authors and offer workshops for writers to learn more of the craft of writing.
One of the most important lessons to learn is that there is no one way to write. You have to learn, by experience, what works best for you,.
This was evidenced by the writers selected to be our faculty. In this corner (read in the voice of the WWE announcer) was Steven James. Steven is an organic writer, which means he writes without an outline. He lets the story guide him. Sometimes into a corner, without a way out. But, he says, that is often when we have to be our most creative. (His book, Story Trumps Structure is a great resource and teacher of this method.)
And in this corner. . . Torry Martin and Diann Mills showed how structure gives you a start and format for your book or story. A simple way to look at this is the three-act structure with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Recently, we got a journal called Christ Walk, a 40-Day Spiritual Fitness Programby Anna Fitch Courie. In the Introduction, she describes herself as “average, average height, average looks, average intelligence, average Christian, average person.” That’s pretty average. She had trained as an RN and worked as a health promotion coordinator for the 1st Infantry Division. So she should have some insights on how to be healthy.
She started a walking program at her church, and that’s the basis of most of this book. It’s more of an encouraging journal than a how-to exercise manual. In other words, instead of a coach in your ear, she’s a friend who goes through the journey with you.
The book we got was especially interesting because it was second-hand and someone had already filled it in. Reading through it was like watching someone else go through the program.
But the lady who had the book ran into some of the same problems that many of us encounter. She had great plans, but life jumped in. She wanted to walk on the treadmill each day. Now, treadmills are great, but not so much everyday. It’s easy to get bored and they’re never in a convenient place.
On day four, she journaled that her family schedule conflicted with her goal, that she hurt, and she didn’t do anything. “She failed.” Her words. Day five was also a bad day and you could see the trend building on her. One bad day often leads to another, and then to abandoning the plan.
I was proud of her though, she kept with it. She gave it another try toward the end, but she’d lost heart. If she was like many of us, clothes were hanging on her treadmill.
The last few weeks were underlined, but the journal part was blank. And you could tell it had become a burden. She was probably in a class doing her homework.
Her goal of growing spiritually, mentally, and physically turned into just another chore. Been there, done that.
Here are a few tips I would have given her:
Keep your program flexible. The treadmill is tough because you can’t fit it into your daily life. I like tracking steps with a fitbit (mine is a Garmin Vivofit) because I can do a little here, a little there, it all adds up. But a treadmill is great as the days get colder, shorter, and wetter. I have an indoor bike and I can ride it and still be home with Madison. But, when the weather permits, I want to walk in the neighborhood. And little bits add up. You do have to do it all at once.
Don’t jump in the deep end. She expected herself to hit her goals from day one. That’s why she wrote, “She hurts.” Start light, not necessarily easy. Remember, this was a forty day challenge. You don’t want to do on day one, what you’ll do on day 40. Allow yourself to build up to it.
Pack extra rope. She didn’t leave herself any room for error. Something will happen to murk up your plans and schedule. Your family will have sports, sickness, something. Your work will require overtime. Be ready to allow yourself to miss a day or to work around the conflict.
And finally, you may fail, but you aren’t a failure. Any step forward is a step forward. Again, like I said in the last post, life is a marathon. You will have a lot of starts and stops. But don’t let your stops be final, make them timeouts and get back up. In running, there’s a formula:
This means, read backwards, Dead Last is better than Did Not Finish, which is better than Did Not Start. At least you got off the couch. It’s about doing better than you think, or you did before.
Our goal should be to keep striving to get better; physically, mentally, and spiritually. Remember, this side of Heaven, you will always be a work in progress.
A few months ago, new numbers began to appear on the scale when I weighed. Now, I am getting a little older, mid-fifty. So I know I need to get my weight under control or I could have even bigger health problems later.
Being healthy is a lifelong struggle, and we need to be diligent in caring for ourselves. I tried the South Beach Diet probably ten years ago and lost thirty pounds. The problem was the changes I made didn’t stick, whichhas led to my recent dilemma.
When I was in my forties, I wanted to avoid having to take blood pressure medicine. I made changes to my diet and started running. I worked up to running two half marathons. (And no, two halves do not make a whole. I can’t imagine the training you have to do to run a marathon.) The last one was near my 50th birthday.
The results of trying to stay off the meds: I’m taking two blood pressure pills a day.