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1. Three Easy Tips to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing PLUS a Giveaway of THE YOUNG ELITES

Do you edit censor yourself as you write? Before you even start to write?

We all second guess ourselves, at least to some extent. I do. Something happens, someone says something negative, or I read something brilliant by someone else, and the doubt demons start nibbling away at my self-confidence, whispering that what I'm doing isn't good enough.

There is so much noise in this business, so much whispering, so much doubt.

We can't let it take hold or we'll paralyze ourselves. Deadlines don't give into paralysis or doubt. : )

When I'm feeling like writing has become a chore and I need to regain the joy of writing, I find that there are a number of things I can do that practically guarantee to get me back on track.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo and feeling like you're overwhelmed, don't give up. Here are a few tricks I use to convince myself that I can keep going.

  1. Connect to what you love. If you're anything like me, the characters are what you love most about your manuscript, but if you're more invested in the plot or the concept, that's okay. Make a list of what you love and why you love it. Concentrate on rekindling that initial enthusiasm. Got it? Good. Now look at the scene or chapter you're currently writing and find a way to incorporate what you love into that chapter. Make your character do something that shows who she is, or demonstrate the "cool" aspects of your plot or concept.  
  2. Write a letter. Get in the head of your character more deeply by writing a letter from her to someone else in her life. What is bugging her most? What does she need someone to know? What would she tell someone who wronged her if she had the chance? What would she say to her best-friend, right here, right now.
  3. Write a paragraph. Focusing on writing a thousand words or two thousand or more can be debilitating. The task can feel too huge when you're not feeling inspired. Instead of telling yourself you have to write ALL THE WORDS, tell yourself to write the first sentence in a paragraph, and then another sentence. All you have to write is one paragraph. Then another. You can quit any time, but once you've met your goal for the day, the words may come more easily. 
Remember one more thing: your words may not be perfect, but they don't have to be when you first put them on the page. Focusing on word count can be debilitating, but words don't matter.

Hear me? Words don't matter.

Words change. Sentences change. Paragraphs and scenes and chapters may be deleted. 

Focus on what the characters want and why your main character isn't getting what she wants, why it's almost impossible for her to get what she wants, and your story will write itself. Once it's down on the page and you are happy with the story, THEN you can focus on the words. In the meantime, focus on the joy of story! : ) 

Happy writing,

Martina

Giveaway This Week


The Young Elites
by Marie Lu
Hardcover
Putnam Juvenile
Released 10/7/2014

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.


Purchase The Young Elites at Amazon
Purchase The Young Elites at IndieBound
View The Young Elites on Goodreads



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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2. Begin Again

Many years ago I attended a writing conference and one of the authors recommended writing your entire story, then throwing it away and writing it again. The rationale was that writing the first time was to help you get to know the characters. Writing the second time was to finesse it and tease out your […]

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3. Your Writer Journey

During my July hiatus, several things have started to click together for the benefit of my writing.

I finished the 18-month stint of a major software project, which frees up more time for me to work on the novel and I’ve decided to put the house up for sale! I have about a 2-3 hour daily commute and it’s been a drain to say the least. So now that the real estate market is in my favor, I will have an opportunity to move closer to the city. So excited!

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the writer journey. How as writers we go through the valleys and peaks and then maybe stumble and have to work hard to find our way again. This summer I’ve had several conversations with writer friends about envy, disappointment, and disillusionment.

I always try to steer myself back to one of the things I want to do LESS of in 2014: Compare myself to other people.

I’ve been on my writing journey for a while but started seriously 5 years ago when I started this blog. Within this timeframe, this has been the journey of some other writers:

  • Has published several books and just signed another multi-book deal.
  • Has struggled with getting better at writing but lacks time and money.
  • Has become a mainstay on the New York Bestsellers list.
  • Has made the painful decision to stop writing.
  • Has worked hard and now on the verge of a major breakthrough.

I’m sure if you were to create a list, you would have the same varied experiences of writers that started within the same time frame of your journey as well. You could compare yourself to the list and be left feeling smug, indifferent, jealous or depressed.

The thing is all of those writers had different paths. Paths based on different wants, needs, priorities, opportunities, privileges, and luck.

Those paths are not your path. It’s not your writer journey.

Never forget: You are the only one in the Universe that can write the words for the story that needs to be told.

No one else.

No matter how long it’s been or how long it takes.

Never give up on your journey to be the best writer you can be.

6 Comments on Your Writer Journey, last added: 8/6/2014
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4. Writing for Yourself

Hope everyone’s writing is going well.

For me, I’m struggling with the logic of the ending and some other plot points of my current novel project. I’m happy with some results and not so happy with some other things.

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I’m struggling with Chapter 12. That stupid, stupid chapter. No, it doesn’t seem I’m bitter at all, does it? Ha.

Looking at my list of “Doing Less in 2014” one item was trying to be perfect at everything. At the end of the day, this book won’t be perfect and it’s a stress maker trying to make it so. I’m learning that sometimes you just have to do your best and move on.

Also looking at my list of “Doing More in 2014” one item is writing from the heart. Yesterday on my commute, I listened to the latest podcast of This Creative Life featuring Stephanie Kuehn. This podcast is hosted by Sara Zarr, who is the author of one of my favorite YA novels, Story of a Girl.

Stephanie talked about her road to publication and how she wrote previous novels, worked with a previous agent, and basically got a little disheartened about the whole process. She also kept hearing at writing conferences about what sold well when it came to male protagonists.

It wasn’t until she cancelled out everything she heard and began to write for herself. Not only the result was the award winning Charm & Strange, but for also a lesson of just writing from your heart and not so much writing for publication.

Another item of my “Doing Less in 2014” – thinking publication is the answer. Publication is a goal to strive for but not a desperation that overwhelms you and makes you write for an audience that others tell you will make your novel a bestseller. You must write the story you want to write. The story of your heart. The story you are meant to tell.

It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

5 Comments on Writing for Yourself, last added: 6/19/2014
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5. Feedly Inspirations

Since my beloved Google Reader died and went to tech heaven, I’ve been using Feedly, which keeps me sane by helping me organize all of the various articles, blogs, and Tumblrs that I want to read.

This week I’ve found some inspirational posts that I thought I would share with you.

Stacia Brown, Levels to This: One Week at WaPo:

“There is nothing wrong with the slow rise, the circuitous, meandering exploration of many paths. We are not all meant to be meteors. Some of us are satellites: we hover, capture, study. We wait. There is no shame in it.”

Joshunda Saunders, Poem: For Writers

“No one is coming to proclaim your talent rough or refined.

You are your only true nemesis,

a house divided against its productivity.”

Have you read anything recently that has been inspiring to you? I would love to hear about it.

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6. Question of the Week: Have You Ever Quit Writing?



Hey everyone! Clara Kensie here. Pretty much the only thing writers love as much as books and writing is talking about books and writing. So each week at Adventures in YA Publishing, we’ll post a question for you to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers: craft, career, writers’ life, reading and books. Together we’ll become better writers by sharing tips and discussing our habits and practices.

Question of the Week
April 20, 2014
Have you ever given up writing? Why? What brought you back?



Jan Lewis: Yes! I gave up on writing when I was pregnant with my youngest. Between the exhaustion and the morning sickness that lasted the entire pregnancy, I just didn't have the energy for it. And of course while I wasn't writing, the doubts crept in. "Am I really a writer if I haven't written for a year? Maybe I don't have what it takes." What brought me back? Martina did.

Martina Boone: This is one of the biggest regrets of my life. I am horrible about trusting myself. I started writing seriously when my son was a baby, and I wrote a few picture books that came close to publication. I snagged a wonderful agent, a superstar agent, who intimidated the crap out of me. And then I decided to write an adult novel. My first adult novel. Without a clue what the heck I was doing. Seat of the pants stuff.

Needless to say, my superstar agent dropped me after reading it, without saying why or providing any feedback. I was devastated and figured I wasn’t meant to be a writer. We were short on money then too, so I started a business and worked about 18 hours a day for a while on top of having two little kids. I told myself that I was too busy to write. I made all kinds of excuses. Then my daughter started reading young adult books, and I fell in love with the genre and started to dip a toe back in. I started Adventures in YA Publishing to learn how to write an actual novel, and I’m still learning from our wonderful guest authors and from Clara, Lisa, and Jan. Not to mention all the wonderful bloggers and authors online. If you want to be a writer, if you want to write a book, if you want to reach people because you have something to say, then here’s my advice. DON’T give up. Don’t diminish your dreams. Write and you’re a writer, even if you’re only managing to write 50 words a day.

Lisa Gail Green: We've all had those feelings that surface when we reach the bottom of the roller coaster where we feel like throwing in the towel. But if you do that then you can NEVER achieve your dreams, so why not try? I am, have always been, and will always be a proponent of encouraging others to work hard and keep trying. I've had points in my life where I put writing on hold, but I hadn't truly committed yet. Since I started doing it seriously? No. I have come close as anyone, but have not quit. I've kept moving forward, sometimes at a slower pace than others, like when I had my third child, but I've never given up and I have no plans to!

Clara Kensie: I met with some author friends recently, and we discussed this topic. The takeaway from that discussion was a quote from author R.A. Salvatore: “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, then you are a writer.” That quote really resonated with me. Yes, there have been times I’ve wanted to quit. Times when I wonder why I got myself into this. Times when I wonder if the struggle is worth it. Last February, my agent (the amazing Laura Bradford) was the unfortunate recipient of an email in which I poured my heart out after a particularly discouraging month. Her frank response got me back on track, and it still keeps me afloat: “Would you stop writing (because of this)? Of course not. You are going to keep writing no matter what.” Yes, I am going to keep writing. No matter what. I can’t quit, even if I tried.

YOUR TURN: Have you ever quit writing? Why? What brought you back?

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7. 3 Tips for Finding Writing Inspiration

Guest Post by Mary Jo Guglielmo Are you ready to start a new writing project but are struggling with finding that new story?  I have known a number of writers who can't seem to find a new direction after finishing a big project.  If you're need of some inspiration try one of the following techniques to jumpstart your next writing project. Dream Your Manuscript into Being: If you having

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8. Five Reasons Why You Should Write A Short Story


Many writers fantasize the day they accept the Pulitzer Prize or Newberry Award for their novel they slaved over for years. Few authors daydream about receiving two contributor copies after having a short story published. Yet, writing short stories can improve your writing skills and increase your marketability.

SENSE OF COMPLETIONWriting short stories gives you a sense of completion. Writers often complain, “It took me years and years to get my novel just right.” Novels are like spaghetti sauce, simmering for days; whereas short stories are like the noodles—boiling and ready in twenty minutes.

Completing a manuscript gives a feeling of accomplishment. Just like an artist enjoys displaying a finished painting, most writers love to share their work. How wonderful it feels when a complete piece can be revealed for enjoyment or critique. In any profession, it is important to experience accomplishments, such as an architect who views her new building  or an author seeing her work in print from beginning to end.

PUBLICATION CREDITS
Getting anything published is hard work. You must be dedicated to rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting. You have to research the market, learn proper manuscript format, and write a brilliant cover letter. Getting a short story published is like playing a good game of miniature golf—it’s not as easy as it looks, but with knowledge, skill, and practice, you can do it.

Many markets exist for your short stories from magazines with a circulation of 200,000 to hard-back anthologies to your writer’s group newsletter. Contests for shorter works fill writing websites and magazines, and many of these are paying markets or have a modest monetary award accompanying first through third place.  A lot of magazines do pay in copies, but some give you a check.

EXPAND YOUR RANGE
Short stories present an opportunity to work on different genres. For example, a writer’s group sponsors a Halloween short story contest. Most of the members work on other genres throughout the year, such as westerns, romance, or mysteries. For this contest, each person creates a spooky story. The writer’s group does not publish the winning entries, and members are free to submit their ghostly tales to other contests and magazines.

Many writers start out in one particular genre. They begin writing what they love to read. Because people have read romance or science fiction all their life, they decide to try these genres with their novels. But what if there’s a mystery inside these authors, ready to spill out if it is just allowed? A short story is the perfect place to expand into the mystery genre.

WORK ON THE CRAFT
You can use short stories to strengthen your writing skills. Maybe you need to work on writing realistic dialogue or fitting all five senses into your description. Perhaps you want to use flashbacks, but can’t seem to make smooth transitions. Or a friend, who critiqued your opening chapters, said your main character was typical and boring.

Try working out these problems in a short story, focusing on improving those particular weaknesses.

A CURE FOR WRITER’S BLOCK
Writing a short story may help you overcome writer’s block. When writing a long piece, sometimes you find yourself in a rut and become frustrated. You avoid working on your manuscript and may waste time cleaning out your files or e-mailing your long, lost cousin. Why not do something more productive and write a short tale?
 
Writing something different can give you the oomph you need to continue with your novel. Your subconscious has a chance to take over and solve your plot problems. Just make sure to keep paper handy to jot down ideas for your novel.

The next time you ponder, “Why should I waste time writing a short story?” Remember what they can do for you. Short stories can improve your writing skills, enhance your marketability, and bring you a step closer to publishing that great American novel.


Margo is teaching a short fiction class for children's and YA writers, starting on April 11. It's a NEW class! For more information, please see this link: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html#MargoDill_WritingChildrenTeensShortFiction

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9. Do We LOVE Writing? Reflections on Cupid's Holiday

Cupid's Arrow in South Beach by Nan Palmero
Cupid is a symbol of Valentine's Day that we all recognize. According to Roman mythology (and the version you happen to read), Cupid, the Roman god of Love, can shoot his arrow through your heart and cause you to fall hopelessly in love with another person. Sometimes, this can work out great--if the other person loves and adores you in return. If not, you're basically cursed and walking through your life like a zombie, looking for some relief from your broken heart.

And then there's this LOVE we all say we have for writing. . .

When you're with a group of writers or on a writing blog, you will often see statements such as, "I fell in love with writing at a young age and haven't been able to stop." or "Writing is my greatest passion." or "If I can't write, I don't want to live." or simply, "I love to write." But is this relationship that we have with writing love? Is it good--this overwhelming desire that we have to put words on a page? This desire that causes us to feed our children lunchmeat for dinner or tell our husbands to get the cereal box out of the pantry if he's hungry? How about our house--super dust bunnies, anyone? How long has it been since you took a shower? Come on, you can be honest with us. We understand.

I'm not sure if you can call this relationship that we have with writing LOVE. My theory is that each one of us was once an unsuspecting, innocent, normal, clean person with regular hobbies and passions; and then all of a sudden, this little winged creature, Cupid, shot us with his arrow. And the scholars have gotten it totally wrong all these years--Cupid's arrows do not make you fall hopelessly in love with another person. No, they make you fall desperately "in love" with writing.

And it doesn't even seem to matter if writing has loved us back or not--as a matter of fact when we have some success: a contest win, a published book, a contract for a newspaper column--we become more and more obsessed with our computers, journals, and notebooks. My husband actually calls my computer my fourth child--there's my stepson, my daughter, my dog, and my computer.

So on this day when we celebrate LOVE, try to find some time away from the keyboard and pen and hug a human (or animal!) you love today. Maybe even bake him or her a cookie or remember to call the Chinese place to order some dinner. Then tomorrow, go back to writing--our passion, our obsession. After all, it's not our fault--it's Cupid's. That's what I plan to tell my family the next time I throw a loaf of bread on the table and a package of deli ham.

Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg and teaches classes on children's writing in the WOW! classroom.

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10. Surviving The Ups and Downs of Being a Writer

Jayne Ann Krentz/photo by Marc Von Borstel

Last weekend, I spoke to a group of writers about the six plus one traits of writing and how to use these to improve their rough drafts and writing in general. The theme of the talk was basically everything they needed to know about writing they already learned in elementary school, or at least what we are teaching in elementary schools today--which is often the six traits. Anyway, one of the traits is voice--developing voice and writing with a distinct voice, and I was looking for a quote to kind of wrap up my talk and leave them with some inspiration as well as tie in something I talked about. And lo and behold, I found the quote below by the prolific romance writer, Jayne Ann Krentz.

"Believe in yourself and in your own voice, because there will be times in this business when you will be the only one who does. Take heart from the knowledge that an author with a strong voice will often have trouble at the start of his or her career because strong, distinctive voices sometimes make editors nervous. But in the end, only the strong survive."
                                                              - Jayne Ann Krentz

I just love this quote, and I thought it was a perfect way to end a writing workshop, where I was trying to inspire people to write and have faith in their work and their careers in the new year. It is so easy to get down as a writer: rejection letters, no time to write, bad reviews, blog posts with no comments, harsh critiques, poor sales, and so on. But the beginning of this quote is so true and what we have to do. WE HAVE TO--believe in ourselves! We have to have faith in our voice and in our work. We cannot give up. We have to get up the next morning and keep sending out manuscripts or write another blog post or send our book to another reviewer.

This business is so subjective--you'll realize that if you ever send a query letter out or a magazine submission to multiple editors. You can send out the same thing to twenty places--you'll get yeses, nos, and no response. It doesn't mean one editor is more right than another (although we want to think that!) ; there are many reasons for rejections and acceptances. But through it all, you have to believe in yourself and your work--because you are your best advocate! You are the one that sits down to the keyboard and types and creates. You are the only one with your voice. So keep writing--through the ups and downs, and you will survive!

Margo L. Dill is the author of the middle-grade (ages 9 to 12) historical fiction novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg. She also teaches in the WOW! classroom--mostly about writing for children. Her next class starts in the beginning of March.

8 Comments on Surviving The Ups and Downs of Being a Writer, last added: 2/3/2013
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11. Some thoughts about coffee mugs and inspiration

First another rant. Just returned from a coffee shop for a quick caffeine pick-me-up and once again encountered a coffee mug related problem. As a writer, a coffee or tea break is an important tool in the thinking process. If and whenever possible, I opt for a 'real' china mug rather than a paper cup. Somehow, and maybe it's my imagination, hot beverages including tea always seem to retain better flavor in a non-paper receptacle.

At this particular chain, customers are given a mug in which to pour their own coffee with unlimited refills. As the server handed over the mug, couldn't help but notice that the rim was slightly chipped.

ME
Excuse me but this mug is chipped

There was a thirty second silence between us while we stared into each other's eyes. Sort-of a coffee-shop-stare-down. Glancing down, she grabbed another mug, passed it to me and took off to chat with another server.

Meanwhile, walking over to fill up the mug with coffee, I saw there were stains inbedded on the sides.

ME TO SERVER
This mug is stained. See? Look at the sides...

SERVER
(grabbing another mug absent-mindedly)
This is as good as it's gonna get.

Let's just say it was passable but only just. 'As good as it's gonna get?' That's a good explanation?

The problem, in my humble opinion, is that a large portion of coffee drinkers have opted to be satisfied with a paper cup. We have turned into a population of mobile coffee drinkers who prefer to walk while they drink, rather than take the time to sit down and experience the pleasure of sipping coffee from a proper drinking receptacle. Proper drinking mugs and cups are becoming obsolete and coffee shops focus on their paper cup customers. Rant over and back to the real heart of the situation.


In spite of a concerted effort to work on my playwriting, my brain seems to be neutral. In assessing the situation, I'm thinking here that perhaps it's due to my physical location away from home base where ideas and dialogue seem to flow endlessly. Not that the current atmosphere isn't conducive to writing but the change, at least for me, isn't for the better. In my normal setting, there is a window next to the computer set-up and somehow staring out of the window at the passing scene inspires the part of my brain that produces ideas and concepts. Most of my time these days is spent staring at the computer screen, accompanied by the occasional line or two, which is frequently deleted shortly thereafter. Presumably and hopefully, upon my return to my usual environment, the words will flow like water. Or not.

“I tell my students there is such a thing as ‘writer’s block,’ and they should respect it. You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.”
—Toni Morrison


Yup.





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12. Writing Is…

Writing is…

…the one thing you’re good at.

…the hardest thing you’ve ever done.

…just a career.

…the one thing that keeps you going.

…the daily grind.

…the next stolen moment.

…a windowless room papered with rejections.

…an endless horizon, no points of reference in sight.

…an easy escape.

…the hardest taskmaster.

…a high school party–the kegger with cool kids–where you don’t belong.

…a circle you pull others into, your arms outstretched.

…the safest place.

…dangerous ground.

…an affectation, pretentious rambling.

…bare-boned truth, exposed and sharp. 

…nothing to speak of.

…everything all the time.

…the secret you never tell.

…80,000 pieces of you, strung out and shouting, 250 declarations per page.

 

 

 

 

 

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13. Friday Speak Out!: Words From A Clear Inner Voice, guest post by Irene Cohen, MD

Words From A Clear Inner Voice
by Irene Cohen, MD

In 2009 I undertook a one year course of study with two teachers who created a program called the Voice for Love. This program teaches one how to hear her clear inner voice. The program consisted of meditation, writing, speaking from this voice and learning spiritual counseling. As a psychiatrist I had been interested in the connection between mind and spiritual practices for many years and found this program illuminating.

I didn’t start out to write a book. As a long-time meditator, I prefer to sit in the early morning before the day begins. This practice has always set the course of the day for me and creates the sense of peace and concentrated focus which I bring with me no matter what occurs. Although I did not start out to write a book, I found that during my meditations, when I was quiet and empty of thoughts, words began to come to me with the prompt to write them down. So I started to meditate with my netbook in my lap, sitting on a cushion. Without asking any questions or thinking of any particular subject, messages and contemplative pieces came forth. Through a melding of my mind and my own unique abilities, something greater than myself emerged. The information I wrote down was not channeled, but it was a part of me, a greater and vast part, a larger Self. In this process, during which I am fully conscious and aware, words come forth effortlessly and in a sharper, clearer way than if I were to try to explain them myself.

When my book of 100 short meditative passages was finished, I also edited it from the place of my higher self. Getting myself out of the way, with my ego’s doubts and fears, made the editing and rewriting process much easier. If I am editing from that space of higher knowing, I can think with more clarity about what I am trying to convey and in doing so, create more of what was meant to be.

But isn’t the creative process always so? We write from another place within us which feels compelled to express itself. Artists and writers have often called it inspiration. It is a blossoming of who we truly are. If we gain clarity from a quiet mind, which for me means a regular, daily meditation practice, we can all write with less effort and more ease, knowing that what we mean to say will be distinctly in our voice.

* * *

Irene A. Cohen, MD is a psychiatrist, acupuncturist and interfaith minister who has maintained an integrative practice for almost 30 years. Hay House / Balboa Press just released her first book, Soul Journey to Love: 100 Days to Inner Peace . Visit Dr. Cohen on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and blog with her at www.drirenecohen.authorsxpress.com.

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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14. Why Writers Need Support and Celebration

by alibree www.flickr.com
Writing is a tough business--no matter what level you're at. I'm busy editing articles for the next issue of WOW!, and I just edited one about authors who decided to self-publish, even after having contracts with traditional publishers. One even had an agent, but the agent couldn't find anyone interested in the project. In this ever-changing publication world, a writer has to be strong and change with the times. But even more so, she has to have support.

I recently received an agent rejection for a YA manuscript I've been working on for a few years (on and off). I had revised it yet again before I sent it in to her. She had asked for a full read after I pitched to her at a conference. She seemed really excited about the story. I knew it was improving each time I revised it, and so I had my hopes up. As you know as a writer, this is not always a good thing. Long story short, she wrote back and said that she could follow the plot, but that the narrative seemed choppy, and she couldn't get into my world enough. Maybe I didn't have enough sensory details.

So, I was crushed. I waited a few days to mull over what she said, and then I sent the e-mail to my writing critique group. I told them I hadn't decided what I was going to do yet--whether or not I would look back over my story for these points the agent mentioned or send it on to the next agent/publisher. I was sad to admit my defeat, but what I got back from them was so much more than I could have hoped for.

"What a pleasant and professional rejection," my one writing buddy said. "You don't have too much more work to do. She could follow the plot," another one said. "Which is good considering how you keep moving everything around." (That comment made me laugh! My writing group knows me well!) Finally, one more writing group member said, "Why don't you do that one exercise where you highlight the different sensory description in various colors and see where you stand?"

Each one of them was EXACTLY right. As many of us know, the fact that the agent took the time to write any feedback at all was super nice, and it was good advice,too. As soon as my critique group said those things, I was out of my stewing and pity party, and I was back with an action plan.

When I told my husband about it, he said, "What agent?"
UGH! This is why we need other writers in our life.

If you are not lucky enough to have a writing group to celebrate your successes and pick you back up after your disappointments, please join us on Facebook and/or Twitter. We have a very active community, and we might even be able to hook you up with others who live near you or who write similar things as you do.

We are also starting a celebration/success story section on our Facebook page to encourage each other and stay inspired. Here are the details on this wonderful opportunity:

We want to hear your success stories! Have you signed with an agent or publisher? Has your self-published e-book become an Amazon Bestseller? Has your blog won an award? Did you sell an article to a magazine or newspaper? Whatever it is, we would like to hear about your success to share with fans on our Facebook

4 Comments on Why Writers Need Support and Celebration, last added: 7/5/2012
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15. Just Start

The summer before last, I became a student in the Southampton MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program where I am also a faculty member. (I know, it’s a little crazy, but it’s actually great.) Since then I’ve had the good fortune to take courses with such gifted writers and teachers and Billy Collins, Jules Feiffer, Julie Sheehan, and Roger Rosenblatt, among others. I have also been challenged by weekly writing assignments, something that I am often hard-pressed to find the time (or the space in my brain) to do.

Another one of our faculty members, the biographer Neil Gabler, refers to what he calls “Gabler’s Law”:  First, you just sit there.

I love this, since I can come up with a thousand excuses as to why I can’t yet sit down to write – my favorites being, “I’m not ready,” “I don’t have an idea yet,” and “I’m still stewing.”

Recently I’ve been experimenting with a law of my own:  Just start.

Since I’ve incorporated this law, an amazing pattern has begun to emerge with respect to these writing assignments. It generally goes like this:

Day 1 – “OK, I’ve got the assignment for this week. It seems do-able.”

Day 2 – “What was I thinking? This assignment is the hardest yet! Ack. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

Day 3: “I might have an idea. I’ll let it stew a bit.”

Day 4: “It’s a terrible idea. Never mind. Help!”

Day 4: “This is impossible. It’s actually out of the question. I don’t have a single idea!”

Day 5: “This may be the week where I have to call in sick. Is there any valid excuse I can come up with for not doing the assignment this week?

Day 6: “God, class is tomorrow. Just sit there and begin – something, anything!”

Day 7: “What time is class?”

What this has taught me is that I can afford to be patient while all those little gremlins in my head cycle through their strange but apparently necessary routine. But then, if I just sit there and START – just put my fingers to the keyboard and begin, something, anything – stuff begins to happen.  It doesn’t matter where I start, just that I do. And of course it’s all about editing – but the miracle is, once I start, I have something to edit, and once I edit, I (usually) have something to present.

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16. Chekhov, the Picture Book Author

Michael Chekhov – nephew of playwright Anton Chekhov - was an esteemed Russian-American actor, director and acting teacher. Among those who studied with him were Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood, Anthony Quinn, Ingrid Bergman, Jack Palance, Lloyd Bridges, and Yul Brynner. Constantin Stanislavski, with whom Chekhov collaborated at the Moscow Art Theatre, referred to him as his ‘most brilliant student.’

I had the good fortune to listen to Joanna Merlin, president of the Michael Chekhov Association – speak about her mentor last week. (MICHA will be one of the theatre companies in residence at our Writers Conferences next summer.)

I have long been aware of the overlap between the dramatic and writing arts, but something Joanna said struck me as particularly relevant.

One of Chekhov’s valued concepts was that of the ‘four brothers’: ease, beauty, form and wholeness. As I listened to Joanna describe these elements with respect to art, I realized they were directly transferable to children’s literature.

Ease – Who hasn’t marveled at the ease of Dr. Seuss’s verse, or Jules Feiffer’s line? When a book really sings, doesn’t it seem effortless? Like it just rolled off the author’s pen? Doesn’t it make us think: That looks so easy! I could do that!

Beauty – From Kenneth Grahame to Gennady Spirin to Jon J Muth, there’s no denying the beauty in children’s book art. But there’s beauty in text, too… Whether it’s an exquisitely crafted message, mastery of language or authenticity of voice, there are times when the stellar narrative of a children’s book can make one weep.

Form – Thirty two pages, one thousand words or less. There’s no denying that picture books have form. The challenge is how to tell that story with a richness of character and plot that compels the reader to turn the page… within the confines of that form. Martha Grahame said “The aim of technique is to free the spirit.” I would amend that to say, “Within the confines of form, anything is possible.”

Wholeness – Beginning, middle, end. Problem, crisis, resolution.  Picture books travel a great distance in a thousand words or less… and the good ones provide a complete story, and a wholly satisfying journey.

Michael Chekhov wrote and published a few great books on acting, but never any children’s books. I suspect that, had he chosen to, he could have penned one with ease, beauty, form and wholeness.

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17. Failure is Part of the Journey

Many of you have already read the fabulous guest post by Sara Zarr in the What Inspires You series. It’s hosted on Nova Ren Suma’s blog, who is the author of Imaginary Girls.

I had the pleasure of being in one of Sara Zarr’s critique groups last December at the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop so I already know first-hand how inspiring she can be.

So why would Sara be inspired by failure? If anything, failure is the major thing that keeps us as writers feeling like losers, alone in our mind with the images of what we *want* our writing to be and struggling to get it down on the page.

Most of the time, the images and the words never match. The words usually are a poor representation of the idea in our head. For me personally, this massive failure can be too much. It’s hard to keep pushing against a wall that seems never to budge.

But this is what I love about Sara Zarr’s post:

“Today, I’m looking at my draft and its large and small failures, and I know: if everyone I admire and respect, everyone whose work has endured for more than five minutes, everyone who has come out with something beautiful, has struggled in this same, frightening gap, I must be on the right track.”

It’s never easy to create in the midst of failure, but if we can remember that all art starts from this place — the gap between the idea and the finished work — we will realize that we’re not losers and it’s just a part of our journey.

We can forget that sometimes. So thanks Sara Zarr for reminding me.

5 Comments on Failure is Part of the Journey, last added: 11/9/2011
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18. Who Can Help Me Tell This Story?

This week I had the joy of interviewing my friend and picture book hero, Peter H. Reynolds, for the Children’s Book Hub. As usual, Peter said a million inspiring things and shared a number of jewels about writing.  Among them was a reference to his own writing process that set off lightbulbs in my head.  For those of you who have been participating in PiBoIdMo, or 12X12, or just find it hard sometimes to move from idea to story (as I do), this may be useful.

Once an idea comes to him (as they do all the time, because he has such highly developed Story Radar!), Peter asks himself, “Who could help me tell that story? What character and what situation can help demonstrate that idea?”

My ideas often start with theme  – with the take-away, so to speak. But good storytelling is all about character, after all. If the characters aren’t compelling, believable, interesting, then the reader doesn’t care… and if the reader doesn’t care, the take-away usually ends up being didactic or lost altogether.

Who can help me tell this story? What character, in what situation, solving what problem, can illuminate this idea?

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19. Ideas on the Go

I’ve been honing my Story Radar, and have found the holiday season to be more abundant than ever with respect to prompting ideas.  The problem is, most of them come to me when I’m on the fly… and if I don’t document them immediately, by the time I get home they’ve gone. So I’ve been experimenting with ways to keep track of ideas on the go, and have come up with a short list of what works for me.

1)   Write them down the old fashioned way – This requires carrying a notebook with me at all times, which is sometimes challenging to remember to do, let alone find room for in my purse.  I love Moleskins, since they feel so writerly, but I’ve also used Miquelrius notebooks, which I like because they have spiral binding and stay open easily. And of course, we have spiral-bound notebooks with the Childrens Book Hub logo on the cover that are very nice, too.

Peter H. Reynolds mentioned in our interview this month that he always carries index cards in his pocket, to jot down ideas or make quick sketches on, and also to flesh out his ideas, because they allow for shuffling.

2)   Write them down digitally – I love my iPad, but again, it’s not always convenient to carry around with me. What is convenient is my iPhone – and the ‘Notes’ app works well for capturing ideas on the fly. However, it’s not easy to type anything that requires detail on the tiny iPhone screen.

3)   Record them – This is my latest favorite method. I have the free app “Dragon Dictation” installed on my iPhone (I have it on my iPad as well). All I have to do is tap the app to open it, and tap the red button to begin recording. I say as much as I need to, and hit save. This miraculous app instantly transcribes my words to text, and it’s accurate about 90% of the time. One more tap and I’ve emailed the document to myself. When I get home and open my computer, the emailed idea is there, ready for me to edit, embellish or simply drag-and-drop it into the ideas folder on my desktop.

How do you capture your ideas?

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20. Anatomy of a (Writer’s) Dream

It’s the last Wednesday of January 2012 and a lot of New Year’s Resolutions are starting to loose their glitter and shine.

You still want to write a book this year or finish your current novel project. It is a writer’s dream to complete this task.

But it can be frustrating at times.

This is when you must step back and remember that dreams can be fulfilled by maybe not in the instant gratification way our society says it should.

Here are some reminders to hold fast to your dream:

You are the only writer who can tell this story

Every one has a unique voice. You are the only one in the Universe who has this certain voice. And although there are no new stories under the sun, only your voice can tell this story you want to write. Only you.



Remember why you wanted to write

Writing can be hard but you came to this story for a reason. You were compelled to get it into words and out in the world. That reason, however small you may think it is, is enough. Remember this reason while you write. It brought you here. So keep writing.



Everyone starts from the bottom

It can be hard seeing all the other novels that have been written when you’re first starting out. But remember all of these novels started with a blank page and an idea. Everyone starts at the bottom — and makes their way to the goal. It’s a journey all writers must take.



Consistency in small steps make big progress
Although January is coming to a close, there are still 11 months left in 2012. So much can be completed. But you must be realistic. There is family, work, and life. Duties and responsibilities. Writing can still be in the mix but in a manageable way. Set small goals and be consistent with them. You will be surprised how much writing can get done with this practice.



So a writer’s dream does not have to end when difficulties arise. Remember that anything worth accomplishing will be challenging but if you want it, you can make it happen.

My hope for you is that you never give up on the dream of your novel.


9 Comments on Anatomy of a (Writer’s) Dream, last added: 1/25/2012
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21. No Fooling Around With Your Writing

by Mr. Polyomnous flickr.com
On April Fool's Day, someone will probably play a joke on you--funny or not. It always seems as if the joke is funnier for the person planning it than for the recipient. But let's hope that if you're the "victim" of a joke today, it has nothing to do with your writing career. Simply because . . . there should be no fooling when it comes to your writing.

Do you take your career seriously? Whether you write every day to pay bills or after your day job at night or on the weekends only, you are a writer. Yes, that's right. It's not a hobby. It's a passion. Right? The words beg to be released from your soul, and that is no laughing matter.

What can you do so that you take your writing more seriously? (And in turn, so will your friends, family, and even your mother.)

Join a critique group! As soon as you write a page and realize that someone is going to read it and offer you feedback, you're going to be more serious about it. That doesn't mean that everything you write--like that poem about the jerk who stood you up last year--has to be presented to your critique group. But let's say your goal is to write one short story a month or finish your novel this year. First tell your critique group your goal (other writers are the best about bothering you to complete these goals), and then give them the opportunity to see your progress and offer constructive feedback.

Put it on your social media profile. Put "it"? What do I mean by "it"? The fact that you are a writer. Put it in your Facebook profile--"I am a writer." Send out a tweet that says, "I want to announce that I am writing a novel." On your LinkedIn profile, list one of your jobs as a writer--and if you've written and been published, put a link to that piece or ask the editor for a recommendation. You get what I mean. (Warning: once you do this, people who have NO CLUE about how difficult it is to be a writer will ask, "Are you still writing books?" Hold off on the urge to type what you really want to say, and instead simply answer, "Yes! :)" Don't forget the smiley face.)

Write. Yes, writing really is the key to stop fooling around with your career. I know many people in my monthly writing group (where we meet and have speakers, discuss writing trends, etc) that aren't actually writing. They dabble here or there, but they spend more time talking about writing and reading about writing and even blogging about writing (although I know--your blog is important and it is writing) than working on their projects. I am sure I am NOT talking about you, so no worries. But if there is the slightest chance that you are reading this and thinking: Oh, she caught me, just close the browser window, open up Microsoft Word, and type a page of your work-in-progress.

And finally, if you want to be published, you do have to submit your work--no fooling. But we'll save that for another day.

Happy April Fool's Day! Hope you have a chance to smile, laugh, and WRITE today.

Post by Margo L. Dill; Margo blogs about children's and YA books and how to use them at margodill.com/blog/. She also teaches online classes for the WOW! classroom. And she is working on a YA novel and an essay about giving birth at we

2 Comments on No Fooling Around With Your Writing, last added: 4/2/2012
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22. The Best Ways to Find Ideas For a Good Story

The Nighttime Novelist | ideas for a good storyIt’s fairly simple–in order to write a novel or story, you must have a solid idea first. Most writers struggle at one time or another coming up with the right story idea. After all, you want an idea that can sustain an entire story. If you’re wondering where to find creative story ideas, read the following excerpt from The Nighttime Novelist.

Where to Find Ideas For Novels Or Short Stories

It’s true that good story ideas will come to you if you learn to pay attention to what’s going on around you and recognize those moments when your mind has begun to creatively wander. But there are also other ways, and places, you might look for inspiration when you need a boost.

First Lines. Sometimes a compelling story idea comes not from any conversation overheard, or anything
you catch a glimpse of, but from a little voice that whispers a strange, interesting line in your ear … say, “I
have always had an irrational fear of first kisses” or “Her husband had become hooked on daytime soaps” or “For as long as I’d known her, Jenny claimed that her dream was to become the ninth Mrs. Larry King.” A good first line begins to suggest character, conflict, plot, tone, and theme the same way a compelling initial idea or image does. For example, what do you see present or suggested in the following first lines?

In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together. (Carson McCullers, The Heart
Is a Lonely Hunter)

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I can’t be sure. (Albert Camus, The Stranger)

Something is wrong in the house. (Kathryn Davis, Hell)

Headlines. A well-written headline contains enough possibility to get our imaginations working in the right direction (since the headline writer wants us to be intrigued enough to wonder about the story behind the headline and read it). For the fiction writer, we need not read the piece that goes along with a good headline—and in fact we probably shouldn’t. Instead, the headline will make us want to know the story behind it and begin writing it. What really happened isn’t as important to us as what might happen.

Here are a few real-world examples to consider, any one of which might suggest a sustainable story idea:

  • 17 Burn At Same Time To Break Record
  • S.C. Cheerleader Hunts, Kills 10-Foot-Long Alligator
  • Game Show Looks to Convert Atheists
  • Jedi Thrown Out of Grocery Store

Already I can picture this poor middle-aged master Jedi, five days of stubble on his face, holding onto his box of Captain Crunch for life. “You don’t want to throw me out,” wiggling his fingers in the manager’s
face as he’s pushed out the door. “You don’t want to throw me out …”

Titles. Sometimes inspiration for a book will begin before you’ve even hit the first chapter, with a title that starts you thinking. I suspect the reason for this is that good titles are often difficult to come up with, so when a good one comes along, it suggests possibilities immediately. Keep a page in your notebook just for title ideas. One of them might bring a story along with it.

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23. Writer's Day L.A.

Last weekend I got a dose of inspiration when I attended the L.A. Writer's Days. The two regional advisors, Sarah Laurenson and Lee Wind, put together an exceptional group of presenters. And I got to meet fellow blogger Tricia O'Brien. Bonus! I'm so glad I got to go.

One of my favorite Santa Barbara writers, Lee Wardlaw, talked about the fact that her most recent book, Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, was rejected by seven editors over three years. That book, which my daughter proudly owns, is now in its fourth printing and has won scads of awards including the 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the 2011 SLJ Best Books of the Year. Lee said something that resonated with me:

"I'm thankful for all those rejections. Because those editors wouldn't have loved it enough to see it through acquisition meetings, marketing, finding the right illustrator... If it hadn't been rejected, it wouldn't have become the book that it is."

Photo of Stacey, Michael & Sara by Rita Crayon Huang
Agent Michael Bourret spoke on a panel with editor Stacey Barney (Putnam/Penguin) and debut author Sara Wilson Etienne. The synergy between the three of them was beautiful to witness and I kid you not -- as soon as their panel finished talking, all of Sara's books were gone within a matter of minutes. They were that good.

I could write several posts just based on the things they talked about, but here's one thing that really stuck with me. Sara wrote the first draft of her book, Harbinger, ten years ago. There was no dialogue, only one character and the entire novel was about 90 pages long. She didn't know what to do with it so she put it away for a few years. She worked on it some more, took it to an SCBWI conference and got good feedback on it from an editor there. She worked on it for almost two more years before sending it to Michael Bourret. And then, when he took it on, they revised it together for another year.

I can't even begin to tell you how much this encouraged me. I am a SLOW writer. I get impatient with myself, frustrated because I can't whip out a novel in six months, let alone in the month of November. Some edits are easy. Others have to go round my brain for a while before they solidify. Knowing that there are other slow pokes like me who take their time and still manage to make their debut and make it big, was incredibly inspiring.

People ask me all the time if I think it's worth the money to go to a conference. When you come away inspired to keep at it, excited to lock yourself away and sit in front of a glowing screen, I'd say it's definitely worth it.

10 Comments on Writer's Day L.A., last added: 5/6/2012
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24. Marketing Lessons from My Father

Marketing and sales is in my blood. That’s because I come from a distinguished line of salesmen. My grandfather was in sales. My father was in sales. In college, I tried to buck the trend by majoring in landscape architecture. But, my inability to recall the Latin names of deciduous trees stymied that plan and put me back on the family path.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending Father’s Day with my dad who’s now retired. However, he still uses his sales and marketing skills as a volunteer to raise money for a major non-profit organization. He’s just as successful today as he was in his working days. One reason for his success is based on a story he told me. 

When I was little, my father was hired for a new sales job and went to the company’s corporate office for two weeks of initial training. During the training period, he inadvertently received a memo written by one of the managers who stated that my dad was unqualified for the job and would never help the company. In that situation, my father faced two decisions. He could let this rejection ruin his motivation and assume he’d lose his job. Or, he could use the negative memo as fuel for motivation. He chose to let it propel his desire to show the skills he offered. Against the manager’s prediction, my father went on to secure his job, receive several promotions, and enjoy a successful 20-year career with the company.

There’s a lesson here for you and me as authors. Rejection comes with the territory. For example, you might have received a lot of rejection letters from publishers. Maybe your books got some negative reviews. Maybe your book sales haven’t met your personal or publisher expectations.

One of the unseen traits of a successful author is the ability to use rejection as motivation to reach your goal, rather than deter you. This is why I consistently harp on the idea that effective marketing must rest on the belief that your book can truly help other people. When you believe that you’ve got tangible value to offer the world, then rejection just becomes a temporary speed bump on the road to success.

Some people will snub your book, ignore your requests for promotional help, and recommend other authors instead of you. Rejection is inevitable. The question isn’t whether it will happen or not. The question is how will you respond? I’m thankful for a father who persevered through rejection. If father knows best, we could all learn this valuable lesson from my dad.

Reminder:

Rob Eagar’s new book from Writer’s Digest, Sell Your Book Like Wildfire, is now available in print and e-book formats. This is the bible of book marketing for authors and publishers. Get 288 pages packed with advanced information, real-life examples, and tips to start selling more books immediately. There are specific chapters on social media, word-of-mouth tools, Amazon, and a chapter dedicated to best practices for marketing fiction. In addition, get over 30 pages of free bonus updates online. Get your copy today at:

http://www.writersdigestshop.com/sell-your-book-like-wildfire or http://www.BookWildfire.com

About the author:

Rob Eagar is the founder of WildFire Marketing, a consulting practice that helps authors and publishers sell more books and spread their message like wildfire.

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25. How to be Creative

Last week when I was in my public library, I came across this fabulous book: Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod.

I ended up checking it out. I loved the author’s tips on making a living as a creative person.

Here are the specific keys that spoke to me:

Key #3 – Put the hours in.

“Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. Ninety percent of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort, and stamina.”

Key #7 – Everyone is born creative.

“If you try to make something just to fit your uninformed view of some hypothetical market, you will fail. If you make something special and powerful and honest and true, you will succeed.”

Key #25 – Don’t worry about inspiration.

“If you’re looking at a blank piece of paper and nothing comes to you, then go do something else. Writer’s block is just a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you should feel the need to say something.”

This book is based on the author’s very popular blog post, How to Be Creative, which can be downloaded for free in this nicely designed PDF. I highly recommend that you check it out. :)

Do ya’ll have of list of key things or manifesto that help you live your life as a creative person?

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