What Are Your Priorities? What Are Mine?

by Michael Ehret

“Our life is the sum total of all the decisions we make every day, and those decisions are determined by our priorities.” Myles Munroe, 1959-2014, founded and led the Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI)

There are so many things one can do. Many, many, many of them are good, prosperous, even inspirational. This post, my last for Novel Rocket, is about not doing any of those good, prosperous, and inspirational things.

Been thinking a lot about focus and priorities—and purpose. I’ve been given—and have developed—a certain skill set. The same is true for you.

But on top of that, God has gifted me with creativity and empathy, a combination that helps me see into the inner lives of people and develop scenarios that will, hopefully, not only entertain them but help them live better. My decisions have not always focused on using those gifts in the best ways—good ways, often, but not the best. It’s time to focus on using my gifts differently.

“I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything … . So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.”  Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor

My original intent for this post—now, don’t laugh—was to outline for the writers who read it how to focus their time and attention on the things that matter. But as I started writing, it occurred to me that this is clearly not a subject I know anything about.

I’m learning a little, perhaps, bit by bit (thank you, Allen), but am in no position to suggest to any of you how to do it. With one key exception.

Do it with God. Do it with God intentionally. Because, if you don’t, this world will lead you more away from your calling than toward it.

“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” (Romans 12:2, The Voice)

Implied in this Scripture, which I have claimed as my life verse since my salvation as an adult in 1981, is the fact that this world will attempt to mold me (and you) and that, as a child of God, it is my responsibility to resist that attempt by staying close to God and perceiving, through prayer and study, His will for me.

It only took me 35 years to begin seeing this verse in a more full manner.

Maybe that’s what I can leave with you. Maybe that’s your takeaway. Stay close to the Lover of Your Soul. And leave room in your life for Him to lead. Then follow. Follow.

TWEETABLES

What Are Your Priorities? What Are Mine? by Michael Ehret (Click to Tweet)


It’s time to focus on using my gifts differently~ Michael Ehret (Click to Tweet)

Do it with God intentionally~ Michael Ehret (Click to Tweet)

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Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.

Accountability? I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Accountability!

By Michael Ehret @writingfineline

“Accountability breeds response-ability.”—Stephen R. Covey

I fear accountability.

There, I’ve said it. I need it; but I avoid it. But it hasn’t always been so.
Early in my time at Bethel College (Indiana), I was invited to join a group called the Writers’ Accountability Network (WAN). Members of WAN began each month by sharing their goals for the next four weeks. At the end of that time, we all reported on our success—and where we didn’t quite measure up. In between, we encouraged each other.

I’ve never completed so much writing! In fact, while a member of that group I wrote the first draft of my novel.

What happened?

As I took on more responsibilities professionally—a good thing—I soon found myself over-committed—a bad thing—and left the group.

I’ve worked on the novel sporadically since then, never with the intensity and commitment of those days.

So I’ve learned something: I need accountability to be productive. As Proverbs 27:17 tells us: “In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.” (The Voice). That was the benefit WAN provided.

I need to make changes. I need to embrace, again, the power of being a good sheep. Here’s how I do it. Maybe it will help you.

Setting boundaries

The biblical idea of Jesus as our shepherd and us as His sheep has always resonated with me. I have sheepy tendencies. In WAN, we were all sheep within the same pen. The fences (goal-setting, accountability, encouragement, and reporting) helped us be good sheep together.

These are the fences I need to build now to get back some of that accountability.

  • Fence 1—Television: I can’t give up it up entirely, but I can cut back by at least an hour or two a week. (Can’t give up Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy—that’s good writer TV!)
  • Fence 2—Social media: It’s time to wrestle my e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter addictions to the ground. There’s an important place for social media, but too much of any good thing can be a problem.
  • Fence 3—Mornings: While in WAN I got up early to write for an hour before reporting to my job—and it worked. I completed the first draft. I’m not sure that will work with the job I have now, but how can I repair this hole in my fence?
  • Fence 4—Accountability: This is the gate to my sheep pen. I need writing partners, other sheep, who will make sure I do what I say I’m going to do—and who’ll cut me no slack when I don’t.

Speaking of accountability: Who are you accountable to? What is your favorite accountability tool?
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Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.

Never Kick A Sleeping Skunk

By Michael Ehret

 

Would you kick this sleeping skunk?

“Never kick a sleeping skunk.”

— Kelly Long’s Mom

 

Here on Novel Rocket, we give a lot of advice, much of it writing related. Makes sense, right?
Sometimes we may even sound like a “Mom,” telling you the things you already know but are, ahem, choosing to ignore. 
And Mom’s have a lot of great advice. I’m sure we’ve all heard:
  • Money does not grow on trees.
  • Don’t make that face or it’ll freeze in that position.
  • Always change your underwear; you never know when you’ll be in a car accident.
  • Be careful or you’ll put your eye out.
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.

We could go on

— obviously.

But, I was intrigued by this bit of advice when Kelly shared it with me some time ago. Is there a writing application? What do you think?
What is your “sleeping skunk” in writing that you’re afraid to kick? What do you fear will happen if you do kick it? 

What is a sleeping skunk?

It’s that thing in your life that is holding you back. You’re afraid of what might happen if you kick it—if you wake it up. 

 For me, it’s “You’re not really good enough.” I’m afraid if I kick that skunk, it’ll jump up and spray me—and that fear keeps me paralyzed. For a person who deals in “What Ifs,” why am I so afraid of my own unknown?

You know, I could kick that skunk and it gets so startled that it stands up and runs away. It could happen. After all, it’s sleeping, not actively menacing me.
My foot’s getting itchy.

Enter your writing related advice about kicking sleeping skunks below.

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Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.

Why Can’t I Go To A Conference?

By Michael Ehret

After a solid decade (almost) of regularly attending writer’s conferences, this year I’m not able to. Let me correct that: I’m probably able to, but the door to attend one has not opened for me this year.

My conference of choice, American Christian Fiction Writers, is even meeting within driving distance of my home and the keynoter is one of my favorite authors: Ted Dekker. But it’s not happening this year and I vacillate between being OK about it and being pretty ticked off, truth be known. Can you relate?

At last year’s conference, I got what I considered a pretty clear message from God about my writing. (See the details here and here.) “I’m inviting you into a new season of writing.”

Surely that would include attending my favorite writing conference? Seeing my favorite writing friends? Surely? Apparently not—and don’t call me Shirley.

Feel like this guy because you can’t attend
a writer’s conference?

Despite my efforts to pry that door open—or to find that ‘promised’ open window God provides when He closes a door (you know that’s not biblical, right?)—there’s no conference in my year.

Are you there too? Are you feeling left out? On the outside looking in? Not one of the cool kids? Bring your pocket-protector self over and have a seat. OK, you’ve got three minutes to cry and fuss and whine. I’m setting a timer. 3-2-1 Go!

Feeling better? No? Well, me either, but here are three things you can do if you’re not attending a writer’s conference:

1. Buy yourself a much-needed or long-desired writing resource.

One of my favorite
fiction craft books

One of my reasons for not being able to go this year is monetary. That may be a reason for you, too. And it’s a valid reason. Even though we’re writers, we still have responsibilities that we can’t just toss away. Am I right?

So, instead of buying a conference (easily upwards of $1,500 with registration, hotel, plane ticket, etc.), treat yourself to some resource you’ve been wanting and putting off. Maybe that’s a craft book. Maybe that’s a writing assist program like Grammarly or Scrivener. Maybe it’s a framed inspirational quote to display in your writing corner.

Just buy it. Feel guilty later if you must, but console yourself that (whatever it is) it’s far less than the cost of the conference you’re not going to.

2. Consider, oh, I don’t know, writing?

Wilma Rudolph, an American Olympic track and field sprinter who won three gold medals in 1960, once said: “Believe me, the reward is not so great without the struggle.”

You get that, right? The struggle is what makes the reward, when it comes, so sweet. So persevere in your writing. Take the time you’re not going to spend at your preferred writing conference, put your butt in your chair, and write.

Honor your gift and your calling—and, for your own sake, get lost in your fictional world. Bring life where there is no life. And if your sadness is overwhelming, choose to write the scenes where your hero and heroine face their Black Moments—and all seems lost.

All is not lost for them. You know it, as the creator, but they don’t. They are just living the day-to-day lives you, their creator, wrote for them … You’re getting the point right? You don’t need a hammer on the head, right?

3. If you can’t write, then pray for your writer friends who are attending conferences.

No, I’m not kidding. When you’re locked in a pity party, the best way to break free is to do something nice for someone else. So, if you can’t be there…then be there for your friends who are there.

Hold them up before the Lord. Pray for encouragement. Bravery. Their emotions. The editors and agents they’ll meet with.

Pray for the casual, unplanned for meetings around meal tables. The overwhelming feeling of the introvert writer who just can’t face another class or another “thank you, but this isn’t right for our house” appointment.

Be Aaron to their Moses.

If you do these three things, you’ll find the time goes much quicker, you’ll feel more productive, and you’ll be a blessing. And isn’t that better for everyone, including you?

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Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.