How I Boosted Meaningful Productivity Through These Rituals


Daily rituals fascinate me.

Is there a secret to this creative energy bubbling up in writers, poets, artists, and musicians? Would my waking up earlier, staying up later, or drinking lattes with the perfect amount of froth propel my creative energy into overdrive? I can’t say for sure but I have discovered how a few (nine to be exact) wisely-placed rituals lead my day well. This is especially true on the days dedicated to writing, which have radically increased while finishing up my first e-book scheduled for release in April. {I’m excited to share more about that subject in a few weeks!}

Alarm clocks

9 Rituals That Boosts Creativity & Productivity


  • Wake up early. Now that Brian has an hour commute we’re waking up by 5:45 am. Even on weekends, I prefer to wake up early. Part of this, I’m convinced, is genetic. But I’m thankful I’ve always been an early riser. For me, embracing the feel of a full day is exhilarating. Add a cup of hot coffee to the mix, and the day is officially underway.
  • Cue the praise music. After breakfast, the TV goes off and the music comes on. I listen to three different channels on Pandora:  Brandon Gilliam {our son}, Aaron Keyes, and Bethel Music. I crank up the music for 15-20 minutes, sing, raise my arms toward heaven, and worship. Zephaniah 3:17 says the Lord sings over us. I love singing to Him in return.
  • A Conversation. The music stays on, but now it lays low. I read through the Bible chapter-by-chapter, keeping my small hardbound steno close by. Speaking, listening, praying⎯all lay the foundation for a glorifying kind of day. At least, that’s my prayer.
  • Get dressed/ready. Now that we live twenty minutes from civilization I don’t “go to town” nearly as much as I once did. It can be semi-tempting to leave on the pajamas and leave off the makeup. But I’ve recently come to see that, at least for me, getting ready helps me to view my writing as work/ministry⎯not a hobby. So I get dressed, comb my hair, and swipe on a little color — sometimes more, sometimes less. {Both grandmothers loved their lipstick. I suppose this is genetic, too.}
  • Switch the Pandora channel to George Winston. This simple swapping of stations triggers my mind that it’s time to shift to writing mode. I don’t play this station any time except when I write.
  • Sit at the desk, not the couch. Another trigger to prompt my brain that it’s time to work, not play.
  • Mute the phone and shut down Facebook. I still check both but only at set times.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to join me in the process. He doesn’t require an invitation but it reminds me that He is with me, for me. That we are in this together.
  • Pour a cup of Paris tea. I reserve this treat for the afternoon, and it’s my way of winding down.

Paris Tea from HarneyI pretty much stumbled upon most of these rituals or at least their order, but when the creative process began clicking, there was no turning back. Tweaking my schedule has increased my productivity two-fold.

Your goals and the steps you choose to attain those goals will probably look different than mine {especially if you’re not an early riser *wink*} and that’s perfectly fine. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than one of my favorite finds, Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It’s a peek into the minds of brilliant artists of all types. Their idiosyncracies make mine look mildly boring, and it’s a lovely feeling, I must say.

How about you? Do you have some type of ritual that helps you to be more creative and productive? Please share!


If you like what you read here, please consider subscribing to the blog by simply adding your email address in the sidebar. The weekly posts will automatically arrive in your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time. Thank you!


Why I LOVE the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference // Let Me Count the Ways

Blue Ridge Sky

Five ways to be exact.

Yes, there are more. Many more⎯but I’ll stick with my top five today. Like you, I’m busy preparing for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference and it would take hours to list the reasons I absolutely love it and look forward to it every year.


5 Reasons I Love the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference {And You Will Too}



Clouds Coffee Cafe

Clouds Coffee Shop. Starbucks has nothing on this cafe since their remodel. It’s beautiful⎯but not nearly as beautiful as those who work there. Ladies like Loretta, aka, “the Foaminator” greet us with smiles and show genuine interest in our days… and they’ve seen it all. Everything from mascara-blotted cheeks following a difficult critique to giddy grins when a book proposal is accepted. If you’re searching for a place to escape, or to slurp down a fancy frappe or sip a decent cup of coffee, you’ll want to visit the Clouds.


Staff. Experts in their realm of the writing community come prepared to equip, encourage and inspire us. They’re approachable and leave a lasting impact on the lives of many. The fact that conferees are able to enjoy lunch and dinner with staffers is a bonus. I’m especially looking forward to sitting with Todd Starnes from FOX news again this year. He’s a staunch supporter of our faith but he’s also a lot of fun, as are many of those on staff. Who are you looking forward to sitting with this year?


Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod…Productions! Last year, in the wee hours of the night, my cohort in crime fellow pea, Dee Dee Parker, came up with an idea to film our disappointment over the lack of real snack food available in the vending machine on our floor. While those on the upper floors were feasting on Cheetos, candy bars, and peanuts, we were stuck with Daisy razors, plastic combs, Listerine, and hand wipes. Not to say these items weren’t needed when enclosed with hundreds of other people but we had our hygiene under control. Our appetites, not so much. We went on to produce a few more videos that week and heard more than once how our friendship inspired others, and for this, we thank God. {Watch for us again this year!}


Fellow Attendees  Fellow {Quirky} Writing Friends. You may arrive at the BRMCWC with fellow attendees but chances are, you will leave calling many of them friends. Where else can you spend days surrounded by other believers and writers who totally get you? Quirks and all.


Tech Savviness. The BRMCWC Facebook group is stellar. Especially for newcomers. There, you can ask any question you have about the BRMCWC experience. Want to know what to wear? What to pack? How to prepare for an appointment? No question is too silly. It’s a closed group and you’re among friends. You will find nothing but encouragement awaiting you. {Bravo, Bethany Jett!}

And let’s not forget the collaborative effort that goes into the BRMCWC Web site. Our exposure to top-notch information is no longer limited to one week at the conference. It’s now available five days a week. It’s obvious this team values our time by the information they share on a consistent basis. Scroll down the home page to find the Ridgecrest app. And finally, if you’re not already following Blue Ridge on Twitter, do so today – @BRMCWC.

Dee Dee Parker and Cathy Baker

The Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod…with Frappes!

So, these are my top five reasons I love Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference. I can’t imagine a better way to close out my month of LOVE posts than highlighting a conference that has changed my life in many ways.

If you are a returning attendee, what’s one thing do you love about the conference? If this is your first year to attend Blue Ridge, what are you most looking forward to?

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3


Do you like what you’ve read? Click the subscription box in the sidebar and simply enter your email address. It’s a privilege to spend this time with you. You are prayed for on a regular basis.

Where to Write? 20 Inspiring + Unique Settings to Try in 2017

Writing OutsideIf you’re searching for creative and unique settings to create {whether that’s writing, painting, drawing, etc.} this year, I hope you’ll find the following suggestions helpful. At the very least, perhaps one or two will jumpstart another idea!

A well-loved writing spot is nice but there’s something to be said for venturing out to discover fresh and inspiring places to write. Not only does it awaken the senses, it also infuses the mind with new plots twists and settings for our stories, poetry, and the like. So pack your common sense {necessary for some of the locations}, laptop and/or writing pad/pen, healthy snacks, water, and a fold-up chair. I’d also suggest you pack your camera if you want to use something other than your phone for taking pictures. Being able to recall the specifics of a certain locale may come in handy in the future.

15 Inspiring + Unique Settings:

Taking Notes Outside

  • A construction site (in this case you may want to also pack a hard hat and ear plugs). Watching a building take shape over a period of time can inspire one to imagine their own story being built from the ground up. Or maybe the process could be used in a plot twist!
  • A vacant old house or home place where only the chimney still stands. Oh, the stories an old home place can tell if we’re only willing to be quiet and listen.
  • A local walking bridge. Try to enjoy this when the foot traffic isn’t busy.
  • Beside a local river. Pack a lunch and a blanket. Find joy in the small wonders surrounding you.
  • In the mall. Searching for fresh dialogue? Park yourself on a bench with a cup of coffee {a necessity for proper snooping} and take a listen. Or watch body language. It’s all there.
  • In your local airport. Either go inside or park where you can watch the planes land. Imagine the destination of the planes taking off. Enjoy the faces of those seeing loved ones for the first time in awhile.
  • On a dock overlooking a quiet lake.
  • Hop on a local bus and make a round trip around town.
  • Find a beautiful local garden and ask permission to write there for awhile.
  • Your local cemetery. {This isn’t as creepy as it sounds.} Much can be learned from a walk through an eternal resting spot.
  • Go to your local library. 
  • Forget the cafe — go to your favorite restaurant. Sit in the corner, order your favorite meal {or dessert}, and savor the moment, with pen in hand, of course.
  • A room or area in your home where you’ve never written before. Maybe it’s the kitchen, back porch, front porch, bedroom, etc. Or if you’re a young mom, the bathroom may be your only escape. Indulge yourself with a bubble bath while you allow ideas to soak in. {Sorry, pun intended}
  • Tour a local museum. Drink it in. Find a shady tree not far away, sit or park your vehicle and write down every detail you remember.
  • An empty high school stadium. {But a visible spot.}
Five Bonus Settings:
  • A zoo. Take a stroll through the animal park observing minute details. Who wouldn’t be awe-inspired by God’s creative design? This would be another good opportunity for lunch with a pen and paper.
  • An observatory. If you don’t have one where you live, simply step outside at night. Take notes on your phone or if it’s warm outside write beside a patio lamp. If it’s cold and you’re a brave soul, write by a campfire.
  • A rooftop terrace. Many cities have restaurants that offer rooftop dining. If it’s a pricey place, simply order dessert. Savor it…and the view.
  • A friend’s house. And if your friend happens to have a beautiful view or a lush garden, even better! You could trade places for the day or simply ask to write when they’re out and about for a few hours. After all, what are friends for?
  • Dare I say, an overnight stay? It doesn’t have to be far away but it’s surprising how a change of scenery can up our creative ante.

Elizabeth S. CraigI’m excited to share that the original post for the above 15 ideas was recently listed in Elizabeth S. Craigs’ “Top Tweets in 2016”. You will want to bookmark her post and revisit it many times over. It’s chock-full of the most popular tweets/links!

So now it’s your turn. Is there a particular setting listed above that strikes your fancy? Is there another setting you would like to add to the list? Please share!


If you like what you read here, please consider subscribing. Simply type your email address in the sidebar and my weekly post will be delivered directly to your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time. Blessings!

A List of 25 Things I’m Loving Right Now



Things I Love

Life has been a whirlwind in recent months and I don’t see the winds dying down for awhile. So I do what I do…make lists.

I hope some of these things I’m loving right now will resonate with you and perhaps even prompt you to consider your own surroundings along with the many blessings tucked in between your days.

  1. Spacious places. Psalm 18:19 is my go-to verse with this next move. “He brought me out into a spacious place…”
  2. DW Home Hand-Poured Candles. Vanilla Bean, to be specific. I purchased every last one TJ Maxx carried –  to the tune of 35.00+ worth. Yes, they’re that delicious.
  3. Poetry. I love to read it …and write it.
  4. My church. It’s a church that loves well, no matter what.
  5. My great-grandparent’s bible. Its underlined scripture hints to the legacy they would leave behind.
  6. Peppermint Snow. Dee Dee Parker’s Christmas novella that is sure to be a best-seller one day!
  7. Exchange Coffee. My local coffee shop that makes the best lavender lattes, hands down.
  8. Pride & Prejudice, A&E version with Colin Firth. And only this version. Swoon-worthy.
  9. The original scent of Downy softener. It reminds me of my grandmother’s laundry days.
  10. A charm bracelet with each of my grandchildren’s names forged on a separate heart. {They are my heart.}
  11. Vintage VW vans. Because everybody has a little hippie in them!
  12. My well-loved cookbooks.
  13. Blogging. Absolutely. Love. It.
  14. Soft breezes on scorching hot days. A reminder that refreshment can rise even on the driest of days.
  15. Owls. Maybe it’s a throwback to the 70’s but I love them.
  16. Tiny houses. {Especially as an Airbnb on our future property!}
  17. Chickens and goats and rabbits, oh my!
  18. Pastures & ponies. These two ‘p’s’ equal a third: Peaceful.
  19. My bible. I’ve had it since 1991. Its pages paper thin and lovingly marked.
  20. White walls, chalkboards, and Mason jars decor. {Does that count for 3?}
  21. Girl gatherings. It’s been awhile since I’ve hosted one of these but once we get moved, preparest thou!
  22. Chenille blankets. Vintage chenille blankets. Soft, warm, and plush comfort. {Especially on snowy days.}
  23. The way my grandchildren smile when we first see them. {Be still my heart.}
  24. Music. The gift of music meanders its way through the soul like nothing else.
  25. Rainy days when I don’t have to be anywhere. Showers falling, coffee in hand, and a good book. {Exhale.}
Do any of the above items trigger your own love-fest? I’d love to read 25 things you love, so if you decide to do the same on your blog please let me know.  Even if you decide not to publicly share your list, I encourage you to make it anyway.
It will do the soul good. Very good.

Did I happen to mention the cupcakes at Exchange Coffee?
Did I happen to mention the cupcakes at Exchange Coffee? Okay, that makes 26.

3 Tips On Creative Brainstorming + An Interview with Dee Dee Parker

Creative Brainstorming

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” – Albert Einstein

It’s true, right? There’s an inexplicable synergy that takes places when two or more creative beings come together for a specific purpose. In fact, there are few things I love more than a good brainstorming session. Whether it’s with a group of ministry-minded peeps or with fellow writers, it matters not. A little later in the post I’ll share a few tips on how you can enjoy your own b-storming session.

But first…

When it comes to writing sessions, my go-to girl is Dee Dee Parker. She’s not only the other pea in our “strange little pod.” She is also one of the most creative people I know. So it’s only fair that I share her creative goodness with you.

In honor of our two peas status, I’m asking Dee Dee two questions. Let’s get started!

Me: Where do you find your creative muse?

Dee Dee: My creative muse, my inspiration, depends on what medium I am working in at the time. Inspiration for my non-fiction often comes after my morning devotions, Bible study, and prayer time with the Lord. A Bible verse will grab my attention and a devotion or article is born. My Appalachian fiction muse is often the elders of my hollow and mountain town. I overhear a conversation and an idea for a story comes about. The dialect is so rich here and the people have such a strong sense of place and deep faith that I will never run out of ideas. Of course, Cathy, you and I brainstorm often and that starts the creative juices flowing in many creative endeavors such as our Two Peas In One Strange Little Pod videos. 🙂

Me: What secret talents do you have? (I snatched this simple but insightful question from Edie Melson’s interview over @ Writing Prompts, Thoughts, and Ideas…Oh my!)

Dee Dee: I love to paint, especially watercolors! As a matter of fact stayed tuned for an announcement of my new project coming later this summer. I am very excited about working on the details of a card line with hopes it will be a blessing to you, and one you will enjoy sharing with others.

Thank you, Dee Dee!

{Stay tuned, fellow Blue Ridge friends…Two Peas in One Strange Little Pod Productions has one last blooper reel coming your way tomorrow!}


  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Years ago, I attended a weekly ministry-driven brainstorming session. Ideas flew fast and furious. You see, the pastor encouraged us to remember that there was no such thing as a stupid idea. We knew we were in a safe place. It didn’t mean we used all the ideas. In fact, we used only a few, but one idea would spark another, and so on. I felt free to fail and through that freedom emerged ideas that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. Edwin H. Land sums it up best: “The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”
  • Move outside. Due to distance Dee Dee and I usually do our brainstorming sessions via phone but whenever possible, move your creative b-storming outside. Take a walk together, or go to a zoo or museum to get those creative juices flowing.
  • Know the rules. State upfront any guidelines you might want to observe, such as… there are no wrong/ foolish statements, or perhaps, no cutting remarks if you disagree with something that’s suggested, etc. Agree that you’ll take everything in, write it down, and allow the information to marinate before making a definitive decision. Rules and creativity don’t always go hand-in-hand but in this case, it’s actually freeing everyone to be their best creative self.


blogDeeDeeblueDee Dee Parker infuses wisps of Southern grace throughout both her writing and speaking. She is the author of a children’s book, Josie Jo’s Got to Know written to benefit breast cancer research. She has contributed to numerous anthologies, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, Clothes Lines and Christmas Presence. Dee Dee writes for Christian Devotions US, Guidepost books, as well as Focus On the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. magazine. Her first Christmas novella has landed in the hands of her agent and she eagerly anticipates its publication in the near future. Dee Dee lives snuggled among the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains with her husband Jim, a retired minister, and their spoiled Schnoodle, Greta.

Talk about creative! Today’s featured image is courtesy of the talented Paul Foreman of Mind Map Inspiration. Visit his site for mind blowing graphics as well as much inspiration!

What Can We Learn from These 5 Quotes?

I love quotes. And they love me. Pithy, thought-provoking…it’s all there. So in the midst of this blazing summer heat, I thought I’d offer refreshment in the form of a fistful of favorites. In addition, you’ll find a quick sip of thoughts. As you read the following five quotes, is there one in particular that resonates with you?



So how do we fuel the curiosity within us? One way is through play. Who says adults have outgrown a playground or that our playground must consist of a slide and a swing? I admit that I’ve not always been good at playing as an adult. In fact, I’m still working on it. But playing, whether it’s through a sports activity, dancing free-form when no one can see you {cue 70’s music}, or simply daydreaming, it empowers us to be creative, free-thinkers, and more flexible.

quote3.Self-doubt is a danger to creativity. But more importantly, it’s a danger to our souls. Our testimonies. Our calling. When I began attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference I found my validation as a writer in receiving awards. I’d never won anything as an adult. So each time I heard my name called and the roar of applause that followed, I felt a little more like a “real” writer. I know now that my worth — as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, friend, and writer, must be grounded only in the person of Jesus Christ. He alone is where we find our confidence. When we rest in this truth, self-doubt quietly slithers away.


Oh boy! I’m still not sure what to think about this quote but I couldn’t exclude it. It was just too darn intriguing. Maybe it’s the term ‘stealing’ that leaves me unsettled. Edie Melson and Vonda Skelton, who led our writer’s group for years, often reminded us that there is nothing new under the sun. I don’t know about you, but that’s a relief. I used to beat myself up because I couldn’t think of something to write about that no one else had already written. Now I know that my inspiration and perspective are unique…and so are yours. I pray the Lord will open our spiritual eyes as we anticipate fresh insight from Him, even on the most hum-drum of days.


Don’t you find this to be true? I learned this while participating in the 31 Days Blog Challenge a couple of years ago. The challenge? Choose a theme and dedicate 31 consecutive days {October} to blogging on that subject. I thought for sure I’d run out of ideas within the first three days. What I discovered, however, was quite the opposite. Creativity was at every turn! Thoughts came quicker and from unexpected places.


My heart’s desire: to take what God has made and shape it and use it to make Him look great. For He is worthy! How about you?


Now it’s your turn! Was there a quote or thought you especially resonated with today? Please share. I’d love to know.

If you like what you read here, please consider subscribing to my blog. It only takes a moment to insert your email address in the right-hand column under “Get Updates” and by doing so, a NEW bi-weekly post will automatically land in your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time. Thank you for spending time with me today. I count it a privilege.


Pin It on Pinterest