The Power of a Word

by Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

It’s the first of the year, a time when people make resolutions and goals for the coming twelve months. They start exercising or eating healthier, or maybe they decide to simplify by cleaning out all the clutter in their house.

It’s also that time when people pop up on Facebook with their ‘word’ of the year. Some are about lifestyle changes while others deal with spiritual growth or personal goals. I like having a word to focus on, probably because I’m a very goal oriented person but even I was surprised by the starkness of my word.

My word for 2018 is ‘NO.’

A small word, yet so powerful if used correctly and with diligence. So how can you use a ‘no’ to reach your writing goals for this year? Here are three ways:

1) Decide what is important to you

A few years ago, I had a friend who was caught up in a whirlwind of activities. If she wasn’t doing something for her church, she was on some city committee or running a book club. Now all that’s well and good, but she was frustrated that her writing career had stalled. With all her social obligations, she didn’t have the time to give attention to her writing.

When you’re a ‘yes’ person, everything feels important and you want to help in any way you can. But the truth is you can’t, and make any kind of difference. You’ll stretch yourself so thin, there’ll be nothing left for what matters to you!

Ask yourself this question—if you had one week to do the one thing you wanted to do most in this world, what would it be? Volunteering at the kids’ school? Getting ahead in your job? Writing the first draft of your novel? Is your ministry teaching Sunday school or writing devotionals? This is your opportunity to decide what you want to do, no one’s else’s agenda but yours. Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two choices, you know what you want to give your ‘yes’ too.

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2) Give up those activities that steal your time

Now that you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two things, it’s time to cut those other activities out of your life. I’m not going to lie to you—this is difficult, not just for you but for those people that’s come to rely on your ‘yes.’ They may say things like ‘how will we ever get along without you?’ The guilt is hard to handle—I know this firsthand. Years ago, when I first started writing, I was substitute-teaching. Both my husband and I agreed that I should quit and focus on my writing, but the school where I worked pushed back on the idea. How would they get along without me? When I told my husband this, his reply was priceless—‘I don’t know, but they’re going to find out starting tomorrow!’

I love what my pastor once shared with me. We all want to be a part of good things, but God wants us to take part in the great. Are you too busy doing the good that you’re ignoring God’s great for you?

3) Say No to Time Suckers

We all can agree the internet is entertaining and intellectually stimulating and a number of other things. It’s also a black hole that eats up precious moments of our writing time. Looking up a document at the Library of Congress can turn into an hour long political discussion on Facebook! And by the time you’ve finished, you not only alienated potential readers, you’ve forgotten what you were researching in the first place!

Say no to the madness now! Guard your writing time like a bulldog with his bone. Employ apps like Liberate and Freedom which restricts your use of the web while you’re writing. Make a pact with an accountability partner. Set a word count and make it before you can check your email.

One of the most useful things I learned in school was a limerick my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Payne taught me. It goes like this:

Sixty seconds in a minute, didn’t take it, didn’t chose it but it’s up to me to use it.

Use your time, and your ‘no’ wisely.


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Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will
be available in July on Amazon.