Category Archives: Guest Posts

Chasing Inspiration (Guest Post)

Tile letters spelling "inspiration" with floral background.
Image by Mango Matter from Pixabay

Chasing Inspiration

by Steph Beth Nickel

I wrote over 40K words of my first YA speculative fiction novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2020. And then . . .

True confession time . . .

I left it so long that I wanted to go back and read it from the beginning, making minor changes and getting my momentum back.

But that didn’t happen. At least not until June of this year.

In just three days, I read the 44K+ words, tweaked those 140 or so pages, and organized my notes (character names, questions that needed to be answered, an idea for a possible freebie, etc.).

The more I worked on it, the more motivated I became.

Waiting for inspiration hadn’t worked. Chasing after it . . . did.

Are you stuck? Unmotivated? Uninspired?

Here are three ideas to help you get your mojo back:

  1. If you’re a discovery writer (aka a pantser) like I am, there comes a point when it’s a good idea to make yourself some notes. Keep track of who’s who. Make a list of times you dropped “the first shoe.” If you never drop the second, your readers will not be pleased. Unanswered questions and unresolved issues are not your friend. When you reread your work, be on the lookout for inconsistencies. I once had the wind inexplicably change directions—on the same page. I’m so glad I caught it before letting anyone else read that story. Diving into the details can inspire you to get back to writing.
  2. I love giving my characters the freedom of taking me where they want to go. Of slowly but surely revealing their personality traits and quirks to me. Of making me unexpectedly laugh or gasp. But if I don’t have a rough idea of where the story will end, I can find myself wandering around aimlessly by the middle of the story. I have the epilogue written for a contemporary women’s fiction story I plan to get back to. Plus, I’m currently working on the last chapter of the YA novel I mentioned earlier, even though I’ve only written approximately half the manuscript. The plan is for it to be the first book in a series. So, I need a cathartic ending that is still open-ended. I’m happy with what I’ve settled on. Writing a possible ending for your story may help you decide how to get from where you are to where you want to go.
  3. We’ve all heard it. And it may be the last thing many of us want to hear again. But I’ve found it’s true. I have to turn off Netflix (and Disney Plus and Prime Video and Paramount Plus), not to mention social media, and sit at my computer, open my writing program, and keep at it—even when the ideas don’t come pouring out. Walking away from distractions and focusing on your writing may be just the thing you need to get those words flowing again. It’s 100% fine if it begins as a trickle. Keep pumping out the words, and that trickle could very well become a steady stream.

While my focus is on fiction, the same principles apply when you’re writing nonfiction, although it’s far more challenging to apply discovery writing techniques to nonfiction.

How do you chase inspiration?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Conquering Overestimation (Guest Post)

Conquering Overestimation

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you ever overestimated how much you could get done in a day? Do you perpetually add more things to your To Do List than is reasonable? Do you find yourself discouraged at the end of the day—or thinking, “Oh, well! Maybe tomorrow will be different”?

Yes?

Me, too!

Below are six ideas that help me—if I remember to implement them. (Note: I work from home and have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. Hopefully, even if you have a traditional 9-5, you’ll find some of the suggestions helpful.)

Planner notebook
Image by Miesha Moriniere from Pixabay 
  1. Start with gratitude. It’s so easy to dread our “evil day job” or resent spending time with our family if we view them as interruptions to what we really want to do. If, instead, we itemize related things we’re thankful for, it will go a long way to changing our mindset. Recently, I purchased a taskpad that says HAPPY on the cover. Each morning I fill a single page with things I’m thankful for. I use coloured markers and include stickers and washi tape because this simple expression of creativity makes me happy.
  2. Prioritize your list. Currently, I place each task I want to accomplish under one of three categories: YES, MAYBE, and HOPEFULLY.
  3. Double check your list. Is there anything that gets your mojo flowing on your YES list or do these pursuits get relegated to the MAYBE or HOPEFULLY column? A strong work ethic and sense of responsibility are admirable, but if we don’t “refill the well,” it gets more and more draining to accomplish the non-negotiables.
  4. Know yourself. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Determine when your creative juices flow most freely and when you have the highest energy levels. As much as possible, schedule your tasks accordingly. If a certain task requires a clear head and undivided focus, try to accomplish it at the most opportune time of day. You may be able to fit in those you can do on autopilot when your energy stores are running low.
  5. Schedule at least one much-loved task when your energy levels are high. Accomplishing one such task when you have abundant energy goes a long way to building your reserves. You don’t want to leave all the tasks that bring a smile to your face until you feel depleted. If you do, it’s hard to be enthusiastic about even the most eagerly anticipated items on your list.
  6. Create a schedule rather than a To Do List. This gives you a better idea of how much time a task will take. Don’t forget to add everyday responsibilities to your schedule (i.e.: appointments, household chores, coffee with friends, etc.). In this way, you can glance at your planner and see where there are available timeslots. As we hear from many sources, it’s important to leave margins in our schedule. After all, we still tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in any given 16-hour day. (Don’t laugh! Some people actually get eight hours of sleep a night.)
  7. Don’t forget to add REST to your schedule. Many of us feel we must accomplish something every waking moment or our time is wasted. There are countless benefits of going for a walk, curling up with a good book, or simply sitting outside in the sunshine—too many to go into here.

I’d love to hear how you curb your tendency to overestimate what you can accomplish and how you prioritize how you spend your time.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

The Season of Promise (Guest Post)

Baby Robins (photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel)

The Season of Promise

by Steph Beth Nickel

Birdsongs. Budding trees. Flowers opening to the sun.

Signs of promise and new life are all around us here in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, my favourite season has begun.)

Regardless of the season, we have the opportunity to experience God’s promises each and every day.

Will we experience the fulfilment of His promises in our time and in the way we’d choose for ourselves? Rarely, very rarely.

Still, His promises are Yay and Amen!

How can we rest in those promises—and share them with others?

  1. We must spend time in God’s Word. No matter how familiar it becomes, there is always more to learn.
  2. Prayer is crucial. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: what seemed impossible and surreal—unthinkable even—may be waiting just around the corner. Prayer is the only way to find peace and assurance in the midst of unimaginable circumstances. Plus, it’s a great way to focus on the Lord rather than on … well, anything else.
  3. Spend time with other believers, those who will encourage you and build you up. If you’re unable to do so in person, keep in mind that it’s important to carry on two-way conversations, not simply watch church services online.
  4. Head out into creation and soak in the wonder of the season, knowing that God reveals His nature in what He has made.
  5. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s 100% fine to get the help you need, including professional help. These past two years have taken their toll emotionally as well as physically as never before.
  6. We can’t wait until we’ve got it all together before we reach out to others, or we’ll never reach out. We’re always facing one challenge or another.
  7. Even before you feel adequately equipped, look for ways to bless others. Drop a card in the mail. Allow that person with only a couple of items to go ahead of you at the checkout. Smile at a stranger. (Even if you’re wearing a mask, it will show in your eyes.) A simple act of kindness can go a long way to brightening someone’s day—and our own.
  8. Prayerfully consider the writing projects you have on the go. Is it time to persevere and complete them or is God leading you in a different direction? (Remember: just because you’ve hit a wall doesn’t mean you should scrap the project. This is when we need abundant wisdom and clear guidance.)
  9. Take on a new project that will allow you to share the promises of God and evidences of the new life we have in Christ. Write a related blog post. Record an encouraging podcast. Start a Bible study—in your home or a private Zoom room.

We each express our creativity in unique ways, but we can only do so for a limited amount of time if we don’t refill the well.

What is your favourite season and why? What promises does it bring to mind? How do you share this encouragement with others?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Post-Mandate Living (Guest Post)

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Post-Mandate Living

by Steph Beth Nickel

Virtually all the COVID restrictions have been lifted in Ontario (Canada).

You would think that would cause relief and rejoicing, a return to “normal.” While that may be the case for some, I have spoken with several people who will continue to wear a mask. And while I’m not overly concerned about my own health, when I’m not feeling 100 percent, I may wear a mask for the sake of others.

Regardless of how we feel about the mandates and statistical reporting, the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, and how others have dealt with the situation over the past two years, we’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot of lessons.

Here are just five that come to mind:

  1. Kindness and compassion should always be “the norm.” There have been too many attacks launched on social media from every perspective. (In this, I include all the belittling comments and attacks—even the seemingly benign attacks—on the intelligence of those who feel differently than we do.)
  2. As we enter a time when each of us is free to choose how we deal with mask-wearing and social distancing, respect is vital. Those who continue to wear masks should be treated as those who previously could not wear masks wanted to be treated—with respect.
  3. And speaking of respect… Even easygoing people have developed strong opinions about things they’d never given a second thought pre-pandemic. We may/likely have friends and family members who are adamantly opposed to our perspective on a wide variety of topics. It’s important to learn how to live at peace with them—especially when they are members of our family or church, those people we interact with regularly.
  4. The Lord instructs us to put other’s needs above our own. In Philippians 2:3, He says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (ESV) Although I’m sure not based on this biblical directive, the employees at the garage where we get our car serviced have what I think is an excellent approach. Because of government mandates, they are no longer required to wear masks. However, if a customer comes in with a mask, they are to put one on out of respect for them. That earns them five out of five stars in my book.
  5. The anxiety of the last two years hasn’t necessarily evaporated. We may have a whole new list of concerns. Should I shed my mask or not? Should I get a/another booster shot? Should I be extra cautious around people with cold and flu symptoms, knowing my immune system hasn’t had the workout it’s had pre-COVID? And on and on and on.

As we navigate these and other issues, God’s Word gives us instructions that apply. He knew what each and every one of us would face down through the millennia. Amazing!

In the ESV*, Philippians 4:4-9 says:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

I return to these verses again and again. What are your go-to verses in times of anxiety and uncertainty?


*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

The Many Faces of Journaling (Guest Post)

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

The Many Faces of Journaling

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you ever opened your electronic journal or notebook and simply written, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”? I have. Maybe not with that many Hs, but you get the idea.

I’ve also written what Julia Cameron refers to as Morning Pages, three pages of whatever pops into my mind (also known as “stream of consciousness writing”). Cameron recommends doing so first thing in the morning to clear out the cobwebs. I should probably get back to this practice.

Journaling is a wonderful way of expressing our frustration, clearing out those cobwebs, and what I refer to as “rambling until we stumble upon truth.”

The advantage of journaling is that no one, not one single person, ever has to read what we’ve written. We can process thoughts, emotions, and questions we’re reluctant to share with anyone, even our most trusted friends and family members.

As a Christian, you might be concerned that your journal won’t always overflow with faith-filled declarations. I came to grips long ago that God knows my innermost thoughts and motives already. It’s often good if we face up to them and learn to apply the Truth in genuine, truly lifechanging ways.

Of course, we have much to be thankful for. Gratitude journaling has become a prominent idea, at least as far back as the publication of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Keeping track of what I’m thankful for is another practice I’d like to get back to.

Journaling Supplies

  1. An app on your phone, such as Day One or your Notes app.
  2. Good ole Word on your laptop or desktop.
  3. A simple notebook and a ballpoint pen.
  4. An elaborate journal and colourful gel pens.
  5. An artist’s grade sketchbook, brush markers, washi tape, and stickers.

Lies to Squelch (Trust me, I’ve told myself these lies repeatedly.)

  1. Each sentence must be perfectly crafted with proper punctuation and no misspelled words. (This is a hard one for writers to set aside, but it’s important to do so.)
  2. If my writing is horrible… If I can’t find my favourite pen… If my “artwork” looks like a preschoolers got her hands on my supplies… I might as well give up. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
  3. I must “hold back” for fear someone will come across my journal. (There are ways to ensure this doesn’t happen, including asking your family to respect your privacy and/or tucking away your journal where they will not find it.)
  4. Pouring out my random thoughts has no benefit.
  5. God will think less of me for expressing my fears and doubts.

Ways to Get Started

  1. Give Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages a try for at least a week. She recommends using pen and paper as there is a different neurological connection between brain, pen, and paper than between brain, fingers, and keyboard.
  2. Pouring out your heart in the form of prayers is a great way to focus. I know praying aloud with others or writing in my prayer journal keeps me focused far better than “saying my prayers” silently.
  3. Buy a simple notebook to get started. If you spend a lot of money on elaborate supplies and a leather-bound journal with handmade paper (my favourite), you’re less likely to put pen to paper for fear of messing it up.
  4. Grab a pack of multi-coloured gel pens. Sometimes, just writing with fun-coloured ink can elevate your mood.
  5. Slap on some stickers. This is one of the easiest ways to express your creativity and summarize the mood or topic you’re dealing with.

Are you a journaler? What are your favourite journaling tools? Is there something you hadn’t thought of that you’re going to try out?

Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

An Object in Motion (Guest Post)

An Object in Motion

by Steph Beth Nickel

There is a scientific principle that states, “An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest.”

I am that object.

While rest is crucial to productivity and peace of mind, vegging on the couch, binge-watching Netflix rarely recharges our batteries. At least it doesn’t recharge mine.

I am excellent at making excuses.

As an extrovert, I need company—even fictious characters.

I’ll be more productive—tomorrow.

Just one more episode. Yeah, right!

Sitting with my hubby, watching a movie we enjoy, doesn’t fall under the same category. At the end of a long, crazy day, Dave needs to decompress. And we are together, something we enjoy even after 39 years of marriage. Thank You, Lord!

But that lying back and “resting” on the couch by myself? It rarely, if ever, energizes me. I can’t seem to muster up the energy to read, which would be much better for my intellect and my mood. Most often I fall asleep, even though I’ve had enough rest.

However, when I head to my home office, sit at my desk, and make significant progress—or even complete—a long-neglected project …

Now, that’s when I do an internal happy dance. I feel the shot of adrenaline. And I want to move onto my next task.

Instead of tiring me out, my work recharges me, something sedentary “leisure activities” never does.

If you’re “an object at rest” but aren’t feeling renewed, here are a dozen suggestions that may get you moving:

  1. Get up and stretch periodically.
  2. Grab a healthy snack.
  3. Drink a tall glass of water.
  4. Go for a hike—or a walk around the block.
  5. Play some upbeat music.
  6. Dance like no one’s watching—especially if you’re alone.
  7. Do a favourite workout.
  8. Read a book or listen to a podcast instead of watching TV.
  9. Take a TIMED BREAK to play an online game. Wordle has really taken off recently.
  10. Connect with a friend (via Zoom or Voxer, on the phone, in person—whatever works for the two of you).
  11. Find an accountability partner. Connect at the beginning of the week and state one or things you each want to accomplish by the end of the week. Connect again at the end of the week. Knowing we are answerable to someone often motivates us to become “an object in motion.”
  12. Play a board game with your family. And if you live alone or want to expand your group and can’t get together in person, set something up via Zoom. Yes, there are many people who are tired of Zoom meetings of all kinds, but it can bridge the distance and do you a lot of good.

Note: It’s important to check with your health care provider before you change your diet and/or level of physical activity.

Getting things crossed off my Procrastination List is one of the best feelings ever—and, this week, I’ve done well.

My plan for the days ahead: Become an Object in Motion.

How about you? What recharges your batteries and inspires and motivates you to keep making strides forward?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Celebrating 2021 (Guest Post)

Celebrating 2021

by Steph Beth Nickel

Yes, you read the title right.

On December 26, the visiting pastor to our church asked us which we would choose, gold or a struggle. While none of us would willingly choose the latter, he was pointing out the fact that, while things of this world are fleeting, struggles help strengthen and mature us spiritually.

I’m not ready to choose struggles, but I am willing to look back and see how past challenges have shaped and grown me. I’m willing to commit the year ahead to God’s care, whatever it may bring—including further struggles.

Let’s take a few minutes on this, the last day of the year, to journal about what we can celebrate—both “the gold” and the growth that has come as a result of the difficulties, obstacles, and heartbreaks we’ve faced.

Here are a half dozen tips as to how to go about this:

  1. Start here! Make a list of all the things that thrilled your heart this past year. For example, my hubby and I were able to fly from Ontario to Saskatchewan for the weekend to witness our son and new daughter-in-law’s wedding. What an incredible blessing! Now, that was something easy to celebrate.
  2. And now move onto the more challenging part of the exercise. Give yourself permission to be 100 percent honest with yourself and with the Lord. We don’t have to put on a brave face and only write what is “proper and expected,” what we think others would want to read and what we think is acceptable. After all, no one ever has to read these words. (And God already knows what we’re thinking and feeling.)
  3. Take some time to really “feel the feels.” Sit quietly. Journal more. Head out for a walk. Whatever works for you.
  4. Prayerfully, re-examine these struggles. Ask yourself how you’ve grown as a result. Have you been able to empathize with others more readily? Are you more patient with them? Have you seen yourself “go deeper” with the Lord as a result of your challenging times? Journal about it.
  5. Press in even further. What have you learned about God? About yourself? About others?
  6. Record how you’ve grown and developed spiritually. Don’t think you have? Journal about that too. You may be surprised.

Note: This post is for you, not your spouse or your best friend. We should never minimize the struggles others have faced or are facing. It’s important not to weigh them down further with additional “Shoulds.” I’m sure they’re doing enough of that to themselves. And while the Scriptures are true, as it says in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time to speak and a time to remain silent. We need wisdom as to which is which. Spoken at an inopportune time, Bible verses can sound like nothing more than platitudes. Words meant to encourage and uplift can cause guilt and shame.

Further disclaimer: It is not my intention to weigh you down with Shoulds either. If you can only complete #1, go for it! While I may see some growth in me that has resulted from the challenges I’ve faced, I’d still rather they came via “the gold.”

What are you celebrating about the past 12 months?

What is one way in which you have matured spiritually because of a struggle you’ve faced?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

The Comfort of Consistency (Guest Post)

The Comfort of Consistency

by Steph Beth Nickel

I’ve become one of those people.

Seven years ago, my then future daughter-in-law first came to visit from across the Pond.

Because our home is well over 100 years old, it looks best when it’s decorated for Christmas. So, that year, we decorated mid-November.

And that’s when it all began.

Dickensian Christmas display
Photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel

We’ve been decorating “early” ever since. My hubby set up his extensive Dicken’s Village from Department 56 on November 12 this year. The following Sunday, I set up my smaller (but more fun) Whoville Village on the mantel.

Christmas Who-ville scene
Photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel

The trees went up last week. Yes, trees—plural.

At this time of year, I can count on my hubby’s inner child surfacing. Christmas is his favourite time of year. After decades of marriage, his love for the season has finally rubbed off on me.

And don’t we all need a little enthusiasm, positivity, and just plain ole fun?

The past couple of years have weighed us all down with challenges we never anticipated—and some we saw coming but would rather have avoided.

Unprecedented. Pivot. New normal. We’ve all heard these words Far. Too. Often.

But in the midst of it all … consistency.

Christmas comes round every year. Hopefully, the season brings you far more joy than anything else. (While I do love my hubby’s enthusiasm and a laidback approach to the twenty-fifth—something we started even before 2020—I do miss visiting my extended family and celebrating in person with my sons and their wives. But let’s not dwell on that. Thank You, Lord, for Zoom!)

And hard on the heels of Christmas … a brand new year. Twenty-twenty-two. Can you believe it?

This time of year means more than coloured lights, Christmas villages, and a catered turkey dinner. (Hey, don’t judge!) It also means goal-setting time, which I love.

What do we want to accomplish in the next 13 months? What small steps can we take to get closer to our dreams and aspirations? How can we do our part to fulfill our responsibilities—both paid and volunteer?

I love a fresh new year … or month … or week. These are constants in my life, consistency that gives me an anchor as I get tossed around on the sea that is the world in the 21st century.

But the Real Anchor is not routine—although it’s comforting. It’s not even my hubby’s tangible joy as December 25 approaches. No matter what’s going on, no matter what time of year, the truth of Hebrews 13:8 keeps me from drifting when the seas are calm. And it keeps me from sinking in the midst of crashing waves. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (ESV).

He is my Anchor, my Constant, my Security.

As you look ahead to the holiday season with its joys and challenges … As you approach the new year with expectation or hesitation … As you seek to make it through just one more day … I trust you will find your comfort and security in the truth of the unchanging Jesus Christ.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

On the Eve of NaNoWriMo (Guest Post)

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

On the Eve of NaNoWriMo

By Steph Beth Nickel

If you’re a writer, especially a fiction writer, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), may be familiar to you. Each year, during the month of November, hundreds of thousands of people sit down to crank out 50,000 words. Not 50,000 brilliant, astounding, incredible words. Fifty thousand words that may end up in a drawer (virtual or physical) never to see the light of day.

But maybe. Just maybe.

Those 50,000 words will become the bones a novel. They may morph into your first published book or your twentieth.

So, since it’s already October 29, is it too late to sign up? Absolutely not.

While some writers spend the month of October preparing an outline, creating character sketches, and ironing out the plot, others hit the ground running on November 1 with only the vaguest idea of what their story will be about.

I have three books I could work on during November, but instead, I decided to dive into a new project. The preparation? Make a list of what’s important to me right now. Review that list until a character introduces herself and lets me know her story needs to be written—and maybe a little of what that story’s about.

Sound too “out there” for your liking? That’s okay. There are as many different approaches to NaNoWriMo as there are participants. We all bring our unique writing style to the project.

Want to give it a try but don’t know where to start?

Here are nine ideas to get the creative juices flowing—even if you only have a couple of days before NaNo begins.

  1. Make a list of genres you like to read. There is great wisdom in writing what you like to read. (Note: Although it’s called National Novel Writing Month, some participants sign up for the challenge to motivate them to write 50K words toward any type of book. Some consider themselves NaNo Rebels.)
  2. Decide on the atmosphere you want to create. A light and happy romance. (We all need a little light and happy these days.) A suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. A fantasy that will carry readers off into a world you’ve created. (If you choose to write a fantasy, your aim will likely be to write approximately 50 percent of the first draft in November. Most fantasies run closer to 100K words. But since this is your project, you may want to write the first 25 percent and the last 25 percent, leaving “the messy middle” for the revision process.)
  3. Think about what you typically write. Writing what you’re familiar with may give you the confidence to sign up for NaNo. Plus, you may come to the project with countless ideas that have already been tumbling around in your brain.
  4. Try something completely different. What better time to dip your toes into writing something you’ve never written before? Remember the goal is to write 50K new words, not 50K earth-shattering/inspiring/compelling words. (Psst! They don’t even have to be good.)
  5. Create a rough character sketch of your protagonist and/or antagonist. Rather than including their hair and eye colour and their favourite TV series, decide on an age range, gender, their ultimate goal and a list of obstacles that you’ll throw at them to keep them from achieving it.
  6. Create the skeleton of your plot. Where will the story begin and where will it end? You may even want to decide on an inciting incident and a dark night of the soul event. (The inciting incident plunges your protagonist into the story. The dark night of the soul event occurs at approximately the 75 percent point and is just what it sounds like. Things have gone from bad to worse for your protagonist, and this is the lowest point of them all.)
  7. Wake up on Monday, November 1, put fingers to keyboard, and just write. While you may be a die-hard plotter, this is the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss is about “discovery writing” or “pantsing.”
  8. Give yourself a break. While it feels amazing to write 50K words in just 30 days (1,667 words per day), every word you write toward a new project is one you didn’t have written before.
  9. Recruit a friend or two to write with you. There are local groups and numerous opportunities to connect online with other participants. However, if you dive into this challenge with a small group of friends, you can become one another’s accountability partners. You may even want to meet at a local coffee shop once a week for lunch and a writing session. (Warning: If you’re as much of an extrovert as I am, the writing component will require excessive discipline.)

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com

To sign up, visit the NaNo website: https://nanowrimo.org/


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Weddings, Clients, and Meetings … Oh My! (Guest Post)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Weddings, Clients, and Meetings … Oh My!

by Steph Beth Nickel

Okay, so, I only attended one wedding this month, but the title reads better because I pluralized it. As writers, we’re allowed a little poetic license from time to time.

My son and brand new daughter-in-law had a small ceremony because … COVID. So many friends and family members couldn’t make the trip. I will forever be thankful that my husband and I made it to Saskatchewan from Ontario for the weekend.

Even though we were only away for four days, travel included, it meant we had to shuffle a lot of other responsibilities.

Deadline extensions + a tsunami of tasks + a sense of overwhelm often leads to too much YouTube and not enough time at my computer.

So, how can we handle our schedule when we’d rather vegetate on the couch or pull the covers over our head and sleep for “just five more minutes”?

Here are some suggestions that have either worked for me in the past or I’m planning to implement in the next little while:

Create a list of everything you want to get done. The more detailed the list, the better.

Prioritize the list. Self-care may be a buzzword these days, but getting adequate rest, eating well, keeping physically active, and doing something that feeds your spirit on a regular basis are vital for not only your wellbeing but also for your ability to effectively complete the tasks on your To-Do List. Be sure to include self-care on your list of priorities.

Decide what you can get done each day within reason. I make a mean To-Do List, and because I’m content moving unfinished tasks to the next day, it’s hard for me to create realistic expectations for each day. I’m getting better, but it’s a process for sure.

Back out of at least some responsibilities that don’t rank high on your priority list. This is tough for many of us. People count on us. We don’t like to say no when they ask us to do something, especially something “small.” (Don’t forget the adage about the straw and the camel’s back.) Like me, you may be eclectically interested and eclectically involved. It’s hard to know what to set aside—even temporarily—but it’s a necessary skill.

Assign specific tasks to specific days. Trying to do a little bit of everything on the same day often leads to a sense that you haven’t accomplished anything significant. Completing a single task before moving onto the next one has its benefits, but when that isn’t possible, it’s important to determine how much of one task you will accomplish before moving on. Optionally, you can set a time limit and see how much of the project you can get done in an hour or two for instance. Be content with your progress, and move on, physical and mentally, to the next task.

Beware of mental fog and hair-trigger emotions. We’ve all been there. Unable to concentrate on the task at hand. Snapping at a friend or family member over a non-issue. Feeling that anger, frustration, or anxiety forming in the pit of our stomach. Should we push through? Take a break? Walk away and start fresh tomorrow? Because I work from home and create my own schedule, most times, I have the opportunity to add the task to my next day’s schedule. Even if this isn’t an option, taking a stretch break, reading a novel for 5-10 minutes, or just closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths can make a surprisingly big difference.

Have some fun. “All work and no play …” and all that. Is there something you look forward to every day? I enjoy watching an episode of a show on Netflix or Disney Plus with my hubby each evening. Instead of watching “just one more YouTube episode,” I feel more refreshed when I take a little time to read. And, of course, being an extra extrovert, I love meeting a friend for coffee and a l-o-n-g chat.

How to you deal with overwhelm in your life?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.