Something Wonderful

Daffodils

by William Wordsworth

I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once, I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves besides them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed — and gazed — but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For, oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

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“Morning Again”

A cornucopia of writerly wisdom to inspire an guide us today:

“If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.” Marcel Proust

“While writing, the very toil gives pleasure.”   Ovid

“I have no riches but my thoughts. Yet these are wealth enough for me.”    Sara Teasdale

“A good story is one that ends with the acquisition of knowledge.”   Toni Morrison

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”   Ernest Hemingway

“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.”   Claude Monet

“It’s morning again, little hope, and the world’s drying off with fresh-laundered sunshine. Life’s face is never the same though we may look at it for all eternity.”   Holbein Falkeid

“Whoever you are…the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese.”   Mary Oliver

“Look deep into nature, and then you’ll understand everything better.”   Albert Einstein

“Loafing is the most productive part of a writer’s life.”   James Norman Hall

“One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.”   Goethe

Emboldened and encouraged by these words, let’s all write on!

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Flashy Fiction

Do you have some short, snappy gems of fiction sparkling in lonely splendor on your computer or in a drawer? Why not consider submitting them to The Masters Review Flash Fiction Contest?

Fifteen stories will be selected for a shortlist. The contest is open to emerging writers only since The Masters Review focuses on offering a larger platform to new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a small circulation may also submit. The deadline: May 30.

Submission Guidelines:

Winner receives $3500 and publication
Second and third place prizes are $300 and $200 respectively and publication
Stories under 1000 words
$20 entry fee allows up to two stories (each under 1000 words) –
if submitting two stories, please put them both in a single document
Previously unpublished stories only
Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
International submissions allowed
No identifying information on your story
All stories are considered for publication
To view FAQs, visit: https://mastersreview.com/faq/

Contests are a great way to mobilize yourself for completion of a
project. So if you’re a new writer and a flash fiction fan, why not
hop on board? Write on!

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Another Step

“I will persist…I will always take another step. If that is to no avail, I will take another, and yet another.” Og Mandino

Ultimately a successful author, motivational speaker, and mystic, Og was a picture of persistence. He failed in life many times before he found his calling: inspiring others to seek their own true calling and fulfill their potential.

What’s the core of his message here? “Always take another step.” And the good news? There is always another step we can take, wherever we are. How encouraging it is to know this,isn’t it? And what a gift to be able to remind ourselves of this small, but powerful truth — there’s always another step we can take.

On our writing path, taking this to heart can be such a powerful motivator! Consider all the situations where taking another step, and then another, if we falter again, can help us find our way.

We can always take another step if we feel we’ve hit a pothole in our writing. We can always write one more sentence, one more paragraph. We can take a fresh look at a character or a plot point or a perspective.

We can always take another step if we feel blocked or sluggish about writing. We can stop and research an aspect of a story and gain fresh insights and angles on it.

We can always take another step if we encounter rejection. We can revise and strengthen our work or find new avenues of publication that look more promising and pursue them.

Or we can take another step by retreating — by stepping back and letting a project percolate while we start something new. Sometimes just giving a project space and air to breathe and reorient itself is the best step we can take on the road to completing it.

Yes, how wonderful to know that we are never really stuck. There’s always another step we can take. Persistence is like a string of steps, a string of pearls. When we take that next step and then the next one, we strengthen our persistence, our resilience. And eventually all those steps add up and create something that didn’t exist before. Write on!

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Soul Music

Poetry is the music of the soul.” Voltaire

April showers bring May flowers, surely something joyous and uplifting to celebrate. The month of April also offers another delight: National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world. Coast to coast, millions of poetry lovers: students, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, bloggers, writers, aspiring authors, and poets take part — virtually this year — in events marking the importance of poetry in American culture and our everyday lives. What a gift!

Now that Spring really seems to have arrived, why not make a joyful noise to welcome it and read poetry? It seems fitting that April, the birth month of William Wordsworth, Maya Angelou, George Herbert, Walter de la Mare, and William Shakespeare, among others, is given extra special attention.

Inspired by successful celebrations of February’s Black History Month and March’s Women’s History Month, the Academy of American Poets founded National Poetry Month in April of 1996 with several goals in mind:

To highlight the legacy and achievements of American poets;

To encourage the reading of poems as a cherished art form;

To help teachers bring poetry into their classrooms; and

To encourage support for poets and poetry publication.

You can help celebrate National Poetry Month by writing your own poetry, reading a poem each day, purchasing a book of poetry at your favorite indie bookstore, attending a poetry reading at a café or library, reading a poem of your own at an open mic event, or signing up for a poetry class or workshop. For more on the Academy of American Poets and National Poetry Month, visit: https://poets.org/national-poetry-month. And write on!

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Your Path

“Your difficulties are not obstacles on the path, they are the path. Ezra Bayda

A bit of a riddle here, isn’t it? How can difficulties we face on our writing path be the path itself?

Here’s what springs to mind for me: The choices we make and the obstacles we wrestle with become the path we take. We create our path as we go, writing day after day, improving our craft, struggling and triumphing, falling down and getting up again.

Every time we face a thorny plot point or wayward characters who challenges us to be more resourceful in conjuring them up, we are creating our path.

Every time a fresh idea comes to us and we feel compelled to run with it and see where it takes us, we are breaking new ground and forging a path that’s ours alone.

Every time we face rejection, but keep on working, pushing ourselves to make what we’ve written better, stronger, and truer, we are constructing the path that will ultimately take us where we want to go, wherever that may be for each of us.

Every time we meet resistance — every time we don’t feel like writing, but write anyway — we are building a path, we are living the writing life. How? We’ve learned to resist resistance — we know that feelings aren’t facts and that once we get started we can keep going. Every time we overcome inertia and gain momentum, we are creating our path.

There is no one path to writing. Instead, there are as many paths as there are writers. And the difficulties we face and overcome help create the path that’s ours alone. Comforting, isn’t it, to know that the only obstacles on your path are the fears that keep you from taking the next step and the next. And that these are paper tigers we can brush away. Write on!

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Something Wonderful

Under the Greenwood Tree

Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird’s throat,
Come hither! come hither! come hither!
Here shall he see
No enemy

But winter and rough weather,

Who doth ambition shun
And loves to live i’ the sun,
Seeking the food he eats
And pleased with what he gets,
Come hither! come hither! come hither!
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.

William Shakespeare

 

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Page Party

You can fix anything but a blank page.” Nora Roberts

How true! We’ve all been there at one time or another, haven’t we— staring at a blank page and wondering how to fill it? It’s both a wonderful and a worrisome feeling. Wonderful, because the possibilities of what that page might come to contain are endless. And worrisome because sometimes we just don’t feel the urge to write.

What to do? What to do? Here are three approaches that might help jumpstart your creative juices:

The “one true sentence approach.” Ernest Hemingway was fond of saying that if you feel stuck, just start writing and keep going until yo find the “one true sentence” — the gold nugget in the midst of all the dross. Then start with that sentence, cross the others out, and keep going. He also suggested stopping a writing session when you were “going good,” so the next day you’d have a great jumping off point.

The “random word” approach. Here’s a fun exercise that can warm you up and sometimes even give you the germ of a story. It’s a variation on the “prompt” strategy: Try picking up a dictionary or even a book and choosing three words at random. Jot them down on the top of a paper and then write for ten minutes or so and build a little story around them. You’ll be surprised what emerges! Sometimes it will prompt you to keep going and see where your imagination takes you. Or it can simply prove to you that you can pull something out of a hat and fill a page just by having fun.

The “fifteen-minute rule” approach. This is one of the most popular strategies my great friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert* talks about on his Success Hotline. Simply decide that you are just going to write for 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes. You can even set a timer. Since it’s a law of physics that “a body in motion tends to stay in motion,” this can be a great way to get your mind moving across a page. Once you overcome your initial inertia, you’re more than likely to keep going. You can use this technique for just about anything: getting yourself to work out or to clean your office. “It’s the start that stops most people,” Rob wisely observes. Once we get started, we tend to keep going.

Three strategies to get your page party up and running — why not try one of them if you’re stuck, as we all write on!

*Check out “The Success Hotline Podcast” for more great strategies!

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Close Attention

“The moment we give close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world unto itself.” Henry Miller

A blade of grass — a magnificent world. Now, that’s a writer paying close attention! Isn’t that one of our biggest gifts as writers — attending to what most people ignore or miss? But isn’t it also one of our biggest challenges?

Seeing, really seeing, takes time and energy. It takes an open heart and an unfettered mind—one that’s willing to go anywhere.

It’s so easy to look for what we want or expect to find, isn’t it? But seeing— giving close attention to the world around us and in us — is an art — a craft we can cultivate. And what rewards it offers!

When we give close attention, we concentrate our mind — we aim and focus it, strengthening our ability to screen out distractions.

When we give close attention, we see what others miss. We find our way into the heart of a character we’re creating or connecting with.

When we give close attention, we notice the qualities that make someone or something unique.

When we pay close attention, we begin to appreciate how “mysterious” and “magnificent” what we’re attending to really is.

As writers we conjure up whole worlds or discover them or recover them for our readers. We bring them the gift of seeing something they might have missed or forgotten or even pushed away — and then help them see it as well. And when writer and reader attend closely together, what magnificent worlds are revealed! So let’s pay close attention. Let’s see, really see, as we all write on!

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Comma Karma

I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.” Oscar Wilde

Is it kosher to begin a sentence with a conjunction? There was a time when the answer was absolutely not! A sentence starting with a conjunction was viewed as incomplete — as a fragment. 

However, even once-sacred grammatical rules change, and today, creativity trumps convention. In short, most modern fiction writers now agree that using a conjunction to open a sentence is perfectly acceptable. In fact, many accomplished writers violated this long-standing “rule” even in its heyday. And also used sentence fragments!

Back to coordinating conjunctions. Among the most common are “for,” “and,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” “so,” and “nor.” Writers typically use these little critters to increase the dramatic impact of a sentence or to emphasize a thought:

I really wanted to see Sarah. But who would stay with Susie?

Do you use a comma after a coordinating conjunction used to open a sentence? Generally speaking, the answer is no — not unless an interrupter phrase (Ex.: And, in fact,) immediately follows it. One exception: the word “So,” is followed by a comma when it opens a sentence because it’s often used to sum up a previous thought:

So, despite all her excuses, she completed the job.

The bottom line: Based on current convention, as a creative writer, you will not be breaking any unshakable rule if you begin a sentence with “and,” “but,” or “yet.” As with all literary constructions, however, it’s probably wisest to use this approach gingerly — otherwise, it will lose its impact. 

And one last note: Exceptions, always the exceptions! In certain instances: a formal communication, business writing, or an academic paper, it’s best to adhere to the classic Elements of Style advice of Strunk and White and avoid starting sentences with conjunctions or using sentence fragments. 

So, armed with these helpful tips, let’s all write on!

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