Tuesday, December 13, 2011

50 Simple Ways to Build Your Platform in 5 Minutes a Day by Christina Katz

50 Simple Ways to Build Your Platform in 5 Minutes a Day
December 12, 2011
by Christina Katz

Writing rules. Self-promotion drools. Isn’t this how most writers think?

But as long as you view your writing as art and your self-promotion efforts as the furthest thing from art, your chances of ramping up a successful 21st-century writing career are going to remain slim to none.
These days, there’s an art to writing and an art to self-promotion. From the moment you start putting words to the page, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to share them. And once you begin to see your writing and promotional efforts as equally artful, something wonderful starts to happen: You find readers.

Books aren’t written overnight—they’re developed one day at a time. And it’s the same with our platforms, which comprise all the ways we make ourselves visible to our readers. The idea that you need a platform might seem overwhelming at first. But if you consistently take small steps to put yourself out there, before you know it, you’ll have built a strong, sturdy foundation for your work.

So, if you’re the kind of writer who prefers being read to being unknown (who doesn’t?), here are 50 quick, simple ways to launch your platform into action. Think of each small step as a giant leap toward finding readers—and a fun, rewarding opportunity to share your hard-wrought words with others.
Listen & Learn

1. Find Your Keepers. Clarify the kinds of readers you want to connect with now, and you’ll be glad you did later. First, jot down a quick list of all the types of readers you’ve ever had. Now, decide which groups you want to stay connected with for the long haul, and make them your keepers.

2. Start Surveillance. Google Alerts (google.com/alerts) can help you become practically omnipresent in only a few clicks. Take five to set up alerts to notify you when your name, articles, book(s), Twitter handle, site URL and/or specialty topics pop up online. When you’re alerted to people promoting your name, supporting your work or sharing your ideas, stick out your virtual hand and say, “Hey, thanks! I appreciate that.”

3. Poll for Solutions. Ask questions. You’ll get answers. If you’re wondering which online photo hosting service to use, or if others are having the same server problems that you are, try posting the question on Facebook and Twitter. I do this often, and love coming back and reading what others have said. If it’s a decision you’re making, share which advice you followed.

4. Show Respect. On social networks, follow and friend folks in your field whom you admire. Steer clear of anyone shifty, clingy or shilling stuff all the time. A good rule of thumb: Don’t promote or forward the causes of anyone online who you wouldn’t in regular life. It takes time to get to know people, but it’s worth it when your reputation is on the line.

5. Study the Competition. Jump on a search engine and type in the keywords that describe what you write about. See who pops up on your radar. Don’t be afraid of the competition; study your competitors. What are they doing better than you? Add what you learn to your to-do list.
Create Context

6. Introduce Yourself. Take a few minutes to write a brief bio you can use wherever your name appears online. Include your URL, relevant professional credentials, recent publications (online or off), significant self-published efforts and professional partnerships.

7. Show Yourself in Action. I’m willing to bet you have a whole bunch of photos of yourself out and about doing what you do. If some are shots of you writing, great. But even better if you have some decent-quality photos of you speaking, teaching a workshop, signing books or the like. Collect them, and use them to accompany your posts online.

8. Post Ads and Affiliate Links. You need to make money to invest money in your platform, so why not make the most of the resources and tools you already like? You won’t get rich from affiliate revenue, but it can add up over the course of a year and cover some of your ongoing platform expenses. It takes minutes to post an ad or affiliate link on your website or blog.

9. Hold an Event. Have an event with a time limit (like one week only, or 30 days). Create whatever type of environment is appropriate for what you write—perhaps an activity where something has to be completed in a certain amount of time so there is a ticking-clock factor (think NaNoWriMo). Create an environment that draws your tribe in, helps people interact and get to know one another, and converts folks into loyal fans who will keep coming back for more. Dream something up.

10 Grade Yourself. HubSpot makes free graders (grader.com) that can gauge the effectiveness of your website, blog, Google Alerts, Facebook page, Twitter account and more. Each grader takes less than five minutes to run. Do so periodically, and add its suggestions to your to-do list.
Contribute Content

11. Give It Away. Spread the word across your social networks for everyone to come and get whatever you can give for free. If you already wrote an article that you don’t plan to sell, why not give it away? Maybe you created something inspirational or uplifting. Give it away. People love free.

12. Brainstorm 20 Ideas. If you don’t constantly ask yourself what new ideas you have, half of them will get away. And then you’ll have to read your idea on someone else’s blog, or in a magazine or newspaper with someone else’s byline. That’s how the zeitgeist works. So get in the habit of writing down your ideas, perhaps in a special idea journal. Drain your brain into it five minutes at a time.

13. Put Your Best Forward. Make sure people who are just discovering your offerings can go straight to some of your best online writing that has passed the test of time. Otherwise it’s just going to get buried under your latest efforts. Most blogs have widgets that will do the rounding up for you. Create a way to send fans and followers straight to your best posts.

14. Recycle. Take a few minutes to pitch content you’ve already written to a new outlet. Can you find a blog, forum or association newsletter that might be interested in your topic? Put some of your old writing to work all over again for fresh eyes.

15. Review Worthy Writers. Inquiring readers want to know what books you like and why. Briefly review books as you read them and post your insights on review sites (like GoodReads, Amazon.com and Red Room). For good karma, sing the praises of your all-time favorites, too.
Cultivate Community

16. Prompt a Response. A prompt is a suggestive word or theme that cues an interactive response from others. It can be as simple as a photo, symbol or word, or as complicated as a riddle. When hosting an annual book giveaway, I asked a question each day for a month, and everyone who answered was entered in the drawing. Participants loved the prompt more than the free books. It’s a fun way
to interact with your growing online community.

17. Take Five to Interact. Reply to commenters on your blog. Thank people who used your free content. Think of three people to appreciate for any reason at all. Spend a little bit of time with those who’ve gone out of their way to care about you.

18. Make an Engaging Offer. If you’re working on a project and you need people to get involved, offer something—say, a discount or kickback—to the first 50 who express interest. Create excitement for those who are willing to work with you.

19. Form Strategic Partnerships. Who do you want to partner with? Being friendly and helpful should have no strings attached—but true partnerships are mutually beneficial, formal agreements in which each party is hoping to gain something specific. List three likely partners and reach out to them.

20. Create a Quickie Blogroll. Make a quick list of writers you admire. Then search for links to their blogs or sites to create your blogroll. Position your blog as an inspiring resource by going for quality, not quantity.
Be Authentic

21. Be Yourself. Advice that tells authors to act like brands encourages us to forget to act like regular people. But social media is made for people, not robots. The fact that you’re a writer and a parent or an uncle and a Packers fan or a vegetarian makes you interesting. Your readers and fans want you to be personable, not a one-topic ever-plugging broken record. Spend five minutes making a profile more you.

22. Put Passion Into Action. Let’s say you write literary fiction. Isn’t that harder to build a platform around? Nope. Take your passion online and put it to work. Don’t assume no one cares. Assume there are a million people out there like you, and start connecting with them. Take five to write a quickie mission statement about why you’re on fire about your topic. Reread it every time you get online. It will help focus your efforts.

23. Get Together. Let folks know that you’ll be speaking or signing or teaching (or whatever else you do) near them when you travel. Make yourself accessible.

24. Spark Conversations. Other people are just as passionate about your topic as you are. So get on Google, do a Twitter search, visit forums where your topic is trending and spend five minutes participating in a chat. If nothing is happening, strike up your own conversation.

25. Share the Journey. I bet you have a lot going on right now. Surely some of it is interesting. Or perhaps you have a fresh take on what you have on your plate that others would find humorous or refreshing. Update others on what’s happening right now. Don’t try to keep your ups and downs a secret. Curious fans love to be treated like insiders.
Synergize Connections

26. Friend and Follow Media Pros. Track down media folks related to your career thrust, and friend and follow them on social networks. Never come on too strong. Just be laid-back and friendly. And if you have social-media clout, don’t be surprised if they’re looking for you, too. Influential people will come to you when your passionate action makes you stand out.

27. Say Thanks. In five minutes you could crank out a handwritten thank-you note, stick a coffee or book gift card in there, address and stamp it. Why not do this at least once a month?

28. Articulate Your Allies. Who supports your work? Whose work do you champion? Identify someone you have mutually compatible goals with, and see how you can help each other. Suggest ways to cheer each other on.

29. Generate a Q&A. Create a series of questions on a topic you find fascinating, and then get interesting people in your genre or area of expertise to answer them in any format: a video chat, a written Q&A or an audio chat. It makes compelling content.

30. Shake Things Up. Don’t be one-note. Stop agreeing with everyone about everything and take five minutes to form a rebuttal (without turning it into a rant). Take a dull topic and make it interesting by putting a new spin on it or taking a contrarian stance. Get people engaged in the conversation.
Produce Yourself

31. Capture E-mail Addresses. Use a newsletter service or RSS feed service to create a place front and center on your site where folks can sign up to receive correspondence from you or to have your blog posts delivered to their inbox.

32. Go Multimedia. Bring old content to life using fresh media. Spend five minutes practicing reading something you’ve written out loud into your smartphone. Or boil down a chapter or article into five tips off the cuff and record them unscripted. Let your words riff. Don’t try to make it perfect.

33. Ask for Feedback. To learn to do what you do better, get your audience involved. Create a five-minute feedback form and send it out.

34. Outsource Something. Take five to consider all the hats you wear: the creative, the closer, the perpetual student, the accountant, the publicist, etc. Identify a weakness that someone can help you with now. Then hire or solicit the support you need.

35. Share More. One common mistake we make is slaving over our content to make it perfect, thinking that if we do, readers will come to us. But too often, no one comes! Work hard to maximize everything you write. I’ve counted 49 ways you can use the “Share This” button to buzz content you want to champion. Get this button for your blog and browser now.
Publicize Yourself

36. Hunt and Answer. Don’t forget the traditional media. Answer media requests at Help a Reporter Out (helpareporter.com). In five minutes you can find and respond to at least one appropriate media request. Make a game of how fast you can weigh in. Every post is another way to get your name out there.

37. Grow Your List. Wherever you go, whatever you do, bring along your e-mail sign-up sheet on a clipboard. Even better if you can offer a benefit for signing up, such as a free story, checklist or special report. Never sell or share contact information.

38. Think Ahead. What do you have coming up? Keep a list of any future events and publications on your blog, in your newsletter, on social media and in your e-mail signature. Update it often.

39. Compartmentalize. Segment your e-mail lists by what folks need from you, not what you need from them. I wouldn’t send attendees of my Northwest Author Series the same correspondence that I send my former students or my e-zine subscribers. Each e-mail group gets its own type of correspondence. Reorganize your e-mail groupings.

40. Master the 5-Minute Release. Zoom in on the latest happenings, holidays and story hooks and tie your career news in with what else is going on in the world. Write five-minute mini press releases and send them out at least monthly. Short is good.
Pay it Forward

41. Round Up Resources. Round up books, websites and other resources on topics related to yours and then add them to your home page. Be helpful to others, and they’ll send people to you.

42. Boost Others. Help a fellow author or a first-timer buzz his outstanding new book, class, service or conference. If you’re a believer, become an evangelist. And if you really mean it, offer a testimonial.
Why not?

43. Offer Your Services. According to Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Crush It!, the best question you can ever ask on social media is, “What can I do for you?” Such a simple idea, yet so profoundly intelligent. Put it to work for you on a regular basis.

44. Be a Good Guest. Ask yourself the hard-hitting questions others don’t dare ask (but are dying to know). Now you have a compelling guest post to share on your “Freebies” page.

45. Hit the Highlights. You don’t have to give the play-by-play after you attend an event. But why not share the best of what you noticed or learned? You can even go multimedia with your coverage. Have your camera, audio recorder and video recorder ready to grab snippets of live action to share with others who wish they could’ve been there.
Strut your Stuff

46. Count Down to Every Launch. Do you have a book coming out? A new class? A new article in print? Make a big to-do about whatever you’ve got that’s new. Announce each launch without pressuring anyone to spend. The place where your service connects with your audience is the place where you create the synergy that fuels your future projects.

47. Spiff Up What’s Old. Offer some kind of promotion to entice folks to your evergreen offerings. I offer a scholarship for two of my classes, and this always pulls in fresh interest in what I teach. A scholarship, a discount, two for one, refer-a-friend—any strategy that makes something old new again is a good one.

48. Make Merchandise. Don’t try to make money with every single thing you offer. Instead, let some of your offerings create buzz for your name using services like CafePress or Zazzle. A fan who likes what you do enough to wear your name on a product becomes a salesperson for your work. Create promotional offerings and put links to them on all the pages of your website. Why not?

49. Sustain Yourself. Being active online calls for balance and patience. Clarify how and where you want to spend your energy, and filter out the rest until you can ride the net without too many wipeouts. Take five and describe exactly what you hope to accomplish in the future time you invest.

50. Break Out of Your Box. Ask yourself, “What would I create if I let myself create anything I wanted?” Let go of any old labels such as novelist, poet or journalist. What would you really get a kick out of writing, right now? Spend five minutes jotting down the truth—the whole truth and nothing but what really sounds fun. Your ability to break out of your own box will inspire others, so go for it!

Raise your profile effectively to help land an agent (and book contract):
Get Known Before the Book Deal

Friday, December 2, 2011

Follow Your Heart & Make Your Dreams a Reality

6 Tips to Follow Your Heart & Make Your Dreams a Reality
By Chloe Park
Are you seeking meaning, purpose or significance in your life, career, or both? Or maybe looking to make a change and find something that brings you closer to your true self? Here are six tips to get you started:

1. Ask yourself, what do you LOVE? What do you love doing? What comes naturally and easy for you? What traits do people compliment you on? What did you love doing when you were a child? When are you the happiest?

2. Get ready to say good bye to a lot of people and a lot of things. When you start living in alignment with your heart, in the beginning there will be an initial “falling away” of all those that are not in harmony with your heart’s resonance. It’s like this -- if for 21 years you lived without an epicenter and one day you realized your heart is now that -- imagine what that (at)tracts and (de)tracts.

3. Make space for yourself. Make space to explore what it is you truly love and want to do. Whether that be in relationships, a profession, any aspect of life -- start with YOU and everything else will fall into place.

4. Nurture your heart’s desires. Make time throughout your day to do something nice for yourself, to feel good, do something pleasurable, eat something nurturing, take a bath. Do something at least once a day that makes your heart feel happy. The more you tend to your heart, the louder and more vibrant it will be.

5. Know the difference between your heart and your mind. These are two completely different centers within the body that with practice -- will become one as a harmonious voice. In Sanskrit, heart and mind are one in the same -- the word for it is manas. With the evolution of Western culture, we have now formed it into two separate words. Get to know yourself in the mind and in the heart. You’ll be surprised at what each is saying with each other and against each other.

6. And most importantly, throughout this process -- DON’T JUDGE YOURSELF! That’s the #1 rule underlying all of this. Be honest with yourself of where you are at, without judgment, without criticism, without ignorance and without arrogance. Good for you for acknowledging the existence of your heart -- now it’s time to listen to it. Don’t be sad that you’ve been setting your heart to the side, be happy that you’ve remembered and awoken to this pulse! Have fun exploring your heart -- it’s an infinite abyss, I’ll tell you that much.

About Chloe Park

Chloe Park is an artist, healer and teacher. She is currently traveling the world to share her message: love and healing. She uses the medium of writing, craniosacral therapy, yoga and meditation to help all those along the path to find harmony between mind, body and spirit. Her intention with her writing is to offer Q and A for all those who are engaged in the dialogue. May we all wake up together.

Website: chloeparkhealing.com
Facebook: chlodactle

Create a Dreamboard

Create a Dreamboard to Manifest What You Want!
December 2, 2011
By Psychic Yemaya
Make Your Dreams a Reality

Roll up the Law of Attraction, arts and crafts, and meditation and you have DREAM BOARDS! I love this process and use it several times a year, and it works for me. So I’m going to share my secrets with you!

1. Start with poster paper, at least 16 X 24. Choose a color that best represents to you what “energy” you need to manifest these desires, red for action, passion, and speed; pastel greens and blues if you need calm, clear, and serene energies; or go bold, powerful and divine with gold or purple!

2. Chose those goals that you are working towards, be realistic, keep it to a few, and be willing to do the actions and footwork to manifest them as well. Look for the more spiritual goals to take on, yet don’t be afraid of asking for what you need, a car, a new place to live, love…

3. Gather the other supplies; scissors, glue, glitter, colored pens, stickers, as well as all the images that represent what you want to “pull” into your life. I like to browse the Internet for images, surf through magazines, or actually add things like sand from the ocean, or ticket stubs for plays, or leaves from my favorite nature walk… if those things help you to visualize what you want, then make them a part of your Dream Board.

4. Set yourself up with your supplies, and then put on some music that you feel will move you forward towards your goals. Create sacred space around you by doing a prayer or meditation that asks for divine guidance in this creation and the actions you are taking to manifest a new energy into your life!

5. Figure out the “time frame” of this board’s quest. I usually do one board from spring to fall, but you can do them over any amount of time, one year, three months, two full cycles of the moon, from New Year’s Day to Mid Summer. Your choice… be realistic about how much time the actions you need to take to meet the divine half way!

6. Now be mindful of what should be at the center of your picture. What is the main focus, or the “beginning” point of your journey? Now slowly and with great thought and intent add each element, and then begin to artistically connect and beautify each section or area until you feel it represents the important things you want to manifest over the time you have chosen, make it fun to look at.

7. Now hang it someplace where every time you see it, you think, “Yes, it is my WILL to manifest these things into my life.” Be willing to do prayer or meditation at least twice a week where you visualize yourself WITH those things in your life, and be sure that you are willing to offer up kindnesses to the universe in exchange for those gifts!

8. Be positive in order to attract positive energy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Colson Whitehead: How to Write and the Art of Writing

Rachelle Gardner asks "Are you called to write?"

Called to Write
27 Nov 2011

SunlightI was having lunch with a writer friend of mine, and she didn’t seem like she was in the best place emotionally. “I’m starting to question whether this is really my calling,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because some days… it just isn’t fun.” (She said this with a straight face.)

“Hmm,” I said. “Is your marriage fun everyday?”

“Mostly, but…um, no.”

“Every time it’s not fun, do you question the entire marriage? Do you consider divorce?” I asked.

“Of course not.” She rolled her eyes.

“Well, I think your calling as a writer is similar,” I told her. “Every time it gets hard, you try and figure out if you’re doing something wrong, but you don’t question the whole darn thing. Every time you have an argument, the whole marriage doesn’t fall apart. Every time you have a bad day writing, you don’t have to question your entire calling.”

“But…” she argued, “I thought God is supposed to give us passion for the things He calls us to?”

“Are you passionate about your husband?” I asked.



She laughed. “No, not everyday. I get your point.”

Your calling to be a writer is bigger than a feeling that shifts with the wind. Once you decide that this is what you’re supposed to be doing, you have to avoid using every roadblock as a reason to question it. Instead, look at whether your calling is being confirmed.
What are some ways to know you’re on the right track?

* You’re taking little baby steps toward possible publication.
* You know that your writing’s improving.
* Someone important has given you encouragement.
* Rejection letters are getting nicer and more complimentary.
* Your critique group is saying good things and they know what they’re talking about and you don’t think they’re blowing smoke.
* You’ve published something smaller like a magazine article or a contribution to a book.
* You’ve got an agent interested in your work.

Unless you have a total lack of anything resembling confirmation… stop questioning your calling and get to work!
Have you questioned your calling as a writer? What led to the questioning? How did you resolve it?
You are subscribed to email updates from Rachelle Gardner

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Create What You Want From a Thought

From Vision to Reality
By LJ Innes
Your Mind-Body Connection: Create What You Want From a Thought

Everything we want and desire begins with a single thought, but did you know that your thoughts are powerful enough to actually manifest those dreams of yours into reality? No, it won’t happen by twitching your nose like Samantha Stevens or coming up with some harebrained scheme like Lucy Ricardo. Using the power of visualization, through the power of your own mind, can really make things happen.


Visualizing something you want, has to first begin with recognizing what you already have or don’t have. It’s a starting point. You want to get to the finish line, therefore it makes sense that you have to start somewhere. By doing this you are aligning your unconscious mind with conscious thought and action, and now they are working together towards a common goal. That is how you form the mind-body connection.

You may want a slimmer belly, for instance (something you want to lose) or you may want to add some muscles and definition to your arms (something you want to gain). Get your courage up and stand naked in front of the mirror. Zero in on that belly or those arms. Don’t be afraid, it’s just you.

Now your mind knows what your eyes see, and now you can start to take action. Through visualization and seeing yourself the way you’d like to be, maybe seeing yourself in those hot leather pants you bought last season, your daily thoughts and actions will work to help you get there. Unconsciously, you will be doing things to get you to your goal, exercising, eating right, etc. while being conscious of your body and visualizing that sexier you racing across the finish line to victory. Your vision soon becomes reality.


Visualization is a practice. Practice means reinforcement, repeating the exercise on a regular basis, constantly strengthening the mind-body connection. It only takes minutes to do, and aren’t you worth it? Make it a ritual, a ritual celebrating the god or goddess within. Say aloud, “I am special, and I deserve this. This is what I want, and I will make it happen.” Don’t get caught up in the words. Say something that has meaning for you, but give your intention a voice. In time, you will come to see, what you envisioned because you have done everything in your power to make it happen; you have mastered the mind-body connection.

“You manifest the thoughts and feelings that you put your attention on the most. When self doubt creeps in ask yourself if it’s possible that what you’re doubting may actually be possible; and if there is the slightest chance that it’s possible change your doubt to feelings of possibility.” – Rivers

Of course, I’m not going to say that if you’re a mousy brunette, you can visualize yourself as a fiery redhead, but that’s something you can always buy in a bottle. But within the physical realm, your body is yours to mold. Not everyone is a supermodel or a Mr. Universe. But what you feel inside, that you’d like to see outside, is attainable. Feeling good and positive on the inside definitely shows on the outside. It’s absolutely possible to go from visualization to realization.

“To manifest things in your life meditate on the feeling of already having it.” – Rivers

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

LKWatts Confessions: Showing Versus Telling

LKWatts Confessions: Showing Versus Telling: My internet problem still hasn't been resolved. However I do have the connection back this weekend but it's unlikely to stay on during the r...

LKWatts Confessions: Do You Suffer From Commitment Phobia?

LKWatts Confessions: Do You Suffer From Commitment Phobia?: Although the title of my post sound like an article from a health and relationships magazine, I can assure you it links into writing as well...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Keep moving forward, by Chuck Sambuchino

Keep moving forward. That is some of the best advice I can give you as you continue toward your writing goals. Keep moving forward. 2011 has been a strange year for me. The first eight months seemed to be filled with near-misses and small disappointments concerning my writing. Things just weren't going my way. I vented to those who would listen; my wife told me she could take no more so I should start complaining to the dog instead.

But then, in the last 45 days, I've had a flood of good writing news. One thing I blogged about recently was that we sold Japanese rights to my Gnome Attack humor book. I also spoke about how, finally, after 10 months of talks, Sony fully executed the film option to the book and a feature-length screenplay is being written by professional scriptwriters I've never even met. And then there's amazing book deal news I can't fully talk about until 2012. All this happened in the past 45 days -- all because I kept moving forward.

You can't control who will say yes to your work and when the timing will be right. You can control not giving up and always moving forward. Do that, and give yourself the best chance at success.

Until next time, good luck writing, agent hunting, and building your platform!

Chuck Sambuchino

Editor, 2012 Guide to Literary Agents
Author, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack


Robert Genn on whether to get an MFA or Not

MFA or bust?

Dear Sherrie,

In response to a blog by Canadian artist Shary Boyle, someone with the avatar "Wrongtable" wrote, "I think that young people shouldn't hedge their bets by getting a Masters of Fine Arts. MFA doesn't imply talent. Talent comes from dedication and often desperation. Art funding spoon-feeds artkids, and the result is often wallpaper."

This response is typical and makes a comment on the changing face of professional arts. Common questions I'm asked these days are, "Should I go for an MFA?" and "Will any art degree help in my professional career?" The evidence is out there. There are now enough MFAs to fill the Astrodome, and most of them are doing anything but art.

Our world is coming down off a prayer-rug that faced New York, London and Berlin. For decades, a lot of poor quality art has emanated from these centres, and the world of art schools and University art faculties have encouraged the worship. This mass delusion has undernourished countless echelons of idealistic "artkids." Sure, some make it, often for the reasons Wrongtable mentions.

Don't get me wrong, academia has done a remarkable job of prying open the gates of imagination and broadening artistic literacy, but many of the artkids I'm talking to these days are asking for something else--how to create light, how to handle shadows, how to compose in a traditional manner, how to draw. "I want to draw like Ingres," said one.

Fact is, there's a rising class of home-workers and plein-air painters whose aims are the old fashioned ideas of quality and life-enhancement. Whether or not they have a MFA is immaterial. These days, people don't walk into galleries and ask if there's anything by someone with an MFA--although there are still many who would like to see it happen. Even in this distressing recession, art sales in many areas are strong, and young people who have dedicated themselves to developing advanced skills are thriving. In desperation, perhaps, these artkids decided to get good. Their reach may not always include the haughty halls of New York, London or Berlin, but they can be mighty celebrated out here in the backwaters.

Is this not enough? To be happy in our work and produce daily and freely? To be relieved of price one-upmanship, star-jealousy, the welfare of grants, and the poisonous-pens that hinder progressive careers?

Though we may hop in a small puddle, through the Internet we are still part of the great Brotherhood and Sisterhood and, who knows, little tads can sometimes--if they're not grabbed by the crows--become quite remarkable frogs.

Best regards,


PS: "If you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows." (Old English idiom)

Esoterica: Of all of the advice I've dished out over the years, perhaps the most effective and commonly remarked upon has been "Go to your room." Aspiring artists, credentialed or not, who find it within themselves to do this are the ones most likely to get the "talent." Sticky word, "talent." But it's out there. We see it every day. And it makes for a great life.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mark David Gerson on "Steve Jobs's True Legacy"

Mark David Gerson
Steve Jobs's True Legacy

"...the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do..."
~ John 14:12

"Follow your bliss."
~ Joseph Campbell

"Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above / Don't fence me in."
~ Cole Porter

I was packing up to leave Starbucks from an afternoon's writing on Wednesday when I heard about Steve Jobs's death. The news came to me in a terse email notice from the MyAppleSpace social network. The subject line read "Steve Jobs is dead."

Incredulous, I thought it was a hacker's prank. Only when I had double-checked the news against a reliable source could I bring myself to believe it.

Like many, I received and verified the news about Jobs on products he had pioneered. For me it was a MacBook Pro laptop and an iPhone.

And like so many around the world, I was grief struck.

Here was a man who had spent most of his life bucking the system, never letting fear or conventional wisdom get in the way of what he knew to be right and true. Nor did he ever permit the legions of critics and pundits who declared him foolhardy and misguided to stop him from following the path he knew in his heart to be the correct one.

Was he a saint? Hardly. Few geniuses are. Could he be cruel and cutting? Apparently so, for he is reputed to have had little patience for those who doubted or stood in the way of his passionate vision.

Few in the Western world remain untouched by that vision. Even those who swear they will never touch an Apple product have been affected by the revolutions in computing and music distribution that he incited.

Did he change the world? Absolutely. Did he do it uncompromisingly and on his own terms? Undoubtedly.

Is his greatest legacy the products and software systems he engineered? Not hardly.

Through the day or so following Steve Jobs's death, I was deeply moved, sometimes to tears, but the outpouring of love, respect and grief for this man. But by Friday night, as I scrolled through the unending stream of Jobs tributes and Jobs quotes in my Facebook news feed, something about it all began to trouble me.

Don't get me wrong. The sentiments expressed were true and powerful, and I clicked the "like" button on many of them.

But I began to wonder, as I read them all, how often we latch onto the words and lives of others as a way to avoid expressing our own words and living our own lives.

Back in 2006 while visiting Toronto, I was privileged to attend a Barbra Streisand concert. It was a performance that more than filled the city's vast Air Canada Centre. I wrote about that experience here two years ago, in a post titled Larger Than Life.

"Whatever you think of Barbra Streisand's talent or personality," I wrote, "when you are in her energy field, you touch that [limitlessness of your soul's natural state] and your soul cries out, 'Me too! That's who I am, too!!'

"Here in the Western world, where we have been taught to play small, we transfer all of our natural desire for the fenceless world of a life lived large to our movie stars and sports heroes.

"If we can't play out our own passion and power, we play it out through a celebrity cult that's no healthier than any other cult, one we also find in countries with charismatic leaders/dictators, in religions with unapproachable gods and in all situations where we abdicate the expression of our infinite nature to someone or something outside of ourselves."

How much of the grief for Jobs, I began to wonder, is not about the death of a brilliant man whose visions touched so many but about the death of a figure who publicly lived so much of the courage, vision, sense of purpose and uncompromising adherence to inner truth that so many of us shrink from in our own lives.

Steve Jobs was not unusual. We all have the same access to the same infinite pool of wisdom, courage, purpose and inner truth that he did...not to mimic his journey and follow his bliss, but to uncover and follow our own...wherever it might carry us.

In my novel, The MoonQuest, very much a metaphor for all our journeys, the main character, Toshar, is destined for a greatness he continues to resist. Yet destiny, as he is constantly reminded, is not cast in stone. There is always a choice.

"Every choice you have ever made," Toshar is told, "has led to this moment...of choice."

"The power to choose is always ours," I wrote in Larger Than Life. "In every moment and through every situation, we're offered the opportunity to choose our greatness, our passion, our light."

The best tribute to Steve Jobs is to not quote his words but to live them, to not restate his wisdom but to find and write your own, to not honor the choices of his heart but to listen to and honor the choices of yours, to not look backward but to live in the present moment as you step forward into the next.

It's time to awaken your vision. It's time to rekindle your passion. It's time to live your greatness.

If that becomes Steve Jobs's legacy, the revolution in each of our lives -- and in the world -- will only have just begun.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why I Write Magical Realism

Why I Write Magical Realism
Guest Blogger: Athol Dickson

Several novels back I decided to begin including magical realism in my work. I started writing about fires that burn in spite of floods, mysterious cures, angelic interventions, and flying artists. But I’m not a fantasy writer. My novels include magical realism because I want to write more realistically about this world, not because I want to escape it.

Consider this famous quote from The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”

Is Lewis describing the world as it actually is? Or is this merely a creative person’s whimsy, gross hyperbole with only a slight fraction of reality at the core?

I believe the quote is accurate, the way it’s accurate to say the sun is hot or rain is wet. And I’m certain Lewis intended it to be understood that way. So if I write a scene in which one character witnesses another’s transformation into something god-like or demonic, I’m not doing it because I want to create an escapist fantasy. I’m doing it because I want to describe life more accurately.

Fantasy stories need no grounding in the reality of this world. They have holistic logical systems and realities that affect every aspect of their separate universes. They can describe things that never were and never will be on the earth, without direct attachments to the readers’ everyday existence. On the other hand, magical realism by definition remains tethered to the “real” workings of this universe. In fact I believe sometimes just a touch of the magical can make a story more applicable to a reader’s everyday existence than it would be otherwise.

One classic example is in my favorite novel of all time, One Hundred Years of Solitude, where Gabriel Garcia Marquez describes a village stricken by “the insomnia plague.” This mass sleeplessness eventually affects the peoples’ memories. One man realizes he will soon no longer be able to function without help. He puts signs on everything to remind him what they are. Others do it too, and soon the signs are everywhere.

After a while the people realize knowing what to call a thing does not mean one knows what to do with it. They begin to add instructions to the signs. A cow is for milking, and milk is for putting into coffee, and etcetera. At one end of their town, they even erect a sign which says, GOD EXISTS.

Finally into this “quicksand of forgetfulness” comes a gypsy with “a drink of a gentle color.” When that cure takes hold, one healed man’s “eyes became moist from weeping even before he noticed himself in an absurd living room where objects were labeled and before he was ashamed of the solemn nonsense written on the walls . . .”

None of this is technically impossible of course, therefore it is not “fantasy” in the literary sense. It is only highly, extremely, vastly improbable; so completely unlikely to happen that we must at least call it “magical.” Yet Garcia Marquez wrings so much common sense from it, one cannot help but wonder if this “insomnia plague” might be something he has actually witnessed in the world—something not merely magical, but somehow also real.

Perhaps Garcia Marquez (the world’s best known author of “magical realism”) has simply written about life as it really is for the millions who are driven to mass insanity by labor on the treadmill of materialism, exhausted to the point of forgetting why they started running in the first place, yet goaded to keep at it by the omnipresent advertisements which remind them they need this thing and that thing in order to continue to forget who they really are.

I write magical realism because some fires do burn in the midst of floods (think of hope when all seems lost), and all cures are essentially mysterious (no one can explain aspirin), and angels do occasionally intervene (according to the beggars in Mother Theresa’s Calcutta), and there are moments in the midst of work when artists sometimes fly (just ask one if you don’t believe).

In other words, I write magical realism because most of us need to get a little distance from our lives to see them as they really are.


"Opposite of Art"
Athol Dickson is a novelist, teacher, and publisher of the DailyCristo website. His novels blend magical realism, suspense, and a strong sense of spirituality. Critics have favorably compared his work to such diverse authors as Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly) and Flannery O’Connor (The New York Times). One of his novels is an Audie Award winner and three have won Christy Awards. His latest story, The Opposite Of Art, is about pride, passion, and murder as a spiritual pursuit. Athol lives with his wife in southern California.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cheryl's Musings: Writing Craft: Show-Don’t-Tell*

Cheryl's Musings: Writing Craft: Show-Don’t-Tell*: Cranking through the rewrite of my current WIP, I found a lot of “telling” that I needed to replace with better writing. In the spirit of sh...

Cheryl's Musings: Tuesday Ten: Character Quirks

Cheryl's Musings: Tuesday Ten: Character Quirks: Geek confession: I used to play D&D (Dungeons and Dragons, for the uninitiated). In fact, I used to play another gaming system that rivaled...

Cheryl's Musings: Happy Valentine’s Day! …or: Ten Ways to Embarrass ...

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cheryl's Musings: Tuesday Ten: 10 Ways to Craft a Sense of Place

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Cheryl's Musings: Tuesday Ten: Skills Every Writer Needs

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The Art of Avoiding Burn Out

The Art of Avoiding Burn Out
by Danyelle Leafty

Writing can be exhausting.

Not the kind of exhausting that comes from running a marathon, but the kind that comes from squeezing your brain inside out as you search for the right words, the right descriptions, or the right threads of the story.

Day after day. Week after week. Year after year.

Do this long enough without taking care of yourself, and you risk burning out. Pulling your creative muscle until it cowers in the corner, whimpering.

Not that, ahem, I'm doing I have ever done this, but there is a real danger in being over productive. In working too hard without giving your creative side enough time and space to recover. Setting and working toward your goals is a good thing--so long as you pace yourself realistically.

So what can you do to avoid burnout? Especially if you have deadlines looming out at you?

Take a break.

Really. I know this may sound counterintuitive, but it works. Think of your creative side as a muscle. Let's say you want to get in shape well enough to run a writer's equivalent of the 3k. You wouldn't pound your body so hard in the name of getting there that you couldn't walk the next day, would you? And you wouldn't do that over and over and over again, would you?

The human body is a marvelous thing that can take a lot of abuse, but eventually it gets tired and worn out if it's not allowed to recharge. Creativity is a lot like this. So taking a break isn't necessarily procrastinating, and it doesn't have to be unproductive.

In fact, taking a break can be one of the most productive things you do for yourself and your creativity.

The key is in figuring out what kinds of activities allow your creative muscles a chance to relax, to heal, and to rejuvenate.

Some things you can do every day that can help prevent burn out include:

* Exercise: That's right. Taking care of your body is an excellent burn out preventative. Doing meditative exercises like yoga or tai chi can help even more.
* Eat right: You are what you eat. If you eat nutritious foods and appropriate serving sizes, your body will feel better and so will you.
* Get enough sleep: If your body is anything like mine, it's going from the time you wake up until you go to bed. It doesn't function well if you don't get adequate rest, which will in turn affect your ability to think, cope with stress, and be creative.
* Manage your stress levels: The first step is being conscious of where your stress levels are at. It's a good idea to figure out what people/things/situations raise your stress levels so you can come up with coping strategies that allow you to lower your stress levels and relax.
* Managing your world perceptions: A lot of times, how we see the world directly impacts how we react to it. Learning how to see the world (and people) in a more positive light can help you feel better and not get burned out so quickly.
* Managing your self perception: How you see yourself will have a direct impact on your mental health and creativity.

Other things that can help help replenish your creative wells:

* Get inspired through music, art, and anything else that feeds your creativity.
* Go for a walk: Sometimes it helps to change your environment for a little while. Added perks: fresh air, change of scenery, exercise.
* Go out and do something: As an introvert, I have to be careful how I schedule my social activities so they don't end up *leading* to burn out. But I've noticed that if I plan them well enough, getting out and being with people fills me up mentally and emotionally. (They still wear me out, but not in a bad way.)
* Read a good book: When I'm running under tight deadlines, I've noticed that the first thing I stop doing is reading. I've noticed that when I take the time anyway, the time I spend in someone else's world actually recharges my brain, my creativity, and my energy.
* Learn how to say no: This is a hard one, but very necessary.
* Know when to say no: Not all things, people, or events are equal. Do the most important things, because they're the ones that matter in the long run.
* Try something you've never tried before: New experiences can be fuel for your creativity.
* Take a nap: Sometimes rest is all you need.
* Try meditation: Sometimes all our bodies need is for us to slow down for some peace and quiet.
* Be flexible. Extending a deadline isn't the end of the world. (Unless, of course, you have a contractual deadline you have no control over.) It's okay to take time off without feeling guilty. The important thing is getting there in one piece.

What about you? What do you do to avoid burning yourself out?

Danyelle Leafty (@danyelleleafty) writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog. Her serial novel THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA can be found here. The first 12 chapters of THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA are available here.
File Under: avoiding burning out, Danyelle Leafty

Saturday, September 10, 2011

This is me in another lifetime. ;-) on Twitpic

This is me in another lifetime. ;-) on Twitpic

The Highs and Lows of a Writer’s Life (or anyone's life, for that matter!)

The Highs and Lows of a Writer’s Life
Jody Hedlund

It was a glorious day. I was basking in all the love and encouragement from blog readers. My inbox was filled with wonderful comments about my new website and redecorated blog. I was beginning to get positive reviews on my debut novel The Preacher’s Bride.

The writer’s life was looking pretty good. All that hard work was paying off. I could take a breather and enjoy the view for a little while.

Just as I was getting comfortable with a fresh cup of coffee and clicking through the pages of my lovely new website for the hundredth time, I got an email from my editor at Bethany House. He wanted to arrange a phone call to discuss Book 2 which I’d turned in a month ago, and he said, “We’ll be talking about a pretty significant rewrite, but I’m confident it’s a rewrite you’ll be able to make shine.”

In a matter of a few seconds, I plummeted off the high peak I’d been standing upon. And I crash-landed into a deep cavern. Darkness swept away the bright joy I’d felt only moments earlier.

“Significant rewrite?” What did that mean?

Surely he was mistaken. Book 2 was my newest love. It was the best book I’d written yet (or so I’d thought!). I’d spent months working on it, sacrificing my time, pouring my heart into it. And now my precious Book 2 would need a significant rewrite? Why? What had gone wrong?

Crushed, I struggled to hold back the tears.

My experience is fairly typical, isn’t it? We’ve all had those really high moments where we’re feeling on top of the world. Then something happens that topples us into the pit.

We might win a contest then fail to garner the attention of an agent. We get great feedback from one critique partner, but another can’t seem to find anything right. We have an agent ask to see more of our manuscript, but we don’t hear back from her for months. Perhaps an editor takes our book to committee, but then nothing happens.

My wise mother recently gave me some advice. She told me that there will always be really high praise and then also the really negative. It’s best to discard both and take what’s in the middle. The really highs and the really lows are often the exaggerations, the extremes, the ones that will either flatter us too much or bring unnecessary discouragement.

Here are just a few things I’m telling myself as I try to navigate the highs and lows of the writer’s life:

*Remember the path leads through both valleys and peaks. I can’t get to the next peak without going through the valley first. Isn’t that true of writing and life?

*Stand up straight and keep walking. When I’m in the valley I can look back at the past peak to remind myself of where I’ve been to give me incentive. But ultimately, I have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward, even if the next high point isn’t in sight yet.

*Share the journey with a few who understand. Not everyone is going to be able to come along side us, but hopefully we can find friends we can trust, those willing to hear our greatest fears and highest joys, those who encourage us, but also help us stay grounded.

How’s your writing journey been lately? Have you had to weather the extreme highs and the discouraging lows? What helps you navigate through them?

TheDoctorsLady* * * (book by Jody Hedlund)

Jody Hedlund is a bestselling author of historical fiction published by Bethany House. She did the rewrite her editor requested, and The Doctor’s Lady recently released to rave reviews.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Robert Genn had this today in today's post

"One day's happiness often predicts the next day's creativity." (Teresa Amabile)

Esoterica: Those of us who think we create best when under pressure or when meeting deadlines should think again. Amabile found that "time pressure stifles creativity because people can't deeply engage with the problem. Creativity requires an incubation period, people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up." You can read management guru Bill Breen's famous interview with Teresa Amabile here. A note of caution--none of the subjects of Amabile's now classic research were crows.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Malchemy: Randomlings

Malchemy: Randomlings: "I have an intense dislike for the word 'monetize' and derivatives thereof. I feel that I am on the wrong side of the fence as many German..."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Writing Memoir: An Interview with Richard Hoffman by Lisa Tener

Writing Memoir: An Interview with Richard Hoffman
Posted on May 23, 2011 by Lisa Tener

Richard Hoffman is a featured presenter at the Ocean State Summer Writing Conference and one of my favorites.
Each June, I look forward to the Ocean State Summer Writing Conference sponsored by the University of Rhode Island–both as a presenter and a participant. I especially enjoy the first two days of Advanced Workshops–always with great writing teachers.

My first year, I took a memoir workshop with Richard Hoffman–not so much to write my own memoir, which I can’t help thinking would be fairly dull, but to support my clients and students writing memoir. The workshop was great fun and I was actually surprised to enjoy what I wrote.

When I heard Richard is returning to URI once I again, I thought it a great opportunity to ask him about writing memoir, particularly about the challenges that come up in writing a memoir.

Lisa: What would you say are the things that makes a memoir great?

Richard Hoffman: The very best memoirs remain intent on an inquiry the author is making into his or her life and times. Who what and where are only the starting point, the real questions are how and why. When you begin to follow that line of inquiry, it leads to real discovery. You come to understand how the forces shaping your life, the life you have in common with others, made you who you are and the world you live in what it is. I’m always telling my students two things: Don’t write about your life — write from your life. And don’t be content to turn your life into ink — turn it into art.

Lisa: I like that–I’ve often thought that when you’re truly writing in that place of inspiration, you’re learning something new. That’s when writing opens up. Richard, what advice would you give someone who is just starting to write a memoir–where to start writing?

Richard Hoffman: Wherever you can! Think of a spiderweb. You can hook that first thread anywhere it will hold. The important thing is to not think in linear terms at all when you’re writing. Write scenes. Write pages of reflection. Write what’s available to you to write today. Memory’s mercurial; if something offers itself to be explored, explore it while it’s “live”. If you shoo it away because you’re convinced that today you’re going to work on, say, Chapter 7, it might not come back! That’s my experience anyway.

Write modularly in the order that presents itself to you. You’re exploring, looking for clues, praying for happy accidents. Trying to uncover what was hidden (sometimes by the “official story” you’ve been telling yourself for years). A book is read from the upper left-hand corner of page one to the lower right-hand corner of the last page — but that is not how it is written! At least not in my experience. Composition happens only later, when you’ve turned over every rock and shaken every tree. The next stage, fashioning a story, a narrative, from the parts comes pretty late in the process.

Lisa: How many flashbacks can a memoir have? How do you prevent it from getting confusing if there are flashbacks? Are there any “tricks” to making the flashbacks flow smoothly?

Richard: This is a term that comes from fiction and film studies and even there it is much abused. A memoir need only be linear insofar as a reader must know whether an event happened before or after another event. That’s pretty easily signaled and can be done artfully and gracefully with transitions. I wouldn’t worry much about this. Things tend to fall in place, and when they do you end up with insight or, often, further questions that will lead you to deeper understandings. When you’ve got a complete draft, give it to a few of your best reader friends and see if anyone complains that they’re lost. A writer needs good colleagues, not necessarily other writers although that’s a good thing, but a few readers you can trust to be critical and encouraging, who are on your team but won’t let you slide, either.

Lisa: I read Half the House after taking your workshop and found it profoundly moving. I imagine it would have been hard to write–I think especially of your brother’s illness and death and the abuse you suffered. What was the most challenging thing about writing Half the House?

Richard Hoffman: Uncovering the story I was telling, and learning what of my life was and was not part of that story. There is always a principle of selection at work in a book. You cannot get your whole life and all its experiences into it, so you have to find the story you need to tell. Once you have that — and getting to that point may take a long long time and hundreds of pages — then anything that is extraneous to the story has to go. I had already decided I would be candid about the abuse in my boyhood, but that’s an event, not a story. The story is how and why, always how and why, and also the consequences of events.

Lisa: How did you deal with that challenge?

Richard Hoffman: I walked away from the book when I had to, and worked on it when I had the time and the psychic energy. In the meantime I wrote short stories, essays, poems. It’s important to have other pots on other burners. There has to be some joy in writing or it is just tedious. I don’t mean you have to write silly, falsely cheerful stuff. But if every time you go to your writing desk you’re staring into the abyss, you’ll either quit doing it or become sick. I’m serious about this.

Writing memoir, even if you’re not writing about atrocity, is a trip to the underworld where you begin to see, in the dark, the dead who preceded you; you start to be able to see the roots of things. You’ll probably even see many of your self-protective illusions for what they really are. It takes a toll. You have to be careful for your bodily and psychological health, and you have to take care to retain the pleasure of writing, so having other writing projects is extremely important.

Lisa: Other challenges?

Richard Hoffman: I guess one other challenge (among many, too many) is that most people think a memoir is when you just write down what happened so what’s the big deal? Anybody can do that. Well, everybody has a story, that’s true; but not everyone can write a memoir, and even fewer can write a really good one. Like any art, it takes years of study and reading and trying and failing. The prevailing view is simplistic. It’s like looking at Edward Steichen’s photographs and saying, “What the hell, I have a camera on my cellphone; why don’t I go for a walk in the woods and take some pictures?”

My advice to someone writing a memoir is not to talk too much about it. People will not understand what it takes and they’ll be forever asking you, “You finished that book yet?” when what they mean is, “What’s taking you so long?”

Richard Hoffman is author of the celebrated memoir Half the House; the short story collection Interference and Other Stories; and three poetry collections: Without Paradise; Gold Star Road, winner of the 2006 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the New England Poetry Club’s Sheila Motton Book Award; and most recently, Emblem. He teaches at Emerson College and currently serves as chair of PEN New England. He will be presenting an advanced workshop and a master class at the University of Rhode Island’s Ocean State Summer Writing Conference June 23-25.

Life and death in the art factory by Robert Genn

Life and death in the art factory

June 14, 2011

Yesterday, Loretta West of Spokane, WA, asked, "Is art somehow diminished when the artist doesn't actually do the work? These days, some artists have others doing their work for them. I've always believed that 'Heart to Hand' was important, but what if I was physically unable to paint again? Could I have a staff paint my ideas for me?"

Thanks, Loretta. To bring some perspective, I passed the question on to my friend Joe Blodgett. "Absolutely disgusting," he blurted through his Scotch. "Art is one of the last things individuals can fully make with their hands, and they need to do it on their own. When artists pass their work onto others, it's just like those plops that steers make all over Texas."

"Fair enough," I said, pouring him another shot, "But what about the disabled artist Angela de la Cruz who suffered a stroke at age 46? Unable to speak well or move her hands properly, she sends out daily instructional emails to her five employees. Her work won the Turner Prize last year."

"She's confusing the making of art with the making of money," said Joe. "And so are those corruptible Turner-Prizers. It's called 'extended pocket-lining.' She's looking for fame and dealers, not art, and all the fools are on her bandwagon."

"I suppose you don't think much of the New York artist Alexander Gorlizki either," I said. "His Indian-influenced work is made for him by seven inexpensive painters in Jaipur, India. Gorlizki prefers not to be involved in the actual painting. He claims it would take him twenty years to get as good as his chief painter Riyaz Uddin. To Gorlizki's credit, he sometimes flies over to see how his work is going."

"Inexcusably rotten," said Joe.

Then some big names are also rotten," I said. "Damien Hirst has assistants. Robert Motherwell had 'em. Andy Warhol had a 'Factory.' Jeff Koons currently employs hundreds. Koons' works are labour intensive and he feels he doesn't need to do the labour any more. The conceptualist-minimalist Sol LeWitt sketched a grandiose idea on his deathbed and had 16 artists produce it three years after he took off for the big studio in the sky."

"Posthumous poseur," said Joe. "Even Michelangelo, Rubens and Rembrandt had studios full of helpers," I said.

"Hamburger helpers," said Joe. Joe is basically a nice guy. I have the feeling that if he could paint pictures, he'd do them all by himself.

Best regards,


PS: "It liberates me not being encumbered by technical proficiency." (Alexander Gorlizki)

Esoterica: Jeff Koons runs a vast studio in a businesslike way, demanding efficiency from his army of managers, deputy managers and workers. As in a beehive, there's a division of labour. Some workers mix paint while others put it on. Electric hoists move things up and down while Koons watches every move, and, according to him, checks every stroke. "It's about the production of the work," he says. "I need my workers to stay focused."

Coach Sherrie says: If only I believed this was moral, I'd be a millionaire by now. I have tons of ideas a week. If I could pass the ideas to someone else to make for me, I could quit my day job!

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Beginning by Jody Hedlund

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Beginning

Filled under : backstory , beginnings , Characters , conflict

Just for the record: I hate beginnings. The first fifty pages of my novels are inevitably torture to write. I’m always sure I’ve lost my touch, convinced that every successful story in the past was a fluke, absolutely certain that I’ll never make these opening scenes gripping enough to hook a reader. And it’s no wonder. Beginnings are hard. And important.

They are the sales pitch for your entire story. Doesn’t matter how slam-bang your finish is, doesn’t matter how fresh your dialogue is, doesn’t matter if your characters are so real they tap dance their way off the pages. If your beginning doesn’t fulfill any of a number of requirements, chances are readers won’t get far enough to discover your story’s hidden merits.

Unfortunately for us harried writers no surefire pattern exists for the perfect opening. However, most good beginnings do share a couple traits. Following are nine.

1. Don’t open before the beginning. Mystery author William G. Tapley points out, “Starting before the beginning… means loading up your readers with background information they have no reason to care about.” Don’t dump your backstory—however vital to the plot—into your reader’s lap right away. No one wants to hear someone’s life story the moment after they meet them.

2. Open with characters, preferably the protagonist. Even the most plot-driven tales inevitably boil down to characters. The personalities that inhabit your stories are what will connect with readers. If you fail to connect with them right off the bat, you can cram all the action you want into your opening, but the intensity and the drama will still fall flat.

3. Open with the inciting event: the catalyst. Every story is based on an “inciting event,” the first domino, which, when knocked over, starts the chain of dominoes tumbling. This catalyst is the moment your story officially begins, and, presumably, it’s also the first moment of high interest. Use that to your advantage and get right to the point.

4. Open with conflict. No conflict, no story. Conflict doesn’t always mean nuclear warheads going off, but it does demand that your characters be at odds with someone or something right from the get go. Conflict keeps the pages turning, and turning pages are nowhere more important than in the beginning.

5. Open with movement. Openings need more than action, they need motion. Motion gives readers a sense of progression and, when necessary, urgency. Whenever possible, open with a scene that allows your characters to keep moving, even if they’re just walking down the street.

6. Open with something that makes the reader ask a question. Unanswered questions fuel intrigue; intrigue keeps the reader’s interest. If you can present a situation that immediately has your reader asking questions, you’ve significantly upped the odds that he’ll keep reading.

7. Anchor the reader to avoid confusion. As a caveat to #6, make sure you have your readers asking the right questions. You want to give them enough information so they can ask intelligent, informed questions, not “What the heck is going on here?!” As soon as possible, anchor them with the pertinent facts: who the characters are, what the current dilemma is, etc.

8. Orient the reader with an “establishing” shot. Anchoring the reader can often be done best by taking a cue from the movies and opening with an “establishing” shot. If done skillfully, you can present the setting and the characters’ positions in it in as little as a sentence or two.

9. Set the tone. Because your opening chapter sets the tone for your entire story, you need to give the reader accurate presuppositions about the type of tale he’s going to be reading. Your beginning needs to set the stage for the inevitable denouement—without, of course, giving it away.
If you can nail all nine of these points in your opening chapter, your readers are likely to keep the pages turning all the way into the wee hours of the morning!

Related Posts: Utilizing Character in Beginnings

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Are You a Writer

Are You a Writer?
by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

People ask me about writing all the time. How does it work? How can they get their message out to the world? On the recent Hay House I Can Do It cruise, I spoke to the Writer’s Workshop which was one of the programs given on the ship. What a great group of eager, empowered, and energetic people! I told them that it all hinges on what Abraham Maslow taught me many years ago when I was a young doctoral student. He told me to put forth what I wanted, my work, my message, and then detach from the outcome. This is true for any life work because the work itself must be what is satisfying and fulfilling for you. Writing is challenging work because it’s so easy to get consumed with how it’s going, what’s going to happen to it, who’s going to like or not like it. You want to get all of that stuff out of your head and just let the work flow. If you incarnated to be a writer, if that is your passionate calling, then you’ll be getting messages from Source, from Spirit, leading you in that direction.

If you are thinking these thoughts and being guided to write, remember that you incarnated to be a writer, not necessarily an editor. Your first job is to write and not to apply a critical eye to your work without first letting it pour forth. Writing is like anything else—the more you do it, the better you get at it, the easier it comes and the less concerned you’ll be about what’s going to happen to it, where it’s going, what it sounds like, whether it’s right. After my four decades of writing, I have a practice that works beautifully for me. I just let the ideas flow through my heart. I don’t write with a machine. I write with a pen and a paper which is what is most comfortable for me. I just let it flow, and I have a wonderful editor who’s been with me for 32 years. I let her take care of all the details.

To get started, forget the details and let your ideas come out on paper. Get your passion on the paper. Let the passion that you feel come through. You won’t be able to stop and it will be the best writing you ever did. Detach from the outcome. Forget about whether it’s going to get published, whether it’s good or not good, whether it’s the right thing. There is no right in this. Let it come; be an instrument of flow. It’s the practice that makes it work out. If you told me you had a lousy backhand in tennis, wouldn’t I tell you to go out and hit 1000 backhand shots this week? Keep doing what you love to the best of your ability. Stop judging and get out of your own way. I always tell audiences when I talk about writing: Writing isn’t something I do, writing is something that I am. I am writing—it’s just an expression of me. Is that how it is for you?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How I Wrote What I Was Terrified To Write, by Diana Spechler

How I Wrote What I Was Terrified To Write
Diana Spechler’s second novel, SKINNY, released on April 26th. It’s the story of a compulsive eater who takes a job at a weight-loss camp, and is forced to come to grips with herself, her father’s lies, and the half-sister she never knew existed. Diana has written for a variety of esteemed publications including the New York Times, GQ, and Esquire, and teaches writing in New York City. I’m thrilled she’s with us today to talk about writing what you know–and why it’s important. Enjoy!

How I Finally Wrote What I Was Terrified To Write
I used to deny that my writing was cathartic. Instead, I talked about it as if I spent my days coating plastics on an assembly line. “It’s work,” I always said. “It’s like any job.” But when I decided to write SKINNY, a novel exploring body image issues, I ran into trouble: How was I supposed to write about one of my worst pains without feeling it? I had struggled with body image issues since before I could remember. I have a vivid memory of being ten years old, sitting on a beach in a bathing suit, feeling a roll in my stomach, and wanting to cry. This was not assembly-line material. An emotion was bound to slip out.
Of course, I tried not to let that happen. I stopped and started the novel a million times because I was holding back, afraid to climb inside my protagonist’s head and experience her eating disorder. I didn’t want to watch her fantasize about ice cream sundaes, binge at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and use men as a stand-in for food. But if I didn’t do that, I didn’t have much of a character. And without that character, I didn’t have much of a story.
One day when I was complaining about how difficult the work was, my best friend, also a novelist, said something that freed me:
“I think you should remember that this is your story.”
Perhaps it sounds like a strange thing for one fiction writer to say to another, but fiction is, in a sense, nonfiction. That is, our characters can scale mountains, sprout wings, win baseball games, live on boats, live in dumpsters, live on Jupiter, or live three hundred years ago, but the emotions we make them experience are the ones we experience ourselves.
I’d been divorcing myself from my protagonist to shield myself from two things: the pain of real writing and the exposure that would accompany publication. But I wanted this book to be good, so I knew I had to lose the shield. And so, as I continued working on SKINNY, I began asking myself the same questions over and over:

1. Are you being honest?
2. Is your protagonist being honest?
3. Are you protecting your protagonist/yourself? (Stop it.)
4. If you didn’t have to protect yourself, what would you make her do/say?
5. Are you writing as if no one you know will read this? (You should be.)

Those questions got me through the first draft, the second draft, all the subsequent drafts, and everything I’ve written since. I have ended my job on the assembly line and begun my work as a writer.
When you’re writing fiction, the best gift you can give yourself and the work is honesty. Yes, writing SKINNY often caused me pain. But in the end, it turned out to be the good kind of pain, like the physical therapy I once did for a shoulder injury: It was pain that made everything better.
Thanks so much, Diana, for a great post! Readers, you can learn more about Diana’s compelling novel, SKINNY, by visiting Diana’s website and
author page at Harper Collins, and you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Write on!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Guest column by Juliet Marillier, who was born in
Dunedin, New Zealand, and now lives in Western
Australia. Her historical fantasy novels, including
the best-selling Sevenwaters series, have been
translated into many languages and have won a
number of awards including the American Library
Association’s Alex Award and the Prix Imaginales
(see all books here). Juliet is a member of OBOD
(the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids). She lives
in a 100-year-old cottage, which she shares with a
pack of waifs and strays. Learn more at her website.

Strange how life imitates art. Since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve felt curiously as if I were living in one of my own books. Each of my novels features a protagonist undertaking a difficult personal journey. On the way, each of these characters—mostly female—discovers something about herself and at the same time makes an impact on other people’s lives. Each eventually finds her inner courage and proves she is able to learn from all her experiences, even the painful and frightening. Facing a similar journey, full of challenges and unknowns, I feel obliged to delve inside myself and find the same combination of wisdom and warrior spirit. What I write, I must be prepared to live.


As a novelist, I’m endlessly fascinated by human behavior and interactions. The most satisfying stories are those in which the protagonists change and develop along the way. In many fantasy novels, the emphasis is on world-building and/or keeping the story going at a cracking pace, and depth of characterization can fall by the wayside. The best fantasy—indeed the best fiction in any genre—contains characters so real that they draw us into the heart of their journey. We understand why they make bad choices. We share their secrets. We know their weaknesses and flaws. We applaud when they win small battles, become wiser, confront their demons. We weep when they fail.

There are technical tricks that may help you create more effective characters. My approach to characterization is not at all technical. I can’t really analyze how I do it, but I am sure of one thing. To write convincing characters, you must possess the ability to think yourself into someone else’s skin. I’m not talking about an intellectual exercise, but something more visceral. I don’t know if it can be learned. I believe I’ve acquired it through life experience. The ability to understand what makes people tick comes from within. In your mind, you must be the character in order to make his or her journey real.


Test yourself by imagining how you might act, feel, respond in each of the following situations:

* Someone close to you, your child, partner, or parent, is facing torture or summary execution. You can save him or her if you are prepared to betray an old and trusted friend. What physical sensations are you feeling? What is in your mind? What choice will you make? What will this do to your sense of self and your relationships with these people afterward?

* Every day you walk on eggshells to avoid provoking a family member’s abusive behavior. This is the habit of many years. One day something changes in you—you pack a suitcase and leave. That night, in the safety of a friend’s house, you sit in front of the fire alone. What are your physical sensations? What do you see, hear, smell, touch? What is going through your mind? In what ways do you feel different?

* You have always been an independent person, in control of your own life, your beloved house, animals and garden. But you’ve had a stroke, and your children have just moved you to an old people’s home. They’ve unpacked your possessions neatly, had a cup of tea with you and left. What are you doing? How are you feeling? What is the future looking like right now?

Now move on to one of your own characters. First, look at the beginning and end of this character’s journey. Then zoom in on three or four key moments along the way. When is she at her highest? Her lowest? What are the significant turning points? Apply the scenario exercise to each of those, remembering that you are the character. Take a snapshot of your physical, mental and emotional state. The snapshots can provide a blueprint for this character’s development.

Of course, each scenario leads to various possibilities, just as the woman trying on the wigs faces many possible futures. What kind of wig does she choose? The one that is most like her own hair. She needs no additional armor—her warrior spirit is inside.

(A version of this post appeared on Writer Unboxed in 2009. Juliet is currently in good health. Seer of Sevenwaters (Roc, December 2010) was written during her year of cancer treatment.)

by Juliet Marillier

The Certainty by Roque Dalton

The Certainty by Roque Dalton

Your Memories, Your Book: Do Memoirs have a Gender?

Your Memories, Your Book: Do Memoirs have a Gender?: "Guest Article by Linda Joy Myers  Linda Joy Myers  Wayne, I’m glad you are pursuing the discussion we began at the National Assoc..."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Peaceful Planet Blog and Other Interesting Sites

I recently signed up for email notices for Leah McClellan's Peaceful Planet blog and got the link to download a copy of her free ebook, Everybody's Guide to Proofreading. It's also a premium for subscribing to her Eagle Eye blog that might have more specific interest to writers.

The book is terrific, full of good information. I urge you to visit both Leah's sites and sign up yourself, but right in the front of the ebook, she says it's okay to share it as we wish, so if you'd rather not sign up, here's the link: http://snurl.com/27v3bb [peacefulplanetcommunication.com]



Find me on the web:


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Freedom..... Do you feel it?

Freedom..... Do you feel it?

I remember a couple of years ago I was talking about this with a friend. I remember commenting that I knew once upon a time that I did have freedom but I must have misplaced it somewhere along the way. I just couldn't seem to find it anymore.

Have you ever felt this way before Sherrie? I'd be willing to guess that you have. It's a pretty common thing for us to feel in this busy world that we've created for ourselves.

The truth is FREEDOM had never left me at all. And I had certainly not misplaced it. I had just misplaced my attention on areas that kept me feeling distracted, tense, tight and restricted. What I had actually misplaced was not my freedom but my focus on taking time to RELAX, TRUST and to just BE in the moment.

As time goes on I realize more and more the true benefit of relaxing, not only for the sake of physical health but in the enjoyment of ALL aspects of life. Nothing desired can flow through when we're restricted, tense, worrying, doubting or engaging in any of the other 'ing words that do not include relaxing. And you know, we dont even need to be "perfect" at this relaxing thing for it to make a positive difference in our lives... Every little bit really does add up. Eventually we even begin to develop a WONDERFUL new HABIT of RELAXING. How 'bout that?! Sounds good doesn't it? Well, it gets even better.......
Relaxing opens the creative channels within us wide and clear, creating an expansiveness where everything flows sooooo much smoother than ever before.

Conscious Creativity begins with truly RELAXING and simply allowing the process to be.

Can you remember what really helps you to relax Sherrie?
What else do you think might work for you?
How can you incorporate a little more of this relaxing time and focus into this week?
How about beginning by simply remembering how good it feels when you simply...........
LET GO, BREATHE and just BE.

Until next time,
Wishing you only the very best in the Spirit of Creativity!

~Pam Ellis
Your coach beyond borders

Certified Kaizen-MuseⓇ Creativity Coach
NLP Master Practitioner ~ Clinical Hypnotherapist
Certified EFT Practitioner

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Are You a Writer?

Are You a Writer?
by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

People ask me about writing all the time. How does it work? How can they get their message out to the world? On the recent Hay House I Can Do It cruise, I spoke to the Writer’s Workshop which was one of the programs given on the ship. What a great group of eager, empowered, and energetic people! I told them that it all hinges on what Abraham Maslow taught me many years ago when I was a young doctoral student. He told me to put forth what I wanted, my work, my message, and then detach from the outcome. This is true for any life work because the work itself must be what is satisfying and fulfilling for you. Writing is challenging work because it’s so easy to get consumed with how it’s going, what’s going to happen to it, who’s going to like or not like it. You want to get all of that stuff out of your head and just let the work flow. If you incarnated to be a writer, if that is your passionate calling, then you’ll be getting messages from Source, from Spirit, leading you in that direction.

If you are thinking these thoughts and being guided to write, remember that you incarnated to be a writer, not necessarily an editor. Your first job is to write and not to apply a critical eye to your work without first letting it pour forth. Writing is like anything else—the more you do it, the better you get at it, the easier it comes and the less concerned you’ll be about what’s going to happen to it, where it’s going, what it sounds like, whether it’s right. After my four decades of writing, I have a practice that works beautifully for me. I just let the ideas flow through my heart. I don’t write with a machine. I write with a pen and a paper which is what is most comfortable for me. I just let it flow, and I have a wonderful editor who’s been with me for 32 years. I let her take care of all the details.

To get started, forget the details and let your ideas come out on paper. Get your passion on the paper. Let the passion that you feel come through. You won’t be able to stop and it will be the best writing you ever did. Detach from the outcome. Forget about whether it’s going to get published, whether it’s good or not good, whether it’s the right thing. There is no right in this. Let it come; be an instrument of flow. It’s the practice that makes it work out. If you told me you had a lousy backhand in tennis, wouldn’t I tell you to go out and hit 1000 backhand shots this week? Keep doing what you love to the best of your ability. Stop judging and get out of your own way. I always tell audiences when I talk about writing: Writing isn’t something I do, writing is something that I am. I am writing—it’s just an expression of me. Is that how it is for you?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Robert Genn on Art as "A Spiritual Event"

A spiritual event
March 11, 2011

Dear Sherrie,

I'm walking a labyrinth in Sedona, Arizona. I'm repeating the words, "My higher self is guiding me." As well as thinking of something else, I'm wondering if there's "something else."

Sedona is one of those spiritual hot spots where visitors come for all sorts of body work, yoga, self-improvement, or guru-inspired transformation. In the USA, this kind of stuff is a $10 billion-a-year industry. Sedona is also the place where three fine folks allowed themselves to be cooked to death in a spiritual sauna at the end of a labyrinth. This was at the urging of the now bankrupt and criminally implicated guru James Arthur Ray. If only those folks had been aware of the life-centering force and personal power one gets from the harmless little activity known as painting.

Yep, I'm talking about painting as a spiritual event. The act has something to do with making a physical tribute--a sort of a visual prayer--honouring the gifts that surround us and the life we've been given.

Before you hit that delete key or drop a note to say I've gone wonky again, here are a few observations for those who might be buying my oysters:

Art establishes and makes tangible a time, a place, a thought, an idea.
Art, properly made, enhances and enriches the lives of others.
Art gives an opportunity to endow new life and new meaning into the ordinary.
Art gives an opportunity to design your own world, and, as in your children, create a significant immortality.
Art is hard-earned work that is its own reward and has a degree of permanence.
Art, because it's so easy to do, and yet so difficult to do well, encourages humility in the human soul.
Art is an apprenticeship that can be stretched into a lifelong education.
Art thrives on democratic ideals, freedom of expression and rugged individualism.
Art permits you to step out of the labyrinth and into a quiet corner of your own private joy.

Best regards,


PS: "You don't need to follow someone else's path." (Nathan Thornburgh)

Esoterica: A spiritual awakening is often found and developed in a wilderness. It can be a poem or a parable of a deep forest, a mountain meadow or a cactus-studded desert. The outdoor spirit of plein air refreshes and further enables the indoor studio chapel. Each new creative beginning is a confirmation of the simple truth of taking care. And while it may all appear to be self-indulgent and isolating, every thought, every stroke, every caress of the brush adds a small refreshment of meaning and purpose to our universe. "Work is love made visible." (Kahlil Gibran)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cary Tennis discusses Affirmations & Essential Practices

The foundation of the Amherst Writers and Artists workshop lies in five simple principles and five simple practices, quoted here as they appear in the book that acts as a guide for this workshop, Writing Alone and With Others, by Pat Schneider:

"The Five Essential Affirmations:
These affirmations rest on a definition of personhood that is nonhierarchical, and a definition of writing as an art form available to all persons.
1. Everyone has a strong, unique voice.
2. Everyone is born with creative genius.
3. Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level.
4. The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer's original voice or artistic self-esteem.
5. A writer is someone who writes.

The Five Essential Practices:
1. A nonhierarchical spirit (how we treat writing) in the workshop is maintained while at the same time an appropriate discipline (how we interact as a group) keeps writers safe.
2. Confidentiality about what is written in the workshop is maintained, and the privacy of the writer is protected. All writing is treated as fiction unless the writer requests that it be treated as autobiography. At all times writers are free to refrain from reading their work aloud.
3. Absolutely no criticism, suggestion, or question is directed toward the writer in response to first-draft, just-written work. A thorough critique is offered only when the writer asks for it and distributes work in manuscript form. Critique is balanced; there is as much affirmation as suggestion for change.
4. The teaching of craft is taken seriously and is conducted through exercises that invite experimentation and growth as well as through response to manuscripts and in private conferences.
5. The leader writes along with the participants and reads that work aloud at least once in each writing session. This practice is absolutely necessary, for only in this way is there equality of risk taking and mutuality of trust."

I have taken to reading these simple statements every session. It has a nice effect on the mind. It seems to remind the creative engine: OK, you can get to work now, there is a good structure here, it's time to open up and reveal your mysteries.

Cary Tennis answers "Am I still a writer if I don't feel like writing?"

Since you asked
Monday, Feb 26, 2007 07:04 ET
I don't feel like writing. Does that mean I'm not a writer?
Every time I start to work on my second novel, an enormous laziness descends upon me.
By Cary Tennis
Dear Cary,

I am a young, talented writer. (You should know how much effort it took me to write that sentence without any auto-excuses built in.)

It took me a lot of time and courage to figure out that I was writer in the first place, since I have been struggling with a low self-esteem for a long time. But here I am, 31, knowing what I want to do, where I want to go.

I got my first book published in 2002, a youth novel, and it was received well. I got married and became a father, and I have a full-time day job now to support my wonderful family. And he lived happily ever after? No.

Since my first book got out, surprise surprise, I haven't been writing anymore. Plenty of ideas, but I just didn't manage to commit myself to it. When I met the young author David Mitchell last year, it was so inspiring that I started again. But three chapters into my second novel, I bailed out, stopped.

It is not that I'm stuck in the story I want to write; it still has plenty of energy. But whenever I even think of writing, I feel this huge laziness coming up, like some old man with a heavily sighing voice says, "I just don't feel like it." It looks like I need outside stimuli to write; the power to start working again does not come from the inside. Strange.

Am I lazy? Am I afraid of failing? Do I lack the discipline, the artistic urge, the necessity? Am I not a writer after all? Should I give up writing and learn to be happy without it? These questions drive me crazy sometimes.

I feel like the man in Kafka's "The Trial" now, the one who waits all his life before the doors of the courtroom of his trial but never really gets in. I feel stuck, standing still like this. I know that I could be happy if I gave up writing, but I know that I would be missing something, too. Does that make sense?

If we have a talent, are we obliged to develop it? Or are we free to not use it at all?


Dear G,

You know, to me it seems possible that all the dire things you imagine could be true, and you could still write. You might very well be lazy, afraid of failure and undisciplined and still write. You might lack the urge and still write. You might not be a writer and still write. After all, a writer is just someone who writes. If you're writing, you're writing. It's a verb.

It is also true -- now that we are at the task of arranging apparent contradictions in ingenious ways -- that you are both obliged to develop your talent and free not to develop it. That is, you are free to acknowledge but defy obligations; you are free to say no to obligations.

I personally do believe that, as a guide to right living, we do have an obligation to develop our talents. But this is largely a practical rather than a moral matter for me. I do not think so highly of myself as to assume that the world will be greatly improved by my contributions. But I have observed that mastery of a craft is personally satisfying, and that failure and frustration are not. So I stick to writing and music, and do not paint or draw.

You are free. That is the thing. You are free not to write if you so choose. But you are not alone. Your choices matter to others. And the choices of others matter to you. I say this by way of getting at this notion that your inspiration should come only from some tiny, esoteric writing gland behind your navel. As a writer, you are dependent on others. You could not have published your first book alone. Why should you believe that you can write without any external stimulus? If you need to meet with a writers group, enroll in a class, arrange with a mentor or writing friend to share work on agreed-upon deadlines, or if you need to work out a schedule of deadlines with your editor or agent, then please do so. This is often the case. The idea that a writer works only from inner inspiration is, I think, a bit of a romantic myth, rooted in the idea of writer as solitary and mysterious hero. The writer may be that, but he is also a person in a web of community, and he is also fallible. He may be lazy and unable to meet deadlines; he may be, as I am, fearful of completion. So there is nothing wrong with building into your life some structures that compensate for your weaknesses. We are not supermen. We all need a little help.

As to this interesting voice you hear, this heavy sighing, I will say, as I believe I've said before, that only after I did a short course of cognitive therapy did I realize that the voice I was hearing, the one that said "I can't write!" and "My writing sucks!" had an actual historical source, and that the veracity of that statement could be objectively weighed against the evidence.

It may be true that you don't feel like writing. You are probably working hard and have many duties as a father. So there will be times that you have to write even though you don't feel like it. In that sense, writing is like your other roles in life as a worker and a father and a husband: It requires you to do things you don't want to do.

You do it because that is your role. It's the only way you can get anything done.

I hope this is of some help. Good luck with the next book.