Tag Archives: writing

3 Tips for Mental Downtime

I often long for the “good ol’ days.” Life seems to get more complicated as the decades pass by. Technology and expectations are increasing at a rate I have no desire to keep up with. I think of the contentment of my grandparents, living the lives that were in front of them, building relationships with people nearby. So peaceful, so simple (seemingly).

We lead a full life. We like it. It works for us.

But while we make an effort to keep from getting overwhelmed by busyness, I’ve found there’s a new source of overcommitment threatening our family.

Mental Busyness.

Over the past year my husband and I each began to pursue writing. He’s written several children’s books and I’ve written a middle grade Christian fiction novel; we’re both working toward getting them published.

We attended an amazing writers conference in May that opened our eyes to elements of this journey we didn’t even know existed. The top surprise being the importance of “platform.”

Platform is just another way of describing the realm of your reach or influence. The more people you can reach, the more books you’ll eventually sell.

When you think of an aspiring author, you probably picture someone at their laptop, hot beverage nearby, typing away as a story flows from their fingertips. And yes, that is an accurate picture of an author. About 2% of the time.

So what about the other 98% of the time? This is spent crafting query letters and proposals (that must be nearly perfect, lest they get thrown out immediately). And some of the time is spent on social media, attempting to build an audience.

Honestly, I dislike social media on any terms other than keeping up with my own relationships. Now don’t get me wrong—I understand there’s merit to connecting with a potential audience, and I’m willing to put in time to do so. I realize it’s a business move. A must.

But guys. Oh my word.

Let me just say it’s beyond disheartening to research potential agents only to read over and over again “we will be Googling you and expect you to have a strong Twitter presence.” And Facebook. And Instagram. And blog. And email list. (Insert me pulling out my hair.)

It’s easy to fall into the dangerous territory of thinking, “Well, I apparently have to sell my soul to the social media devil if I ever want to become a published author. So much for the message God put on my heart. So much for the countless hours I poured into my manuscript.”

This is when I realize I’m holding the reins too tightly and not giving God enough credit.

God is the one who guides our paths. God is the one leading us to the right people and places on our journeys. So why am I the one trying to steer the ship? I have to constantly assess my frame of mind.

While we endeavor to keep our physical schedules at a healthy, manageable pace, what about our minds? We’re overcome with mental busyness.

We just returned from a long weekend away. One hotel room, five people. By the time we got home I was seriously craving some free time. You know, free time—you may have heard of it. The space required of all humans to continue functioning in such a busy, distracted world.

It’s not just physical downtime we need, but mental downtime as well.

If I wake up, immediately check Facebook and Instragram, go on with daily activities and chores (checking social media every time the kids are occupied), put the kids to bed and jump back online to continue building my platform before my head hits the pillow, what kind of life is that?

It’s a whole new type of rat race, that’s what. Our grandparents would shudder at the thought.

Thankfully, we have a patient, loving God. This means he’s not going to shout to get our attention when he has something to tell us. He’s going to wait patiently, watching and loving us, until we shut down the chaos in our minds enough to crawl back to him and sit quietly in his presence.

And that’s when God speaks to us. That’s when we’ll actually allow our ears to be tuned to him over the noise of our full lives.

Having a full life and chasing your dreams are not bad things. They’re wonderful, God-given things. But we’re the ones responsible for how we fill the moments of our days, physically and mentally.

Downtime is the best way to form fresh, potentially life-changing thoughts and ideas, and it’s the only time God can truly speak to my mind and guide my heart. And without that, it’s all meaningless.

Here are three simple ways to give ourselves more mental downtime:

  1. Turn off the radio. Am I the only one who defaults to music in the car or in the kitchen? I love music and can’t imagine a day without it. But what if we take some opportunities to deliberately replace music with silence? What might God want to say in those silences?
  1. Change our morning and/or evening routine by just 10 minutes. Ten minutes is doable for all of us, right? Set that alarm for ten minutes earlier or stay up ten minutes later, turn off all our devices and just be still. Listen for the voice of God.
  1. Schedule it in. We need to be deliberate. Turn off the TV while we’re folding laundry. Turn off Netflix before the next episode loads. Make a lunch date with God and write “meeting” on the calendar.

Let’s change our habits today. Let’s be deliberate about prioritizing mental downtime for ourselves, and give God space to move.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. You can also enter your email address to receive future blog posts directly to your inbox! Thanks for reading!

My So-Called Power

SO many apple blossoms

We have a large apple tree in our back yard. A few weeks ago it was chock full of baby apples. I’m talking, thousands. Today, if I walk up to examine it, I immediately notice a change. Between the ground level (where the old, heavy branches hang, touching the grass) and about five feet up, all around the tree, there are no apples. Above that level, there are still hundreds, if not thousands.

Most evenings, lately, you would find me on our screened-in back porch. Reading, writing, just sitting. And most evenings (and many mornings), lately, I’ve observed a deer making herself at home as she takes her supper from our apple tree. It’s a beautiful, peaceful sight and I don’t mind sharing, since we have plenty. It’s just been making me think…

Will it thrive or even survive?

Sometimes, especially with this writing business I’ve been attempting this year, I feel like a baby apple, hanging around the five foot mark, not sure if I’m going to survive and thrive, or if I’m going to be knocked down and eaten for breakfast. There are so many unknowns. So many things I don’t even know I don’t know.

But there’s something about the anticipation of the unknown. The excitement you feel knowing, once you proceed with whatever lies in front of you, things will either go well…or not so well.

Maybe it’s the nerves you feel before an interview. “What if this turns out to be my dream job? What if they never call me back?”

Maybe you’re sending your child off to school for the first time. “What if they don’t make friends? What if they make amazing friends?”

Or in my case, I’m finishing up my first book proposal. (If this is a foreign concept to you like it was to me only a few months ago, let me tell you this. Writing a book proposal is more intimidating than writing the book itself. It’s intense, people.)

When I complete the proposal I’ll be sending it off to a publisher who’s expressed interest in reviewing it. At this point, my mind is saying, “This is great, I’ve put a lot of love and hard work into this! Hopefully they’ll love it!”

But I know as soon as I press send to email it to the publisher, my mind will switch to, “Oh no, what if they hate it? What if it’s terrible and no one wants it?”

Why the big difference?

Right now, before I hit send, I’m the one in control. As soon as I press send I’m relinquishing all my so-called power.

It’s the same concept as when we offer our love to another person, knowing they now have the power to hurt us. Or even just going to work every day, knowing that you have a boss who ultimately has the power over your future.

We quickly go from the excitement of unknown possibilities to the other side, where worry, fear, and distrust make their home in our minds.

Beauty in the unknown. Will it become a juicy, delicious apple? Or deer supper?

But what if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if we could hold on to the same optimism and hope we had from the start? “That’s impossible,” you might say. “Don’t you know the world is a harsh place and you always have to be on your guard?”

Well, yes. It is wise to be on our guard to some degree, knowing that the world is a messy place and we don’t want to be taken advantage of.

BUT.

We don’t want to hold so tightly to our guard that our hands are too full to embrace the good plans God has for our lives. Wouldn’t that be a shame?

What if we tried making the choice (yes, choice) to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and replace the negative thoughts with the truths God wants us to remember about his good plans for us?

Truths like Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

You see, if we did more than simply read this verse and tried actually believing it and letting it absorb into our hearts and minds, I have a feeling we might find a little less anxiety and worry on the other side of whatever intimidating situation lies in front of us today.

Now I’m going to go (hopefully) finish up my proposal. And then I’m going to hit send. And then I’m probably going to have some (okay, lots of) coffee and chocolate while I let the butterflies settle.

And then I’m going to do my best to give my control to God instead of being fearful that I gave it away to someone else. Because honestly, if I ever truly believed I held the power in my own hands, I would have some serious soul-searching to do. It’s freeing to know that God has the power here. Thank goodness I’m not the one calling the shots.

(Addendum, 5 days later. The publisher is interested in my manuscript! Now the journey continues as I search for an agent. Yes, this process is a little backward, but this seems to be the path God is laying before me, so I’ll keep walking it unless I’m otherwise redirected. Now I just hold on tight and see what happens!) 

What are you holding your breath about in your life right now as you wait to see which way something goes? Are you keeping yourself from hope in fear of being disappointed? Are you embracing the possibilities?

Leave me a comment to let me know what’s going on with you. I’d love to lift you up in prayer on your journey. And while you’re at it, zip over to the subscribe button (on the side of your computer or the bottom of your phone) —I’d love to be able to send you future posts directly to your inbox! (No, spam, promise.)