What’s to be done with a flabby attention span?
I have a problem with my attention span. You know what? It’s not getting better as I age, unfortunately. So how does a gal who is distracted by literally everything manage to write more than forty books? I have developed a system that works for me. When I outline it for you, you’ll probably think it’s completely ridiculous, but all I can say is it works for me. I call it…the mini goal method. Basically, I break my life into mini tasks instead of mighty ones. Allow me to illustrate. Below is a typical writing day for me.
Up and at ‘em! I am an early riser. Bible study, prayer time, walk the dog, feed the turtle. A quick check in with my Private FB group and I’m ready to brew some coffee and get started.
Write 1000 words in my armchair. No getting up. No checking the phone. Tushy in the chair and here we go!
My mind is wandering and I am antsy to move. Time for a snack. Put the laundry in. Take Junie the Wonder Dog for another walk. Drink some water. Plan out the next scene while you’re zooming around.
Write 1000 words in the garden. That text can wait. The phone will survive without attention. Stop looking at those birds. Okay, maybe a tiny peek at the wee little lizard because…I mean…he’s adorable!
Lunch! Woo hoo! Papa Bear is waiting. The porch will be perfect if it’s not too beastly hot. Listen to those hummingbirds.
Go for a walk without Junie. Ignore those sad terrier eyes. Walk fast. You’ll solve all your plot problems and get that poor woman out of the trunk you’ve placed her.
Write 1000 words now that you know how to get the heroine out of the trunk. Move the laundry to the dryer, post some afternoon social media content.
It’s 4:00 and time to “quit.” Look up and notice there are dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, and a dog to be snuggled. Return the box turtle to her night accommodations. Remember that you forgot to drink water all day. Start in on dinner preparations and think about how you’ll save the hero from that nasty bullet wound he incurred this afternoon.
The day’s almost done and I met my word count. Woo hoo! Mini tasks met and work count complete. Ready to get started tomorrow!
So you see? As my father always told me, “You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time!”…especially if you have a flabby attention span!
Julie B. Cosgrove
My niece is an avid urban gardener. She and her family raise their own vegetables in the backyard. I noticed tall cylinder-shaped cages in the middle. She explained that was for training the tomato vines. It also protects them from critters who may wander into the yard looking for a juicy snack.
It made me think of how God’s Holy Spirit surrounds us. Psalm 5:12 says, Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
Boundaries are a good thing. We all need them in our lives. They protect us and steer us just as my niece’s tomato seedlings need their cages to grow and produce large, ripe succulent fruit. (I remember in my biology class that tomatoes are actually classified as fruit though we call them vegetables.)
Sometimes we resist these boundaries. Our independent spirit wants us to break out so we can be free. Teenagers especially. But we adults are not immune to fudging the rules now and then. We go 68 in a 65 speed zone. We make excuses for not doing our household chores and laugh about it on social media. We have that brownie when we have been placed on a medically recommended diet. Who will know? Then there are those little white lies…
However, because we are way too human in nature, we need to be caged in just like the tomatoes. Otherwise we may grow in a willy-nilly direction. The Lord, once we let Him establish Himself in our hearts and our lives, provides the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) to guide us in how we are to treat others. His laws and commandments structure our behavior. We know we are the branches, attached to His vine for survival (John 15). All of these things, for our own good, and for the benefit of others, cage us in. We should be thankful for these boundaries, not resist them.
My niece also puts benevolent crawly things in her garden to ward off the ones who might chomp on her vegetables before her family gets a chance to do so. These crawl as much as the so-called destructive ones so the good ones also make my skin crawl. Blechh. However, she is thankful for them because she knows they have a beneficial purpose.
This extra measure of care reminds me that sometimes God brings things into our lives we do not normally consider as good, but in His wisdom, they are exactly that.
For example, I couldn’t understand why my two elderly cats, the stability in my widowhood, had to die a few months apart. It was devastating. My mourning ran deep.
Then I underwent testing for allergies at the suggestion of my doctor because I’d kept having sinus issues for the past several years. Sure enough. I had developed a whopping allergy to cats! Plus, my apartment complex went under new management and they wanted another 200 dollars for an animal damage deposit per pet upon renewal of the lease. I had no idea both of these events were in my near future at the time the second one passed away, but God did.
Who knew my loving Lord would use tomatoes and cats to teach me a valuable lesson about his care, protection and boundary setting reasons? Well, He did. What an awesome act of love!
Oftentimes, tragedy can have a silver lining. God will purpose good from the devil’s evil schemes, proving once again He is in control. In my latest novel, Leaf Me Alone, a Bible study teacher, who discovers she has cancer, realizes how God moves in the final days of her life to bring several people together and heal past wounds. He has use for us right up until the end and even in sorrow there can be joy.
My blog, Where Did You Find God Today, explores the multitude of ways God reaches, teaches, and sometimes preaches to us in our everyday lives. I hope the examples in this short article encourages you to open your faith-eyes to His wonderous ways. His lessons are all around us.
I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw (Proverbs 24:32).
I have a confession to make. I’m a closet Perry Mason fan. No really, I binge watch the old series. My kids gave me the complete set of the Raymond Burr show and all of the movies. And there is always a DVD of it in the old player beside my bed.
Even with young children, this was a show I could watch without concern for what they were seeing. Yeah, it was a murder mystery, but the worst this series gave us was a terrified scream or two. No blood, no gore. And while it did focus on women as objects from time to time, there weren’t any bedroom scenes as we know them nowadays.
I guess the reason I liked it so much was the satisfaction that good always won and evil regretted. Deeply regretted. With tears and gnashing of teeth sometimes. And I knew from the moment the theme music began playing that justice would prevail. No complications of personal agendas or even romance clogged up the wheels. There was only mutual admiration between the characters and confidence that right would win out in the end.
I think I must’ve seen every episode twenty times, maybe even more. I can quote some of them. But when I started coming up with new endings for the stories, I began to realize that I could set up a series with some of the same situations. And hopefully with the same satisfaction, only in a more realistic and contemporary setting.
So with just that idea floating around in my mind for a while—more than a year, actually—I noticed that my Grime Fighter Mysteries began to become very popular. I’d always wanted to build a story with one of the single side characters that I sort of left dangling.
Tasha Sanderson, who many dubbed “Sunshine,” was the roommate of my main character, Dani Foster. She was a law student during that series. Now that Dani is married and Tasha has graduated, she’s begging for her own series.
And the D-Street Mysteries were born. D Street Legal is the law firm and main setting for our series, but naturally Tasha is the new version of Della Street, Perry Mason’s legal secretary. Unlike the old television series, this one does have complications and romance. Of course, I’m adding romance!
While the start of this new series is still in the “Coming Soon” stage, I’m offering a sale on the book that was most instrumental in founding the new stories. In fact, many of the characters in this book populate the new D-Street Mysteries.
So welcome to the birth of a new series. I hope to start sharing them with you soon!