In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy discuss the value of calling to mind what we have achieved despite difficult circumstances in the year just ended, and showing gratitude. What will we plan for this new year, and how will we create strong spiritual foundations for our writing goals?
Scroll down for audio, video, and a full transcript, or find the podcast on Apple Podcasts here: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/gracewriters-podcast/id1519376330
In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, accredited editor with quals in theology, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of young adult urban fantasy
Topics covered in this episode:
- Looking back over the year that’s just finished, and taking time for gratitude.
- Looking ahead and setting useful plans for our writing.
- Creating spiritual anchors and foundations for our writing.
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Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters podcast – Christian writers changing popular culture. Connect with us at Gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast, New Year, New Writing Goals. I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. Find links to my books, blogs and courses at belinapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I’m a former early childhood teacher. I have four adult children and I write romance and you can find all my information under my pen name alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy and for the past 10 years I’ve been using my theology and ministry training to inform my writing, preaching, blogging and creative writing teaching. You can find out all about me and what I’ve been up to at donitabundy.com.
Belinda Pollard: Our topic today, New Year, New Writing Goals. So, we’re going to be giving thanks for the year that’s just finished, looking ahead into this year that’s just begun and creating spiritual anchors and foundations for our writing. I think there’s a lot of value in us remembering what we have done and calling it to mind deliberately. May I suggest that you actually take the time to think it through and write it down and you might actually be surprised at all of the things that you’ve achieved. I know I’m always a bit surprised. I feel like I’m in a bit of a fluster a lot of the time and I’m moaning that I can’t get anything done. Then I write down all the things that I have done, and I think, “Oh, okay, not so bad.”
I think it’s also really valuable for us to have gratitude and express gratitude. It has been a very hard year in many ways and yet there have also been good things. It’s good to recognise those and express our thankfulness to God, and share our thankfulness with others who will care and understand why that’s important. I think it also helps us to set some meaningful goals for the year ahead. Not just crazy, out-there goals but actual, meaningful goals.
Alison, just wondering how your writing year has been and what you’ve got to share of your reflections on achievements, learnings, growth.
Alison Joy: Wow, where do I start! My year began with releasing my first book to the world.
Donita Bundy: Yeah!
Alison Joy: It’s been a very, very big learning curve trying to get my head around the whole thing. How to market it, how to get it out there in the community. It’s a huge, daunting task. Trying to get some social media up and running and some blogging happening, which is a bit infrequent, but there you go. I have another book in the works that hopefully will be out, or should be out, by the time this goes to air. And several projects that I’m working on are works in progress. So, yes, it’s been an interesting time for me. I think, for me, it’s more to acknowledge that, “Yes, you can write and yes, you should be doing this and yes, you can put your books out into the wide world.” So, I think that’s been the big thing for me this year.
Belinda Pollard: Great stuff. You’ve joined a podcast, too.
Alison Joy: Yes, that – yes, that!! That was such a God thing, that one, there was no way that was me! It was funny how that all came about because we were meeting for Gracewriters on Zoom and I just had this thing that, well, it was obviously a God thing, that said maybe we should be doing a podcast for the Christians writers, for and on behalf of Christians writers, but I was only putting the idea out there, I wasn’t actually signing up to co-host. There you go.
Belinda Pollard: You didn’t know that I would say, “The one who has the vision gets the job, Alison!”
Alison Joy: Yes, so that’s also another massive learning curve. Trying to put your thoughts, the thoughts are not so much the problem, it’s getting the thoughts into coherent sentences and speaking them out in ways that make sense, that’s the issue.
Belinda Pollard: Yes. Totally understand. Donita, what about your 2020?
Donita Bundy: Well, I came into 2020 very excited with the potential of releasing my first book as well. So, like Alison, I’m a newbie and it was the release of my first baby into the world, book-wise, and I was also teaching two classes a week at the local high school. So, for me that was like the big task, it was a great celebration, and I was ready to punch on, doing two books a year and keep going with my teaching.
However, when COVID did hit, I was able to learn a whole lot of new skills, as in teaching online, and our church, when it shut down, I really felt God challenged me to take my teaching online. And at the end of last year my website crashed and I had gone through the painful process of rebuilding it from scratch. And I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it and then when COVID hit God said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea, how about you blog.” So, I started taking my teaching from church and putting it on the blog and I thought that, perhaps, might only be until we were all going back, but God has encouraged me to keep going with that.
And then in the midst of that, someone, a really wonderful lady came up with a great idea that we start a podcast. So, I started all these things and then I realised, as I was madly running to the finish line to try and think about getting two books out a year and maintaining all my teaching at school and my fortnightly blogging and this adventure of podcasting, I just thought, “You know what? This has birthed so many new creative opportunities that I need to be realistic.
So, it changed, my world has opened. I have had other creative opportunities land in my lap, like book cover design, which I just absolutely love. And so, this year, whilst it’s been challenging being a mum of two boys at school and just working in schools and seeing how COVID has affected many people. I acknowledge the pain and the suffering but on the other hand my world has exploded in creative opportunities. And so, for that, I’m really thankful. I’m now doing things that I never thought I would have the opportunity to do and I’m feeling incredibly blessed. And excited about what’s coming up because I’ve got no idea!
Belinda Pollard: Thank goodness we know someone reliable does know what’s coming up.
Donita Bundy: Absolutely.
Belinda Pollard: Yes. Yes. I’ve had a huge year, too. It’s been a year of rampant chaos but also some really exciting things as I look back over it. I’ve got back into blogging again which I find enormously hard work because I put a lot of effort into my blogs, but I also find a joy in it and getting back into expressing myself in that way, because there’s almost an unfiltered nature of blogging, in that it’s just straight between you and the reader instead of there being all of these other people or organisations between you and them.
There has also been Gracewriters which had been an idea in my mind, a vision that I’d had since 2017 and I’d begun to question. I had thought that it was an idea from God but I had begun to question whether it really was or whether I had imagined it, I’d made it up. And then as Australia was shutting down and I wanted to go and hide under the bed somewhere because I was scared, I didn’t know what was going to happen, I felt like God was actually saying, “This is the time for Gracewriters. Go.” And so, we started.
We’ve been meeting on Zoom, we met weekly initially and then fortnightly, and now we meet monthly on Zoom. Currently we’ve got writers from Australia, the United States, the Philippines, meeting together to talk about how to add gracenotes to their writing and to support and encourage one another. That’s so exciting to me. And this podcast is one of the most exciting things that I’ve done in my writing and publishing and editing career. So, it’s interesting how things come about, isn’t it?
I’ve edited some wonderful books for clients this year and I’m noticing that a greater percentage of my clients now are Gracewriters. And this is something that God was building up over the past three or four years, this wasn’t something that just suddenly happened. But I’ve noticed it.
I’m also repurposing some of my older writing. I’ve got the copyright back on some of my Bible devotionals and I’m repurposing and self-publishing those so that they get a second life.
I’ve been doing teaching workshops and courses this year, and like Donita, I’ve had to learn to teach online.
So, what about the year ahead, 2021? Thinking about our goals for this year ahead, I think it’s a really good thing to have goals and even to write them down. They can help us to measure things and it’s strange how writing a goal down and telling it, even, to other people can make it more likely to come true. And there are various theories about why that is, but I think it’s partly because it moves it out of the part of our brain that deals with fiction into the part of our brain that deals with the fact that we’ve got to take the garbage out tomorrow and do all the other stuff. It’s become a more practical focus. So, we’re more likely to do it.
So, can I encourage you out there to come up with some goals, write them down, tell them to some people. Try and keep them real, realistic, doable with your particular range of commitments, family issues, health issues, work issues, whatever else you’re dealing with. But also, to set goals with a bit of stretch in them. It’s good to have a bit of stretch but I’ve found, myself, if I put too much stretch in it then I don’t do it at all. We’re all different, but yes.
And also keeping it deep, thinking about God’s purposes for this coming year. God’s purposes in our writing. It’s not an accident that God gifted us in writing and gave us a desire to write. Those things are not accidents.
So, I think we can turn to him and say, “God, how do you want to use these abilities and desires for your purposes in this coming year.”
Alison, you’ve been having a bit of a look at what people say about goal setting, setting goals for our writing. What did you find?
Alison Joy: Well, obviously it’s very important to set goals. It’s a great idea but then you shouldn’t be so hung up on them that you get stressed out because you’re not meeting the goals. So, I think that’s important. And you’ve probably covered a lot of it in your opening remarks there but when you’re a writer there’s probably two main areas. You’re either project oriented or you’re time oriented.
So, project oriented is like when you want to have a word count that you want to keep to or you want to get a book finished, you need chapters done, whereas time oriented might be more like you want to write for 30 minutes a day in your lunch hour. So, there’s those two different things.
So, you’ve got to basically figure out what works for you which is obviously going to be trial and error. You decide the types of goals you want and then pick some out but don’t set them and forget them. You need to review them.
Well, actually, you should keep them visible first, so maybe if you write them out and stick them somewhere where you’re going to see them every day, whether it’s on the fridge or the bathroom mirror or next to your computer, so you can see them. And as Belinda said, you’ve got to make them attainable and sustainable. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
And then review them regularly. Now, if you’re finding it’s not working, then, hey, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just use the information you’ve got to reset yourself or redirect yourself or whatever you need to do. Because sometimes, as we all know, life gets in the way and we don’t actually take the path that we think we’re going to take. So, goals are all well and good but, hey, not the be all and end all, in the end. You’ve got something to aim for and if you don’t get there then, as I said, don’t beat yourself up over it.
I think it’s also a good thing if you’ve got goals that you also should work into that some sort of what I would call a recovery plan. So, you’ve got something else to work alongside your goals. So, you need to do something creative, maybe you should consume those as in read a good book, watch a movie, so you’re not so caught up in your goals, goals, goals that you don’t do anything else. You’ve got to have goals and you’ve got to be able to recover and go again.
Belinda Pollard: That’s a really good principal. That’s great.
Alison Joy: Maybe connection with nature. Obviously with God because we’re Gracewriters. Just with doing physical activity. So, I think sometimes some of those things go by the by when we’re so caught up with what we should be doing. And we fail to realise that these other things can help us achieve our goals, even though we think, “Oh, we’re too busy, we can’t exercise,” or, “We’re too busy to pray,” whatever. Gosh, things are all going to work together for good to help us achieve our goals, so we should always try and make room for those, as well.
And I think reviewing and, as I said, reviewing, adjusting the goals if we need too. Reflecting on the goals, is the way to go.
Belinda Pollard: Have you set any goals for 2021?
Alison Joy: Still keep going, keep going, maybe. I’d like to get another two books out if I could. I’ve got to get my email list up and running. I haven’t got my head around that yet. That’s my big thing, I think. Continue blogging and try and get that more regular, it would be good. And just seize opportunities as they present themselves. I mean, I would never have thought that I would be podcasting, so there you are. So, there’s obviously going to be opportunities there that you just have to take and run with when they present themselves.
Belinda Pollard: Those are great goals. What about you, Donita, have you got any you want to share?
Donita Bundy: Yes. It’s like Alison you’re a doctor and you’ve prescribed my way of doing goals. I’ve just follow everything you’ve just said to a T, pretty much. I’m a planner which is just the basic baseline. I’ll get something done by the end of the year and then it goes up to plan C or D, with a lot of wishful thinking, but, you know, that may come or go, and it tends to be a whole jumble of all the plans. But I am in the situation I’m in at the moment because of health problems. I couldn’t work fulltime outside of home so, I struggle a lot with that other side that you were taking about, Alison, like getting out and doing those things.
So, one of my main disciplines is maintaining some kind of balance with my physical capabilities. So, just recently I came up with a motto which I’m trying to live to, which is, “Healthy spirit, healthy body, healthy mind for a balanced life.” And so along with the writing goals, maintaining the blogging and the other things, my goal at the moment is to strive for balance. God first, body health, leading to creativity and a healthy mind. So that would be my number 1 goal which overarches all the other stuff that I’m doing.
But, like you’ve both just said, you need to release the dream or the plan and I’m very tentatively putting out there that I believe that God may be, just possibly, challenging me to think about, possibly, maybe look at organising a writing retreat in the Somerset region. And so, I’m using all my years’ experience of running kids camps and all those other things and pulling in people that I’ve been meeting and using this incredible place we live in, in South East Queensland in the Somerset district, and starting a writing retreat. So, I’ve put it out there.
Alison Joy: I’m in. Sign me up!
Belinda Pollard: Me too!
Donita Bundy: I need to be accountable so … So, I know a venue, I know some speakers, I know a caterer, so I feel that possibly God might be challenging me to move into that. On top of maintaining the writing, teaching, preaching and creative writing stuff, as well. So, God is capable and if it’s His idea He’ll see it through. But there you go; I’ve put it out there!
Alison Joy: Woohoo!
Belinda Pollard: That’s very exciting.
Donita Bundy: When we meet at the end of next year you can say, “So, Donita, how did that go?”
Alison Joy: We will know.
Donita Bundy: Yes!
Belinda Pollard: Well, my goals, I’m just at the moment staying away from measurable goals because I’ve had a family member who’s had a bit of precarious health in the last few months and has needed my support, so I’ve chosen, just at the moment, not to create goals that I think might stress me.
Alison Joy: That’s very sensible.
Belinda Pollard: And I know it is good to set measurable goals, I think that’s a great idea but instead my goals that I have in my mind, as we go into this new year, is that I want to work on deepening the spiritual purpose behind all of my writing. I want to work on that and be deliberate about it. I want to build spiritual tenacity so that I don’t run screaming and hiding under the bed every time something goes wrong because I do have a sense that there’s going to be more things going wrong in my life in the next year or two.
Alison Joy: It’s par for the course for everyone.
Donita Bundy: So, what you’re telling us, that you’re living life. Yes.
Belinda Pollard: Living life and I also want to work on strengthening my spiritual armour and that’s actually something I want to thank you for, not that you set out to do that, Donita, but for actually really challenging me about that this year. When I read your first book that was one of things that kept slapping me in the face: “Belinda, you’ve got to be strengthening your spiritual armour.”
Donita Bundy: Yay!
Belinda Pollard: “You’ve got to stop doing things that weaken your spiritual armour and no one else can do it but you, Belinda.”
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: I mean, we’ve got to do it in God’s strength obviously, but I can’t just lie on the bed eating bonbons and expect it to happen.
Donita Bundy: No.
Belinda Pollard: I’ve got to actually take steps and treat it seriously. So, those are the kind of, they’re hard to measure those goals. I won’t be able to tell really at the end of the year how far I’ve moved necessarily but those are things that I want to be serious about and I’m also looking at some of my other ideas.
I’m an absolute seething, boiling pot of ideas but actually carrying some of them out is another challenge. Creative people, I think we do do that.
Donita, have you got any things that you can add for us just on the spiritual foundations of how we set our goals for this coming year?
Donita Bundy: I think again, Alison nailed it earlier on, we’re Christians writers so everything we do has to be based on God. So, before we cast ourselves out into the unknown, I just have a picture of Peter, you know, Christ is out on the water and He’s saying, “Come to me,” and Peter steps out of the boat. Seriously, we have to have our eyes on Christ as we set out into the unknown. With Him all things are possible. If we keep our eyes on Him, and we are in connection and praying with Him, communicating, the two way. It’s not just us sitting there bleating to God, it’s us taking the time to be silent and listening and communing two ways.
So, number 1, we need to be in touch with God, we need to be prayerful and in a live and vibrant relationship with God.
I think another really important thing is, like you mentioned Alison, we’re all different people, we’re all unique and each of us relate to God differently. Some of us will commune with God in nature, some of us will commune in God, when we’re with God, when we’re doing things. Or however it is for us, that’s good and for other people to say, “You can’t, it doesn’t work like that. You need to do this; you need to do that.” I think, firstly, who are you in Christ? How is your relationship worked out in your real life? Our God is big enough and diverse enough to work in a multitude of ways and He’s very creative that way.
So, we need to spend time focusing on how we relate to God and how we commune with God and then tap into that. And then once we find inspiration and we believe that God is challenging us to step out and do things, it’s very helpful for us to go and get counsel. Take those ideas to other people, elders in the church, people who are fellow Christians who have been walking in the Way for some time, who know you, who know God and can say, “You know what, yes, I can see God challenging you to do that.”
And I mean for the bigger things. So, that are really stepping out there, just like, “Yes, I can see God would be calling you into that and let me pray for you in that. Let me support you.” So, gathering those people around you in a support team as you step out into those bigger things.
With the smaller things, it’s really important, we’ve been saying it the whole time together, is that we write it down, be accountable, tell other people, “This is what I feel God is telling me to do, or is encouraging me to do, or the door is open for me to do this.” Be accountable, tell somebody and have them check up with you.
Pull a prayer team around you. We are on the frontline, it doesn’t matter who we are writing for, it doesn’t matter what kind of writing we are doing. If we are Gracewriters we are entering enemy territory and we cannot do that alone. We need to have support so, ask for people to pray for you. Gather round, as you pray for them, have them pray for you. We are not alone; we are a member of a body and we are all needed in our unique way, with our unique voice.
And I just want to finish on that great verse, Ephesians chapter 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” The plans God has for us are far greater than we can imagine but if we are in relationship and union with Him, He will guide us and lead us and make those things possible.
So, it really is an adventure if we are willing to step out of the boat and onto the water as long as we keep our eyes on Christ as we do that. And the world is our oyster because the Creator of the universe is leading us and guiding us. So, commit what we do to the Lord. Stay in tune and connection with God always and allow the Spirit to be released in our life and through our ministry. Because, who knows, our writing may go on for years and years. It may have a message that is an evergreen message that might last. So, who knows where our writing, our songs, our whatever, our plays, we don’t know how long they’re going to last, so commit them to the Lord and enable Him to release His voice and power into that.
Belinda Pollard: Those are wonderful. Thank you, Donita. I’d just like to quote for us from a poem that the King of England quoted on the eve of World War II by Minnie Louise Haskins:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
Love that poem. That’s only a segment of it, there’s more but we don’t have time to read it all. And I want to thank God for giving Minnie Louise Haskins the inspiration to write that and to encourage people over generations with that poem.
How about I pray for the Gracewriters.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for this year. It’s been a tough year in many ways. It’s been a year full of opportunities, as well, and many things to be thankful for. And we pray for all of us, for all the Gracewriters, as we head into 2021 that you will inspire us, encourage us, equip and guide us. That you will fill us with your peace and that you will go ahead of us. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Thank you, Alison Joy, and Donita Bundy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
Thank you for joining us today at the Gracewriters podcast – Christian writers changing popular culture. Subscribe to the blog to receive an invitation to our monthly catch-up on Zoom and to our free private online forum where members discuss topics that affect Christian writers. Connect with us at gracewriters.com. We’d love to see you there.
Dawn Dicker says
Your post was an inspiring start to the year—thanks! Setting goals, being realistic up-front, and including “recovery time” sounds so practical (and practical = doable).
Belinda Pollard says
Thank you, Dawn… after the year just gone, factoring in recovery time seems so much more crucial than ever before. Wishing you a satisfying new year of writing.