February 4, 2012

One day in the life of a full-time Christian writer-poet-editor

Years ago an acquaintance from church asked what I do, and I said, “I’m a writer” to which she responded, “I know. But what else do you do?” If you hope to be a “full-time writer” you might wonder the same. Since I’ve been doing this for my most of my adult life – well, part-time when I was a full-time “stay at home mom” – my workday might give you a glimpse of the “real” writing life, which differs each day for each person and each project.

Working in an office at home necessitates a general structure to get anything done. So each morning, as FL weather permits, my husband and I take our coffee onto the deck to watch the arrival of birds and wake up a bit.

Inside, at my desk with half a cup of cooling coffee, I pick up my favorite devotional book, God Calling, and savor the day’s reading, which also speaks a word to Christian writers who have dozens of great ideas and not enough time, “My will shall be revealed as you go.” Yes, thank You, God! I count on that a lot, especially on days when the To-Do list has grown beyond To Do-able.

If I were working on a book contract, I would most likely get right to it. Ditto if I had a book of poetry or devotionals to critique today. Instead I search for something to wear then lug an overflowing laundry basket toward the washing machine and walk away from that mountain as others await.

Without warning, a poem comes to me, and I hurry to write it down before I forget. To be precise, I pull up the Word file for my poems, add and date a new page, then type:


My faith
God’s power
No more mountain

©2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, All rights reserved.

I thought I might be working on new blog postings this morning, but email beckons me to various LinkedIn Groups. Someone I’ve never heard of wants to connect, so I check out his profile and accept his invitation then notice that a bunch of people checked me out too. No clue who, but I recently sent invitations to several editors, who just might approach me with book contracts and magnanimous advances. Most likely though, I'll need to study their current list of titles and topics, see where my ideas fit, then contact one editor at a time for each project.

Sometimes other people make the first move. Years ago, for instance, an editor at a writer's conference, where we'd both been invited to teach, phoned to ask if I'd like to write a series of devotional books for her company. Like, yeah! More recently, though, I discovered I had been made the moderator for a poetry group on LinkedIn without being asked! My first thought was to close down the group, but after prayer, it came to me that those few hundred poet-members might be interested in The Poetry Editor blog and website. So I changed the name to The Poetry Editor Group, added my logo, and encouraged discussions about writing, which doesn't always happen.

This morning, for instance, someone wants to hawk his website under Discussions, but I move the URL to Promotions where it belongs. In the manager’s section, I recognize some names as members of the group (which I’m happy to say has doubled in size!), but I have to look up the Profile for another person who wants to post a comment. Nope, not a member! Oh, why not! As with all the main social networks, LinkedIn is free with no obligation. Oh, well. The poet has a helpful comment to add, so I post what she has to say in the Discussion as she'd intended.

I often start or join group discussions too, but if I do so now, I won’t get anything else done, so I sign out, then check Facebook to see if family or friends posted anything significant. Yeah, someone had a birthday I acknowledge then notice that one of the literary journals I “Like” has posted a call for poems that relate to a particular picture. Checking my Word file, I find 2 two-lined poems that fit, so I post both under Comments as the editor instructed. I then check my Facebook “Author” page and The Poetry Editor page I maintain and am happy to see new “Like’s” on both!

That’s encouraging since I really do want to offer helpful tips to poets and writers in each post. But, oh, I see someone has been posting on my page! I don’t mind if other writers and poets respond to something on my page with a link to theirs. But this guy put a hotlink to his website which is rabidly against anything ecumenical. After deleting that post, I see a note from another writer in another country, who wants me to take a "quick look" at his work.

How can a full-time writer-poet-editor take a “quick look” at anything? Why can't the writer take a long, serious look at his own work, reading it aloud and listening for areas that need improvement without asking me to do it for free? This comes up so often by so many people in so many places that I sigh, pray, and tell the man he will find many helpful articles and resources freely provided on my blogs and websites. I also let him know that I’d be glad to provide a professional, one-on-one response to his writings for a reasonable fee, but I probably won’t hear from him again.

Feeling discouraged by the frequency of requests for freebies, I remind myself how Jesus said that “workers are worthy of their hire,” but I hit the “like” button on several FB postings to encourage other Christian poets and writers as much as I can. In the process, I notice an announcement from Sally Stuart – The Expert in Christian publishing whom I interviewed in this blog last year – about the release of her 2012 marketing guide. Hitting the “Share” button, I let FB Friends know about this valuable resource.

Before untangling myself entirely from the Internet, I check email for The Poetry Editor and see new followers of the blog and also, an editor’s acknowledgment of a manuscript I submitted. In my personal email, another editor-writer agrees to an interview I hope to post soon, and a writer tells me how the contest I judge helped to boost her confidence. Nice to hear – and a good idea to discuss in another blog posting.

My coffee has gotten cold, but I sip it anyway, and my husband sticks his head in the door. Yeah, I’m ready for our half-mile round-trip walk to our rural post office, where, no, the manuscript someone was supposedly sending for a writing consult did not arrive.

Back home, I dump a load of darks in to wash then come back to the computer to see if one of the editors of my upcoming book of poetry has responded to the poems she asked me to send as representative of the book. Picking three was easy enough, but in case they didn’t speak clearly for the book’s theme, I added a note to explain, “Basically, what I’m saying is: We’re part of the universe. Although I’m aware that nature can seem cruel, love and spirit continue on, regardless."

It’s now almost 10 a.m., and I need to focus on blog postings that got behind while I redesigned my websites. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I wonder, “Lord, did You want me to start so many blogs?" or was this my big idea? Either way, the biblical injunction comes to mind of doing whatever the hand finds to do. Hand – mind, whatever.

All of the blogs began as I researched Bible topics that interest me: For instance, “Christian Healing Arts” got started because I wanted to give credit to God who created everything, including methods and ideas for healing that people seem to think they invented all by themselves. “Bible Prayers” began with research for a Bible study class that took almost two years to cover with excellent feedback from everyone in the group. As a Christian concerned for families (especially the Family of God), I also wanted to see “What the Bible Says about Love.” In addition, my personal Bible readings often resulted in Bible person-poems.

Initially, I'd hoped to do a one-year devotional or nonfiction book on the Bible topics I had researched, but having no immediate takers, I woke up one morning with “Do blogs” in my head. Hoping that God had put the idea there in answer to prayers for guidance, I soon discovered that juggling several blogs gets tricky! Or sticky! i.e., I now use computerized “Sticky Notes” to type the name of each blog and the last date posted. I also keep a Word file for each completed article, along with a list of titles and dates posted, and I type in words or phrases that suggest ideas for future articles. If blog followers ask a question that might interest other writer-readers, I note that as a potential topic too.

But here it is 11 a.m. on a Saturday, and I just put in the second of four loads of laundry. Having skipped my dish of yogurt, I’m thinking about lunch – most likely left-overs of home-cooked meals I make by the batch a couple times a week and freeze.

Living in the country does not make home delivered pizza a meal-time option, but the rural environment provides a wonderful place to get quiet, enjoy nature, and write about whatever God brings to mind. You might wonder, though, when and if I do any actual writing during the day, but, the truth is, while we’ve been chatting, I’ve been writing this article, which, Lord willing, I will tighten and revise after lunch and laundry and post long before church tomorrow with its welcomed day of rest.


© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.

For additional help with your writing: See the Interview with Sally Stuart. To find a list of the above mentioned blogs and hotlinks, visit Blogs by Mary. To connect, visit hotlinks for Profiles or pages on the major social networks. Thanks. And may God guide and direct your work in Jesus’ name.


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