Tag Archives: Steph Beth Nickel

Did Bobby McFerrin Have It Right? (Guest Post)

Image by Sirpa P from Pixabay

Did Bobby McFerrin Have It Right?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Whether it’s cancer, COVID, or corruption, it seems everywhere we look there is something threatening to steal our peace.

And in the writer’s world there are contacts, conferences, and contracts to consider as well. While these may be exciting, they can still cause stress.

So, what are we to do?

Should we simply do our best to follow Bobby McFerrin’s advice: Don’t worry; be happy. (Yes, Bob Marley sang it, but Bobby McFerrin wrote the lyrics.)

We can only ignore what’s going on around us for so long. Plus, in the long term, this is 1) virtually impossible and 2) extremely irresponsible.

We are called to fulfill our commitments. Granted, some of us (read “most of us”) take on too much—at least at times. But even if we’ve learned to say, “No, I’m unable to add that to my schedule,” it’s probably because our plate is already full to overflowing.

And would we really be at peace, worry-free, if we could sing and dance our way through life without any thought to the heartaches going on all around us?

Sure, we need to take regular breaks to clear our mind and refresh our body. But the real happiness, the real peace, comes from obeying God’s commands in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (ESV).

If we try to obey the first part of this verse in our own strength, we’ll soon throw up our hands in defeat. It isn’t as easy as choosing happiness instead of worry.

However, as He always does, God shows us how we can set aside our anxiety. Pray and give thanks.

That sounds easy enough, but we all know it’s not “one and done.”

I have a tendency to obsess over (read “worry about”) things I can’t change until God reminds me AGAIN of Philippians 4:6.

So, what are you laser focussed on with regard to your writing right now? Is it stressing you out? Is that stress quickly turning into full-fledged worry? Is it immobilizing you, which adds to your stress levels?

Be encouraged. God cares about you. He can—and will—work out all the details.

Take your concerns and requests to Him. Focus on all the things you have to be thankful for. “Rinse and repeat” as necessary. If you’re anything like me that will be often.

Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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.

Excuses vs. Reasons (Guest Post)

Signposts: One arrow says "one way" and the opposite one says "or another".
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Excuses vs. Reasons

By Steph Beth Nickel

Do you scold yourself when you don’t get everything done on your daily To-Do List or when you don’t achieve everything you’d hoped to achieve?

Beating yourself up about it rarely, if ever, gets the job done.

However, we all must be honest with ourselves and evaluate if we’re making excuses or have legitimate reasons for failing to cross everything off our list.

Excuses include the following (just ask me how I know):

  1. Watching “just one more” episode of a show we’re enjoying…or, at least, tolerating.
  2. Scrolling through our newsfeed for “just a few more minutes.”
  3. Thinking, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” (Trust me; I put the PRO in procrastination.)

On the other side of the coin are legitimate reasons for not achieving the things on our list:

  1. Something truly urgent comes up that demands our immediate attention.
  2. Our expectations of ourselves are unreasonable.
  3. Our physical and/or emotional well needs refilling.

These are only a handful of examples, but you get the idea.

And now for the good news!

Whether you’ve been making excuses or have perfectly good reasons for what you do or don’t get done, there are ways you can silence that finger-wagging inner voice:

  1. If you make a To-Do List or simply record deadlines and occasions you don’t want to miss, prioritize your list. What is time-sensitive and something you must/really want to remember? To make sure you don’t miss anything important, write it down somewhere you will check often—whether in a paper planner or on an app.
  2. While it’s important to take other people’s feelings and ideas into consideration, be careful not to allow their priorities to influence your schedule unless those priorities line up with what you believe to be God’s plans and purposes for you.
  3. Be reasonable. There are only so many hours in the day, and you’re only one person.
  4. If you don’t achieve everything on your list, be honest with yourself. Did you have legitimate reasons, or did you find yourself making excuses?
  5. If you find you’re making excuses, choose ONE to work on until it’s no longer a default. Don’t try to eliminate all the excuses at once, or you’ll simply become frustrated and scold yourself even more.
  6. Get into the habit of making an Accomplishments or Victory List. Record what you get done and regularly review the list. It will help when you’re tempted to become discouraged. (Include household chores and running errands. It may feel like you’re getting very little done, but an itemized list will put that misconception to rest.)
  7. As believers, committing our day to the Lord before we get out of bed, praying over each task, and laying down what we did or did not achieve before Him each night will make a huge difference in how we create our To-Do Lists. It will also help us keep our focus where it belongs and will make us more sensitive to His leading.

Be positive. Be patient. And be prayerful.


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.

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.

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.