Celebrate; “Eat that Frog!”

OK, yesterday I said I’d explain about the frog thing today, only first I have to mention Mark Twain. Which Mark Twain? There is the one I saw in an old Bonanza episode on the INSP channel. There’s another one from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. There may even have been a real Mark Twain once, or maybe it was Samuel Clemens.

But the Mark Twain I mean is the one that is quoted in some writing and productivity books as having said “If the worst thing you have to do today is eat a frog, do it first thing in the morning.” That’s a good, motivating saying. Unless you are French, of course.

The frog is supposed to be a symbol of the task on your daily to-do list that you most dread. It’s the one you most want to put off until tomorrow. Or next year. Various books insist that the best thing to do is to do that task first thing.

Sometimes I do that. Sometimes it works out better doing the least-dreaded thing first, just to get me into action. I did that yesterday and got my ‘frog’ task done as well.

Sometimes we get up and find out that a bigger, more intimidating frog task is the most important one of the day. That happened to me this morning. Every morning, when I have baby chicks or ducklings in the house, I check on them and give out a little water and feed so the beasts will SHUT UP for a while. Sometimes that enables me to get some more sleep. But today I noticed that my pen of Chantecler chicks was not only getting overcrowded as the chicks grow, one of the chicks was picking at another hard enough to draw blood.

The only way to give those chicks more room is to move them out to the brooder room in the barn. Which is filled with my ISA Brown chicks (hybrid laying hens) and two heritage breed turkeys.  Or it WAS, until I did my new ‘frog’ task of the day and moved the lot to an outdoor pen.

Now all I have to do is clean up the brooder room, replacing the light bulb and the heat lamp bulb, and then I can put wing bands on the chicks and put them out in the barn. My mini-flock of 5 ducklings will have to stay on the porch for a bit until they are a week or two older.

My point I guess is that even though being rigid about a to-do list can help you be more productive in your writing and your life, some days you have to be more flexible. What I do about that is that I always leave space at the end of my to-do list to add tasks like that. They don’t really count as full replacements for the items on the list, but they are tasks accomplished all the same.

This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. I don’t know if I’m celebrating my baby chicks being old enough to commit attempted homicide or the fact that I’ve got the big chicks, including the one named Dahmer, big enough to move outside with no new fatalities. Or just the fact that I’m getting things done and getting blog posts written.

The blog hop is run by Lexa Cain. Last week she posted that she’d been ill and wouldn’t be able to do the blog hop herself. Today there was no new post. But those who are on the Celebrate blog list are doing it anyway.

Lexa did a very clever thing on her blog when she started to host the blog hop. She set up a blog list for the Celebrate participants. Since she is on Blogger, the blog list is not static. Instead, it shows the title of each blog, and they are listed in order of the most recently updated. So I can see just at a glance who has posted already on this Friday’s blog hop.

The blog hop is at: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/  and though now is not a good day to join up, you can at least stop by and give Lexa your get-well wishes. It’s a very good blog hop and they also give out info on books that are available as freebies. I submitted a book by my friend Robert Mullin called ‘Blood Song’ which was free at the time. (It may still be free, I haven’t checked. If interested, do a search on Blood Song and Robert Mullin on Amazon.)


Blogs I’m reading today:

Sharon’s Shells, Tales and Sails: A Fun and Safe 4th of July  She’s got a new book out and is offering a free eBook for anyone who will review it.

lightravellerkate: Bourges by Night  Beautiful pictures.

A Pius Geek: A Pius Superversive Novel? #PulpRev This blog is written by my friend Declan Finn who writes thrillers and vampire books, both well worth reading. And educational: in one of the vampire ones I learned how to obtain enough holy water for MAJOR vampire destruction.

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Procrastinating your Blog Writing

juliannenorbert

I’ve been procrastinating about writing this blog post for a few days now. Two days ago I found the ultimate distraction from writing this post: I decided I first needed to read a whole book. About procrastination.
The book is ‘The Procrastination Cure’ by Damon Zahariades, and I have no clue whether the author is a well-known author of productivity self-help books or just a guy trying to make money writing by concocting these things. But I read the book and came away with some things. Including the one about eating a frog first thing in the morning (more on that later.)
One of the most useful things about the book is that the author went in to some of the reasons people procrastinate: fear of failure, fear of success, perfectionism, feeling overwhelmed, laziness…. I guess it’s important to figure out WHY you have a procrastination habit before you can have the insight to start fixing it.
I’m a lifelong procrastinator, myself. I did it so much as a child that my parents characterized me as the child who never finished anything. And I believe that characterization to this day.
I had a number of reasons for my procrastination back then, but big one wasn’t mentioned in Zahariades’ book— perhaps because the book was written for independent adults. I procrastinated a lot because I was asserting my independence. Hey, it was cheaper than dumping a shipload of tea into Boston Harbor.

When we are children, most of the tasks we are faced with were set by our parents or teachers. We weren’t necessarily in accord with the need for the desired action.
Let’s look at the example of the clean-your-room chore. My room was normally messy— I had lots of toys and books, and far fewer places to put them away. Sometimes my mom would get on a neat-bedroom kick. Even though my room had been cleaned up pretty well recently, she would break into my Saturday fun time by demanding I drop everything and go clean my room. When my room was clean enough for ME already, I’d just put away one or two things and then find a book to read.
When I was in second grade I had a mean teacher. She noticed I wasn’t always doing my assigned pages in the math workbook. So she waited until I had about 20 unfinished pages and then called my mother, demanding that I do all the undone pages in the workbook up to the current page.
This pretty much ruined my week. Especially since the class had been allowed to skip several of these workbook pages and my mother was forcing me to do them all.
In both of these instances, procrastination didn’t get me out of the unwanted tasks, but it could delay them. And for a child, a short delay is everything.
The problem with procrastination it becomes a habit, a go-to strategy we use even on the tasks we choose to do. And it creates frustration as tasks go undone and we face the consequences of that.
What are the bad consequences of procrastinating on blogging? You end up going days between posts. Your blog becomes less read. And it’s harder to get back in the swing of regular blogging again.
If your rewards for blogging become smaller, then it is easier to not do it the next day. But the longer you keep it up the less your reward becomes.
The answer? Well, I’m working on my general procrastination issues by writing a daily to-do list in a notebook. I did that some years ago and it worked until the notebook got filled and I failed to replace it. And as for the blogging, I am challenging myself to write my post early in the morning. Normally I work on my current writing project at that time. But since I’m at the outlining stage and doing that in a notebook, I can get that done at other times.

And about the eat-the-frog thing? Well, I’ve decided to procrastinate on that part of this blog post. I’ll think about that tomorrow….


Blog posts I’m Reading:

Bayou Renaissance Man: “Indoctrinate the Kids. To Hell With Their Parents!”

The Write Practice: The Ugly Truth about Self-Doubt As A Writer

 

 

 

New opportunities in Christian fiction

Christian fiction— perhaps it will go down in history as the genre most harshly judged by critics who don’t read the genre. But Christian fiction has a place, and that place is widening.

My earliest memories of Christian fiction were of fiction sold only in specialty Evangelical Christian shops. My impression was that it was mainly designed for members of strict Evangelical groups who taught that Christians don’t read worldly novels— or drink, dance or own a deck of playing cards.

Our family wasn’t that kind of Christian. We were Presbyterians, and went to PCUSA churches— though the church had not fallen away from Christian teaching so badly at that time.  We read ‘normal’ fiction. Though my mom had a novel called ‘The Silver Chalice’ which was VERY Christian in tone and told the story of the Early Church. But that novel was brought out by a mainstream publisher, and later was adapted into a Hollywood movie.

My, how the times have changed! Modern publishers don’t care to retain their Christian readerships. Mainstream novels are full of references to Christians of all sorts as ‘haters’— because the authors think it’s ‘hateful’ to oppose aborting children or oppose calling gay relationships marriage. Publishers not only don’t object to it, they seem to almost require it. And although Christian readers have adapted to this bigoted atmosphere enough to be able to read anti-Christian-biased fiction, it’s often hard to enjoy it. Particularly when authors accuse Christians of all being ignorant, while displaying their own ignorance of the commonest details of the faith they are hating.

Evangelical Christian fiction got noticed when the ‘Left Behind’ series started to hit the best-seller lists. It was helped along by the fact that secular folks got really interested Christian beliefs about the End Times about then, since they believed that the Evangelical End of the World would happen in the year 2000. This was a false belief— the REAL Evangelical End of the World happened in 1988 (40 years— one Biblical generation— after the founding of the State of Israel.) But it sold a lot of exciting books filled with Christian characters to people who might have been in spiritual need of them.

But now in the Internet age, the picture has changed. For one thing, Christian authors are connecting across church/denominational lines. In my Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy FB group we’ve had Evangelicals of many sorts, Protestants, an Episcopalian monk, Catholics, and a Mormon or two. And so we are more aware that sound Christian fiction can come in many ‘flavors’— though we disagree on the authenticity and usefulness of some of the ‘flavors.’

The indie fiction revolution means that Christian fiction writers are no longer out of luck if their denominational background is not accepted by the bigger Evangelical fiction publishers and their own church’s publishing house doesn’t accept fiction. Along with Evangelical fiction, Catholic fiction and LDS (Mormon) fiction, all of which have traditional publishers, the most obscure denominations, like WELS Lutherans, can have fiction tailored to their church background.

Because of indie fiction, individual Christian authors no longer need be restrained by old-fashioned and silly-seeming Christian fiction rules. For example, some of the old Evangelicals wouldn’t allow Christian characters to be shown drinking alcohol, dancing, or playing innocent card games, because some readers would have objected.

The indie freedom has its downside, though. Many Christian writers have read far more secular fiction than Christian. They also often have had very little if any religious education. I know of a number of young Christian girls who see nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage and cohabiting relationships, so long as the partners claim to be engaged. It’s perfectly possible that there are some young indie authoresses out there writing ‘sexy’ romances in which the characters are Christians, and who market their work as Christian romance. It won’t sell to the Christian market, and secular romance fans probably won’t touch it because of the Christian label.

Indie Christian fiction, then, is less ‘safe’ than traditionally published Christian fiction which has been vetted to death for offensive things, even trivial ones. But, as in secular indie fiction, that adds to the excitement of reading and discovering new indie authors. It helps to follow Christian fiction blogs and web sites which review indie and small press books as well as those from the big Christian publishers. They can help you find books which you might enjoy and warn you about any content concerns such as excesses of ‘magick’ in a fantasy novel.

If you are a writer and a Christian, it might be well to consider whether the wider world of today’s Christian fiction might be the right place for your writing. Pitching your book to fellow Christians might be a wiser move than aiming at secularists who might reject your work if they learn about your faith.


Will I review your great new Christian indie novel? Probably not. I am a very slow book reviewer and I have a backlog of books written by friends I must review. Also, I don’t enjoy every possible subgenre within Christian fiction. If you have a great contemporary romance, it probably won’t catch my interest enough to finish it even if you are the best romance writer ever! But, don’t despair. I am hoping to recruit a couple of Christian authors who will do a little guest posting of reviews for this blog. (How do you get your Christian book reviewed in the meantime? Join appropriate Christian author groups, make a few friends there, review THEIR books, and perhaps you will be able to arrange to trade reviews.)


One blog for (Evangelical) Christian fiction writers is Mike Duran’s deCompose. Here is a sample post: The Importance of Implicit (vs. Explicit) Christian Content in Fiction


My FB group for Christian writers of science fiction and/or fantasy:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/366357776755069/

Now, this group, being on FB, does not actually BAR non-Christians from joining. However, since the topic is the problems of CHRISTIAN writers in these genres, non-Christians rarely have much interest in the group.  But all are welcome to join.