The Power of Books

As a girl, I was in awe of books, and authors who could dream up such fantastic worlds and characters and then describe them so vividly, you could see everything playing out like a movie in your head. I’d stay up late at night turning the pages of an Agatha Christie mystery, too wired on the suspense to sleep. I’d swoon over Mr. Darcy and I’d root for Samwise Gamgee, the unlikely hero and loyal friend, facing the terrors of Mordor to save our other unlikely hero, Frodo Baggins. I even devoured Dickens’s Great Expectations, though I struggle to get through his wordy passages now.

Still, I couldn’t fully appreciate everything an author must go through to produce a single work until I finally, finally, finished Silent Kingdom. Book one was definitely the longest adventure in this series for me thus far; I was brainstorming and writing book two, Forsaken Kingdom, as I edited and revised the first, so FK progressed much faster. SK took years. I started with a terrible short story concept that grew into a far better full-length novel, and then into a series.

Agonizing over the plot, poking it here and there to try to find every possible hole? I’ve done that. Holding my breath as my writing mentor and friend and then my beta readers sent me feedback? Check. Rereading and rereading again, pulling apart sentences to rework them, only to put them back the way they originally were? You bet I’ve done that too.

But perhaps the hardest writing stage was the part where I set my book aside.

On a beautiful, sunny afternoon in September, I was writing my book in my spare time between the two jobs I worked…while a few miles down the road, my parents were in the accident that took their lives. Through my journey with grief, and maybe especially because I knew I’d been writing–doing something I loved as they died, which felt like the ugliest of ironies–I pushed aside books. I couldn’t read or write as I did before. I couldn’t live or be myself as I did before. Happiness, and anything that brought happiness, felt like guilt. Everything was darkness.

Then, gradually, the light started to return. I remembered how much my parents had believed in me. I remembered who I was again. I couldn’t give it up because they died or I hurt. In fact, that was the greatest reason to embrace my passion again. To make them proud. To make the most of whatever time I had left on earth, when life is so fragile.

I believe most authors have testimonies like that. Every book we write holds a piece of our hearts and souls. Each book is a journey, and it reflects our own life journeys maybe just as much as it reflects our characters’ journeys. And each reader relates to these journeys in their own ways, based on whatever they are going through.

Maybe that, most of all, is what makes books so awe-inspiring to us all.

Just 15 Minutes a Day

The problem with undertaking any big project or goal, including writing a novel, is that it feels massive. (Obviously.)

When I tell myself, “I need to write today,” it’s easy for me to have a long list of excuses…

I’m not feeling inspired right now.

I’m tired.

I don’t have time. 

Maybe later.

It’s hard trying to write books and take that passion seriously, while also working a full-time job. Right? Life gets busy, and it’s unfortunately all-too-easy to push aside what I’ve called a “hobby” for years.

But this year, I want to treat writing as another job. Because it’s not just a hobby to me–it’s a passion. And that means it needs to be a priority.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received for taking my writing seriously is to just carve out 15 minutes each day. That’s all. No matter how busy I get, it’s easy to set aside 15 minutes for something, right?

I mean, I spend more time on my phone at the end of the day, doing absolutely nothing productive. Surely I can sit down and write anything, whether it be writing my book or a blog post or whatever else comes to mind, to keep my creative juices flowing.

And you know what?

It’s totally worked. 

In fact, by giving myself a small, manageable writing goal, I’ve consistently written every day since the end of December, usually for longer periods of time than 15 minutes (because once I start, I realize I do have some ideas floating around in my brain and I do have more than 15 minutes right then to dedicate to writing.

It’s kept my momentum going with my book (Silent Kingdom # 3) and, I hope, will help me continue to strengthen my writing skills. It definitely leaves no room for the “I have writer’s block” excuse.

Because even if I write total crap, I can definitely always write something for 15 minutes, and that means…there is no writer’s block.

If you want it enough, you’ll make the time and find the motivation to do it.

What tips or tricks have helped you accomplish a big goal, writing-related or otherwise?

 

Fear. In Life, in Books.

I will not bow to fear.”

-Rachel L. Schade, SILENT KINGDOM Book 3

Yep. I just quoted myself. Because I can. 😉

And I also wanted to give you a sneak peek into what I’m up to in my little writing world.

I’m drafting book three in the SILENT KINGDOM series, and this quote will be featured in it. For sure.

Facing and overcoming fear is a huge part of my main character Halia’s journey, and a big theme of the series.

It’s also a huge part of my own life journey, which is probably why I find I need to write words like this. “I will not bow to fear” needs to be my mantra too. In the hard times of life. In the seasons of change or uncertainty. In the moments where I must choose whether I will step outside of my comfort zone, or settle for mediocrity and less-than.

If you write, do you find–even in fictional pieces–that you write about personal things, or even messages that maybe you need to hear and remember?

5 Tips to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for reflecting on the highs and lows of 2018. The goals achieved or failed. The memories made and the challenges endured.

A lot of people take this time to think about what they want to accomplish in 2019.

I used to think resolutions were a little silly, considering that they are usually abandoned a few months into the new year. But, being a goal-oriented person, I decided to start looking at them in a new way.

And you know what?

I accomplished almost every single goal I made for 2018.

In fact, I blew some out of the water. Some I scrambled to achieve last-minute…yes, here’s looking at you, 5K I ran over winter break. But hey, Christmas Eve 2018 is still 2018!

Here are some of my tips for achieving your goals in 2019:

1. Stop calling them resolutions already.

Resolutions get a bad rap. We think we have to plan them all in December, and we think they have to be huge.

Goals can be made and reset throughout the year. You can set even more goals in June, if you want. You don’t have to wait for a new year to start new ones or start over with current ones. Resolutions are restricting; goals are freeing.

Set goals.

2. Make them realistic.

We tend to set crazy goals for ourselves that sound more like they belong on a bucket list rather than something we want to happen in a single year. I remember watching TV and seeing some of the top resolutions people made, and one was “fall in love.”

How do you even plan that? What if you don’t meet someone in the year that you find attractive or kind or smart or [insert your desirable quality here] enough to fall in love with? Then you fail your resolution and therefore, you feel like a failure over something you couldn’t really attain in the first place due to no opportunity.

Instead, you need to set goals you actually have some control over. Then you can be your own cheerleader as you start to zero in on your ultimate goal. Did you want to read 50 books in the year, and now it’s June and you’ve hit the halfway mark? Way to go! It’s time to celebrate.

3. Start small.

It’s better to start small and achieve those goals, than set a huge goal and grow discouraged. Do you want to run a race in 2019, but you’ve never run before? It might be more realistic to first set a goal to run your first mile. Or sign up for a running app that includes running programs or a coaching feature. Maybe you can commit to running a certain amount of times or number of miles each week.

If you break your goals down into manageable, smaller goals, you will be more likely to stay motivated and achieve your big goals. After all, if you have a lot of mini-goals to celebrate throughout the year, you’re going to feel happy, successful, and confident enough to keep pressing toward more goals. And that’s huge!

4. Keep them measurable.

If you want to lose weight, give yourself a number. If you want to become more fit, set a goal for how many days you’ll go to the gym or workout at home per week. Don’t be embarrassed if you start small. You want your goals to challenge you, not to crush you. If you know in your heart that you won’t actually follow through on a commitment to exercise 3 times a week, try 1 time a week first.

5. Be accountable.

If you need to share your goals with others, or partner with someone else and achieve a goal together, great. But you don’t always need to depend on others to accomplish your goals. Sometimes just writing out your goals in a journal or on a piece of paper can be enough. My 2018 goals are in a notebook. Once I wrote them down, I felt more obligated to complete them, even if no one else ever saw them. Writing them down made them real.

And of course, if you bomb a goal in January, remember that it isn’t the end of the world. You can set new goals or try again for those old goals in February. Or July. Or even December.

So don’t give up. Dream big for 2019. I know I will. But don’t feel embarrassed or lame if you start small. When your friends give up on their diets or workout plans somewhere in mid-February because their goals still feel light-years away, you may have already accomplished a few of yours and be well on your way toward the new goals you’ve set.

Happy New Year!

__________

What are some of your goals for 2019?