Perk 4 to Being an Author: COMFORT

The fourth perk I listed in the 9 Perks to Being an Author was COMFORT: “Being comfortable on the other side of my computer, whether that means in pajamas or my favorite summer dress, is part of my job.” 

Comfort can come in many different ways. As a full-time author and editor, I am severely blessed with where I can work. I can stay in my home, decorate a room solely for writing, hike a mountain with a notebook or iPad, or spend the day in a coffee shop.

One of my favorite coffee shops (Estes Park, CO)

One of my favorite coffee shops (Estes Park, CO)

Much of my comfort comes mostly from atmosphere. Sitting down to write is stepping into a sacred time of focus, thinking, and inspiration. I like to include many of my favorite things that add to comfortable atmosphere: a delicious smelling candle, a hot chai latte, comfortable sitting clothes, a clean desk, etc. But comfort isn’t just surroundings and physical relaxation. I must have spiritual, emotional, and physical comfort before I can employ my imagination successfully.

Spiritual Comfort: Only by the grace of God have I gained enough love for Scripture to sit down with the Bible every day. I recall all too clearly the days when I wondered if I’d every enjoy reading Scripture. Only through serious prayer did God develop that love. Because of this, I am able to find spiritual comfort every morning before writing. This is a precious time when I dedicate my writing, my imagination, and my day to the Lord. It’s also the time I indulge in some of my most delicious theology books. My imagination truly reaches a new height through Scripture and biblical teaching. (and I even write speculative fiction! Proof enough for me that God likes it.) [grin]

Emotional Comfort: It’s a constant struggle to keep my priorities in order. God, husband, writing. If my husband and I are at an emotional impasse, it must be resolved before I can write, otherwise writing turns into an escape instead of pursuit. I’m sure this will only get more difficult once we start having children, but if I keep my priorities straight right now then it should come easier then, right? (Do I hear mothers laughing on the other side of the screen?)

Physical Comfort: There’s physical comfort (i.e. slouch on the couch) and then there’s healthy physical comfort. I’ve heard many people speak on healthy comfort for those with a “desk job”, but now that I actually sit at a desk all day I understand the importance of seating, stretching, snacking, and posture.

  1. Find a good desk chair. You’ll be sitting in it all day, use one that helps your posture and keeps your body free from stiffness.

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    If only I had an extra couple thousand dollars…

  2. Get up and move around every half hour. I know this threatens to break the flow of imagination juices, but it will keep your body in better tact, which allows you to write longer. Your best option is to go through a series of stretches.officeexercises
  3. Find healthy snacks. I know how tempting it is to just drink coffee and eat goldfish crackers all day (my personal weakness), but try to alternate snacks. Or, for the stronger-willed writer, just stay on a regular eating schedule.
  4. Make sure your keyboard and computer are at a good height. Check your arm positions when using a mouse or typing. Believe it or not, there are positions much better for your whole body found through a simple arm adjustment.computer-vision-ergonomics img

So where are you on the comfort scale? Any further advice regarding healthy comfort in any of the three areas? 

See the other posts in my “Perks to Being an Author” series:

Perk 3 to Being an Author: DECORATING

The third perk I listed in the 9 Perks to Being an Author was DECORATING: “Decorating my writing room with birdhouses, plants, quotes, pictures, and whatever I deem “inspirational” helps with my productivity and imagination; therefore, it is also part of my job.”

I find most inspiration through visuals. Experiential visuals are preferred—traipsing through a new country, hiking in the mountains, people-watching, etc.—but when I can’t do these things, I draw from pictures, ideas, concepts, and creativity. Basically, that means I go to Pinterest.

So, to share some of my “decorating” inspiration, I thought I’d share a few favorite pictures from my Pinterest board:

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Though this isn’t a picture of my own lightbulbs, I currently grow ivy out of an emptied lightbulb and a lovely vine out of another.

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Photo manipulation by Erik Johansson

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Even though it involves defacing a page from a book, I think this type of art is beautiful.

Photo by Janez Tolar

Just the colors inspire me to decorate with unique lighting! (Photo by Janez Tolar)

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Can you tell I enjoy the idea of decorating with book pages?

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Although I don’t have a forest by my house, I am in the process of decorating a corner of my writing room with paper birdhouses.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What do you draw from for inspiration or decorating? Which of these ideas/pictures is your favorite? Do you have your own idea to share?

See the other posts in my “Perks to Being an Author” series:

It’s Been 15 Years Since Harry Potter, and We Survived.

Every new generation seems to come with an explosion in the world of fiction. Three generations ago, Lord of the Rings  transformed people’s imaginations and started changing lives. A generation later, came Star Wars. Then my generation received Harry Potter. In all honesty, my life and imagination would not be what it is today if not for J. K. Rowling sharing hers.

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Today is the 15th anniversary of the release of the first book in the Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. I’m sure many of us have our own Harry Potter stories of when we read which book, how it made us feel, which characters we loved most, or even why we steered clear of the books. I can’t brush over the controversy Harry Potter brought, especially to the Christian world. Yet I can’t help but notice fifteen years have passed and our world isn’t filled with witches or wizards, just like it’s not filled with hobbits, elves, fighter pilots, or wookies. Books affect us. They change us. But most often, our imagination erects a safe wall between itself and reality.

In celebration of the anniversary, Scholastic is releasing the Harry Potter books with brand new covers designed by Kazu Kibuishi. I think both sets are stunning and I’m trying to rein in my desire to own them solely for the sake of owning them.

Original US Covers by Mary GrandPre

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New Covers by Kazu Kibuishi

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J. K. Rowling is one of my most admired authors, mostly because of her personal story and her love of story. I admire her fight to continue writing after the huge success of Harry Potter, even if her new books aren’t something I enjoy. I admire the way she handles fame. Many people even say she rekindled a love for reading in children. I always had a love for reading, but I fully believe she instilled new love for imagination. And that’s irreplaceable.

God can use anything to change us for the better, even if it’s controversy-filled fantasy books. He can use anyone to change us, even if it’s a woman author I’ve never met and probably will never meet (though I desperately desire to someday.) Today I want to share so much more about what her writing did to me as a young reader. I want to share every magical situation I found myself in while reading and every moment I spent counting down the days until the next book. But a single blog post just isn’t enough. It will be shared someday, like all good stories should be, but today I want to hear about yours.

Is there a book series that specifically impacted your life?

How did Harry Potter affect your life?

Just for fun, what do you think of the new covers? Which cover is your favorite?

Perk 2 to being an Author: READING

The second perk I listed in the 9 Perks to Being an Author was READING: “Reading any books—in any genres (but mainly speculative fiction)—is market research, of course, so it’s part of my “job”.  (And dressing in corresponding costumes is encouraged.)

I’m a compulsive reader.

If there are words, I will read them—billboards (though they’re boring), the book my airplane neighbor’s reading, the cover of magazines in the grocery store, even the fine print warnings on shampoo bottles while I shower. And yet, I find so little time to get to my actual book list.

The last writer’s conference I went to, author and speaker Karen Whiting said, “If [writing] is a calling from God, then [writing] is a sacred time…. It’s a commitment to God.”

I truly believe I’m called by God to write, but I realized I didn’t treat it as a sacred time. I loved writing and reading so much that I automatically assumed I shouldn’t be doing it. Where do we get these ideas that we shouldn’t be doing what we enjoy? Is it just me?

I treated writing and reading as a reward after I finished more important things like cleaning, cooking, and errands. Now that my vision has cleared, I am wholly committing myself to honing my craft and deepening my knowledge. Part of that comes through reading. How can I understand my market if I don’t read it regularly? How can I recognize good writing from bad if I’m not reading it?

Part of my commitment involved making it a goal—a task, even—to read at least a book a month. So, out of ambition and a wacky love for list-making, I’ve put together an “Autumn Reading List” and plan to make a new list every quarter of the year.

Autumn Reading List

  1. City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
  2. Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn
  3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
  4. The Mark of the Lion Trilogy, by Francine Rivers
  5. The Superlative Stream, by Kerry Nietz (book 2 of the Dark Trench Saga)
  6. The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien (for re-reading purposes)
  7. A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

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What books are on your reading list for the rest of 2013? Have you read any on my list? 

See the other posts in my “Perks to Being an Author” series:

Perk 1 to Being an Author: WRITING

The first perk I listed in the 9 Perks to Being an Author was WRITING: “Sitting down to weave my imagination into coherent words is not only allowed and fun, but is also the main part of my “job” as an author.”

I learned to write my alphabet with a fountain pen.

Perhaps that is what infused me with the love of writing. I spent days of kindergarten perfecting how to simply hold my pen before I even started crafting my letters. I learned how to take care of my writing utensil, how to avoid ink smears or blots, and the proper technique of crossing out a mistake.

I understood the beauty of writing before understanding the practicality behind it.

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Photo by Linda Cronin

What type of school did I go to? Was it a boarding school somewhere in Europe? No. A fancy calligraphy school? No. Just a small Christian school somewhere in southern California run by a man who understood the uniqueness to be found behind learning.

Coincidentally, today is the first day of school for many students out there. Some might be learning their alphabet with pencils, ball point pens, or even crayons. But there are six students in the small valley where I live who will be writing it with fountain pens today.

The tiny church I attend just started the only Christian school in the valley . This is its first year. It has six students (K-4th). As I post this, those little students are holding their very first fountain pens for the very first time…learning to write as I did 20 years ago. I can’t help but wonder how that will shape their thinking regarding words. There might be a future author or two in there.

How about you? Do you remember what sparked your love for words? Writing? Your current passions?

See the other posts in my “Perks to Being an Author” series:

9 Perks to Being an Author

I consider myself an author. Some debate circulated the electronic writing world saying a person is only an author if he or she is published. That debate’s not worth a single rotten peanut.

Before I was contracted, I decided–after much self-debate–to call myself an author. None of this, “I’m just a writer” business or “I’m an aspiring writer”. No. I’ve written a book. That makes me an author.

Oxford American Dictionary defines “author” as: “The writer of a book, article, or report.”

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary puts it this way: “One that originates or creates” or “The writer of a literary work (as a book).” 

Thus, finally accepting that I am allowed to call myself author, I had an epiphany regarding what I can label as “part of my job”.

  1. WritingSitting down to weave my imagination into coherent words is not only allowed and fun, but is also the main part of my job.
  2. Reading: Reading books–any books: speculative fiction, any other fiction, non-fiction–is market research, of course, so it’s part of my job (and dressing in corresponding costumes is encouraged.)
  3. DecoratingDecorating my writing room with birdhouses, plants, quotes, pictures, and whatever I deem “inspirational” helps with my productivity and imagination; therefore, it is also part of my job.
  4. Comfort: Being comfortable on the other side of my computer, whether that means in pajamas or my favorite summer dress, is part of my job.
  5. Delicious Snacks and Drinks: Searching the world for the perfect chai latte recipe, is crucial to my productivity and also part of my job.
  6. Delight for the Ears: Discovering music that makes my soul take control of my hand and pen is key to my pre-writing workout…and part of my job.
  7. Socializing with Others Like Myself: Meeting other authors, editors, readers, and lovers of all things literary is not only networking, but part of my job.
  8. Logophilia: Reading and drooling over new words may seem strange to others, but it’s part of my job.
  9. Uniqueness: Being eccentric, whimsical, passionate, and often misunderstood is expected of me and part of my job.

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I’m truly blessed to call this “work”, but to me it never feels like work. It always feels like joy and I love sharing what makes me joyful. Therefore, over the next few weeks I’ve concocted some posts that will share my 9 perks of being an author with you. Stay tuned! But while you’re here, why not share a few of your favorite perks, whether you’re an author/writer, artist, business man/woman, etc.

What are perks to your job or your dream job that you love?

What’s Your Adventure?

Authors dream about adventures. Then they write them. And readers enter them.

My goal as an author is not just to convey that thirst and pursuit for “something great”, but to urge and inspire my readers (and myself) to live them. I want my writing and my life to be an adventure story from start to finish.

My upcoming book, A Time to Die, came from the idea of living an active life–a life where we step in faith after a daring idea and watch God work. One year ago, this month (August), I laid awake in bed at 2am after watching the summer Olympics with my husband. My mind rotated in a sleepy stupor like a movie reel, thinking about how God’s equipped each of us for great things. After a string of sleepless nights and very out-of-the-ordinary prayers, my husband and I chose to take a daring step into the unknown:

I was going to snowboard race…in faith.

Yes, you heard me right: A bookworm on a snowboard who currently lived in flat snowless Missouri with a degree in speech therapy. Interesting mix. But I trusted God would take me all the way to the Olympics if He wanted. And that’s what I prayed for.

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It may sound crazy, me being an author going on such an adventure, but I refuse to live vicariously through writing.

I never dreamed of being an Olympian before this pursuit. I’d never raced before. I wasn’t even that consistently active, but I had grown up in the Rocky Mountains so I had a little snowboarding history. Still, this pursuit of adventure came from a completely different desire of my heart. My husband and I truly had no idea what we were getting into, but we didn’t need to know. We just needed to know why we were doing it.

I didn’t make it to the Olympics, but God took me all the way to the US National Championships where I placed 13th. Now my husband and I have this story forever—the story of pursuing a crazy dream as far as we could. No one can ever take it from us and we can share it with our children. That may sound a little sappy, but we have no idea the number of ripples this adventure started or what it might inspire. We’ve gotten a taste of what God can do with a daring step forward. We get to share it, and it’s good, dear friends. So good.

So let me ask you, what’s the most daring adventure you’ve stepped into? It can be anything! Do you have one you’ve dreamed of?

(To read the details behind my initial decision to snowboard race, click here!)