May 252015
 

So I’m sitting here watching Conan The Destroyer, which includes the age-old premise that a virgin will be sacrificed.  Personally, I think that’s a waste of a perfectly good virgin, but what struck me is the silliness of this.  There’s no way to know for sure that someone is a virgin unless they’re very closely watched.  And if you’re sacrificing to a god who demands one and you sacrifice a non-virgin by mistake, aren’t you asking for trouble?  I’d like to see a story where something terrible happens to the god (and then those sacrificing) when that mistake is made.

The virgin from Conan the Destroyed clearly doesn't want to die!

This virgin from Conan the Destroyer clearly doesn’t want to die. I will save her!

For guys, it’s physically impossible to tell they’re a virgin, which is probably why girls are the usual victims.  The other reasons are likely misogyny and the fact that fantasy readers were mostly male for a long time, meaning the male hero like Conan can rescue the virgin and stop her from being one as his reward. Readers can live vicariously.

For girls, the hymen being intact offers proof of virginity, but it’s entirely possible she’s had other kinds of sex besides vaginal. That raises the debate of just how much of a virgin a girl has to be to get sacrificed.  If she’s performed fellatio, is she still a virgin?  Given a hand job?  Open-mouth kissed?  Would the god agree she’s s virgin?  How chaste is chaste enough?  And how would you ever know what’s she’s done and hasn’t done?  And how many times?  With how many guys?  Or girls?

How would the god know?  Is that god omnipotent?

If I was a girl chosen to be sacrificed, I’d loudly claim I’d performed fellatio on half the village.  Which is better, being called a slut or being dead?

A girl can still be a virgin even if her hymen is broken, as that can break during strenuous physical activity, for example.   Granted, in “olden times”, girls weren’t doing sports like they are today, reducing this as an issue, but that raises a different point – just because a girl’s hymen is broken doesn’t mean she’s not a virgin and unavailable for sacrifice.

During these virgin sacrifice stories, there’s never a scene where a doctor examines a girl and determines her hymen is intact. That she’s a virgin is always assumed to be true, maybe because there’s no way to tell for sure.  And because it’s considered “icky” to show an exam, as if that’s somehow worse than the girl being killed?  I suspect this is one of those “not worth being realistic” things.

If there are no definitive changes to the body, why does being a virgin matter? Are we saying there’s a change to something else about a person?  What?  Their soul?  Their mind? We’re after innocence or purity?  I had a dirty mind long before I lost my virginity, so what does that prove?  If we’re saying their soul is “better”, well, there are plenty of other ways (besides sexual congress) to not be that innocent anymore.  Murder, theft, deceit, a vice, the list goes on and on.

The whole virgin sacrifice thing is kind of stupid. But then you didn’t need a blog to tell you that, did you?  Sorry for wasting your time.

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Fantasy/Scfi Movie Fights Are Too Ridiculous

If you’ve seen any SciFi or fantasy films over the last 20 years, you know the fight scenes are ridiculous and unbelievable.  When did it become okay for archers to make impossible shots time after time, sometimes with two arrows fired from the same bow at once (Legolas in The Hobbit and Lord of the […]

1 comment

The Problem with “The Hobbit” Movies

I just saw the second installment of “The Hobbit” movies, “The Desolation of Smaug“, and thought it suffered from the same problem as the original, which is no real surprise as they were filmed at the same time. I don’t care about the characters or what happens to them, or if they succeed. None of […]

3 comments

Virgin Sacrifices in Fantasy Stories Are Stupid

So I’m sitting here watching Conan The Destroyer, which includes the age-old premise that a virgin will be sacrificed.  Personally, I think that’s a waste of a perfectly good virgin, but what struck me is the silliness of this.  There’s no way to know for sure that someone is a virgin unless they’re very closely watched. […]

10 comments
May 012015
 

Most authors have “writer’s block” at some point, but I suspect we’re often suffering from something I call “idea block”.  The definition of writer’s block is “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.”  But I think that raises two separate issues:

  1. Not knowing what you want to write; i.e., you don’t have an idea (“idea block”)
  2. Knowing what you want to write but being unable to (an actual “writing block”)

Writer’s block and idea block have different solutions and causes.

Idea Block

Sometimes “writer’s block” is really an issue of having nothing to say, not that you can’t find the words to say it.  What appears to be a writing issue is an idea one.  If you don’t have an idea, you have nothing to articulate, which is why you may find words hard to come by.

If you don’t have an idea, I recommend not sitting down in front of a blank screen, which many find intimidating.  It’s arguably better to brainstorm and let your mind wander, and if the blank screen inhibits that, walk away.  If you’re okay with the blank screen, then having a file of story ideas or notes – as opposed to the momentous manuscript file – takes the pressure off and lets you write stuff that doesn’t have to work, or where the actual writing is irrelevant because it won’t appear in the story.

Other times, we have some ideas but just not enough of them, or they aren’t thought out enough and we don’t realize it until trying to articulate them.  Again what appears to be a problem with words is really an idea issue.

Sometimes we’re indecisive about what should happen in the story, from whether to include or mention something like back story, or whether a character will/would do something or not.  Other times, we have several ideas for what should happen and can’t decide which one to pursue.  These are characterization, story structure, or plotting issues.  If you can’t decide, you can’t write it.  Recognize that these are the real issues and make a decision about what should happen and why.

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Writing Block

To me, real writer’s block is when you know what you want to say but are struggling with the actual words to do it. No matter how you try, phrases don’t seem to work together, everything is awkward, or the lines you write just don’t inspire you.

Not being in the mood can cause it, as can fussing over wording too much and wanting to get it perfect the first time.  Common wisdom suggests just blurting it out and getting it “on paper”, then improving the writing later.

Grammar can actually be a cause, too, if your sentences are not really fitting together or you are using misplaced modifiers, for example.  It pays to be a student of English and have this aspect of writing firmly under control so you can focus on what your words convey.

If you know how something (a person, or room) in your story looks but can’t decide how to write it, or even if you should include it now, that’s also writer’s block.  One solution is experience, whether gained via writing or learning more about the craft of storytelling.  For example, most consider it a mistake to start your story with description.  If you understand why and why not, you can make faster decisions and not get stuck, or “blocked” by indecision.

Sometimes you really just don’t “have it” and need to come back later.  For this, I sometimes practice writing opening sentences to stories or scenes in my head, where they are easily discarded.

Epilogue

Understanding the difference between idea block and writer’s block can help you overcome whichever one is causing your lack of progress. Sometimes people beat themselves up over writer’s block, telling themselves they aren’t a good writer, when that isn’t even the issue, so be nice to yourself and just figure out what the problem really is, then solve it.

Happy writing!

Author’s Shouldn’t Try to Be Funny in Their Bios

There’s a lot of advice on how to write a professional author bio, and here’s mine: don’t try to be funny or clever.  It seldom works.  It can also make you look juvenile, narcissistic, and unprofessional.  Here are some examples of bad lines extracted from actual bios (names withheld very much on purpose). Please note that I […]

0 comments

Evaluating Artist Feedback, Part 1

Whether a musician, author, or other artist, we’ve all received feedback on our work.  Obtaining meaningful feedback is an art all its own.  Sometimes we have to work at it, deciphering comments to figure out what someone means, so I’ve written some observations about this, with examples. Defining Helpful Feedback First we should define what […]

4 comments

Evaluating Artist Feedback, Part 2

This is part two of the blog about evaluating feedback on your writing or other artistic pursuits. Read part 1 here. Biased Feedback A person giving negative feedback can be biased in some way. We can sometimes tell from their words. I have some examples here: A CD reviewer once slammed my instrumental guitar CD, […]

0 comments

Getting My Book In Book Stores

When I decided to start self-publishing, people began asking me if I can get my book in stores, to which I’ve said no, not really. They almost always ask in amazement, “Don’t you want to see your novel in book stores?”  I usually shrug and say no and ask why they think it’s so important, […]

11 comments

Guest Post: Unconventional Writing Tools

4 Unconventional Tools to Fix Common Creative Writing Problems by Guest Blogger Ethan Miller Once upon a time, there lived a writer who churned bestsellers after bestsellers without breaking a sweat. Words flowed out of him with such ridiculous ease that he was rumored to be unaware of the phrase ‘writer’s block’. And his name […]

0 comments

How Agents and Publishers Think About Manuscripts

Like most authors, I’ve submitted books to agents and either gotten no response or the form rejection letter. Well, let me be specific – I’ve sent a query letter, one page summary, and anywhere from 5 pages to 3 chapters as per each agent’s instructions. I jokingly tell myself that my books have never been […]

16 comments

How to Create Fictional Characters, Part 1

Regardless of your genre, authors, screenwriters, and playwrights have much to think about when creating a character. One tool to help is a kind of fill-in-the-blanks template you can use for each one. I’ve developed a rather extensive one over the years and share it here. It can be overkill, so don’t feel the need […]

0 comments

How To Create Fictional Characters, Part 2

This is the second in a series on creating fictional characters.  Part 1 covered an overview. You can download the full template as a Word doc or a PDF. Personal Life General History Family & Upbringing This includes place of birth, parents and siblings, quality of home life, general family status (wealth, position of power, […]

0 comments

How To Create Fictional Characters, Part 3

If you’re creating a character for fantasy or another genre where they go adventuring, this part of the template may help you.  You can download the full template as a Word doc or a PDF or read Part 1 and Part 2 online As Adventurer Does he seek “adventure” or go on missions? History How […]

0 comments

The Importance of Death

I watch a lot of SciFi (and when available, fantasy) on TV and in movies.  All too often, death means nothing.  A major character can be killed off and I just shrug, knowing they’ll be back, sometimes before the episode is over.  Then they show another character mourning this and I just wonder why.  Like […]

0 comments

Writers Block vs. Idea Block

Most authors have “writer’s block” at some point, but I suspect we’re often suffering from something I call “idea block”.  The definition of writer’s block is “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.”  But I think that raises two separate issues: Not knowing what you […]

2 comments
Feb 212015
 

If you’ve seen any SciFi or fantasy films over the last 20 years, you know the fight scenes are ridiculous and unbelievable.  When did it become okay for archers to make impossible shots time after time, sometimes with two arrows fired from the same bow at once (Legolas in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings)?  When did it become okay for characters to routinely do acrobatic stunts that defy the laws of physics?  When did it become okay for characters to be struck by something massive, hurled fifty feet, land hard, and then get up as if nothing happened?

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

I’ll tell you when: Hercules, the Legendary Journeys.  I remember first catching this TV show in the 1990s and laughing at the stupidity of Hercules sending someone flying that far and them getting up, no broken ribs, death, or anything else the matter with them.  At least the 50-foot throw made some sense, since it was Hercules.  After several minutes thinking, “God this is stupid,” I realized the producers and directors were well aware of that and exaggerating for comedic effect.  I got over it and laughed with them.  This was part of their genius, I think, as they got us to laugh with them instead of at them.  The smash hit Xena: Warrior Princess soon followed and made that silliness a household thing.

And now we’re stuck with it.

The scenes aren’t an accident.  It takes a lot planning, animation, and actors being filmed after extensive rehearsal.

It seems that no one can get killed except for mindless minions.  What motivates lead characters to develop otherworldly fighting skills if they have nothing to worry about?  They can be thrown 50 feet and be fine, so why learn how to dodge, for example?  That 50-foot impact/throw thing drives me nuts because any blow that could do that would kill you instantly.  You’d be dead long before hitting the ground.

Without risk, there’s no dramatic tension to a fight scene.  Why should anyone care what happens?  The irony is that I suspect the producers/directors are going so over the top in an effort to keep our attention but are actually causing us to tune out.

Art of World Building Banner

Fantasy/Scfi Movie Fights Are Too Ridiculous

If you’ve seen any SciFi or fantasy films over the last 20 years, you know the fight scenes are ridiculous and unbelievable.  When did it become okay for archers to make impossible shots time after time, sometimes with two arrows fired from the same bow at once (Legolas in The Hobbit and Lord of the […]

1 comment

The Problem with “The Hobbit” Movies

I just saw the second installment of “The Hobbit” movies, “The Desolation of Smaug“, and thought it suffered from the same problem as the original, which is no real surprise as they were filmed at the same time. I don’t care about the characters or what happens to them, or if they succeed. None of […]

3 comments

Virgin Sacrifices in Fantasy Stories Are Stupid

So I’m sitting here watching Conan The Destroyer, which includes the age-old premise that a virgin will be sacrificed.  Personally, I think that’s a waste of a perfectly good virgin, but what struck me is the silliness of this.  There’s no way to know for sure that someone is a virgin unless they’re very closely watched. […]

10 comments
Feb 212015
 

If you’re creating a character for fantasy or another genre where they go adventuring, this part of the template may help you.  You can download the full template as a Word doc or a PDF or read Part 1 and Part 2 online

As Adventurer

Does he seek “adventure” or go on missions?

History

How many adventures has he gone on?  Veteran?  Newbie?  What has he learned from doing it before?

Training

Has he been trained in any special techniques?  By who?  Did he finish that training or skip out for some reason?  Will that come back to haunt him?

As (Knight for Example)

Relevant Skills

Deeds/Specific Accomplishments

Did he rescue anyone?  Free a village?  Kill an evil wizard?  End/start a battle or war?  Find treasure?  Recover something valuable (and did he keep it or return it?)?

Trips & Missions

What missions has he done and how did they go (disaster, success, lots of friends died, welcomed as hero after)?  Was he paid for them?  Hired?  A volunteer?  Who went with him?  Who didn’t return?  Was that his fault?

Equipment

Magical Items

What does he have and how did he come by them?  Did he steal, buy, or find them?  Were they a gift?  Are they weapons, armor, or something else?

Weapons

Armor

Clothing

Include formal clothing.  What quality and condition is his clothing?  How old/new?

Accessories

Steeds

Does he have a horse, dragon, or another steed he has bonded with? Describe it here.

Combat

Training

Where did he receive his training and from whom?  What kind was it?  What weapons or defenses?  Does he employ these?  Has he mastered what he was taught or does he get rusty?

On Steeds

What can he ride and how well?  This means in battle or otherwise fighting.

Special Attacks & Defenses

Is there anything unique about his fighting?

Formal

Tournaments & Contests

Does he compete?  How well does he do?  Is he a champion?  Perpetual loser?

Challenges & Duels

Has he ever been in a duel?  To the death?  What happened to the other person?  What led to it?

The Supernatural

Magic

Can he perform magic?  How well? How did he learn?  Was their schooling or a mentor?  How well does he control this?

Relations with Magic Users

How does he get along with those who do magic?  Is he jealous?  Fearful?  Trusting?

Places

Does this character avoid supernatural places or become curious?  Where has he visited or plan to?  Why?

Public Places and Occasions

Does he join in or keep to himself?  What about during a festival?

Adventurers’ Quarters

Where does he prefer to stay when traveling, and why?

Epilogue

Hopefully this extensive template will give you some ideas for filling out your characters.

Author’s Shouldn’t Try to Be Funny in Their Bios

There’s a lot of advice on how to write a professional author bio, and here’s mine: don’t try to be funny or clever.  It seldom works.  It can also make you look juvenile, narcissistic, and unprofessional.  Here are some examples of bad lines extracted from actual bios (names withheld very much on purpose). Please note that I […]

0 comments

Evaluating Artist Feedback, Part 1

Whether a musician, author, or other artist, we’ve all received feedback on our work.  Obtaining meaningful feedback is an art all its own.  Sometimes we have to work at it, deciphering comments to figure out what someone means, so I’ve written some observations about this, with examples. Defining Helpful Feedback First we should define what […]

4 comments

Evaluating Artist Feedback, Part 2

This is part two of the blog about evaluating feedback on your writing or other artistic pursuits. Read part 1 here. Biased Feedback A person giving negative feedback can be biased in some way. We can sometimes tell from their words. I have some examples here: A CD reviewer once slammed my instrumental guitar CD, […]

0 comments

Getting My Book In Book Stores

When I decided to start self-publishing, people began asking me if I can get my book in stores, to which I’ve said no, not really. They almost always ask in amazement, “Don’t you want to see your novel in book stores?”  I usually shrug and say no and ask why they think it’s so important, […]

11 comments

Guest Post: Unconventional Writing Tools

4 Unconventional Tools to Fix Common Creative Writing Problems by Guest Blogger Ethan Miller Once upon a time, there lived a writer who churned bestsellers after bestsellers without breaking a sweat. Words flowed out of him with such ridiculous ease that he was rumored to be unaware of the phrase ‘writer’s block’. And his name […]

0 comments

How Agents and Publishers Think About Manuscripts

Like most authors, I’ve submitted books to agents and either gotten no response or the form rejection letter. Well, let me be specific – I’ve sent a query letter, one page summary, and anywhere from 5 pages to 3 chapters as per each agent’s instructions. I jokingly tell myself that my books have never been […]

16 comments

How to Create Fictional Characters, Part 1

Regardless of your genre, authors, screenwriters, and playwrights have much to think about when creating a character. One tool to help is a kind of fill-in-the-blanks template you can use for each one. I’ve developed a rather extensive one over the years and share it here. It can be overkill, so don’t feel the need […]

0 comments

How To Create Fictional Characters, Part 2

This is the second in a series on creating fictional characters.  Part 1 covered an overview. You can download the full template as a Word doc or a PDF. Personal Life General History Family & Upbringing This includes place of birth, parents and siblings, quality of home life, general family status (wealth, position of power, […]

0 comments

How To Create Fictional Characters, Part 3

If you’re creating a character for fantasy or another genre where they go adventuring, this part of the template may help you.  You can download the full template as a Word doc or a PDF or read Part 1 and Part 2 online As Adventurer Does he seek “adventure” or go on missions? History How […]

0 comments

The Importance of Death

I watch a lot of SciFi (and when available, fantasy) on TV and in movies.  All too often, death means nothing.  A major character can be killed off and I just shrug, knowing they’ll be back, sometimes before the episode is over.  Then they show another character mourning this and I just wonder why.  Like […]

0 comments

Writers Block vs. Idea Block

Most authors have “writer’s block” at some point, but I suspect we’re often suffering from something I call “idea block”.  The definition of writer’s block is “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.”  But I think that raises two separate issues: Not knowing what you […]

2 comments
Feb 212015
 

Regardless of your genre, authors, screenwriters, and playwrights have much to think about when creating a character. One tool to help is a kind of fill-in-the-blanks template you can use for each one. I’ve developed a rather extensive one over the years and share it here. It can be overkill, so don’t feel the need to completely fill it out – you may never get around to writing a story if you do it all for every character!

This is a multi-part blog, with this one focusing on an overview. Part 2 will discuss personal life, relationships, adventuring, equipment, combat, and the supernatural. Since I’m a fantasy author, some of this applies to my genre but may not to yours. Part 3 includes a downloadable template (for Word or as a PDF).

Role in the Story

What purpose does this character serve for your story and in relation to your main character?  If a main character, more of this template should be filled out.  Minor characters need less.

General Description

Overall

Describe this character in 2-3 sentences.  You should have this ready in case someone asks and for your own benefit.

Physical Appearance

Include any scars, tattoos, or distinguishing marks, plus body type, size, and the usual height/weight and coloring info.  What impression do they create?  How do they feel about their appearance?  Do they let themselves go or stay fit and tidy?  Have any vices impacted their appearance?  How old are they, and how old do they feel/look/wish they were?  Does he have any injuries that still affect him?

HeightHeight in feet or just tall, medium, short
WeightA number or just fitness level
Eyes
HairInclude length with color

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Mental Appearance

Intelligence and Wisdom

How smart/dumb is he and about what?  Book smarts vs. real world smarts?  People smart?  Emotionally smart?

Disposition/Temperament

Is he friendly, shy, bold, cocky, laid back, uptight, nervous, quiet until you know him?

Passions, Vices, Ideas, Fears, & Torments

What ideas drive him?  What vices does he have?  What is he passionate about?  What torments or haunts him (any demons?)?   What is he afraid of and what is the greatest fear (does he know it?)?

Desires, Goals, and Intentions

Who/what does he want to be with, achieve, or avoid and why?  Is he compassionate, self-absorbed, indifferent?

What He Thinks of Himself

How self-aware is he?  For all the attributes you wrote above, does he know these things or not?  Is he an unreliable narrator if you’re writing in first person?

What Others Think of Him

This means people who know him.

Reputation

This means people who do not know him.  Reputation is an opinion about a stranger.

Gods, Religion, and Beliefs

What religion does he follow and does he actually believe in it or just go through the motions?  Is he a sinner?  Holier-than-thou?  Tolerant or intolerant?  Is he an atheist?  Do religions please him or drive him nuts?  Does he act in accordance with his beliefs or is he a hypocrite?  Does he know this on some level?

What does he actually believe?  Is he right/wrong?

Has he ever changed what he believes or religions?  Why?

Strengths

Does he know his strengths?  What are they?  Do people resent them or appreciate them?  Does he resent or appreciate that?

Weaknesses

Does he know his weaknesses, including vices?  What are they?  Do people know about them?  Is he scorned or mocked for them?  Do others take advantage?  Does he try to hide them to prevent them or from shame?  How much control over his life do they have?  Have they ever destroyed him?  Will they?  Does he triumph or succumb?  What is his fate?  Will he be a cautionary tale?

You can read Part 2 here.

Author’s Shouldn’t Try to Be Funny in Their Bios

There’s a lot of advice on how to write a professional author bio, and here’s mine: don’t try to be funny or clever.  It seldom works.  It can also make you look juvenile, narcissistic, and unprofessional.  Here are some examples of bad lines extracted from actual bios (names withheld very much on purpose). Please note that I […]

0 comments

Evaluating Artist Feedback, Part 1

Whether a musician, author, or other artist, we’ve all received feedback on our work.  Obtaining meaningful feedback is an art all its own.  Sometimes we have to work at it, deciphering comments to figure out what someone means, so I’ve written some observations about this, with examples. Defining Helpful Feedback First we should define what […]

4 comments

Evaluating Artist Feedback, Part 2

This is part two of the blog about evaluating feedback on your writing or other artistic pursuits. Read part 1 here. Biased Feedback A person giving negative feedback can be biased in some way. We can sometimes tell from their words. I have some examples here: A CD reviewer once slammed my instrumental guitar CD, […]

0 comments

Getting My Book In Book Stores

When I decided to start self-publishing, people began asking me if I can get my book in stores, to which I’ve said no, not really. They almost always ask in amazement, “Don’t you want to see your novel in book stores?”  I usually shrug and say no and ask why they think it’s so important, […]

11 comments

Guest Post: Unconventional Writing Tools

4 Unconventional Tools to Fix Common Creative Writing Problems by Guest Blogger Ethan Miller Once upon a time, there lived a writer who churned bestsellers after bestsellers without breaking a sweat. Words flowed out of him with such ridiculous ease that he was rumored to be unaware of the phrase ‘writer’s block’. And his name […]

0 comments

How Agents and Publishers Think About Manuscripts

Like most authors, I’ve submitted books to agents and either gotten no response or the form rejection letter. Well, let me be specific – I’ve sent a query letter, one page summary, and anywhere from 5 pages to 3 chapters as per each agent’s instructions. I jokingly tell myself that my books have never been […]

16 comments

How to Create Fictional Characters, Part 1

Regardless of your genre, authors, screenwriters, and playwrights have much to think about when creating a character. One tool to help is a kind of fill-in-the-blanks template you can use for each one. I’ve developed a rather extensive one over the years and share it here. It can be overkill, so don’t feel the need […]

0 comments

How To Create Fictional Characters, Part 2

This is the second in a series on creating fictional characters.  Part 1 covered an overview. You can download the full template as a Word doc or a PDF. Personal Life General History Family & Upbringing This includes place of birth, parents and siblings, quality of home life, general family status (wealth, position of power, […]

0 comments

How To Create Fictional Characters, Part 3

If you’re creating a character for fantasy or another genre where they go adventuring, this part of the template may help you.  You can download the full template as a Word doc or a PDF or read Part 1 and Part 2 online As Adventurer Does he seek “adventure” or go on missions? History How […]

0 comments

The Importance of Death

I watch a lot of SciFi (and when available, fantasy) on TV and in movies.  All too often, death means nothing.  A major character can be killed off and I just shrug, knowing they’ll be back, sometimes before the episode is over.  Then they show another character mourning this and I just wonder why.  Like […]

0 comments

Writers Block vs. Idea Block

Most authors have “writer’s block” at some point, but I suspect we’re often suffering from something I call “idea block”.  The definition of writer’s block is “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.”  But I think that raises two separate issues: Not knowing what you […]

2 comments
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