Beside Still Waters, He Restores My Soul

God certainly knew what He was doing when He gave me the word “Abide” as a focus point this year. I’ve been digging deeper to learn how to abide. To be still. To listen. Yet I find myself still striving inside and wrestling with decisions to make and unaccomplished goals.

When I’d set aside time for my devotions, I had often found myself at least subconsciously watching the clock to see when I could stop and get back to the mountain of real work I needed to do.

Knowing there is something extremely messed up about not being able to be truly quiet during my so-called quiet time, I tried something radical. I cleared my schedule, took a short drive, and just sat beside some water. Sized somewhere between a pond and a lake, it had all the necessary elements of water, a few trees, some grass, and even a few feathered guests. A gentle breeze formed a few ripples across the surface of the water, then it stopped, leaving a surface like glass. Water lapped a bit against the shore as gliding ducks created new ripples of their own. The surrounding trees were beginning to leaf out while the grass was transitioning from winter’s brown to the life-giving green of spring.

As I sat, my senses soaked it all in…then calmed. Low-level anxiety and stress and tension melted away and as I sat, something deep down inside began to get filled up. My mind wandered without an agenda. Without a purpose.

I just was.

Beside the still waters, I found a prayer of communion and intimacy taking the place of my earlier prayers of desperation and need. Me and God, hanging out beside the water. No rush to be somewhere or do something. Simply being all the way down to the depths of my soul and trusting God to keep me in the palm of His hand whatever the rest of the day held.

Eventually a pain in my stiff back forced me to move and life’s responsibilities intruded once again. Yet, as I drove back home, I found joy in the realization that my soul had truly been restored beside the still waters.

So far this month, I’ve given myself permission to wait before making a big decision and permission to relax about my never-ending to-do list. Now, I’m giving myself permission to trust even more the One who restores my soul.

After all, that’s what abiding is all about.

Getting To Know The Twins in Moonstone Secrets

From time to time, I let others share their stories on my blog. Today, welcome back Dawn V. Cahill as she interviews identical twins Livy and DeeDee McCreary, singers and dancers extraordinaire, who star in her new novel Moonstone Secrets – sequel to Sapphire Secrets.

Dawn V. Cahill: DeeDee, since this is your story, why don’t we start with you? Tell us why you want to share your story with the world.

DeeDee: Picture this—a remote cabin in the Canadian bush. Howling wind. A barking dog and a dead body…. Wouldn’t you be curious, too?

DVC: Indeed I would.

DeeDee: Moonstone Secrets is basically my testimony. And what an incredible journey. Not only did I find out the truth about my boyfriend’s ex-wife, I also found a husband. And God. Now, I just want the world to know that God loves them. So many people have never experienced His love. They don’t know what it’s like when God grabs ahold of you and pulls you into His arms – so unlike anything you’ll ever experience.

DVC: But you weren’t raised to believe in God. What made you change your mind?

DeeDee: I met someone who wasn’t afraid to share Christ with me. At first, I was resistant. Our parents and grandma raised us to be suspicious of organized religion. But then, one day everything changed. I made a shocking discovery about the man I loved and…

DVC: Spoiler alert!

DeeDee: Whoops. Zipping my lip now. Better change the subject. Let’s talk about dancing!

DVC: Okay, dancing it is. One of my readers wants to know, were all those dance lessons growing up a pleasure, or a chore?

DeeDee: I won’t lie and say they were a piece of cake. Dance lessons are grueling. If I hadn’t had Livy to learn and practice with, I’m sure I would have given up a long time ago. But now, I marvel at what my body can do. I’m pumped that we get to pay it forward by teaching other little girls the beauty of dance.

Livy: Our mom’s passion for dance rubbed off on us. I couldn’t have quit if you paid me. For me, the downside of dance was the demanding nature of it. In the professional dance world, you have your share of divas and spiteful types and those who take themselves oh-so-seriously.

DeeDee: You find if you don’t keep raising the bar, someone else will be more than happy to grab the best part.

Livy: Yet all the practicing builds character and self-discipline.

DeeDee: I loved the intense competitions…

Livy: I hated the bloody toes and outgrowing my favorite leotards…

DeeDee: There were hardly ever any boys in class to tease or flirt with.

DVC: How times change! A couple of single fathers brought their daughters into your studio for lessons.

Livy [giggling]: Don’t forget to mention how cute they were.

DVC: And now you’re married to one of them, aren’t you, Livy?

Livy: Spoiler alert!

DVC: My lips are sealed. But my fans who read Sapphire Secrets are dying to know…were you ever able to dance again?

Livy: I don’t want to spoil the surprise. But if they read Moonstone Secrets, they’ll find out!

DeeDee: Don’t forget to tell them about your prequel, When Lyric Met Limerick, a free short story about a fateful meeting…the day our amazing and talented parents met.

DVC: Readers, just click on my Amazon author page to find all my books. And thank you, ladies, for letting my readers get to know you today.

Livy and DeeDee [in unison]: So long, lovely readers.

DeeDee: Peeps, you have to download Moonstone Secrets, because this crazy author is going to put me through an even worse ordeal than Livy’s. I have no clue how I’m going to get out of this mess…

DVC: Not to worry, DeeDee, your story is now available for preordering and will be released next week!

DeeDee: Hey everyone, be sure to subscribe to my favorite author’s newsletter at www.dawnvcahill.com so you can be the first to read my story!


As the Christmas season sparkles around her, DeeDee McCreary eagerly anticipates visiting magical Victoria, BC, with her boyfriend, Nick, and meeting his family. But the trip proves disastrous. First, Nick finds his bank account cleaned out. Then he disappears. Frantic, she determines to uncover what happened. When she discovers something far worse than she anticipated, she questions everything she believes to be true about him.

With the man she loves in jail for an unspeakable crime, DeeDee knows the truth lies somewhere in Nick and his ex-wife’s past. But if she pursues their secrets, will she put herself in danger, too?

Author Dawn V. Cahill pens “Stories of Victorious Faith for the 21st Century,” nearly always with a crossword puzzle, sudoku, or dark chocolate nearby. “The characters in my stories face situations that would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago. We live in a vastly different world than our parents did, and that’s the world I write about.”

Why I Can’t Do Everything

Duh. Because I’m human, not super-human. That’s why I can’t do everything.

That’s the easy answer, but it’s true. Yet, I must not really believe it because I still try to do more than is humanly possible to accomplish in a day, week, or month. I suppose I took to heart that sage wisdom about aiming high because even if you fall short, you’ll still end up among the stars.

Anyhow, I try to take on more than I can reasonably get done…and then beat myself up with guilt for not marking everything off my list. I could set the bar lower, but I’m a recovering perfectionist who thinks that the world is watching and judging me based on my performance. (At least I’m past the feed-the-baby-and-change-diapers stage of life.)

Case in point? This overwhelming feeling of hypocrisy when sharing practical advice and wisdom with other authors. I’ve written a comprehensive set of blog posts about a wide variety of topics and will likely compile them all into a book to make it easy for others to get access to all of the information and possibly earn a little cash on the side to support my writing obsession. However, over and over as I wrote about these wonderful and often easy ways to promote books and juggle all of the marketing while still writing…I felt like I was staring into a mirror with a wagging finger aimed my direction. I couldn’t help but see all the things I should be doing. Should be, but I’m not.

It doesn’t just happen in my writing world. I’m also striving for balance in all areas of life, yet can’t help seeing undone projects and goals everywhere I turn. From my squishy muffin-top-ish waistline to the dust-covered and cluttered scrapbooking table to that teetering pile of books I’ve been meaning to list on Amazon to generate a little more spending money. I could devote hours to one area, feel a sense of satisfaction in a job well done…then turn around and get smacked in the face with guilt over all the other things still to do. Not to mention the new things that snuck onto my proverbial plate—like the weeds in my flower bed—while I was occupied elsewhere.

Want to know why I can’t do everything? Because I’m human. And there will always be things to do. It will never all get done. And there’s freedom there. Not the freedom to give up completely, but the freedom to be realistic.

Even if it won’t all get done, I can still be about the business of doing. Even if I never reach that lofty goal I’m aiming at, I’ll still end up further than if I had never tried. So the better question to ask is did I make progress today? Did I take a baby step or two in the direction I want to go?

I may not be able to get everything done, but as long as I made some sort of measurable progress today, I’m giving myself permission to relax and enjoy the journey.

Quieting the Noise So I Can Think

I hear voices. I wish they were just the characters of my latest work-in-progress clamoring to share their opinions about a recent plot twist. But, no. Lately I’ve been hearing the voices of doubt and confusion and guilt to the point they’re blocking out the true voices of faith, wisdom, and peace. While I’m still learning to listen, I’m also quieting the noise so I can think.

The source of all this mental turmoil is a silly book. Well, not exactly a silly book but a story that I’ve been working on since the very beginning of my fiction-writing journey. The glimpse of a late-night diner waitress through a window while driving sparked a short story idea which grew into my first never-to-see-the-light-of-day manuscript and a few ideas about secondary characters who could turn the diner world into a series. I got connected with other fiction writers who soon critiqued my story about waitress number one back into a dusty drawer. However, in an experiment, I wondered if I could write an interweaving story about all three of the waitresses I had dreamed up…and that story was runner-up in a big contest in 2009.

Awesome. Except publishers had their women’s fiction slots filled for years and one agent kept asking me about my overall story question. (A question I had no idea how to answer at the time.) A writer friend suggested that I could pull the story back apart into three separate books and try to write them as straight romances. It felt like a lot of work, so I shelved the whole project and moved on to write two unrelated manuscripts.

Then on a whim, I picked up the character arc of waitress number two thinking—erroneously—that it would be easy to add the hero’s point of view amidst the existing scenes and slam-bam have a short novel length romance. It took more work than I thought but I was happy with the resulting story…which won the same contest in 2014…received requests for proposals and full manuscripts…and was also rejected over and over.

Since then, I’ve rewritten complete sections, rearranged scenes, deepened characters, revamped the opening, and continued to pitch the story idea to editors and agents. And continued to get rejections, with the “good” news that I’m open to resubmit if I rewrite it again.

All of which has led to my current paralyzing mental chaos after being rejected once again. What should I do with this story? These people?  The series potential? This award runner-up and then award winner that’s going nowhere? Should I do the work in order to keep knocking on the traditional publishing door or make this the first in an indie-published series of my own? Should I start fixing it based on the input from the last rejection letter or should I get the advice of a few beta readers to see what they would suggest? Should I try submitting it to a couple small presses as-is or add another 10,000 words in order to meet the guidelines of a different publisher who would be a great fit? Do I even like these characters anymore and would I want to invest more years into their world? Should I toss the whole thing in the trash and call it a painful learning experience or should I…?

In the middle of all of the noise, I heard a whisper in my soul.

Be still. Set this aside and quiet the noise. And in the silence, I am finally able to think clearly. I’m reaching the finish line on a non-fiction project so that’s obviously my first priority. Then I need to dive back in to revise the rough draft of a book that will come after my next release in February. By the time that manuscript is ready and that series completely written, then—and only then—will it be a good time to decide which writing project to pursue next. God knows if, when, and how this story will have a voice of its own.

In the meantime, I have permission to wait.

Shut Up and Listen

Do you know anyone who talks more than they listen? Someone who asks the same question over and over without ever hearing the answer?

While these types of behaviors are somewhat understandable—and unfortunately common—coming from my special needs daughter, I had to shake my head the other day when listening to a call-in radio show. More like I wanted to scream at the caller to shut up and listen.

The woman on the line had gone to the trouble to call in and sit on hold for who knows how long until the host had room in the rhythm of callers and advertisement breaks to put her on the air. With millions of people listening in, she presented the dilemma requiring the sage advice of the host. Except, unlike the countless previous callers to the show, she never stopped talking. And it wasn’t like her problem was that complicated since she started repeating herself about the third sentence. And kept on repeating herself while the host politely…and then not-so-politely tried to interrupt her monologue.

“Hey, lady. You called me, so do you want to know what I think?”

She finally stopped talking and the host gave her and the nation a practical and wise solution to her trouble. But as the show moved into another commercial break, I had to wonder if I’m ever like that lady when I’m talking to the One who has all of the answers.

When I pray, am I so busy dumping my complaints or concerns that I never stop to listen? Am I fixated on getting through all of the items on my I-promised-I-would-pray-for-you list before I run out of time? Do I really think I need to tell God all of the ugly details and feelings about a situation before I am ready to hear a solution?

My focus this year has been on learning how to abide. To stop striving or doing but rather to be still and know that He is God. To stop talking and complaining and arguing…and simply listen.

The possibility that listening is integral to abiding, reminded me of the prophet Elijah in the desert who discovered that God often speaks in a still small voice. Or an earlier time when the boy Samuel awakened to a voice in the middle of the night and responded “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:1-10)

 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. ~ John 10:27 NIV

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:21 NIV

Listen and silent are made up of the same letters. Think about it.

And then this thought I found online: God gave us mouths that close and ears that are always open.

As crazy and noisy as my life can get most days, it’s that much more important that I make time to shut up and listen.

Leave a Mark For Eternity

I can be a bit of a clutz sometimes, especially when I’m tired, overwhelmed, or distracted. Which, thanks to a crazy day job project, is how I spent much of last week. As a result, I ran into things…and now have the bruises to prove it. Of course, in the moment of impact, I remember thinking “that’s going to leave a mark” but today as I look at the swirls of purple and yellow, I can’t remember exactly what happened.

I only know that I’m changed (even if it’s only temporary) by the encounters.

A week ago, our pastor talked about leaving a legacy in the context of a living a generous life. However, one of his points was that we leave a mark on the lives of everyone we come in contact with. Good or bad. Encouraging or critical. Kind or dismissive. And whether or not it fades or lingers, there is a mark.

Between the sermon and saying goodbye to my oldest son as he headed back to college after Spring Break, I found my mind wandering to an incident in the past where that same son left a mark…on his sister, our kitchen, our memories, and in the minds of all the other parents I shared the story with.

It was a Saturday morning and I awakened to the giggles of my two toddlers across the hall. As I drifted in and out of that lazy half-dozing state, I remember thinking how blessed I was to have my husband snoring beside me and two happy children, even if our daughter would face challenges throughout her life. For today, it was a good day.

I must have fallen back to sleep, because the next thing I remember is hearing a knock on our bedroom door and the cries of my daughter. I bolted out of bed and rushed over, opening the door to find my pajama-clad kids standing there, one behind the other. At least my trouble-making son looked completely normal as he grinned over the top of his crying sister’s head. A head of dark hair with a pool of white liquid at the top. The same white that streaked her face, her hands, and as I later discovered, her entire torso underneath her zippered footie pajamas.

I snuggled the crying girl while interrogating her brother. All he said was “paint” before disappearing back in the direction of the kitchen. I followed with trepidation and learned first-hand how much liquid could come out of the half-used bottle of Wite-Out correction fluid my husband had left on the table where he’d been drawing up football plays. In addition to the Exhibit 1 puddle and streaks decorating my daughter, my son’s activity had left a mark on the papers, table, chairs, floor, and walls as he had apparently poured, painted, and then paraded around the room shaking additional spatters from the bottle.

I’d like to say that his decorate-my-sister-and-home tendencies dwindled, except there was a Vaseline incident a week later that finally removed the last white flecks from her hair, a finger-painting-on-faces-and-walls incident when he broke into my craft closet, and a year later a curly-cue trail of chocolate syrup throughout the entire house. I guess you could say that my son knows how to leave a mark.

Thankfully, as he grew, he began to direct those energies into sports and friends, leaving marks of a different kind in school records, mentoring relationships, and character awards. Which brings me back to the idea of leaving a legacy.

My daughter didn’t appreciate the kind of mark her brother left with the Wite-Out, just like I don’t appreciate the bruises I picked up during a rough week. Those marks hurt and stain. However, there are other kinds of marks–positive marks. Marks that change the trajectory of a person’s day, week, or life. The kind of marks that could change their eternity if it helps someone to believe in God’s love and plan for their life.

Even the smallest encounter with someone else can mark them with an improved attitude, a smile, and the energy to keep going. Other encounters can spark a train of thought or encourage the pursuit of a forgotten dream. And when we realize we are vessels filled with God’s love, we can intentionally pour out, dab, or scatter that love wherever we go.

That’s the kind of mark I’m determined to leave on the world.

Guest Robin Bayne – Hidden Secrets

Dear readers, from time to time I ask others to share their stories of faith, hope, and love in order to encourage us all. If you have a story to share, you can find my guidelines under the Connect tab. In the meantime, welcome Robin Bayne!

Hi, I’m Robin Bayne.  My March release, “Reunion At Crane Lake,” is actually an updated, revised version of my earlier book titled “Cougar Lake.”  When I first wrote the story years ago, the word *cougar* meant an exotic wild animal, not an exotic wild woman pursuing younger men. So….. I changed the title and updated other aspects of the story, like adding cell phones and other technology.

But another aspect I really couldn’t change was one of the characters having a tattoo.  I wrote the story before switching to writing inspirational (Christian) fiction, and though I don’t like tattoos it really worked for this character.  As I updated, I decided to have her regret getting it and feel thankful it’s very small.  She wonders if the hero will think less of her for having it, and keeps it hidden. She knows it’s an accepted practice these days, but admits it wasn’t the right decision for herself.

Today’s column by “Dear Abby” answered a man who wrote in about his wife secretly getting a tattoo. After 32 years of marriage, she did this behind his back.  It’s not the actual tattoo that bothers him as much as the secrecy surrounding it. He’s hoping she will apologize and discuss it with him and repair the trust he feels has been broken.

In real life we all have hidden aspects of our past, things we regret doing or not doing.  We can’t go back and have a re-do, so we learn to live with our mistakes and not continually beat ourselves up. We ask for forgiveness and resolve to do better in the future.  If you’re willing, share something in comments from your past.  Also leave your email for a chance to win an ebook.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.   See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”   Isaiah 43:18-19


Robin Bayne is the award-winning author of 17 novels, novellas and short stories.  She lives in Maryland with her husband of 26 years, and works a day job in community bank lending. Visit her at www.robinbayne.com.

Reunion At Crane Lake:

Colt’s memory is returning after the accident that ended his career. Now he wants to take over his family’s inn, but he’ll have to partner with his former fiancée to be able to afford it. He’ll need forgiveness to make that happen. Tia’s goal is clear: to return the inn to its former grandeur. And she’ll even work with Colt to do so. But like the inn, their relationship needs a lot of work. He broke her heart…can she ever trust him again?

Buy on Amazon

Check out Robin’s blog or find her on Facebook

Still Growing After All These Years

The more I know, the more I realize I have no clue. That’s why I’m still growing and continually learning new things in a variety of different ways. Like a plant, growth requires taking in the nutritional information, absorbing it until it’s fully understood, and then stretching out to apply it in new and different ways.

Whether it’s financial strategies, trusting God more, writing craft, marketing strategies, health tips, or parenting, I’ve still got a lot to learn. And while I haven’t been in a formal class in years, I’ve developed a plan that’s working for me.

First, I’ve got a loaded bookshelf. Yes, I’m a writer with a fiction addiction that accounts for a lot of my, ahem, market research shelves. However, I’ve also got a stack of non-fiction books about starting a business, marketing, leadership development, personal development, Bible studies, and other faith-based topics in addition to the obvious books about the writing craft and editing.

But a stack of books does nothing unless I read them. Plus, non-fiction can’t simply be speedily read for enjoyment. It must be digested, pondered, underlined, highlighted, and stewed over. And then it must be applied, often by shutting the book and picking up a pen to journal or brainstorm a list of ideas.

That’s why I schedule reading time in my normal routines. Those faith-based books are the perfect complement to my personal quiet time when I already have my prayer journal handy to record the truths I’m learning. The evening is another time when I’ll instead pick up a business or leadership book and read a chapter before bedtime with thoughts to ponder as I drift off to sleep. And when it comes to my writing craft books, I tend to binge-read as I prepare to start a new manuscript or when it’s time to roll up my sleeves and edit. Not only do I learn something (or be reminded of something I forgot), it’s the perfect time to practically apply the lessons.

With my stacks of books, I’m always reading something and mulling over what it means before figuring out how to incorporate it into my daily life. Except, as much as I love to read, I don’t have time to sit and read for hours even for the sake of learning.

That’s why I love podcasts. Using the app on my iPad mini (or you could just as easily use an app on your phone), I’ve subscribed to a variety of different podcasts. Financial advice from Dave Ramsey. Personal growth from Brian Buffini. Novel marketing advice from James L. Rubart and Thomas Umstaadt Jr. is downloaded beside spiritual thoughts to ponder from the guys at The God Journey. Writing tips are as easily found as social media marketing tips or even healthy exercise accountability. If you can think of a topic, someone out there is talking about it.

Then, once I’ve downloaded plenty of episodes (and most of those happen automatically since I’m subscribed to various shows), I just turn off the radio and press play when I’m in the car. The carpool commute becomes a learning opportunity. Same with cooking dinner or washing dishes or folding laundry. And—a handy tip I discovered by accident when trying to rewind a few seconds—I can speed up the speaker to talk at 1 1/2 times normal speed. That’s still slow enough to understand and absorb but takes less time to communicate the same information.

So far, I’ve got lots of information being loaded into my brain through books and podcasts, but I’ve got one more favorite way to learn. In person from real people. (Although in person might be figurative sometimes.) Whether it’s my local writer’s group or an online video-teaching-with-chat-room community I’m part of, there’s power in learning the craft together and collectively brainstorming solutions to plot or character problems. The virtual contact via email from my personal critique partner and the editor from my publisher also continue to teach me specifically as issues relate to that manuscript. Women’s Bible studies, small groups, conferences, and even webinars are all ways to ask questions and get answers from real people.

Actually with access to all this information, you’d think I’d already be done learning everything I need to know. But no. I’m still learning and I’m still growing into the wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, mentor, writer, and child of God that I should be.

What about you? What are you learning this week to keep you still growing? How do you learn best? Would you prefer an in-person class, an audio podcast, or a physical book?

Be Still And Know

He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV)

As I’m discovering more about what it means to “Abide” this year, I keep coming across this word “Still” and it’s honestly bugging me. Because I’m an overachiever. I like to make a list and then get things done. Check off those boxes and leave a wake of completed projects behind me.

If I sit down to watch television or a movie, I get fidgety unless I’ve got something else to do like use my phone to check on Facebook or pick up that crochet project. Even reading a book sometimes induces guilt so I’ll start walking while reading.

I guess you could say I’m a get-it-all-caught-up-and-then-I-can-relax kind of girl.

Except a bout with chronic fatigue syndrome when my oldest two were preschoolers taught me the importance of regular rest for optimal health. So I’ll take a nap…and then jump right back into the crazy. But I’m finding I need more than a nap. More than finishing the checklist and clearing the mental desktop. More than decluttering the space around me. More than filling my soul with creative goodness. More than slowing down a little to truly engage with my family.

I keep finding myself constantly working to open doors in my writing career and even more so when it comes to all the marketing involved. Striving. Seeking. Yearning. Trying. Doing.

And in the middle of my perpetual motion, the Vinedresser whispers to this hyperactive branch…Be still. Don’t just slow down, stop.

But stillness is more than simply not moving. It’s also a place of deep silence or calm. A place of quiet where I can listen. Really listen until I discover that God is God whether I get my list accomplished or not. He will be exalted whether my latest book gets finished this week or next month or even this year. And as I’m still, I begin to really know God in a deeper way.

“In quietness and trust is your strength.” ~Isaiah 30:15

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” ~Exodus 14:14

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” ~Psalm 130:5

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way…” ~Psalm 37:37

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” ~Psalm 40:1

(And in case you’re like me and need help learning how to be still…) “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” ~Psalm 107:29

What about you? Are you a hyperactive branch like me or have you learned to be still? What does it look like to “be still and know”?

Six Writing Lessons From Crochet

I’ve been editing a novel…which also means I’ve been procrastinating.

And in the disguise of looking like I’m actually doing something, I picked up an unfinished crochet project. Not anything especially fancy like a delicate baby afghan for a niece, but rather one whose sole purpose was to use up extra yarn and provide another warm throw to use while watching television or a movie on the couch. Or even better, while reading a book.

But as the stitches added up, I noticed a few things that applied to that novel I should have been working on instead.

1) A large crochet project like a blanket is actually the sum of multiple small parts that follow a pattern. Whether using chunky yarn or a delicate thread, the stitches become rows which then become blocks (or in a very simple pattern, one giant block). Not to mention, there are different or additional stitches for creating the edging border or connecting the smaller pieces together. Crochet patterns are like a different language to the new crafter, but once knowledgeable, an experienced crafter can dissect even the finished product and duplicate it.

And writing? Well, words become sentences which become paragraphs, then scenes and chapters.  There’s a beginning, middle, and end to the story. An inciting incident, a quest, obstacles, a big black moment, an epiphany, a battle, and a perfect ending. Romance adds an additional layer of pattern to the story from boy-meets-girl to first kiss to proposal. There’s nothing wrong with having a pattern because it simplifies the complicated huge project down into doable smaller steps.

2) Different colors create the most beautiful images and designs. Whether a stitched heart on a plain background or a repeating pattern of colors, the alternating variety results in visual interest. Some colors blend together perfectly while some stand out from the crowd, making the end product either a soothing blanket to lull an infant to sleep or a bright energetic stuffed animal for a child’s playroom. And some colors remain from beginning to end while some only appear for a short time, then are replaced.

The colors in a novel come in the form of different characters, alternating points of view, the inclusion of the villain’s thoughts, or even the addition of a subplot or secondary character that doesn’t run the entire story. The same basic story pattern becomes unique through the creator’s choices of color through the characters and even the pacing of the scenes.

3) Given enough practice, crochet stitches transform into automatic motions. I remember when I started, I had to keep thinking about how to hold the hook and yarn, and repeat to myself the steps to yarn over, pull through one stitch, yarn over, pull through two stitches and so on…all while my hands were cramping from the overuse of small muscles. Until the day I didn’t have to think about how to do a double crochet stitch anymore and could concentrate on the bigger picture or pattern instead.

The same is true of writing, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Instead of needing a scene checklist, some craft elements come more naturally. You begin to feel the rhythm of a dialogue exchange and know when an action beat or internal thought might be needed. The more you write, the easier it becomes, thereby allowing your mind the freedom to try something new or bigger with the story.

4) Mistakes are easy to spot if not as easy to fix. The longer I crochet, the easier it is to spot a place that doesn’t look right. A place where my yarn tension was too tight or too loose…or where I either added an extra stitch or skipped one. Once I diagnose the problem, it’s a matter of unraveling the threads back to that point, fixing the mistake, and then moving forward again.

Diagnosing a plot or character problem also gets easier with time as I can sense where the story went off the tracks or the pacing got too slow…or the story got boring because it lacked the right amount of tension. The good news about writing is that while I go back to fix mistakes, I don’t automatically lose all of the writing that followed…just might need to tweak it a bit here or there to blend with the new changes.

5) There’s a peace in the monotony that allows creativity to flourish. Once I got past the learning curve, crochet was something I could do while talking to a friend, watching a movie, or simply relaxing while letting my mind wander hither and yon to solve all the world’s problems. It can also become a time of prayer or even reflection on where my life is headed or how far I have come in the past year or two.

When it comes to writing, there is creative flourishing in the middle of monotonous or thoughtless tasks. In fact, I find my best ideas and brainstorm plot solutions while walking, driving, or even washing the dishes. Sometimes it helps to step away from the writing project and embrace the monotonous while you allow your brain to keep tugging on those threads until you discover how one random piece here could connect to something over there. Other times it even happens when I’m in a writing rhythm of a scene and fresh ideas start “pinging” with sudden inspiration.

6) A finished project requires that loose ends be woven into the whole. Every time you switch skeins or colors, there are small dangling ends of yarn that distract from the beauty of the project. So, even when you think you’re done, you’re not. Of course, you could take the time to weave them in as you go along, but that slows you down. I tend to wait until the end to pick up the hook and weave those ends underneath other stitches until everything is neat and tidy.

When it’s time to edit, my job is to pull those necessary threads into place throughout the story line and make every sentence, scene, and chapter into a satisfying whole. Sometimes I know exactly where those loose threads are, but usually it takes the objective eye of a critique partner, beta reader, or the editor at my publisher to point out a detailed list of all the spots that need a little more attention.

The list that sent me into procrastinating mode in the first place. Except, with a little time away embracing the monotony of crochet, I figured out several solutions to the story problems and was actually eager to get back to work on the book.

Now, after finally turning the revised manuscript for Focus On Love back in to my editor, I’m planning to curl up to read a good book while snuggled under the warmth of my new blanket. While there, I’ll not only celebrate how all the threads of the story came together so neatly, but also begin to dream about the next story.