I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, July 9, 2010

Master plan guaranteed (uh, and spreadsheet woes)

The Ponderers are having a contest. Info at the bottom of this blog...

Sometimes I think about hurting the guy who invented Microsoft Excel. Like, squeezing a lemon in the general direction of his eye. Ooh, or taking a doctor’s rubber hammer thingy to said techie’s funny bone.

That’d teach him.

Okay, I’m not that violent. But Excel spreadsheets really bring out the Chuck Norris in me, ya know? Sadly, spreadsheets are an unfortunate reality of this little thing I call my day job.

Yeah, I’m a working girl. A single working girl. A single working girl who’s dedicated enough – or maybe just weird enough – to write in her off hours.

Despite my spreadsheet angst, my job at a Christ-centered homeless ministry is pretty cool. I write snazzy (er, professional) grants, plan rockin’ fund-raisers (i.e. elegant women’s luncheons)…and yeah, battle Excel.

But after 4:30 p.m., I’m Melissa the storyteller, the aspiring author who wants to write something as cool as Susan May Warren. (Shout out to Susie!)

But here’s the glitch in my writing pursuit: it goes against my love for guarantees. See, as much as I dislike Excel, it’s dependable. If I highlight a column and hit “sum,” I can trust Excel to give me the correct total.

Writing? Darn, there’s just no guarantee that a guy from Thomas Nelson will show up on my doorstep and say, “Miss Tagg, I love your stuff! Michael Hyatt and I want to publish this and all future stories. And by the way, I’m charming and handsome and am moving to a delightful little cottage in Iowa. Marry me?”

Probably not going to happen. If it does, I’ll write a retraction of this post…and invite you to my wedding.

While writing doesn’t come with the guarantee of a book contract (or my time, efforts and money back!), I’m reminded – often by the Ponderers! – there’s something I can count on: God has a plan for my writing. As Lisa said Wednesday, he’s got a pattern already in place. After all, it’s God, the grandest Storyteller of all, who gave me a love for stories. And regardless of how He chooses to guide my writing journey, I never have to worry that I’m walking it alone.

That’s huge.

And it’s why I keep plugging away at this writing thing …even on days when I come home from work wishing I could pull a Jack Bauer on Excel.

Melissa Tagg

We're having a contest to kick-off our blog. Leave comments during the month of July and you'll have the chance to win a fun assortment of prizes, including:

  1. A Starbucks gift card
  2. A signed copy of Susan May Warren's latest book, Sons of Thunder
  3. A signed copy of Sara Evan's and Rachel Hauck's The Sweet By and By
  4. A signed copy of Jenness Walker's romantic suspense, Double Take
  5. A signed copy of Beth K. Vogt's book Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35
  6. A copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul's A Tribute to Moms
  7. Chocolates!
  8. Copies of Delores Topliff's children books: Whoosh and Little Big Chief and the Bear Hunt
We're still collecting items for our prize basket, so who knows all the goodies you'll win! Use the word "ponder" when you comment and we'll enter your name twice!


  1. Ah, Melissa, this is why I love to read your writing! Your voice is so fun! Why am I surprised? You're fun!
    Note: That is not an actual photo of Melissa going all "Jack Bauer" on her computer. No Excel spreadsheets were harmed in the writing of her column.
    I think.

  2. I wonder and I ponder how much longer, I'm not getting younger...I have started my writing journey much later perhaps than most. I have so much to learn...God is my guide and leads me by His side..

  3. Melissa, you're right-whoever invented Excel would've been perfect for a top position in the Inquisition. Maybe he's the same guy who thought up waterboarding.

    Isn't it great that we can count on God. He gives us talent and ideas...He is the original Creator! And one day, that guy is going to show up on your doorstep and I'm going to buy your book and you better invite me to the wedding!

  4. Melissa,
    I love your post and especially your voice. Everytime you've read something at our ponderer retreats I have been in envy of your ability to have humor roll off the pages as easy as rolling out of bed in the morning.
    I know, I've got to get over that envy thing, God is helping me there...and isn't he great?!

  5. Thanks, Beth! And you're right...no chairs thrown, no computers harmed, no spreadsheets ripped up...(today anyway)...:)

  6. Hey sunnycalgirl - nice to meet ya. And I'm thinking there's probably no such thing as "late" when it comes to a writing journey. The more years you have behind you, the more fodder you've got for characters and such. (Fodder, such a weird word...)

  7. Pat, thank you for sharing in my spreadsheet pain!! And yeah, God rocks. And...OF COURSE you will be invited to my wedding to the nice guy from Thomas Nelson who wants to publish my book AND live in a cottage in Iowa...

    Jennie, thank you for your kind words! I've loved everything you've read at the retreats too...ah, the retreats. I'd like to make a plug right now for the My Book Therapy retreats. If you haven't gone, GO! There, plug accomplished.

  8. Melissa, you have that fresh voice that editors and agents want to see. I love this post and laughed because I can so relate. When I was in college, I took a Microsoft Office class, thinking I could score an easy A. Yeah, right. I had to work hard for that A, but I remember calling my sister many times, ranting about Excel--especially entering the correct data for pulling the graphs. Ugh. Great post! Thanks for sharing. :)

  9. Oh Melissa, you are the funniest! Definitely related to your post! And hi to sunnycalgirl, I visited your state for the first time last month, and LOVED it!

  10. Hi, sunnycalgirl, and welcome to The Ponderers! Hey, I'm a (repeater) late-in-life mom--and I believe God uses people late-in-life--what about Moses, huh? I may not post my age on my blog, but I wouldn't trade a single year. Each one is filled with treasured memories.

  11. So the Ponderers only get invited to the wedding if he's from Thomas Nelson and has the cottage and has the contract? When he comes from Tyndale, we're outta there?

    Loved the post!

  12. Thanks, Lisa! I hope an agent or editor agrees sometime! :) And, I've got a hard copy of a spreadsheet sitting in front of me right now. (I'm at the office...) All those rows and columns...the stuff of nightmares.

    And thanks, Amy! Lucky-ducky, you, getting to visit California...

  13. Haha, Teri. Hmm...I will accept him if he's from Tyndale, but the contract and cottage are still required!

  14. And either way, ya'll are invited to the wedding!

  15. I ponder, Melissa, how you write so prolifically AND hold down your job while duking it out with Excel! I use spreadsheets a ton, but usually in Word, to keep track of manuscript submissions, ideas in the works, etc. I love being able to sort the columns by date, topic, etc. But in Word, all I have to do is click Insert Table and I'm good to go!

    Laurie Winslow Sargent

  16. Hi, Laurie!
    I popped over to your blog. Now I have to go play a game of Shadow Tag with my daughter! I ponder who will get tired first--me or her?

  17. I also use Excel in my writing. I keep a file stating briefly what's in each chapter (saves time if I'm wondering what chapter it was when my heroine took the pastor for a ride on her bike), how many pages are in the chapter (not sure why I do that except to make another cool column), and to keep the number of words in each chapter. Since I make each chapter a separate word document, the total in Excel gives me a running word count. It's easy to update with revisions so I always have an accurate word count.

    So make a peace treaty with Excel, Melissa. Even the writer side of you needs it.

  18. Thanks for the comment, Laurie! I'm excited for writing group next week...it always seems too long between meetings.

    Peace with Excel. Never!! I may use it, but I do so with gritted teeth. Actually, for writing, I do better charting things by hand using index cards and taping them to the wall. It looks silly but so far I haven't wanted to take a sledgehammer to the wall...can't say the same for my computer screen. hehe...

  19. Melissa, I've got just the dress for the wedding. Laughed through your post, but can relate. There have been times when I wanted to throw my computer through the window.

  20. What a fun post!! You crack me up. :)

    Excel CAN be your friend...really. (or so my hubby says...but I'm with you!)

    XO! Susie May

  21. Ah, our famous leader with many names arrives to post a comment! But I didn't see the word "ponder" anywhere in her comment.
    Hhhhhmmmm ... I know she uses it.
    I best be careful or Susie will send me to corner. She's done it before and I know she'll do it again!

  22. Thanks for stopping by, Susie. And thank you for being on my side in the Great Excel Debate of 2010! :)

    Naughty, naughty Beth!

    Ooh, a dress, Roxanne? I want to see it. Maybe I can be wearing it when the Thomas Nelson guy shows up to offer me my book contract (and propose).

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. Not naughty--m-i-s-c-h-i-e-v-o-u-s.
    Right, Teri Dawn?
    (And I deleted my previous post because, with all those consonants and vowels and dashes, I misspelled mischievous the first go wrong. Aargh!)

  25. Beth, our editor?? Misspelling a word? Inconceivable!

  26. I don't think that word means what you think it means . . . Movie title, anyone?

  27. Reading your posts make me so glad we met at the Colorado Christian Writers' Conference in 2010. Life would be so dull without your perspective.

    So far as the Excel spreadsheet goes, maybe it's time for you to take a bite out of the forbidden fruit and get a Mac. Their software is much more user friendly, and these days you can save most things in Microsoft formats for your PC friends.

    What do you think of them apples?

  28. Princess Bride, Beth! :)

    Melissa, I loved your post too,laughing out loud in places. :) I have had my battles with Excel, so I use it only when necessary! I am pondering how it will be used in my future. I related to the sort of "faith walk" that writers embark on when they step out and express the words God has put within them. Thanks so much for sharing, Melissa!

  29. Hey Jolene - thanks for commenting! I'm so glad to have met you too!

    Actually, I do have a Mac. It's what I use at home and I love, love, love it. Unfortunately at work we still use PCs...thus, the Excel spreadsheets...:(

    And Jeanne T, thank you for the comment and kind words!

  30. A wise man once told me that there are two kinds of people in this world, Word people and Excel people. I believe authors MUST be Word people. Our Chief is DEFINATELY an excel person. I happen to know that he even writes lyrics in EXCEL!
    I love your humor!

  31. Oh my goodness, Denise aka Senior Staff, are you serious? Chief-wiefy writes LYRICS in Excel? Do you think if I asked him really nicely on Monday he'd sing them for me?? :) Thanks for the comment, by the way!!

  32. Of course, Beth, you're NOT naughty. Just my fellow mischief-maker. But now which one of us has been sent to the corner by Susie? Just asking.

  33. Melissa, I just wanna know if you have a certain editor/suitor in mind...? :-)

  34. Okay, so I am definitely a WORD person. Excel is for numbers, and I don't really love numbers. Well, except for the tv show Numb3rs...it rocks. But I digress. I have never cared much for math. I took a lot of it in high school, but I always got in trouble for trying to be "creative" with it. Excel might be dependable, but that also means predictable and unmovable. No matter how hard you try, you can never make 1 + 1 equal anything but 2. But. When you work with words, you can do anything you want. (Except spell them wrong, right Beth?!) I love that I can use words to build worlds where anything goes. Equations? Not so much.

    So, Melissa, in my humble opinion, your gift with creativity and words is also probably the reason Excel makes you so crazy! Now, put down the chair, and step away from the monitor.