Writing Quote Wednesday: Courage

“…Being courageous doesn’t mean you don’t have fear; it means your willing to act in spite of your fear. Every courageous person I’ve ever known struggled with fear, but they were willing to act in spite of that fear. That’s what made them courageous.”

—Michael Hyatt, This is Your Life Podcast, Episode 48 “The Five Characteristics of Weak Leaders”


BRP caterpillar


I would say I’m one of the people who usually believes the glass is half full. I believe in my friends and I typically believe in myself. I get excited when my writer friends have something really excellent happen to them because I know how discouraging the process has been, often times.

But lately, I’ve felt like this caterpillar.

With a gigantic fence post to climb.

Luckily, my friends haven’t flicked me off the post and onto the ground. They haven’t lifted me up on their fingers and taken me to a terrain that is easier to navigate.

Instead, they keep encouraging me that something is bound to happen up ahead.


Writing Quote Wednesday: Being Busy

“Another thing that estranges us from our dreams is everyday distraction. Rarely is the distraction so large you notice it. I’ve never met someone who says, “I was unable to write my great American novel because my house burned down.” Instead, I’ve met hundreds of people who tell me they’ve never written their books because they are too busy.”

Quitter by Jon Acuff




This week I went out to lunch with husband (without kids). We had a real conversation, but we were fascinated by this ladybug. The entire hour we were eating and talking, the ladybug went around and around and around this pepper shaker at lightning speed. It never flew away and only once changed its course.

Sometimes we are busy, really busy. My calendar this summer has been frighteningly busy, and I blame no one but myself. When I was supposed to be scheduled to write and relax, I’ve been busy with activities. I’ve only had one big distraction this summer. The rest have been little distractions. With my weekdays slowing down and my weekends picking up, I am rethinking my busy-ness and trying to find ways to concentrate my efforts again. I don’t want to get to the end of the summer in a few weeks and wonder what I did with the time.


A Note About the Book Mentioned:

One of the best books I’ve read this summer is QUITTER by Jon Acuff. It really helped change my thinking (in a very good way) on a lot of things related  to my writing dream. Go buy it if you are trying to make sense of where you are versus where you want to be. It was one of those books I was meant to read. My aunt forwarded an e-mail to my mom. My mom forwarded it to me. The e-mail was a blog post by Jon Acuff that was written just for me, I’m sure. I investigated the writer of the blog post, found QUITTER, and knew this book was written just for me.


What’s been distracting you from writing this summer?


Writing Quote Wednesday: Nurturing the Writer

“When earth is rich it bids defiance to droughts, yields in abundance, and of the best quality.”

 –Letter from Thomas Jefferson to his daughter, Martha, from Philadelphia July 21, 1793

p. 22 THE DOMESTIC LIFE OF THOMAS JEFFERSON, letters compiled by Sarah Randolph

View from Hollins Library

View from Hollins Library


In this quote, Thomas Jefferson is talking about his garden at Monticello. He’s advising his daughter to put manure on the garden so the soil will be rich for the next gardening season.

I view my summers like this. It’s time to fertilize the writing mind, not with manure (ha! ha!), but with the time to nurture and prepare for times of drought. On Monday I wrote about a class that I audited at Hollins as an artist’s date. I attended, not for credit, but for nurturing. This is the time to feed my writing soul good nutrients so that in the common months when I’m knee-deep in school work and kids’ schedules, and stress, that I can have something to draw on.

I know there will be times of writer’s block, frustration, and pesky little critters that will sneak in and steal my writing time or my motivation during the year.

I write a lot in the summer. I try to write and get ahead so that when September rolls around, I can still dip my toes into the writing world because I’ve laid the groundwork.

What are you doing to fertilize your writing life so that you can be ready to bid defiance to droughts? Did you attend a conference? Go on a retreat? Or just make some time and space for yourself at home?



Writing Quote Wednesday: Progress

“The most important component in happiness in any area of your life is the ability to make steady progress toward a significant goal.” 

Michael Hyatt Podcast Episode 49, 3 Components of Job Satisfaction

Apple Tree

One thing I love about gardening is that you can see steady progress. Before buds even appear, there is anticipation of what’s to come. Sometimes it’s successful, sometimes it’s not. But each week, you can see how the garden progresses. For good or bad.

In order to not get discouraged, I have to see that I’m making progress. I’m one of those people who doesn’t have 8 hours a day to devote to my dream, but I do work at each, almost every day. I’ve talked in previous posts about making to do lists and making done lists. When I’ve been frustrated at how much I’m not getting done, it’s helpful to pull up one or both of these lists and see that progress is being made. Maybe not as fast as I’d hoped, but still getting there little by little.


Writing Quote Wednesday: Do It!

“Doing is better than not doing, and if you do something badly you’ll learn to do it better.” 



Pea Shoots at Monticello

Pea Shoots at Monticello

One of the things that’s been plaguing me lately is noticing that I’m not executing something particularly well in my writing. When it comes up over and over again, I know it’s a problem. But at least I’m writing. I might be doing it poorly, but I’m working at it.

On Monday, I wrote about a trip to Monticello to learn more about Thomas Jefferson as a gardener. In my research about him, I’ve discovered that he saw failure in the garden as part of the process. He brought 500 olive trees to Monticello from Italy. They all failed (American Eden). So he tried other plants. I would consider his garden a huge success, but he had many failures in the garden.

Right now, I’m studying other authors’ writings like mentor texts to learn how to do something more effectively in my writing. I’ve learned how not to do things. Now it’s time to learn how to do it better.

Writing Quote Wednesday: Just Write

“Nothing you write is wasted. Whether you use what you’ve produced or not, you will have learned from the experience…and you can never know too much.” 


Monticello's Seed Preservation plot, April 2013

Monticello’s Seed Preservation plot, April 2013

I’m beginning Teachers Write this week with superstar writers Kate Messner, Gae Polisner, Jo Knowles, and Jen Vincent. Every Monday there will be a writing prompt at Jo Knowles blog and a mini-lesson at Kate Messner’s blog. Tuesdays and Thursdays there is a “Quick Write” also. On Fridays you can get feedback at Gae Polisner’s blog, and on Sundays, you can check in with Jen Vincent. I’m sure I’ve left something out, but you get the point. Teachers Write offers a lot of great stuff over the summer.

I probably won’t be sharing much of this writing online at this point, even though there are opportunities to do so. I don’t know if the writing I do will be related to my current project or just a place to explore. But I have to keep reminding myself it’s okay to “just write,” even if it’s not for a particular project.

I can “just write.”

Because “just writing” is not a waste of time.


Writing Quote Wednesday: The Backstory

“Before you can tell others your story, you have to tell yourself its prequel.”


In other words, as the writer, you have to know the backstory of your story. The reader doesn’t necessarily need to know very many of those details.

In the Weiland book, OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL, the idea is that you do a lot of the work before you write a draft. That way, when you write your draft, many of the pieces are already in place. You spend less time floundering.

I do things backwards.

In most areas of my life, I’m a planner. A detailed, make-a-million-lists planner. But when it comes to writing drafts, I’m more of a pantser. I tend to see where the story leads. In other words, I fly by the seat of my pants.

FS Cards

A few weeks ago I was overwhelmed trying to figure out where to start with some revisions of my middle grade novel. I had lots of notes from friends, but several themes kept coming up. I decided to conquer them one by one. I wrote down each revision on an index card. I divided them into beginning, middle, and end. I’ve been working on them one-by-one (here’s where the planner inside of me takes over).

So what does this have to do with backstory?

I realized a pattern. Many of the questions/suggestions have to do with backstory. What happened before this story ever took place? My protagonist is 11. Some of these questions have to do with things that happened when she was 3. Am I going to write that story in the actual book? No way.

But I need to know what happened, so I can tell a better story in the present.

I just wished I could have anticipated all of these questions BEFORE I wrote my umpteenth draft….


Writing Quote Wednesday: Having Kids and Writing

“I can count all the ways in which being a mother has enriched my understanding of the world, of character, my sense of the future and my attachment to it. I can’t imagine what kind of writer I’d be if I didn’t have my kids.”

Barbara Kingsolver, The Telegraph interview, October 22, 2012


One of my daughter's illustrations for a picture book of mine.

One of my daughter’s illustrations for a picture book of mine.


If you haven’t had a chance to read the Mom’s Write posts over the last few weeks, you can see them at the archives. After writing about how kids alter your writing routine, I found this quote by Barbara Kingsolver–a bestselling author and mom.

Tomorrow will be my last day of working until August. I can’t wait to spend the summer with my kids and pay attention to how they enrich my writing.

Writing Quote Wednesday: Making Time to Write

“If you don’t write when you don’t have time for it, you won’t write when you do have time for it.”

—Katerina Stoykova Klemer


Monticello, April 2013 Copyright Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Monticello, April 2013 Copyright Marcie Flinchum Atkins

After my second  child is born, I wondered if my writing life was over. I didn’t know when I would be able to fit it in. But what I knew in my heart was this: if I didn’t write, at least a little bit, I wouldn’t be happy.  Once my kids were grown, I would would feel like something had been missing. I knew that I had to keep writing. A little bit. I didn’t want to look back in 20 years and wish I had written.





Writing Quote Wednesday: The World Needs Your Words

“The world needs you, and it needs your gifts. You must become generous with yourself again. But you will only become generous with yourself when you are able to release your fear of failure.” 

Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room by Matt Appling



In all of my critique groups, we’ve been talking about our paths. Are we on the right ones? We write, we struggle to write, we send things out, or we fear sending things out. We get rejected or ignored. No matter where we are in our journeys from the beginners to the multi-published, all of us are struggling with some aspect of our writing life.

It’s hard.

We struggle.

But I believe that all of us have talent. We all have that still, small voice inside of us that compels us to write.


Pure Eats, Lexington, VA

Pure Eats, Lexington, VA


A couple of months ago, my husband and I went to Lexington, VA for an anniversary weekend getaway. We ate a LOT of food and all of it was delicious. Some of it was expensive. The BEST and cheapest things I ate all weekend were doughnuts from PURE EATS. It’s a little dive in downtown Lexington with an eclectic menu and doughnuts that sell out quickly, almost as quickly as they come out of the oven.

These are not factory doughnuts. They don’t come out of a box at the grocery store. These are gourmet flavors, and an in-house person who makes them. I do not know the doughnut maker at Pure Eats, so bear with me as I assume what doughnut making might be like and how it relates to writing.

The s'more and cinnamon and sugar one were mine.

The s’more and cinnamon and sugar one were mine.

Chances are, to make a doughnut this good, you would have to have some failure along the way. The first batch of doughnuts could not have turned out perfect. These are works of art. They look like it and taste like it.

And I’m sure there is a process every time they attempt to perfect a new flavor. It’s like starting a new book. There is a dream of what the end product should be. But then there is the hard work and the multiple failures to get it there. Taking your work to your critique group is like having a taste test. It’s good, but you need to have a little more of this, a little less of that.

There might be some flavors that eventually get scrapped because they just don’t quite make the cut, but that doesn’t cause anyone to think that this pastry chef can’t make doughnuts.

So why do we beat ourselves up when one piece of writing just doesn’t turn out like we want it to? That doesn’t mean we lack talent or passion.

The world needs Pure Eats doughnuts. It makes Lexington a better place.

The world also needs my writing friends. Their words make a difference in my life and I can’t wait for the world to get to enjoy their words as much as I do.