From Resolutions to Reality – Two Helpful Guides

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I quit my job 12 days ago, on the winter solstice – the shortest, darkest day of the year. This was a bold but deeply calculated move.

For months though I’ve had my eye on January 2, 2017, knowing it was the first business day of my new venture – a new company, a new book, new blog, new direction. It’s all very exciting. It’s also the first day in three years I wouldn’t go to the office. And that’s just tricky.

Wisely, I decided January 2nd should be tightly managed.

So, I got up at 5:30, studied, took the dogs for a walk, they found stray dogs hiding my in my barn, so I dealt with that. Then I took a shower, shaved my legs, got dressed, put on makeup and dried my hair.

Minus the stray dogs, that’s a typical morning for me – when I had somewhere to be.

I still have somewhere to be.

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What I plan to do in 2017 is essentially a mountain of resolutions, but if I don’t put my boots on and climb it every day, it won’t get climbed.

Of course, how many times have I set out on a grand climb in January, only to be lying in a hammock in the grassy foothills by Valentines Day?

But this year, I’ve been training with a couple of smart people. What they taught me, they can teach you, so you can climb your mountain.

Ready?


#1 Marie Kondo – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Last fall, people were raving about this Japanese woman’s little book on organizing stuff. I bought it, read it and said, “Right. Let’s do it.”

By applying her simple criteria for deciding whether or not to keep an item –  a book, a blouse, a file of papers – I cleared at least half of of my belongings out of my house. Here’s the before and after of my kitchen I posted on Instagram.

Clutter steals mental energy, which I need right now, and the trick is not to organize better, but to have less stuff.

Kondo’s approach is simple:

Take every piece of clothing out of every closet in your house. Everything. Then hold each item, one by one, in your hands and ask, “Does this bring me joy?”

If not, put it in a pile and take it to Goodwill, so it can bring someone else joy, which is joyful in itself. All the other questions about fit, style, cost and someday are irrelevant. Joy is the only criteria.

When I did this, I took 200 hangers of clothing out of my closet and put about 80 back. It’s astonishing, embarrassing and freeing all at once.

Can you see the benefit of this exercise? Particularly if you plan to do something radical like quit your job and start a new company? There’s a reason high level people wear the same things every day.  It frees up their decision making for more important things.

Clutter, physical and psychic, drains us. Get rid of it and use your brain for something else.

#2 Steven Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. 

Covey’s book is a classic for a reason. My favorite thing to emerge from it is his advocacy for what he calls “Quadrant Two Time.”

Look at the graph below and decide in which quadrant, or on what tasks do you spend the most time.q

Are you in a crisis? That’s quadrant one – a combination of matters both important and urgent. Sometimes life is like that, but if you’re there all the time it’s worth asking why.

Do you rush from one meeting to the next, unsure what you accomplished? That’s quadrant three, the combination of urgent and not important tasks. A nasty precursor to life in quadrant one.

Or do you lounge around in quadrant four consumed with non urgent, non important things like Facebook and Netflix. Are you trying to decompress from your time in quadrants one and three? I get it but….

Now look at quadrant two – home of not urgent but very important tasks – the place where contemplation, deliberation, dreaming and planning occur. How can we expect to execute big plans if we spend no time plotting how to go about it?

I now book quadrant two time into my calendar every week.

Sometimes it gets hijacked by urgent things, but whatever. This practice is where my new business was born. It’s also where I plan how I want my life to be in 20 years, ways I can improve my marriage, and what I can do each day to help other people. Covey has some great resources to help you in the same process.

Friends, it’s not unusual to consider our big dreams, it’s unusual to act on them. With regular, deliberate climbing.

focus.pngSteven Covey and Marie Kondo are two reasons this blog is going to retire soon. In its place is a whole new world of creativity, encouragement and resources to help you get to know the God who created you, so you can figure out what he created you for.

If that sounds interesting, subscribe to this blog to stay in the loop with our rollout, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Here’s to new beginnings. Yours and ours!

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It Takes A Village to Publish a Book

Tim SullivanI’d like you to meet my friend Tim Sullivan, a cowboy singer/songwriter from Durango, Colorado.

Tim once said something to me that felt so important and generous that, years later, I quoted it in my book.  I sometimes write about how our words can ripple through people’s lives long after we’ve forgotten saying them and Tim did that for me.

I’d written an article for the local newspaper about Tim, who says he’s just a guy who loves to sing and play music. It doesn’t matter if five people show or 5,000 do, Tim is happy to play for them. When the article ran, he said it was one of the best anybody had written about him, and he was grateful. After that, every time I’d see him in town, he would say to me:

“Are you writing? You need to be writing. Whatever else you are doing that’s fine, but just make sure you are writing.”

Today is my 43rd birthday, and the book I wrote three years ago is gathering dust in a drawer. People ask me all the time what’s happening with it, and when I answer I feel like a nine-year old who can’t tie her shoes. I don’t want to admit I need help to get it out of the drawer, but I do. Specifically, I need you to help me grow.

Incredibly, Going to the Sea – A Sassy Liberal Wades in with Jesus made it, unrepresented, into a publishing committee last year, where it was shot down by marketing people who likely said:

Who is the author? Who? Somebody Google her. Nope. Next.

Maybe that should freak me out, but it doesn’t. The proposal got into a publishing committee on its own merit; it died there on mine. That’s not really bad news, because I can work on my Google rank. That’s where you come in.

It feels chancy and self-indulgent to ask your help because I have to be vulnerable and admit how important this is to me. It’s hard to lay your dreams bare for others to examine, but if people love you and/or your work, they will hold you accountable and encourage you like Tim did for me.

 

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So, in my 43rd year, I am going to do everything I know to get that manuscript into print. If I have to rewrite 90% of it, that’s fine, as long as someone will hold my hand in the process.

All I can do is write a little each day and talk to you as I go.

All you can do is share. So, if you like something I post, will you share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram?

The rest of it is up to the Lord.

I have agents who are still interested in the book, they’ve just got to know they can sell it. How do they know? How many people already read and like your work? Thousands? Great, let’s do business.

And we can complain about that all day, but if Tim were here I think he’d say, who cares? Just like he is a guy born to sing and play music, I am a gal who was born to write and speak about Jesus. He’s the reason I can do it at all anyway.

So if you want to join my little team, here are three things you can do right now.

Follow Erin Kirk Writer on Facebook.
Follow me on Twitter.
Keep reading and sharing.

Thank you friends.


How To Do Your Real Work.

L.N.Tolstoy_Prokudin-GorskyDid you know Tolstoy had 13 kids when he wrote War and Peace? I’m sure Sophia, his wife, did the heavy lifting, but surely they were loud and underfoot and demanded food several times a day. That’s a fairly hostile environment in which to produce some of the world’s greatest literature.

I discovered that convicting little gem recently in The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and have quoted it several times to friends and loved ones who, like me, are dithering, stalling, procrastinating, rationalizing and otherwise avoiding doing the work God put us here to do, which in my case is write.

What’s your work? What’s the thing you would do forever for no money? Are you doing it? Even a little?

If you’re not sure, or this sounds vaguely familiar, please read Pressfield’s slender little volume and let it roundhouse kick you in the melon until you accept that writing the song, plotting the novel, painting the canvas, playing the music, is easier than making excuses for why you can’t do it.

Start today. Anywhere. Because thirty minutes a day is better than no minutes a day, but beware, this is war.

The writer is an infantryman. He knows that progress is measured in yards of dirt extracted from the enemy one day, one hour, one minute at a time and paid for in blood. The artist wears combat boots. He looks in the mirror and sees GI Joe. Remember, the Muse favors working stiffs. She hates prima donnas. -Steven Pressfield. The War of Art.

My God that’s terrible news.

The dream is freeThat means, rather than point to my demanding job and bizarre travel schedule that keeps me from writing, I need really only to think of Tolstoy or his wife Sophia, who incidentally, along with the 13 kids, was the scribe for War and Peace and rewrote the manuscript seven times. It is over 1000 pages.

Novelist Ann Patchett, whose ability regularly renders me speechless, put it this way in her new memoir This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage:

Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration?…Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it put it away, write another story.

You can read Pressfield’s book in a day or two, which is good, because reading about writing is not writing, it’s preparing to write. Not a bad thing, unless we never write.

So what do you need to write? Sing? Paint? Draw? Invent? Draft? Design?

Why not start today? Then again tomorrow and the next day….