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1. Advice


Stephen Dixon:
Good advice for writers: Write very hard, keep the prose lively and original, never sell out, never overexcuse yourself why you're not writing, never let a word of yours be edited unless you think the editing is helping that work, never despair about not being published, not being recognized, not getting that grant, not getting reviewed or the attention you think you deserve. In fact, never think you deserve anything. Be thankful you are able to write and enjoy writing. What I also wouldn't do is show my unpublished work to my friends. Let agents and editors see it — people who can get you published —and maybe your best friend or spouse, if not letting them see it causes friction in your relationship. To just write and not worry too much about the perfect phrase and the right grammar unless the wrong grammar confuses the line, and to become the characters, and to live through, on the page, the experiences you're writing about. To involve yourself totally with your characters and situations and never be afraid of writing about anything. To never resort to cheap tricks, silly lines that you know are silly — pat endings, words, phrases, situations, and to turn the TV off and keep it off except if it's showing something as good as a good Ingmar Bergman movie. To keep reading, only the best works, carry a book with you everywhere, even in your car in case you get caught in some hours-long gridlock. To be totally honest about yourself in your writing and never take the shortest, fastest, easiest way out. To give up writing when it's given to you, or just rest when it dictates a need for resting; though to continue writing is you're still excited by writing. To be as generous as your time permits to young writers who have gone through the same thing as you (that is, once you become as old as I am now). To not write because you want to be an artist or to say you're a writer. And to be honest about the good stuff that other writers, old and your contemporaries, do too. 

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2. Two creative cures for when you feel your art isn’t good enough.

48c4b544ddba04b466dd6c82b11bea0c

We all have down days as creative’s, when whatever we draw just doesn’t turn out how we envisage in our heads. We screw up countless balls of paper to add it to the emerging mountain of sketchbook remains behind us and we just feel our art isn’t good enough.  Now believe it or not despite the fact that feeling despondent with our art is a natural thing that every creative goes through from time to time. It can be used to push us into being more brave and exploring new avenues we hadn’t before. It’s when we produce creative work with a closed mind that things can become to narrowed down and you’re just not sure what to do to make art you’re confident in.

So here’d a few ways to boost that creative confidence, regain that part of yourself that knows you’re good enough and how to present that artwork with pride!

 

  •  Draw things you get excited to draw : Although creative trends do help in our industry to produce work of interest to different markets, it can over time wear you down drawing things that don’t inspire you. This is why drawing things that make you smile, get your head reeling with ideas and heart filled with enthusiasm that you will be more happy with what you draw.  You’ll be less likely to second guess yourself and people will connect with your joy and enthusiasm for the art you make.

 

  • Think outside the box  : Taking a little inspiration from people around you can really refuel your creative energy and give you a boost to take your art in a new direction. For example you might take inspiration from a creative whose just launched a new project and think ” Wow if I tweaked this with my artwork in my own way then maybe the outcome would be better”. This is can also be used when you’re looking to expand your creative reach or  acquire that dream client. Don’t copy others but take a little inspiration and make it your own.

Illustration featured in this post was created by illustrator Jessica Richardson, you can find out more about her work here

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3. कैसे करें खुद को प्रोत्साहित

भाग दौड भरी जिंदगी में अक्सर खुद को प्रोत्साहित करना बहुत जरुरी हो जाता है पर … कैसे करें खुद को प्रोत्साहित… यक्ष प्रश्न है. पर कुछ ही देर मे मुझे इसका उत्तर भी मिल गया . किसी काम से मेरी सहेली  मणि के घर जाना हुआ  तो वो किसी से बात कर रही थी ” कमाल है,तुम तो वाकई में बहुत समझदार हो. मतलब कि हर बात को कितनी सहजता से ले कर उसका समाधान निकाल लेती हो और कोई तनाव नही रखती हमेशा स्माईल ही रहती है चेहरे पर हमेशा ऐसे ही रहना शाबाश,कीप इट अप…

मैं सोच ही रही थी कि किससे बात कर रही होगी अंदर गई तो दूसरा कोई नजर नही आया. मेरे पूछ्ने पर बोली अरे तूने सुन लिया… और स्माईल करती हुई बोली कि शीशे के सामने खडी होकर खुद से बात कर रही थी. खुद को मोटिवेट करना भी बहुत जरुरी होता है इसलिए अक्सर वो यह काम करती रहती है.. मुझे यह बात बहुत पसंद आई. सही है जब तक हम खुद को शाबाशी नही देंगें उत्साहित नही करेंगें तो आगे कैसे बढेग़े…

वैसे नीचे Motivational Quotes भी दिए हैं ताकि आप भली प्रकार समझ सकें

 

14 Motivational Quotes to Keep You Powerful

I once despised motivational quotes, probably because my wrestling coach liked to say, “If you’re not puking or passing out, then you’re not trying hard enough.” Read more…

हमे हमेशा खुद प्रोत्साहित करने के साथ साथ मोटिवेशनल साहित्य भी पढते रहना चाहिए इससे हमे बहुत नई जानकारी मिलती है और साथ साथ हौंसला भी मिलता है.

 

50 Motivational Quotes

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245810
Here, in 50 inspiring quotes, businesswomen, role models, activists, entertainers, authors, politicians and more share their thoughts on leadership and success — and what exactly those mean to them. 50 Motivational Quotes From Disruptive, Trailblazing, Inspiring Women Leaders

 

मेरे विचार से अब तो नही सोच रहे होंगें कि कैसे करें खुद को प्रोत्साहित …. वैसे अब मुझे भी घर लौटने की जल्दी थी खुद को प्रोत्साहित  जो करना है शीशे के सामने खडे होकर … और आप ?? आप तो करते ही होंगें अगर नही करते तो आज से ही करना शुरु कर दीजिए….

फिर जरुर बताईएगा कि कैसा लग रहा है !!!

The post कैसे करें खुद को प्रोत्साहित appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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4. Make-Believe Empire: A How-To Book

 

Back in the United States, writers could secretly imagine the same imminent fate for themselves: that when the revolution came in America, they would become its heroes—or even its leaders.

This grandiosity helps explain why apparently intelligent writers would sign on to a project so manifestly unintelligent as America’s invasion of Iraq, confident it would go exactly as planned. We find a clue in a children’s book published in 1982 by Paul Berman, The Nation’s onetime theater critic, who went on to a career as a self-described “liberal” booster of Dick Cheney’s adventure in Iraq, framing it as an existential struggle against Islamic fascism. It was called Make-Believe Empire: A How-To Book, and it is described by the Library of Congress as “A fantasy-craft book which tells how to construct a capital city and an imperial navy…. Provides instructions for writing laws, decrees, proclamations, treaties, and imperial odes.”

Left or right, it doesn’t much matter: it sure is a bracing feeling for the chair-bound intellectual to imagine himself the drivetrain in the engine of history. Or at the very least a prophet, standing on the correct side of history and looking down upon moral midgets who insist the world is more complicated than all that.

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5. Who said it? Napoleon or Clausewitz

How well do you know your military strategists? Napoleon Bonaparte and Carl von Clausewitz are considered some of the finest thinkers on war and strategy. Although they were enemies on the battlefield, both men’s insights into the dynamics of war are still widely consulted today. Take our quiz and see if you can tell who said what. Quotes are drawn from Napoleon: On War and On War by Carl Von Clausewitz.

The post Who said it? Napoleon or Clausewitz appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. How many of these famous political quotes have you heard before?

The week of the UK general election has finally arrived. After suffering weeks of incessant sound-bites, you will soon be free of political jargon for another few years. Phrases like “long-term economic plan” have been repeated so often that they have ceased to mean anything. From Margaret Thatcher to Harold Wilson, from Benjamin Disraeli to Winston Churchill, British prime ministers and politicians have uttered phrases that have echoed throughout history. How many of these famous political quotes do you remember?

The post How many of these famous political quotes have you heard before? appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. Quote of the Day



I absolutely love this quote:



If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

 —Elmore Leonard

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8. Quote of the Day



If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. 

--Stephen King


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9. “…wake to the wonder of this grass”

christmascactus0315

Ours is in bloom this very day, as it happens

“Our Christmas cactus has predictably bloomed each December for three decades and some years when it has been colder for longer, as is the case this year, it often blooms more than once a year. Our Christmas cactus is alive and growing 365 days of the year, most of which it is rarely seen by me but only looked at.”

That’s Owen Swain in his post “Blooming Cactus / blooming an illustrated life / and, what I learned in Sketchbook Skool.”

In his drawing of the cactus, he includes a quote which sent me immediately dashing for my commonplace book (which is to say, this blog).

“While drawing grasses I learn nothing ‘about’ grass, but wake to the wonder of this grass and its growing, to the wonder that there is grass at all.”

—Frederick Franck

That. Yes. Exactly. Or at least, I suppose I would say I learn something about grass when I’m drawing it, I learn something about everything I look at closely. But that kind of learning is implied in the quote. I get what he means by ‘about.’ And yes, the waking to the wonder of a thing by observing it quietly, moving your pen along its paths, or by writing a poem about it (“This grasshopper, I mean—/ the one who has flung herself out of the grass,/ the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—/ who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes…”)*; even, I daresay, by blogging about it—the combined act of observing, pondering, and then expressing, in word or line—these endeavors shift your relationship with the humble object; they awaken you to the wonder the thing actually is.

The very first revelation that struck me about drawing, way back in college during a too-brief foray into sketching, was the passage in the Betty Edwards book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain in which one of Betty’s students mentioned that after she began trying to draw faces, “every face I looked at seemed beautiful to me.” I have written before about the enormous impact that statement had on me, not just in relation to drawing but to an overall view of life.

The drawing lessons taught her to really look at people, and when she did, she saw beauty everywhere.

I know I’m going all over the place here, but in my mind these things are all connected: this way of really looking, really seeing, noticing what is interesting and important and even beautiful about things many people whisk by without noticing. And what I can do for my children is refuse to fill up their lives with things they must patiently endure until a better moment comes. I can savor the moments as they happen, and give them the time and space to find what’s interesting and beautiful in every face the world shows them.

As I was writing that last sentence, Beanie appeared in front of me with a big smile and a present: a bracelet made of safety pins linked together, each pin shining with green and blue beads. “It’s for you, Mommy,” she breathed, so proud and excited. “Jane showed me how.” How patiently (the good kind of patience) she must have worked to slide all those beads in place.

I never noticed before what a work of art a safety pin is!

I’ve written so many times on this blog about how my approach to education is to keep the focus on the process, not the product. The lesson is renewed for me every time I take pencil in hand and try to capture the lines of a thing on my page. In the end, it doesn’t matter at all how my drawing ‘turns out.’ The magic is in the doing.

*From “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

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10. . The Rules of Taming .


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11. Nine pieces of thought-provoking philosophy

Despite what some may believe, philosophy is prevalent and holds a great level of importance in today’s society. It allows us to examine the most fundamental issues that we face as self-aware beings and apply them to a variety of different topics, from free-will to politics to interpretation. To get you started on your own road of contemplation, we’ve compiled some thought-provoking ideas from David Edmonds’s and Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy Bites Again:

Headline image credit: The Thinker. Photo by Dan McKay. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. All slideshow background images CC0/public domain via Pixabay or CC BY 2.0 via Flickr (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7.1) (7.2) (8) (9)

The post Nine pieces of thought-provoking philosophy appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. 10 quotes to inspire a love of winter

Winter encourages a certain kind of idiosyncratic imagery not found during any other season: white, powdery snow, puffs of warm breath, be-scarfed holiday crowds. The following slideshow presents a lovely compilation of quotes from the eighth edition of our Oxford Dictionary of Quotations that will inspire a newfound love for winter, whether you’ve ever experienced snow or not!

Are there any other wintry quotes that you love? Let us know in the comments below.

Headline image credit: Winter bird. Photo by Mathias Erhart. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr. All slideshow background images CC0/public domain via Pixabay or PublicDomainPictures.net (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10).

The post 10 quotes to inspire a love of winter appeared first on OUPblog.

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13. when thought turns to hate

IMG_1385.JPG

What makes discussion great is when thought leaders’ advocate, debate, pontificate, commiserate, relate, educate and collaborate…until thought turns to spate, promotes hate, carries weight, problems accelerate, personal ideals dictate, ideas deflate, people turn irate. And, then it’s too late.

-TA Gould


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14. Recognize your progress and triumphs. Celebrate them!

recognize-triumphs-20141212_110849-450Recognize your progress and triumphs. Celebrate them!

Sometimes we forget to take time to see how far we’ve come, or to celebrate our progress. We’re focused on the next goal. But it’s important to take time to appreciate our successes and progress. I hope you see how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished, and you celebrate it. Celebrate yourself.


This can be a hard time of year for many people, so I thought I’d post more positive messages for people again–selfies along with the messages, so people can see the person (and author) behind the message. I think it helps make it more personal and real.

I will try to post photos most days of December for you all. Let me know if you like this idea. :)

And if you like this post, if it speaks to you, I hope you’ll share it with others.

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15. Writing Quote: Oscar Wilde

Oscar wilde quote


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16. Two Things on Tuesday


Thing One:

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.
                                                            --Anne Lamott


Thing Two:

Writing for children is murder. A chapter has to be boiled down to a paragraph. Every word has to count.
 
                                                                 --Dr. Seuss

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17. Ferguson. Power.

Ferguson, Missouri. Nov. 24, 2014. (Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters)


from "Power" by Audre Lorde:

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

(photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

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18. Quotes: On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Continuing my transcription of notes I took five years ago, I offer you quotes from the outstanding book On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta:

The faces of the dead or missing, so young and happy that all I can think of is, how can they be dead? Toothy grins, mostly those school photos that you keep hidden. - Page 60

After the narrator finds all of the songs that Hannah mentions in her manuscript, she downloads them, making her own soundtrack:
I wrap myself in the music, curled up in my bed, thinking of Hannah, eyes wide open, forcing myself to keep awake. Unlike Macbeth, who has sleep taken away from him, I can take sleep away from myself.
- Page 135

My mother deserted me at the 7-Eleven, hundred of kilometres away from home.

Hannah, however, did the unforgivable.

She deserted me in our own backyard. - Page 135

"Hold my hand because I might disappear." - Narnie to Jude, Page 188

She looks as me intently. "She used to talk about you. She'd tell me that when I came to the school, I would have you and that she'd be the luckiest person in the world because she'd have both of us. I used to think she was your mum." - Page 242

How can you just forget a person completely until the moment you see his face again? Who else is back there lurking in my head? - Page 331

I'm holding one of only two people left in the world who share my blood: my father's sister, who one night sat in the same spot for four hours just to protect her brother from a sight that would have killed his spirit. - Page 397

So what is On the Jellicoe Road about? It's about a girl named Taylor was abandoned twice: once at a convenience store by her mother when she was 11 years old, and again by Hannah, her guardian and mentor six years later.  It's about the manuscript Hannah left behind, filled with stories about teenagers from two decades ago. It's about the struggle of power between different groups of students at Taylor's boarding school. It's about alliances, and secrets, and personal histories, and hazy memories. It's about the past. It's about the future. It's about Taylor. It's about Hannah.

Read this book. Read it now.

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Booklist: From a Land Down Under
Booklist: Coming-of-Age Novels aka Bildungsromans
Hope: Melina Marchetta

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19. 15 Oscar Wilde Quotes About Reading, Writing and Books

IH001260Poet, playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde was born October 16, 1854 in Dublin. While his most famous works, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, live on, Wilde is most frequently remembered for his wit. Here are 15 of his best quotes for writers, readers and artists in honor of his 160th birthday.

 

1. All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.

2. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

3. If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

4. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.

5. The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.

6. An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

7. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

8. I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.

9. A poet can survive everything but a misprint.

10. Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless.

11. In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.

12. I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

13. With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?

14. The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.

15. A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.

If yours isn’t listed, share your favorite Wilde bon mot in the comments!


headshotWDAdrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.

 

 

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20. Quote of the Week: Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George Quote


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21. They’re So Good, It’s Scary: 13 Quotes From Horror, Thriller and Suspense Writers

432054-wrote-1916With Halloween just one week away, we’re getting into the spirit of the season with these 13 quotes on the writing life from famous authors of horror, thriller and suspense:

1. “So where do the ideas—the salable ideas—come from? They come from my nightmares. Not the night-time variety, as a rule, but the ones that hide just beyond the doorway that separates the conscious from the unconscious.”
—Stephen King, “The Horror Writer Market and the Ten Bears,” November 1973, WD

2. “The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do everyday. There are two reasons for this rule: Getting the work done and connecting with your unconscious mind.”
—Walter Mosley

3. “I hope people are reading my work in the future. I hope I have done more than frightened a couple of generations. I hope I’ve inspired a few people one way or another.”
—Richard Matheson

4. “When one is writing a novel in the first person, one must be that person.”
—Daphne du Maurier

5. “When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me, and try to put those feelings into books.”
R.L. Stine

6. “[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.”
—Clive Barker

7. “Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem.”
Edgar Allan Poe

8. “I have always loved to use fear, to take it and comprehend it and make it work and consolidate a situation where I was afraid and take it whole and work from there.”
Shirley Jackson

9. “Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and nonfiction. And even there, who can be sure?”
—Tanith Lee

10. “I always wanted to be in the world of entertainment. I just love the idea of an audience being happy with what I am doing. Writing is showbusiness for shy people. That’s how I see it.”
—Lee Child

11. I don’t think there is enough respect in general for the time it takes to write consistently good fiction. Too many people think they will master writing overnight, or that they are as good as they will ever be.”
—Tananarive Due

12. “What I love about the thriller form is that it makes you write a story. You can’t get lost in your own genius, which is a dangerous place for writers. You don’t want to ever get complacent. If a book starts going too well, I usually know there’s a problem. I need to struggle. I need that self-doubt. I need to think it’s not the best thing ever.”
—Harlan Coben, WD Interview, January 2011

13. “My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature.”
—H.P. Lovecraft 

Want to write your own horror, thriller or suspense novel? Then learn from a master with The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic: Dracula.

___________

Headshot_Tiffany LuckeyTiffany Luckey is the associate editor of Writer’s Digest. She also writes about TV and pop culture at AnotherTVBlog.com. Follow Tiffany on Twitter @TiffanyElle.

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22. The Art and Craft of Wasting Time in 20 Quotes

CC license Flickr user Earls37aWriters are notorious procrastinators, and the trend is not limited to hobbyists or young, aspiring authors. We talk a lot about procrastination indirectly—setting personal deadlines, how to schedule writing time around life and family, how to write a draft—and fast!, how to write an outline for anything.

We also discuss wasting time rather frankly in our forum, and occasionally offer assistance to writers who don’t want to work, necessarily, but in a productive way. Sometimes we give direct examples of how to not procrastinate.

Famous time-wasters tend to fall into two camps: There’s the hedonistic band of enthusiastic lollygaggers, and there’s the anti-dillydallying brigade of outputters. The logic follows that non-famous writers follow the same pattern. For both sides, here are some thoughts and advice from the greats on the art and craft of wasting time—or not.

Pro-Procrastination

Mark Twain: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”

Marthe Troly-Curtain: “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Rita Mae Brown: “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”

Herodotus: “Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal, while others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.”

Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by.”

Ellen Degeneres: “Procrastination isn’t the problem. It’s the solution. It’s the universe’s way of saying stop, slow down, you move too fast.”

Dorothy Parker: “Live, drink, be merry, love the reeling midnight through, For tomorrow ye may die, but alas we never do.”

Jerome K. Jerome: “Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on it. I take great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do.”

Susan Orlean: I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done.”

Auguste Rodin: “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”


 

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.53.57 AMThe Writer’s Digest Retreat on the Water is your chance to escape the demands of everyday life and immerse yourself in your craft for a few purposeful and peaceful days. Enrollment at this Retreat is limited—you’ll enjoy the close mentorship of the instructors and the attention to your individual manuscript that only an event this small and exclusive can provide.


 

Pro-Productivity

Pablo Picasso: “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

Benjamin Franklin: “You may delay, but time will not.”

Charles Dickens: “Procrastination is the thief of time; collar him.”

Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

George Bernard Shaw: “If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you’ll find you’ve done it.”

Oscar Wilde: “Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old.”

Victor Hugo: “Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.”

J.R.R. Tolkien: “It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “How soon ‘not now’ become ‘never.’”

Henry Ford: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”

 

Which camp do you fall into? For myself, I’ll only say that this post was supposed to run yesterday.


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Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.

 

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23. Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman

The novel Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman starts with a prank. Readers quickly learn that these characters aim to do things that will make people stop and think, to consider what's happening - no whoopee cushions or silly hacks, but rather, something that means something, that makes a statement.

The bet is to get someone into Harvard that wouldn't get in otherwise. Not a prank, Max clarifies, but a hack. Forget the kid stuff they've done before - this will be something huge, powerful, meaningful. Schwarz doesn't want to get expelled. Eric doesn't want to do something immoral. They find out that this is a bet Max made with the Bongo Bums. Named after Richard Feynman, a prankster and bongo player, they are two juniors from Boston Latin High School who make bets and do things for bragging rights, and want a rivalry with the other boys, who'd rather be left alone and do their own thing. Max pretends the bet is for $100 but the amount increases throughout the book.

"We're going to take the biggest loser we can find - the least ambitious, least intelligent, least motivated, most delinquent and drugged-up slacker we can get our hands on - and we're going to sucker this school into letting him in." At least, that's what is shared with the readers on page 46. Our players are not so forthcoming with the full details. Readers learn more about the terms and the payout as the book goes on.

It's not about sabotaging the other party's candidate but getting your own candidate IN. They get a tough guy named Clay who beat Eric up as a kid, when Eric tried to stand up for other kids and ended up as the punching bag.

Also along for the ride is Alexandra Talese. Wanting a name that is a little daring and edgy, she has decided to go by Lex in college. She takes the name out on trial run during her first in-depth conversation with Eric, after the SATs.

Lex wants to go to Harvard of her own choosing, not for the sake of "superficial, society-imprinted, consumerist non-entities," not legacy, but because she wants it, because she thinks it's the best school to attend, the result of her extensive college research:

"I had made my pro/con charts, carefully weighed all the options, and chosen a winner. There was a reason Harvard had a reputation for being the best, I'd decided, and the reputation was self-fulfilling, because it meant Harvard got the best -- the best students, the best professors, the best resources -- which I meant I wanted it to get me. I wanted to get lost in the country's biggest library; I wanted to learn Shakespeare from a grand master while staring up at a ceiling carved hundreds of years before. [...] I wanted to be in awe of the school, the teachers, the history, the legacy -- I wanted to be terrified I wouldn't measure up. I wanted to prove that I could." - Page 83

Lex reveals that she uses knowledge to her advantage - not just her book smarts, but the things she knows about certain people. She doesn't sabotage them in a physical or evil way, but she casually (or otherwise) lets people's secrets slip out so that she is picked over them: running for sixth grade president, talking the other girl out of joining the newspaper staff in ninth grade, then holding her position on the yearbook staff - this girl's theme song should be Use What I Got by Lucy Woodward!(1)

So why would an overachiever team up with the bums? Because although she had great grades, community service, leadership positions, and school staff positions, she felt like there was nothing outstanding about her, nothing that set her apart. No national awards or anything unique, outstanding, international, or amazing. She was not one-of-a-kind, she was not a special snowflake, she was merely one of many smart fishes in the sea: "Nothing set me apart. Nothing to make me special." - Page 213

Throughout the story, Eric is the voice of reason. He considers himself a realist, and he normally abides by the honor system, doing the right thing because it's right, so he really struggles with the bet. Eric is Jewish and says that instead of doing good deeds in life in order to earn a wonderful afterlife in an eternal paradise, "Judaism isn't about what happens next. It's about what happens here, in this life. You don't necessarily get rewarded for doing the right thing; you don't get punished for doing the wrong thing. You're supposed to be a good person just because that's the right thing to do. Doing the right thing -- that's the reward." - Page 170

Max Kim is a legacy, with his father and two older sisters all Harvard grads. Max likes to sell 80s items on eBay and thinks things should have a 500% profit. He's in this not just for his father or Harvard, but because of what they've been told: "It's about all the (nonsense) they've been feeding us since preschool: Do your homework, be good, fall in line, do what we say, and maybe, if you're lucky, you'll get the golden ticket. We're supposed to act like the only thing that matters is getting into college -- getting into this college - and so most of the people who do get in are the ones who buy into the (nonsense) so completely that they've never done anything for any other reason. It doesn't matter what they want, what they like, what they care about, who they are -- they don't even know anymore, because they're trying so (darn) hard to be the people Harvard wants them to be. In the end they're not even real people anymore. They're zombies." - Page 47 (Yes, I replaced the swear words for the sake of my younger readers. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.)

Let's not forget Schwarz: geeky fellow, camera peeping got him out of their high school and homeschooled for two years. Now 16 and a Harvard freshman, this 96-pound weakling prefers numbers and photographs to real-life people, as humans are inherently flawed and photographs trap beauty on the page. Schwarz is eloquent. He doesn't necessarily use huge words, but he always uses full sentences and sometimes sounds a little antiquated ("I was not doing anything of any importance") as he actively avoids swearing and contractions (he tends to say "it is" rather that "it's"). He is awed by beautiful college girl named Stephanie who whines to him about her dates and breakups. He would be right at home in an 80s movie - and Max would then sell the movie poster on eBay.

The book also closes like a classic teen movie, providing information on what happened to all of the major players after high school - what colleges they attended, what career paths they followed, et cetera. There's also a disclaimer from the author asking readers not to hack in because it would be wrong, illegal, and dumb, and it's clear that she has both compassion for rising seniors dealing with college applications and total respect for admissions officers.

Wasserman is great at creating characters who are fueled by their goals and intentions, be they good or bad, selfish or selfless. The following speech is particularly awesome:

"Imagine there was something you really wanted. Not something petty, like knee-high leather boots or a new boyfriend, but something major. Something so significant that it would change your life forever. And imagine that you wanted that thing the way a child wants, without perspective, a wholehearted longing that consumed your entire being with the certainty that life would not, could not continue without it. Imagine that, like a child, you had no control over getting your heart's desire. You couldn't do anything other than lie awake at night and wish, furiously, desperately, hopelessly -- because, not actually being a child, you would know that wishing was useless. You would know that there are no magic wishes, no fairy godmothers descending with a wink and a want. Still, useless or not, you would dutifully squeeze your eyes shut every night, curl your hands into fists, listen to your heart thus, and, like a child, let yourself believe that someone was listening when you whispered: I wish. Now imagine that your wish was granted." - Pages 205-206

The book is mostly told in third person with first person woven in at the start, making readers curious about the narrator's identity until it is revealed - and it totally works.

Enjoy the book - but don't get any ideas, okay?

(1) Use What I Got by Lucy Woodward is an amazing song I have been known to listen to/belt out in order to pump myself up before a big event. I had the opportunity to sing it at an audition once - and I booked the gig.

Related posts at Bildungsroman
Interview: Robin Wasserman
Playlist: Seven Deadly Sins by Robin Wasserman

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24. Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman

In the novel Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman, a young woman named Savannah - named after the tornado that was passing through and being announced on the radio when her mother was in labor - struggles to find her strength. Troubled by her severe asthma, she is one point of her three-person family, alongside her younger brother Dog (Dogwood) and her single mother, who can't hold job due to Savannah's frequent hospitalizations and emergencies. Her father left when she was three - and the asthma started the day he left. Meanwhile, her mother won't tell her employers about her daughter's condition due to pride. (See the quotes below the review - I include part of her speech from pages 211-212.)

Savannah has a summer job at the public library, where she works alongside a librarian called Miss Patsy. Her main task is re-shelving books. She also runs storytime sometimes, and some days it's a headache, but some days the kids are attentive.

Then Savannah meets Jackson. She hopes it's something more than summer love, and it seems to be, as Jackson supports her through hospital stays and other worries. But when Jackson has to leave, Savannah must live for herself, to fight her fragile trappings and find strength.

Meanwhile, Savannah's English teacher, Mrs. Avery, put Savannah's name in for the Program for Promising High School Students, a semester-long college experience for tenth graders in Blue Ridge Mountains. Only 50 kids from both Carolinas can go. She filled out apps even though she knew they couldn't afford it. This, more that anything else, struck a chord in me because my family had to let opportunities go because we couldn't afford them. And goodness, how that hurt. If you've been there, you get it.

Now comes the part of the review where I inundate you with quotes from the book. Read them and weep.

It may sound dorky, but I love books - the feel of the paper, the old, musty smell, and especially the way the words roll over you and take you somewhere altogether different. They've been my escape long as I can remember. Whether I need a break from schoolwork or my brother or just life in general, there's always a book that can take me someplace far away. - Page 7

"And one of my feelings comes over me -- one of those itty bitty moments when time seems to freeze -- just for a breath. And I get the feeling that this moment fits, matches somehow, with something from the future. And I know this ain't the last I'm going to see of Jackson Channing." - Page 80

Mama to Savannah: "When you love somebody, you got to set 'em free. If they love you, they'll come back."
"Daddy didn't come back," I whisper.
"No, he didn't," she says real quiet. "And maybe that was for the best."
- Page 125

Denny Caterpillar, DC - You'll get it when you read the book.

I go hide in my room and read through some printouts I made at the library about course choices for that program in the mountains. I know it's only dreaming. But I reckon if you go on and act like something is real, sometimes it just believes you. Next thing you know, there it is staring you in the face. - Page 173

Savannah's mother gives a great speech on pages 211-212 about not wanting handouts from others. The speech includes her not wanting to have to thank "those same folks whose faces, full of pity, I'd been forced to thank for their broken games all those years. [... I] promised myself we wouldn't never take a handout or let nobody drown us in their pity ever again, not so long as there's air in my lungs."

The book has some really nice chapter closures, such as:
Suddenly, I feel so happy, it seems like I got the opposite of asthma, like I got more air in my lungs than I know what to do with. - Page 222

"You hold my dream. I hold yours." - Jackson to Savannah, Page 244 - "You got to know that you can breathe all on your own."</i>

Spoilers - Highlight to read - [ Savannah ultimately realizes she has to find out if she can breathe on her own and be her own cure, not wait for somebody to come and rescue her like her mom waited for her dad for 12 long years.

Here are the final lines of the book.

Then up out of nowhere comes one of my too-true feelings. Even though everything is going all right, the sense I get is that what's on the way is even better. I imagine me and Jackson strolling down the beach together when I get home. Only the me in my mind has changed somehow -- in a way only I can discern. It's in the way I hold myself, in the tilt of my head, in the easy swell of my lungs, 'cause what's different is who I am inside. That new me there has a knowing this me here doesn't quite have a grasp on yet, a knowing that comes from scaling my own mountain, a knowing that comes from breathing -- all on my own. - Page 262
] - Here endeth the spoilers.

If you're a Sarah Dessen fan, you should read Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman. Now.

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25. Quotes: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

I read A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly nearly five years ago, when it was a readergirlz book selection. Planning to write a review, I took notes, but the paper filled with quotes rather than commentary. When I happened upon those quotes today, I thought I'd share them here see which of my readers also read and enjoyed the book. Let me know in the comments below!

"It was a strange feeling -- worrisome and exciting all at once. Weanxilicious?" - Page 186
...to which I added, Hello, portmanteau!

"Emily Baxter's poems made my head hurt." - Page 208
Spoiler alert: Emily ends up being her teacher.

Weaver smiled a sad smile. "You know, Matt," he said. "Sometimes I wish there really was such a thing as a happy ending."
"Sometimes there is. Depends on who's writing the story."
"I mean in real life. Not in stories."
- Page 366

Mattie considers Paradise Lost:
It was a dreadful thing that he did, and he is not to be admired for it, but right then I felt I understood why he did it. I even felt a little sorry for him. He probably just wanted some company, for it is very lonely knowing things. - Page 372

I know it is a bad thing to break a promise, but I think now that it is a worse thing to let a promise break you. - Page 374

When Weaver asks her why she's going now, she tells him, "Because Grace Brown can't." - Page 376

She considers turning back, but:
There's no going back once you're already gone. - Page 377

All page numbers refer to the hardcover edition.

One of my notes that was not a quote. I wrote, "Mattie has a dictionary that her mother bought - her mother saved up money to get it. Mattie looks up a word a day." I took note of this because when I was very little, my mother gave me my own small dictionary so I'd be able to look up words whenever I happened upon one I didn't know yet. Due to both its size and its importance, that dictionary was the top-most book on my stack of reference materials for years.

Related posts at Bildungsroman
Roundtable: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

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