why (and how) I am building a writing habit ...still

I have been a writer since before I can remember. I started blogging more than half my life ago and journaling by hand years before that. I can’t help but write. Even when words don’t make sense I try to make sense of words by putting them to paper. Even through the ugliest parts of my life I write to try to find beauty. Even when I think no one is reading I put my words out in public. It is my habit.

Still, my writing habit isn’t near as strong as I would like.

This habit is one that needs cultivating. Sure I have a natural bent toward it, but I also have a natural inclination toward abandoning it completely when my words feel imperfect or pointless. I write when I feel like it. Fortunately I feel like it a lot of the time, but I go through phases when I don’t feel like it at all and when I fall into one of those phases it’s hard to pull myself out again.

I spent much of 2017 not feeling like writing, but because I kept writing anyway I published a book and started writing for clients.

I might not have felt like writing, but I showed up to write anyway and ultimately it felt good. Maybe it didn’t feel good to force myself to put words on the page, especially certain awful rough drafts, but it felt good to have written: weekly blog posts for not only my own blog but also a client’s, a package of case studies for another client, much of the course I will be launching later this year… and many more private words that I haven’t shared.

In December I used prompts provided by Kara at bohoberry to rekindle my habit of personal journaling. Having a predetermined topic each day reminded me how helpful it is to know what I will be writing about before I pick up my pen or begin typing. Instead of continuing to use personal journaling prompts in January, I decided to go through Sean McCabe’s 30 Days to Better Writing course a second time. I had taken the course once before when it first came out so I knew it would be a helpful exercise to participate a second time. This time I’m not so much focused on learning anything new, but rather rekindling my professional writing habit like I rekindled my personal journaling habit in December.


More than halfway through January I haven’t actually written every day. My little one’s imminent birth is distracting to say the least, and makes it quite difficult to focus on my business, but I’m choosing not to let a skipped yesterday be an excuse not to write today.

Some days it’s hard to put a single word on the page, but occasionally I write thousands of words because as my hands and conscious mind are nesting and preparing the nursery, my subconscious is working on my business. The fact that I have been working on strengthening my writing habit makes it easy to record those thoughts when they finally came together.

I’m focusing my daily writing efforts on producing content surrounding case studies which I will publish weekly beginning in February. Make sure you subscribe to the newsletter below if you’re interested in reading that content, as it will be separate from this blog!

but first, remember

Dear Little One,

Memory is an interesting thing.
It makes us laugh
or cry
or want to forget.

Sometimes forgetting seems the easy way out
and while there is a time to forget what lies behind
to press on toward a better future,
there is also a time for ebenezer stones,
monuments of memory that remind us
of the better future we have already tasted.

I am all too often
too quick to forget.
So I write
to choose to remember.

Because remembering the most important things
doesn't come naturally.
Even after she was admonished repeatedly,
"remember, remember, remember,"
Jill forgets every vital sign until almost too late.
Thank God for grace.


Your father
reminds me often
to remember,
remember, remember.

To remember who I am and who he has made me,
for a member of the Aspen family has a peculiar identity.
To remember where I have been and where I am going,
for they are such different places.
To remember who supports and leads me,
for to follow your father is to follow a great King.

Memory is not only
our perception of
the past;
it shapes the future.

So let us together embrace these experiences
choosing to see in the memories
visions of future hope.
For even the worst memories speak of survival
and the best are tastes of heaven.

The topic of this letter to my little one was inspired by Sakura Bloom's Sling Diary prompt: Memory.

2018: the year of excitement

Every year since 2013 I've had a "word for the year."
I don't choose this word so much as it chooses me,
and this year is no different.

These words tell a story,
each one representing a chapter,
and each teaching me unexpected lessons:

2013: hope I learned to see beyond my little world and forseeable future.

2014: go My year of hope prepared me to move to Kansas rather unexpectedly and travel a lot for my new job.

2015: love Going to Kansas resulted in meeting my future husband, though we didn't begin to fall in love until halfway through the next year.

2016: adventure The friendly love of the previous year blossomed into romantic love as we individually stepped out of our comfort zones in big ways and found ourselves drawing closer.

2017: together I had prayed for years that my husband and I would marry only when we would be more powerful together than apart and that prayer was answered.

2018: excitement This year, as in years past, I have an idea of what this word could mean for the coming year. Still, if the pattern holds I am certain that 2018 will bring plenty of unexpected exciting lessons too!

To read more about 2017's lessons and 2018's plans, visit this collection of year-end reflections.

dawn and dusk {what I'm reading}

Every day for the past year and a half,
I have read a "living prayer"
written by Paul Aspen.

Paul is now my husband,
but reading his living prayers
started before we were even dating.

These living prayers begin with a meditation
followed by a prayer, suggested worship,
and a simple application.

They are living because
they are not meant only to be read
but to fill and affect the reader's life.

Paul is compiling these living prayers
into a series of books:
Dawn and Dusk.

Our goal
is to publish
the first this spring.

In the meantime Paul continues
to send a new prayer
each day.

Here is an example:

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Shakespeare's career as an actor and playwright led to many excellent and poignant observations about the real lives of people in his works—much different from theories made in dusty armchairs! He understood the grace required to move smoothly and gracefully through life because even the most careful plans of our plays don't always go smoothly when enacted...and yet the show must go on.

Great Orchestrator, director who has a cast which does not always choose to do its best to put on a good show despite the great cloud of witnesses in the audience, despite the wonderful script, despite the opportunity afforded to each one of us to shine and bring light into a theater of apparent darkness to our eyes that are blinded by the stage lights, I choose to listen to You and act as You direct. I will read the description of how I am to live, and follow it with all Your advice and input and assistance that You have and will give me in interpreting it. Please add to me the virtues of a veteran actor, whose instincts and clarifications and small tweaks bring the director's vision to brilliant life. God, Your plan for us went awry early and early in our life as a species, and yet we are to still act out the roles in which we find ourselves. Teach me to follow better, and to trust You to put me into the role and situation where I am meant to be. Where I find myself, there I am to be with the talents and virtues I have and pursuing the talents and virtues I need to do a better job here than I last did where I came from. Enlarge my territory and increase my power and humility, my willingness to act and to wait for when I should move and speak in accordance with Your Way. Give me grace and remind me of the lines and directions I forget, and help me to roll with the actions of others on the stage. Help me better understand how to act without the willfulness and resentment which comes with believing that I am the director or responsible for how the play turns out. Teach me my role, Lord. Amen.

Today's Worship: This is who I am (Dillon, Barnard), Voice of Truth (Hall, Chapman), Wandering Long in sin and Darkness (Schaeffer)

Look back on a plan you laid out which went well—or poorly: What parts don't need to be planned for, and what elements require preplanning? Were you psyched up and confident, or unsure and paranoid? Spend some time learning how to plan for reality instead of theoretical perfection. Planning is a great skill for life, after all!

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