Connected Writers: How Writing Teaches Us How to Live

It was Christmastime, which meant my mother had come to visit, and so my wife, Jen, and I took a couple weeks off from writing. Christmastime also meant lots of football to watch and lots of presents to wrap, and because my mom loved football as much as I did, and because Jen is a superior wrapper, she was in the studio getting a head start on the presents while Mom and I were in the living room watching the first half of the Seahawks game.

Halfway through the third quarter my wife appeared looking a little bleary. “You guys going to watch the rest of this game?”

“It’s a close one,” I said. “So, yeah.”

She sighed and made her way back to the studio. I didn’t like that. I believed I knew what her sigh meant, but I only got to watch football with my mom once a year, so I stayed on the couch until the middle of the fourth when the outcome seemed inevitable.

I found Jen in the studio, music blaring, tape and scissors in hand.

“Sorry about that,” I said. “Did you feel like the game was just dominating the house too much? Did you want to watch something?”

“No, I just wanted some human interaction. I’ve been out here so long by myself I’m going a little stir crazy.

She put down the scissors and killed the music. “You know what’s funny, though? I’m in this studio six days a week, four or five hours a day, drawing my pictures, writing my stories, and I never feel lonely or isolated. Yet I’m totally alone.”

“Are you?” I joked.

Most of the students who attend my Fearless Writing Workshops are women, and many of them have or had children, maybe even grandchildren, and most have husbands who sometimes need cooking for, or ailing parents that require their care. From them I hear a common concern: that in order to write, they must close the door on their family and their loved ones, all of whom have depended on these dependable women for so much for so long.

These aspiring writers feel guilty about the time they take for themselves. They love writing, but they have trouble shaking the feeling that it’s ultimately a selfish act, and if there’s one thing they have never been, it’s selfish.

Their fears are understandable but misguided, and I think Jen perceived why. Like her, I never feel less alone than when I’m writing. I may be physically alone in the room, but I feel connected, listening to that which I have spent the better part of my life trying to hear. I seek this connection in writing, but also in friendship, in marriage, in children, and in watching football with my mom. I seek it always, though I am most aware of finding it when I write, when I can’t pretend that connection can be found outside of me.

I am never a better husband, father, son, friend, or citizen than when I am acting or speaking from that place within me where I go to write. It’s the source of my honesty, dependability, and kindness. In this way, writing is anything but selfish. Rather, it is like practicing being human.

What’s more, the last thing I want to teach all the people I love and care for is that they need me to feel safe and comfortable and loved. They are no different than I am, whether they write or not. Where I go to write might feel like it is within me, but it is really a portal to what is available to us all: inspiration, guidance, and finally, faithfully, and always – love.

The Crucial Role of Children's Literacy in Shaping Tomorrow's Leaders

In today's rapidly evolving digital age, the ability to read, write, and comprehend information is more important than ever before. Children's literacy serves as the cornerstone of academic success, personal growth, and future opportunities. As we delve into the significance of nurturing literacy skills in young minds, it becomes evident that fostering a love for reading and learning during childhood lays the foundation for a brighter and more prosperous future.

Building Strong Foundations:

The early years of a child's life are crucial for language development and literacy skills acquisition. By exposing children to books, engaging storytelling, and interactive learning experiences, parents, educators, and caregivers play a vital role in instilling a passion for literacy from a young age. Research has shown that children who are exposed to reading at an early stage tend to perform better academically, exhibit stronger cognitive abilities, and develop enhanced communication skills.

Enhancing Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills:

Literacy goes beyond the ability to read and write—it empowers children to think critically, analyze information, and solve complex problems. By encouraging children to explore diverse genres, expand their vocabulary, and engage with challenging texts, we equip them with the tools to navigate an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Through reading, children learn to empathize, make informed decisions, and think creatively, fostering skills that are invaluable in both academic and real-world settings.

Opening Doors to Opportunities:

A strong foundation in literacy opens doors to a myriad of opportunities for children, enabling them to pursue their passions, achieve their goals, and contribute meaningfully to society. Proficient reading and writing skills are fundamental for success in various academic subjects, future careers, and lifelong learning endeavors. Moreover, literate individuals are better equipped to navigate digital platforms, access information, and effectively communicate in a globalized world.

Promoting Social and Emotional Growth:

Beyond academic achievements, children's literacy plays a significant role in fostering social and emotional growth. Through reading, children are exposed to diverse perspectives, cultures, and experiences, allowing them to develop empathy, compassion, and understanding towards others. Furthermore, literature serves as a powerful tool for self-reflection, personal growth, and emotional expression, aiding children in navigating their emotions, building resilience, and developing a sense of identity.

In conclusion, children's literacy is a powerful catalyst for personal growth, academic success, and societal progress. By prioritizing the development of literacy skills in young learners, we not only empower them to excel academically but also equip them with the essential tools to thrive in an ever-changing world. As advocates for children's literacy, it is our collective responsibility to nurture a love for reading, instill a passion for learning, and pave the way for a brighter future fueled by knowledge, imagination, and infinite possibilities. 


Dewi, S., & Krisdiana, I. (2021). The effect of literacy skills on the critical thinking skills of mathematics education students.  Jurnal Pendidikan 13 (1):72-79. Retrieved from 

Do Something. 11 facts about literacy in america. Retrieved from

Health Day, (2002). Who read for pleasure grow into better-adjusted teens: study. Retrieved from,showed%20an%20edge%20in%20certain.


13 Rules for Successful Critique – Giving Critique

As the leader of two writers’ groups for over eleven years, I’ve led/attended over a hundred critique sessions. While many critique sessions go as intended, I’ve seen some go very, very wrong. More times than not, the miss stems from a single reason: readers going into critique to “fix” the author’s story.

I know that it seems antithetical – why critique a piece if you aren’t there to help the author? We are all there to help the author. But the way to help best isn’t to ‘fix’ the piece. ‘Fix’ comes with the attitude that we as author-readers know better than the author about his or her own story.

As those providing critique, our goal should be to help the author identify those areas that work, and those that don’t or confuse the reader. We need to assure that we are not replacing the author’s voice with our own. For people who have found their own writing voice, that can be more difficult than it seems.

People with just a little publishing success and strong personalities often have the most difficult time with this. They translate their own success into the model others should duplicate. Someone less secure in their own writing may take the advice to heart. But in a group of people all doing the same from a different perspective, that can be confusing and more harmful than helpful.

We all want to offer others the best help we can. It’s time for a new set of critique guidelines, ones that will offer clear direction leading to a better, more usable result.

So here are Thirteen Rules of Successful Critique for giving critique. These are outlined based on groups where the author reads his or her piece aloud to a group, while the group reads along to a printed copy, but can often be applied to other critique structures as well.

Preparing for Critique

1) Begin with a statement from the author of what he or she wants to get out of the critique

Different authors seek different things from critique. Some may want plot suggestions for an unresolved piece. Others may want polishing or to understand when the “reveal” shows itself to you. Know what the author wants and focus on delivering specifically that.

2) Acknowledge that you are not the author of the piece

This is someone else’s story. That means the style of storytelling may be different than your own; honor that. You wouldn’t want someone taking your story and trying to make it fit a style that isn’t yours. It’s not only unfair, but it’s also insulting to the author.

3) Write your name and email address at the top of the physical page you are notating

If you intend to leave written comments, they shouldn’t be anonymous. Knowing the source helps the author frame them. She may want to follow up later with you. And it makes most people more responsible with the comments they make when their name is actually attached to them.

4) Begin the critique with your pen on the table

Starting with pen in hand announces your intentions to mark the piece up. Your first goal is to listen and read along, and offer suggestions only where needed. Start with the pen on the table.

During Critique

5) Place your focus on elements that interrupt the flow of storytelling

Remember, this isn’t your story. Read the story that is there and follow it. Identify where you are confused or where the flow of the story being told doesn’t work. Inconsistencies in character, irrelevant detailed descriptions, hard-to-follow dialog, and plot inconsistencies are all valid story-stoppers. At the same time, remember to notate where things go well…that is part of the value of critique.

6) Mark down grammar corrections, but don’t discuss them in detail

Group time is better spent on more important points of character, plot, and pace than the spelling of individual words.

7) If multiple critiquers are involved, have them all comment on points as they are brought up

Having each person give their individual comments separately on the same points wastes time and creates a disconnect between the opinions on the same topic. Finding a consensus of opinion is as important as identifying that there isn’t one. If you don’t agree with other critiquers’ comments, discuss the differences openly but briefly. It helps the author understand the readers’ reaction to different parts without having to intervene himself.

8) Structure your critique response using a sandwich approach

Start with something you like about the piece, and end with something positive. Too many people jump into being critical which puts the author on defense and limits his or her ability to actually hear what are valid points. It also can obfuscate the strong points of the writing, which should be celebrated.

9) Don’t critique what you haven’t read for yourself

You don’t get to know what happens on page 75 when you are reading page 10. You don’t get to know it in a critique, either. Critique sessions generally focus on a part of a book. Focus only on what is in front of you.

10) Don’t ask an author what he or she meant

It can be hard when you are working with an excerpt, and don’t have the full piece in front of you. It’s impossible to know what descriptions came before when you get a segment from the middle of a novel. But derive what you can from what is there. State what you got out of it so that the author knows, but don’t make them defend what they included (or didn’t include). Let the author decide from your comments whether there is a huge miss in what he or she wrote.

11) Play the role of leader, even if you aren’t

Unfortunately, sometimes a group needs someone to step in and correct the direction of a conversation. Do the entire group a favor and play that role, if even just for the one moment. You’d be surprised how many people will come to you afterwards and say, “thank you.” Not everyone has the conviction or courage to step forward and do that.

12) Save direct interaction with the author for the very end of the critique

It’s not that an author should never speak or interact; it can be valuable to the critique process. But done in the beginning, it interrupts the flow of the session and takes the focus off the reader. Leave direct questions for the end, after all of the readers have made their comments on the work and each other’s comments.

13) Finish with a note to the author on the piece in addition to the corrections/observations

If you love it, tell them. After going through the process, it’s easy to focus on the corrections or negatives. Your comment may make the author’s entire day.

I created a humorous video for my writers’ group to emphasize some of these points. View it right here. If you like it, please let everyone else know with a comment, a click to the LIKE button and share it.

Profitable versus Rewarding: Is there a Difference?

We’ve all heard of the saying, “Risk versus Reward,” and for those in any business, that’s a guiding principle. Having always had limited means, I take fewer risks than most in marketing, since, by definition, risks don’t offer guarantees. I’ve had to overcome that to a degree, however, as most everything involved in promoting a book calls for risk, even of one’s time.

A few years ago, I participated in an author’s panel at an event. One of the topics that came up was the profit the majority of authors make. With less experience than the other three, I sat back and listened with eagerness, wondering if my lackluster earnings were a reflection of my work. To my relief, they responded with laughs and jokes, making it clear that my meager royalty checks were not the exception.

The general public mainly hears about the big-name authors who make millions per bestseller. Like with all industries, though, the top of that pyramid is very narrow. Underneath lie a plethora of contemporaries who will never see that kind of net worth. Granted, those results sometimes are a reflection of poor workmanship, but in many cases, it’s just surrounding circumstances. A small-town clothing shop won’t earn the same profit as a designer brand, simply because they won’t have the traffic and exposure. Still, they often have superior products.

The same goes for the writing industry. Today’s world provides numerous forms of entertainment, not to mention probably the widest array of literature society’s ever known. Thus, it’s difficult to attract readers to pick your book out of the growing mountain. Established authors—and celebrities who become authors—have their name and marketing team behind them, so they’re more likely to get that spot on the national news. Such coverage sends readers flocking to their book on the shelves, while yours sits nearby. That’s not a personal affront to you or your work; it just a byproduct of not having a well-known name.

I became keenly aware of this difficultly to stand out at the event I mentioned above, which hosted over 150 authors. The book fair drew in a record high attendance. Organizers expected a couple thousand, as in years past, so I hoped to have a steady flow of traffic at my table. With the vast supply of options, however, many of the booths—including mine—only had occasional visitors throughout the day.

I’d be lying if I said my expectations weren’t met in terms of sales. In truth, it took more money for gas to get there than I made in royalties. As far as “risk versus reward” goes, the reward didn’t win out. Or did it?

Contemplating the experience, I came to realize “rewarding” isn’t always the same as “profitable.” Profits are made in your bank account; rewards are made in your heart. The standout example from the day that illustrated this was a reaction I received from a young girl. She skimmed the synopsis of my novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You, on the back cover, and to my surprise, she clutched it to her chest, telling me how excited she was to read it. During all my years of dreaming about becoming an author, I could merely imagine someone looking at my book that way.

Like every other art form, writing is emotion-driven, and one’s passion for it is what makes you stick to it. Early in my adulthood, I evaluated how writing would fulfill me in comparison with other professions. Because I have Cerebral Palsy, my options were more limited than most people’s, but I had several social workers offering to put me in a job program that would find feasible work for me. Even then, I realized positions like those they could give me would probably yield more than taking a crack at composing a novel, but they wouldn’t enrich me in the same way.

To this day, I have no regrets about my choice. Sure, making a sale is gratifying—and a relief when you have to pay off your inventory—but more than that, I enjoy hearing how my work affects readers. I spend months at my desk, crafting characters and plot twists, and I wonder how they’ll translate to someone else. When somebody shares that a scene made them laugh or touched them in a special way, that’s the moment I value most.

Of course, we all need to make a living, and warm fuzzy feelings don’t pay bills. If your goal is to have writing as your primary career, opportunities that go belly-up cause frustration. In certain cases, you have to chalk it up as a lesson learned, and there’s nothing wrong in deciding not to take a particular opportunity because it wasn’t advantageous.

For you aspiring authors, don’t start a novel to rake in a six- or seven-digit paycheck. It probably won’t happen. That’s why, as my panel agreed, writers have to enjoy their craft and find fulfillment in the dirty work—namely the solitary hours of typing and imagining. Cherish a reader’s glee when he/she discovers your works or falls in love with a character. Take the time to impart why you love what you do to young ones. Those are the real rewards of writing.

Writers Can’t Do It All: How Designing My Own Book Cover Backfired Spectacularly

Writing has always come naturally to me. Growing up, I used to fill notebooks with short stories and scripts for school plays. Writing was fun, satisfying, and most importantly, easy. Art class, on the other hand, was definitely not my forte. Take, for example, the time I had to sculpt a head out of papier-mâché. My classmates all achieved varying levels of success, but I could not for the life of me create anything vaguely resembling a head. Eventually I gave up, made a spiky ball, colored it bright pink and purple, and told the teacher it was an alien hedgehog. When it came to drawing, my greatest artistic achievement was drawing a stick figure – and not a very good one at that.

Given my complete lack of artistic skills, hiring a professional to handle the artwork for my first book was a no-brainer. I did my research, found an insanely talented artist, and worked with him to craft the perfect spot illustrations. I had originally planned to do the same for the book cover, but after giving it some thought, I realized that I knew exactly how I wanted my cover to look. This led me to wonder if technology could help me overcome my artistic shortcomings and allow me to design the cover of my dreams. Perhaps there was an artist within me after all.

My book explores the answers fifty different religions provide for life’s most compelling questions. When I researched my book, I actively sought out religions with unexpected and inspiring takes on the questions we all ask. The result, a surprisingly diverse collection of traditional wisdom, required a cover that captured its essence fully. This is why I chose to incorporate an element from Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” into my cover. The Creation of Adam, a famous fresco painting on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, is perhaps the most replicated religious painting in history. It depicts God and Adam, arms outstretched and fingers almost touching, freezing the moment when God bestowed Adam with the spark of life for all eternity. This instantly recognizable scene was just what I needed.

I cropped God’s hand out of a photograph I took when I visited the Sistine Chapel on my honeymoon and replaced Adam’s hand with an image of the Earth, hoping to convey the idea that religions all around the world were divinely inspired. I then fiddled with a starry background, selected the perfect font for my title, and voila – my cover design was complete. I showed it off in the weeks leading up to my book’s publication, and everyone oohed and aahed at how professional it looked. Looking back, I realize that some people were just being nice, but at the time I was too proud of my cover to notice.

The first few months after my book was published were positively glorious. I was now a writer and bona fide cover designer – I had done it all! I even began toying with the idea of harnessing an AI image generator to create the spot illustrations for my next book. The sky truly seemed to be the limit for my newly discovered artistic skills.

Then one day, I woke up to a disconcerting email from Amazon. “It has come to our attention that the following book may include one or more images on your book’s cover for which you may not have the necessary rights,” it began. My book’s Amazon Standard Identification Number appeared below, followed by the sentence no writer wants to read: “We've made this book unavailable for sale.” I gripped my phone with shaking hands and tried to compose myself as I read the rest of the email. There were two ways to save my magnum opus, I learned. I could provide written documentation proving my right to use all of the images in my book. Alternatively, I could remove images from my cover and redesign it. Either way, I’d have to solve the problem and reply within five days, after which my book could become permanently unavailable for sale.

The ominous email’s timing was atrocious. I was only ten days away from discussing my book on a podcast, and I absolutely had to restore my book by then. Michelangelo died over four centuries ago, so I was confident his exclusive rights to the image of God’s hand had long since expired. That left the ubiquitous image of the Earth featured on my cover. I had obtained this (free) image from a site that allows its images to be used for commercial purposes, a fact I explained in my reply to Amazon. I also attached a screenshot of the program I used to design my cover and my illustrator’s contract for good measure.

I spent the next two days panicking and Googling my predicament. To my horror, I discovered that many writers believe that Amazon uses AI to single out problematic images and evaluate writers’ replies to automatically generated emails. In other words, my carefully crafted reply, which I was certain could convince any sentient being to free my book, would likely never be seen by human eyes. Instead, it would probably be assessed by a senseless bot tasked with sealing my book’s fate.

Eventually I caved and redesigned my cover. I purchased an image of the Earth as well as an image of God’s hand, just in case. I used these images and new background stars to create a jazzed up version of my cover, and emailed Amazon the receipts. Four anxiety-ridden days later, I received an email informing me that my book had passed its review. I’d have to wait up to 48 hours for it to become available again, but it would be restored right before the podcast! I was so relieved, I literally jumped with joy.

So is designing your own book cover worth it? Yes and no. My misadventure has taught me that writers can’t do it all, and should probably stick to writing. But if you ever decide to extend your creativity to the artistic sphere, do yourself a favor and save your receipts.

Ask a Dumb Question (or Writing Under the Influence of a Quirky Muse)

She awoke one morning with the surprising thought that she could write a romance. She was fifty and had been an art teacher, a weaver, and an interior designer. She'd written a few nonfiction pieces on the side, but never fiction, unless her little tale for junior high science class about a cross-species relationship between Sid Squid and Cathy Cuttlefish counted. She’d known a romance writer in her church choir, so perhaps that’s where the idea came from. She'd never before read that genre but was fascinated to discover that all the author's love interests closely resembled their handsome choir director.

Her first attempt was not the finest of writing, being all dialogue and no plot. But it did get her juices flowing. After reading a pile of romances and joining a critique group, she tried again. She thought her story turned out pretty good, but after receiving three rejections she buried it in a file drawer. A few weeks later, she received a call from a friend suggesting another publisher. Soon she had a contract, and not long after that, a box of her new books landed on her doorstep. Yippee! Barnes & Noble gave her a book signing complete with chocolates and sparkling cider.

Now what? Somehow, the thought of writing another romance didn’t enthuse her. Was she truly a writer? Or a one hit wonder? She wished to continue writing, but about what? She collected ideas and made outlines. She spent months on a children's story about elves, only to finally realize it wasn't working. Her files grew fat as her frustration grew deeper. She went to a psychologist. "What am I to do next?" she wailed.

"Only you know," he told her, shaking his head.

She asked her writers' critique group.

"Hmm …" they said.

Tired of the struggle, she gave up trying for something saleable. "Why not poetry?" she asked herself, although she'd never written any. Silly poetry, it would be. About being a kid. She thought of her son's enthusiasm when he was young. He’d loved doing a report on sponges. “What’s so great about sponges?” she’d asked him. “They’re filter feeders,” he replied. “They don’t have to do anything. They just lie on the ocean floor and their food comes to them.”

I wish I was a simple sponge,

resting on the ocean floor,

loafing as the gentle tide

passed through my waiting pores.

Ah … sponges. But what were they really like? Her poem might be silly, but she wanted it to be accurate.

"There's only one kids’ book on sponges in the library," she complained to her critique group. "And it's outdated."

"That's it," they said. "You've found your subject!"

"But I'm not a biologist," she protested.

"So?" they said.

I would need no heart, nor lungs,

nor brain, nor hands or feet,

for on that tide all kinds of treats

would filter by for me to eat.

She dove into texts that would have made her eyes cross in her college years. She learned there were sponges off the coast of Vancouver Island that were as big as a Volkswagen Beetle. That sponges can reproduce in a number of ways. That one type of sponge extends a hook and “fishes.” (Is it “working” for its dinner?)

Her parents invited her to spend time with them on the Oregon coast. While there, her dad suggested they go see “that whale they flew in from Mexico a few weeks ago.” The whale―an orca, actually―was Keiko, the biggest star in the kids’ movie, “Free Willy.” People flocked to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to see him. Standing in front of the viewing window, she understood why. Weighing nearly a ton, he cruised by, turned, and stared back at her. She was awestruck, then went back home and picked up her work.

A light clicked on. Had anyone written about Keiko? Surely there was at least one children's book about him. Dumb question, but she would call and ask. With beating heart, bracing for humiliation, she rang―and got an answering machine. She stumbled out her question and quickly hung up. One week. Two weeks. Christmas. Three, then four weeks. Really, really dumb question. Not worth answering. Just forget it.

I would be quite handsome,

my color'd win first prize.

My physique declared superb,

tho’ I'd never exercise.

She was still deep into sponges when the call came. No, they didn't have a book on Keiko. Would she be interested in writing one? Would she like to meet him and his trainers?

She leapt from writing about the least intelligent animal on the planet to one of the most intelligent ones. After visiting Keiko twice, interviewing his trainers, taking many photos, and diving into orca research, she fashioned a manuscript.

She eagerly sent off queries, but once again, all were rejected. (“We don’t do books on famous animals.”) Once again, she put her manuscript away. A few months later, she read of a new editor at a children’s book publishing house. Her manuscript was accepted! She did a happy dance and booked a flight to Iceland to see Keiko lowered into a bay pen in his home waters of the North Atlantic.

“Keiko’s Story: A Killer Whale Goes Home” was published as a school and library book in 2000. The story ended with the hope Keiko would find his family, just as Willy had. Barnes and Noble held a modest book signing. Over the years she would run into people who remembered reading her book from their school library. They often asked what happened to Keiko in the end.

She moved on to other projects, all rejected. Perhaps this was at least partly because she’d signed on with an agent who, it turned out, was living in her car with two dogs and had a habit of swearing at editors she didn’t like.

She got a divorce and was shocked to discover the dichotomy of responses from fellow Christian―some loved on her while others condemned her. She began a memoir to push back against hate and advocate for love. It would take her fifteen years to finish. Her hybrid publisher made glowing promises. The book’s launch was by Zoom, just as COVID-19 reared its ugly head. For five years, she grew a small email list and faithfully wrote monthly blog posts to support the book’s premise. Boxes of that book remain in her garage.

Out of the blue, a man contacted her, telling her how much “Keiko’s Story” had meant to him as a student. He was working on a documentary about the Keiko for the orca’s many fans and had some questions. She gathered up a big box of materials she’d saved when writing the book and sent it to him. It seemed like the definitive end to her Keiko-journey. But then his email: “You should update your book and tell Keiko’s whole story.”

The light was back on!

Overcoming My Fear of Rejection

Overcoming my Fear of Rejection

Rejection is never easy. Whether it’s a form rejection, or a sincere message from the editor saying they enjoyed your work, but it narrowly missed out, it doesn’t make it any easier. Here’s how I overcame my fear of rejection, and it might help you change the way you think about it too.

I Accepted it Will Happen

It’s difficult to think the piece of writing you’re so proud of can be rejected by someone who “doesn’t get it.” It’s important not to get defensive about it. These are the people who decide which work gets published, so their opinion counts for anyone who wants their work accepted. They are people too, and may have missed your point, but it’s also possible that whatever you were trying to get across wasn’t as clear as you thought. Either way, arguing with them will only result in losing the opportunity to send more work for their consideration.

I’ve learned to accept not everyone will like my stuff, and although I’ve never argued with an editor who has rejected my work, I have privately disagreed with their decision. Now I know some people will like my work and others won’t, I can only aim to send my best writing, then wait to see which camp the editor and submission readers fall into.

Proof Publishers’ Tastes Vary From Each Other

I recently had a piece of flash fiction that I sent in response to two different submission calls. One was a website I had submitted several pieces to before, all of which were rejected. I tried again, because I thought this was my strongest flash fiction story so far. It was accepted, and in the feedback from the submission reader, he said he liked the second person narrator and the twist in the story.

I forgot about the second publisher I sent it to until they rejected it, saying the second person narration prevented them from getting inside the victim’s head and the twist didn’t work. This is the perfect example of how tastes vary and not everyone likes the same thing, even editors and publishers.

By understanding this, it makes rejection easier. I’m not being rejected, just my writing, and only because it doesn’t work for them. It can still work for someone else. How do you tell the difference between your piece not being a fit for one or two publications, and not being a good fit anywhere? One way to tell is if everyone says the same thing. Then it probably needs changing.

I Expected Rejection to Happen

I don’t mean this in a pessimistic way, but realistically, such as thinking of each rejection as being one step closer to acceptance. Resolved that my work would receive more rejections than acceptances, it was easier to send it out into the world. I set myself a challenge to get an average of one rejection a day – or a total of 365 in a year. Some days, I had several. I think my record was 8 in a day, and I made a big celebration of it on social media. I think it helped other writer friends to see this, because lots of people only share their successes. If nothing else, it decreased the disappointment of rejection, because it became the norm, but the rarer acceptances were more of an occasion to feel proud of my work.

I Stopped Listening to Friends

This is no offence to any friends who have ever complimented my writing. However, unless your friends are prepared to be constructive, accepting their biased praise is nice to hear, but not helpful in finding out where you need to improve. Also, they are not the ones who have a say in you getting published. So, I always thank them, but (politely) ignore any comments from friends and acquaintances, unless I feel like they are well balanced – not just complimentary.

An Example of How Listening to Friends Doesn’t Help

I have been on the other side of the fence with submissions and had to reject a poem that I didn’t think was good enough. I was polite about it, but skated around the fact that her work needed to reach the point sooner, by saying it was too long. The writer went on social media, posted the rejection and poem, then all her friends praised her writing. I’m sure that was nice for her to hear, but not particularly useful for helping her make changes and increase her chances of getting it accepted somewhere else.

I Tried to Learn from Rejection

On the rare occasions I get feedback with a rejection, I treat it like gold dust. I’ve made changes based on feedback, and had work accepted either by the same publisher or elsewhere. Ignoring the natural reaction to defend my written words helps me accept feedback and make improvements. Don’t let ego stand in the way.

It wasn’t an easy achievement. The first Creative Writing module I studied as part of my degree, came with a lot of feedback from the tutor. I took it personally and thought he didn’t like me. It was only on the second module, when I took the feedback on board. As I sent out more submissions, I realized how rare and valuable feedback is. I used some of it to change and improve my work. I went on to do a Creative Writing MA, and the constrictive criticism from this helped me reason with myself why I had made certain decisions in my writing. I took the feedback from rejections and used this to either change my work, or make other parts clearer if I thought they had missed the point. The important thing was, I explicitly chose what to keep or change, and I knew why. I wasn’t blindly clinging to something I was told to change.

As writers, we all experience our writing being rejected, but getting your work out there means giving it a chance to be accepted. It’s scary, but it will be worth it in the end.

Amanda Nicholson is an author, poet, podcast co-host and copywriter. She co-hosts the book review podcast Reading in Bed. She has written several books under the name Amanda Steel, including Ghost of Me, which was a finalist in the Author Elite Awards 2020.

Amanda’s poetry has been broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester, and her story Clown Control was featured on The NoSleep Podcast. She has a Creative Writing MA, and has had articles published by Writers Weekly, Jericho Writers and The Market List.

Writing Past Loss of Trust: The Effects of Plagiarism

I will never forget when my first manuscript was taken. I was a new mother and wife in my early twenties. My husband and I were members of a leadership team for a growing, well-known, and often controversial congregation.

Raised by religion to be a silent participant, I had a lifetime of abusive molding in the name of submission. By my teen years, I had learned staying silent was safer.

However, longing desperately to be understood, I wrote in diaries. In those accounts, I would pose questions about how I saw women being treated. I would likewise write about my confusion surrounding childhood abuse.

Finally, after being married and having two daughters, I could not remain silent. I shared my opinions with other mothers, which ultimately led to me being urged to compose a book.

One pastor took an interest in my writings. My narrative was raw, heartfelt, and filled with observations of how women could have a more significant role in the religious fabric. I asked, "Why can't women preach?" and, "Why are expectations of women different than of men?" I had hoped that my draft would launch a ministry career and give me a place in the world that I craved. I aspired to help women learn how to deal with the often oppressive, abusive nature of devout submission.

This pastor offered to edit and provide feedback. He was even willing to help get my first book published. Back in those days, I had no means of breaking into traditional publishing, and self-publishing was a little-known concept.

I was all too happy to hand over a manuscript. He promised to get back to me with suggestions. Because I wrestled with uncertainty, it took me months to find the courage to ask for his feedback.

After years of being told to remain silent, my mind was weakened with negative thoughts: "Would my stories be good enough?" "Would my words offend church readers?" "Would my questions mark me as a non-believer?"

The minister's reaction added to my dread. He became dismissive, forgetful, and aloof. Weeks later, he announced at the pulpit that he had published a book.

I became physically ill when I read his published work. Interwoven with his lessons for maintaining a Biblical lifestyle were my stories altered to fit his voice.

Hurt and feeling foolish, I retreated once again to silence. I believed I no longer had a safe place to share my writing. Worse, I ceased writing altogether.

Fast forward more than twenty years, and I have healed from that incident. It has been a lengthy and generally painful process to feel comfortable sharing my work.

However, to heal, I needed to build self-confidence and discover a new outlet to serve others through channels where I could freely share my stories. The decision to become a librarian and work within the writing community has been life-changing. I had finally found my place.

The sense of knowing my own words were once hijacked has been the foundation to every connection I make in my role with patrons, students, staff, and writers regarding plagiarism.

Most writers demonstrate integrity when it comes to the use of others' work. Those few who deliberately steal another's work cause havoc in the book community.

And the one aspect of plagiarism that is seldom examined is the struggle that the writer who has had their work stolen may experience.

It has become my mission as a librarian to share with others how to paraphrase, use signal words, and give proper credit to others to avoid stealing work.

Now, with my librarian experience and the passage of time, I have learned much about plagiarism. I have discovered most cases are unintentional. That insight helped in my healing.

Many students, authors, and even faculty members of universities do not set out to take another's work. They simply do not know how to avoid it. Or they have become lazy in their documentation. Thankfully the majority of my work is merely providing these five steps:

1. Keep notes on the sources you consult in research. Create a citation for each one. Never cut-and-paste words into your work.

2. Paraphrase the information from the source into your own words. Refer to the source by name in your work.

3. Use quotation marks to signal that you are using another's words.

4. Use in-text citations and reference lists to credit the original authors.

5. Check your work if you're unsure. Use a plagiarism checker like Grammarly. And ask a librarian for help before you submit your work for publication.

The central aspect of healing from the effects of plagiarism for me was grounding myself in one truth: integrity requires crediting others’ work. That kind of rectitude strengthens the writing community by:

  • allowing us to champion creativity without stealing.

  • uplifting without taking identity.

  • celebrating facts and data without passing them as our own.

When I share my story about my first manuscript, I am usually asked two questions: What transpired regarding that pastor, and how did I overcome the mistrust?

Regarding the pastor, he ultimately was forced out of the congregation due to fraudulent conduct. I cannot claim that I was strong enough at the time to expose him for stealing my stories. Sadly, there were plenty of other victims who influenced his accountability.

Regarding how I learned to trust again, one significant factor is my work within the writing community as a librarian and author. By opening myself up to others, I have developed strong bonds with authors that understand the value of crediting work. Within those friendships, I have learned there can be constructive, safe feedback given without harm. These are the types of relationships I now seek. Because of those who show integrity and care in the writing community, I have reclaimed my place to explore my voice. I no longer live with the fear that I will have reason to withdraw into silence. Most notably, I revel in a mission of encouraging writing skills that demonstrate integrity.

You may ask why should the implications of plagiarism matter to writers? Is it even a debate? For the most part, stealing another's creative work is not up for discussion. It just shouldn't happen. Writers should not steal another writer’s work.

But some do.

It is easy to overlook the repercussions of stolen work from the perspective of the original author. Many will never acknowledge the authors who have had their work taken. If those writers happen to realize their work was purposefully plagiarized, they have a lengthy road of healing past the loss of trust.

We, as a community, can contribute a safe place for that rebuilding. I know this to be true because the writing community has helped me write past my loss of trust.


Autism parenting comes with its own set of challenges, but if you know how to handle them, it can also be a very fulfilling journey.

How to Understand Autism: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) comes with its own problems that need to be solved in a way that is unique and values each person.

Let's look at some useful tips that will help this trip go a little more smoothly:

1.Set up a routine and stick to it.

Children with autism often do better with routines and knowing what to expect. Setting a regular daily routine can give you a sense of comfort, lower your stress, and give you a sense of control.

2.Good communication:

It's important to be clear and to the point when you talk to someone. To help people understand better, use visual tools, gestures, or technology. It is very important to be patient and give your child time to think about what they are learning and present themselves in their own way.

3.Support environments that are good for sensory needs.

A lot of kids with autism have problems with their senses. Customize your space by thinking about things like the amount of light, noise, and patterns. Giving people mental breaks or a quiet place to go can help when things get too much.

4.Play is a great way to improve your social skills.

Make it a regular part of your life. Encourage your child to do things with you that are related to his or her interests. This will help them share memories and make friends over time.

5.Focus on positive rewards:

Learn different types of positive rewards that can help kids with autism. Find and reward good behavior to create a helpful and encouraging space that helps people grow and develop. Parents need to take care of themselves because raising a child with autism can be hard.

In conclusion, being a parent of a kid with autism can be very hard at times, but it can also be very rewarding. Parents of children with autism can make parenting easier by setting up routines, communicating clearly, making sure the surroundings are sensory-friendly, and helping their child develop social skills.

If you want a more complete guide on how to make parenting kids with autism easier, check out "Autism Parenting Made Easy: Practical Strategies for Everyday Life." in my Featured Section on my main profile page. This book was written by myself, It is full of expert advice and useful tips to help parents on their way. Learn how to effectively advocate for your child's needs so that you can handle the school system, get help from support services, and work with medical professionals. This book gives you the information you need to make sure your child gets the best care and chances possible.

"Reginald F. Lewis Before TLC Beatrice" Audiobook Sample

Listen to a short Audible audiobook sample of author, Lin Hart, reading from his book "Reginald F. Lewis Before TLC Beatrice: The Young Man Before The Billion-Dollar Empire."

Who Is Reginald Lewis? Why Every American Needs to Know About His Life

Who Is Reginald Lewis? Why Every American Needs to Know About His Life

Michael Scott

From the ’70s thru the early ’90s, Reginald F. Lewis was arguably the richest African-American on the planet. His crown achievement was the groundbreaking leveraged buyout of the international food conglomerate Beatrice Foods in 1987. As the CEO of this billion-dollar enterprise while in his mid-forties, Lewis without the benefit of inherited wealth or legacy connections, built a fortune — one that placed him on the Forbes 400 list of America’s wealthiest individuals. Despite this, many are unfamiliar with the pioneering work of this businessman.

In the 2018 revised and re-edited edition of the book Reginald F. Lewis Before TLC Beatrice: The Young Man Before The Billion-Dollar Empire author Lin Hart offers deep insights into the formative years of Reginald F. Lewis and his ascension to becoming one of the most successful executives in the world. Targeting the ten-year period between 1956 and 1966, this book shares stories of their years as high school students in Baltimore, Maryland and later as Virginia State University roommates. Lin Hart offers a rich perspective into the qualities Lewis acquired during this period, many of which were pivotal to his future success. Part memoir, part self-help book, its offers a comprehensive look at Lewis’ exceptional life before passing away in 1993. In an exclusive interview, Hart shares some of his early experiences with Reginald Lewis which prompted him to write the book.

Let’s start with having you provide a brief overview of Reginald Lewis

Here’s a bit about Reginald’s story for those who don’t know him. He graduated from Baltimore’s Dunbar public high school in 1961 and was a good student. He wasn’t top of the class, but good enough to gain acceptance to Virginia State in 1961. In 1965, he graduated and was accepted to the summer program at Harvard. He graduated from Harvard in 1968, and went to work for a law firm before leaving in 1970 to start his own practice. He was the first African American to have a law firm on Wall St.

Can you share a bit about how you and Reginald Lewis became acquainted?

Sure. Reginald F. Lewis (his wife, always stressed that I put the “F” in there, because there are a lot of people named Reginald Lewis) grew up in West Baltimore, where we both lived in the same neighborhood, just three blocks away from each other. So we became close friends and high school buddies. Though we went to different schools, we played sports against each other, and that brought our lives together. We left Baltimore as recruits to go to Virginia State University, which is where the book begins.

So what does your book examine relative to Reginald’s life?

The book is concerned with a lot of what happened during the ten-year period 1956–1966. I cover the progression of Reginald as a neighborhood friend who demonstrated rather extraordinary qualities while being a very ordinary guy.

What was his life as a football player like?

It is a commonly held belief that Reginald was a sports superstar in high school. I constantly have to remind people that while he was a very good athlete, he wasn’t necessarily a superstar. He was a competitor and made the most of what he had, and was an outstanding quarterback with high expectations for the Virginia State team. But football didn’t materialize the way he or I had thought it would.

Why was that?

Reginald ran up against some tough competition at Virginia State and had some major injuries. He was a major train wreck that first year. I thought, somehow, that that would be the end of Reginald Lewis.


But I learned then that there was more to this guy than I had ever thought, because of the way he handled this major setback. The way he handled his recovery was rather impressive.

Sounds like you learned quite a bit from him while in college?

Yes. Our lives tracked each other as roommates, teammates, friends, and fraternity brothers right on through Virginia State. As we came to the end of our years there, Reginald was still willing to share with anyone who wanted to hear about his aspiration of becoming a successful lawyer. When he talked about how he would go to Harvard, a lot of people didn’t take him seriously. I certainly did though, because I knew what the guy was about.

What did others really think of him?

If you were to ask people who knew him back then, you’d get a mixed review. Reginald had this personality that was kind of difficult for some people to handle. He was brutally honest, frank, and kind of had an ego which you can appreciate considering what he achieved.

When did life really start to come together for him?

During his senior year, Reginald began talking about going to Harvard — and other schools: Yale, University of Pennsylvania, and some others. Reginald settled in on Harvard and when the Rockefeller Foundation offered a summer program for young undergraduates from black historical colleges, Reginald got it in his head that he would somehow make himself eligible for this program even though he was just graduating.

How did he go about making this happen?

Because he was not eligible for the program to go to Harvard, he sort of forced himself into the picture by lobbying a lot of the administrators at Virginia State. So, he got on the list and was accepted to go to Harvard that summer and enter the program. That program, however, did not guarantee admission: it was a program for people with promise, and he may have been the only eventual graduate from it.

So it appears that you stayed in close contact with him while he was at Harvard?

Once he got into Harvard I was one of the very few people that stayed close to him. When he did come back to Baltimore once for Christmas recess, he called me up and said I’ll be in town and I want to see you and Frances (my wife). When he met us, I said to my wife “Francis, get the camera, I want you to take a picture of Reg and me.” Because, I told him, “Reginald, I know you are going to be successful and I think you are going to be somebody.” This was in 1966- we took the picture which is now the one you see on the cover of the book.

After Harvard Business School, what was next for Reginald?

Reginald had worked with a number of prominent legal people and got this notion that he wanted to do his own deals. After working for 15 years with his own corporate law practice, he created the venture capital firm TLC Group L.P., a venture capital firm in 1983. His first major victory was a leveraged buyout that allowed him to later acquire the home sewing business McCall’s Patterns for $22.5 million. McCall’s had long had a reputation as a good company but was in a little bit of a financial free fall at the time, so he bought it.

What was that time like for him?

Prior to that he had other deals he couldn’t pull off. Like trying to buy a radio station in St. Thomas in 1982 which got torpedoed. He also tried to buy a company that made outdoor furniture and that didn’t work. But, in 1987 he pulled off the deal everybody knows about; he sold McCall’s for 55 million dollars, which was a 90 to 1 return on his investment.

Then August of 1987, he purchased the snack food, beverage, and grocery store conglomerate Beatrice International Foods from Beatrice Companies. That international leverage buy out — a 985 million dollar deal with 64 companies in 31 countries, made him a major global player. Renamed TLC Beatrice International, it had the distinction of being the largest African-American owned and managed business in the U.S.

And the significance of this at that time?

HUGE! That’s when everyone began to take notice because he now had a business making over a billion dollars in annual revenues. For anybody to pull off that kind of deal back then was really extraordinary.

But being African-American, I’m sure that the journey was filled with some unusual struggles

No doubt. In the book, there is a part towards the end where I am talking about our ongoing friendship, and my hopes of his continued success. What I was really doing was trying to give him some moral support because in 1992 he faced a difficult time with the press and shareholders. So, I sent him a note that said “Reg, I know this is a difficult time, but you will work your way through this as you always do. I know you’ll end up smiling because all press is good press.”

Did you receive a response to your note?

Yes. And when he received the note in December of ’92, I was unaware of the fact that he had been suffering from a serious brain tumor and was only a few months from death. What this signified to me is that as close as we were as friends and associates, his life was still about a very private game. Everything was kept close to the vest, and when he passed away in 1993, it was extremely difficult for those who knew him.

Why the decision to write the book?

Because it’s a story I feel committed to sharing with people. My book is about what people don’t know in terms of what Reginald was like as a person before his extreme success and wealth. As a result, a lot of people who did not know who he was and had not heard of him have connected with me on social media.

So you’ve actually had people reach out to you about the book?

Yes. The book came out in 2012, with the ebook following in 2013. Ever since the release, young people have contacted me and kept in contact over the years. I was on the phone with one young man just last night who works for a financial company up in Boston. It was the first time we had talked.

And there have been others?

Yes. Some are not the type of people you would think would reach out. One of them is a rapper who owns his own entertainment company. He’s a young guy, and a family man. These are the kinds of stories that keep me invested in the book.

Obviously, you learned so much from Reginald. But is there is one theme that has had a lasting impact on you over the years.

When we came out of West Baltimore, I had been in a vocational versus a college prep curriculum. None of my family had ever gone to college, and I had never had the dream of going to college. I went because I was a pretty good athlete and had a scholarship. When I met Reginald something happened, namely, I started to think about what was possible beyond what I had already considered for my future.

Can you expand upon that thought?

While a lot of people say they believe in something, once they start down that road, they discover all sorts of difficult hardships. What I got from Reginald is something I refer to quite a bit when speaking to groups: Reginald had a unique ability and sustainable belief in the eventuality of his success. Reginald never doubted for a minute his success. What I took away from that is I had to do more than just believe in something. I had to be able to get through difficult times and hold onto my belief.

Do you have any stories to share that underscore his strong beliefs and persistence?

We were freshman at Virginia State in a small southern town called Petersburg Virginia, during the days of the civil right movement. People at that time and place did not take kindly to blacks showing up in places they weren’t supposed to. There was a bowling alley in those days owned by white people which was available one day a week for blacks to come in and bowl. So, needing money we went over there to look for a job.

What happened next?

When I got over there I saw a lot of other black kids around looking for work and thought that Reginald and I would be lucky to even get a job cleaning floors. Because I needed the money bad, I had resigned myself to taking whatever they had. I ask him what he wanted to do and he says, “I don’t want to do any of that.” So, I asked him what he wanted to do? And he said “you know what Hart” — which is what he called me during those days — “I think I can run this place.” And I’m thinking “there goes Reginald again, always living 30,000 feet above anybody else with half a brain. He can’t do that.”

Interesting? So how did this story end up?

Well, three weeks later, while I’m hanging out with some friends, he arrives back kind of late at night. So, we asked him “what’s going on, why are you back so late.”He says, “remember that bowling alley, well, I’m now working there.” I asked, “what are you doing over there?” thinking he must be washing dishes or something. And he says, “I’m running it.” And HE WAS running it! He had gotten a job as the night manager. How he pulled that off, I still to this day don’t know. But this said to me that Reginald was not the type of guy that was just blowing smoke, which a lot of people thought he was.

How do you think Reginald would view where we are as a country in 2018?

I think he would be disappointed while still embracing the problems facing our nation as a challenge. In many ways, Reginald was a globalist who believed that there were opportunities all over the place and that if an opportunity became global in scope, it had a better chance of resulting in the big success he was all about.

Do you think he would be public about his views?

Actually, he would be private about what he was doing but active in trying to clear the field for global ventures. He would want the playing field clear of all the impediments we have now to global interaction and a global market. He would be in favor of a worldwide economy, and politically, I think he would be working hard to make that happen.

How has the book you wrote about Reginald been generally received?

The book has been doing reasonably well over time. It came out in 2012 and continued to maintain a pretty good following. It will never run as hard and as fast as Reginald’s book Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun, which I’ve always known. I intended this book to be a snapshot of his life, informed by the personal insight I had into his life that I don’t think very many people ever had due to Reginald’s private nature.

Any final thoughts?

Certainly, he was a guy you could have a lot of different opinions about. But through my book and other projects, I’m committed to continuing Reginald’s legacy as a close friend and groundbreaking businessperson.


Michael Scott

This is an article written by Michael Scott, an independent journalist who features stories on great books and great minds.

The Art of Clear Thinking by Hasard Lee: Book Trailer

Based on a career of making high-stakes, split-second decisions as a U.S. fighter pilot, The Art of Clear Thinking teaches readers to apply Hasard Lee's combat-tested techniques in everyday life.

The training to become a fighter pilot is among the most competitive and difficult in the world with fewer than one in a thousand succeeding. Pushing a cutting-edge jet to its limits at over 1,000 mph means that every split-second decision can have catastrophic consequences. This extreme environment has forged a group of warriors who for the last fifty years have been considered at the apex of decision-making theory and practice.

In The Art of Clear Thinking, Hasard Lee distills what he’s learned during his career flying some of the Air Force’s most advanced aircraft. With gripping firsthand accounts from his time as a fighter pilot and fascinating turning points throughout history, Hasard reveals powerful decision-making principles that can be used in business and in life, including:


Hasard has used and taught these techniques across the full spectrum of human endeavors and proven their effectiveness in both the cockpit and the boardroom. Those who have already benefited include CEO’s, astronauts, CIA agents, students, parents, and many others. The Art of Clear Thinking is a book that will change how you interact with the world around you.

How to Resign From Tithing

People deceived about scriptures do not know they are deceived until they study to show themselves approved. Most religious circles and denominations teach tithing as a mandate from God without question. Based on the current popular teachings, it appears that mandatory tithing is a fact that cannot be questioned. That is what I thought for more than 30 years until I decided to examine the modern tithing system to see if I could prove its validity beyond a shadow of a doubt.

For years, I recognized inconsistencies in tithe teachings. I saw people claim blessings and enjoy the spoils of the practice. But I also noticed other people who tithed regularly, but remained in financial hardship throughout their lives. The more I saw people pay tithes to get them out of debt, the more some went deeper into debt.

This may be a shocking admission, but if you look hard enough, there are haves and have-nots in the tithing community of believers today. The excuses offered by pastors, teachers and tithe proponents for why some people receive blessings for tithing and others receive nothing never passed the common sense test. This troubled me for years, and when I encountered struggle with tithing, I was told to tithe no matter what my financial circumstances look liked.

In 2006, I began to tithe on gross pay after I heard pastors in my former church offer challenges that a true tithe is on gross pay only. After much pulpit persuasion, I relented to tithing on gross, even though I was not quite sure it would work. My wife hesitantly went along with me, but she had strong reservations and believed we could not afford to tithe on gross. But my hopes were stirred by the promises of blessings for obeying scripture. When they said the first tenth belonged to God and in return I would receive His financial blessings, I coughed up the money. Needless to say, tithing on gross income before taxes while attending this church for seven years drove me deeper into debt. I finally realized after talking to my wife after we stopped tithing that our financial situation was much worse than I imagined. If a change had not happened when it did, bankruptcy was on the horizon. And as a tithing believer for years, it would have been my third bankruptcy. One thing I can say for sure is that tithing never prevented financial disaster in my life.

Do tithing Christians go bankrupt? The answer is yes. Sadly, the windows of heaven never opened, as I was lead to believe. I cannot understand why the church will not embrace the New Testament giving principles. When I decided to resign from tithing after my initial research study, it did not set well with my pastor at the time. He was in total disagreement. Looking back, I think he assumed like most pastors that I did not want to give to help the church anymore and that strained our relationship. Most people say non-tithers are stingy people who don’t want to give. Accusations are thrown grace givers like Molotov cocktails who just want to give from their heart absent of percentages. When I tried to have a private discussion on the matter, it turned into a public shaming effort to convince me to change my theological shift after I requested that my giving decision be kept private.

After much discussion, I resigned from the church and submitted my tithing resignation letter. What you’ll read below is the letter I wrote to the pastor detailing my initial conclusions about tithing. The pastor refused to give the letter to the other Elders and I can’t help but think it was because he did not want others to know my findings on the subject. I can understand that. Discovering a new giving paradigm can affect people in many different ways, especially if you’ve been taught something biblically for years and discover the whole truth has been half-truths. When I found out about the true orthodox biblical tithe and searched the scriptures, I could not believe I had been hoodwinked for 30 years. I could have become a post-tithe giver as Paul taught and avoided many financial setbacks through the years. I can only conclude that all my giving resulted from fear and Malachi became the single motive of my giving to avoid a curse from God.

What motivates giving? If a person understands authentic biblical giving using correct scriptural information, it sets them free to give. Giving begins by eliminating the ten percent mandate, which allows the heart to embrace generous freewill giving. Sometimes giving from the heart will be more than ten percent and sometimes it’s less and giving is not limited to cold hard cash. All giving must be from the heart according to scripture. My journey from tithing to embracing post-tithe giving set me free and changed my life both positively and negatively. The journey began with my tithing resignation letter explaining the theological shift.

The letter below is my heartfelt response on how I dealt with the situation. To those who read this letter, not all pastors know the truth about tithing. They are just teaching traditions of men and have failed to search the scriptures for themselves. Some pastors know the truth about tithing but are convinced congregations will not give unless there is either a curse attached for not tithing or a promise of blessings attached to motivate paying the tenth. This is done because there is a tendency to marginalize and undervalue God’s people as stingy non-givers with selfish motives.

The Reason For Resigning From Tithing

Dear Pastor;

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you on this day of our Lord. Several weeks and months ago, you were informed of my theological shift from tithing to grace giving. After 30 years of tithing and pondering this matter in my heart and studying both camps who argue for and against tithing, I told you of my personal decision. Since that time, I have buried myself in studying this topic and have concluded that the tithe teaching lacks scholarship and cannot be biblically proven conclusively in the New Covenant beyond a shadow of a doubt. The tithe teachers in the body of Christ who force or mandate tithing would not withstand a cross-examination on a witness stand by a council of scholars, elders and theologians who have studied to show themselves approved and rightly divided the Word of Truth.

Because of my position on this matter, I realize that not tithing creates some conflict and probably more so to the bottom line of the church. Certainly, I am deeply aware of that. But because of my conviction, study, and the Holy Spirit, I can never return to tithing under the dispensation of Grace we now live in. Again, my thoughts and heart have changed because of revealed truth. The journey to the find truth on this matter started 30 years ago. I must admit that I am overjoyed the Holy Spirit can and does teach you when you seek the truth from your heart. Because tithing is no longer my position, it is unethical for me to continue in ministry and leadership. Based on your teaching and position that leaders in your church must tithe, it is unethical for you to keep me in leadership. As I have told you in the past, if I become a hindrance to you or your church and the doctrines you set forth, I would withdraw myself from all functions and duties of leadership. As a result, I requested to be put on Sabbatical until we came to a conclusion of this matter. Over the ongoing weeks and months, I’ve come to the realization that an impenetrable impasse is blocking this matter from being solved.

Now after six months, I now realize through prayer and great trepidation that my time at XXX Church has come to an end because of forced tithing methods that are wanting. When I decided to change my theology on tithing, I did it with knowledge that I would be at odds with much of the Christian community who are simply ignorant of the biblical and secular history, the land, the language, and the literature of the Jewish Levites and priests for whom tithing was established in the Old Testament financial system. When I disagreed with you, I did it in the spirit of the Berean Jews who with great respect for Paul did not accept Paul’s message right away but choose to search the scriptures to see if what he said was true. Since I’ve been on sabbatical, I’ve searched the scriptures, read books, examined history on this tithing issue and have found that tithe teaching as propagandized in the Body of Christ today, is categorically unscriptural and is tantamount to spiritual and financial extortion akin to mafia tactics. Since I do not agree with tithing, I cannot in good conscience continue to exist at XXY Church knowing that major differences exists between you and I on this issue. After 30 thirty years of being deceived, here are my thoughts to the body of Christ.

My purpose for changing my mind goes to the core of a metateneo experience. Metateneo is the Greek word for repent which involves changing your mind. In the spirit of the Jewish Rabbi/Student relationship, my tithing shift also represents what most Jewish Rabbis taught their students and that is the practice of learning how to challenge, debate and argue well with their Rabbi on Torah issues. A student who never questions what their Rabbi says would not be considered an excellent student. In the spirit of my Jewish Savior Yeshua (Jesus), I’ve entered this debate because this is how Hebrew people studied and taught one another. By me offering my points and you offering your counter points over the bully pulpit, we will both learn more truth on this subject. As it stands today, you and I have come down on opposite sides of this argument. In my mind, that’s OK among theologians. My thoughts about this issue are directed at the doctrine of tithing and the lack of study done by those who try to teach something they contextually misunderstand either out of ignorance or on purpose.

This situation is not so strange. It reminds me of the incident in Acts 15:36-41 when Barnabas and Paul came into sharp dispute over the reliability of John who is also called Mark. Because of the appearance of our sharp disagreement about grace giving in the New Covenant vs. mandatory tithing under the Law of Moses in the Old Covenant, it is proper etiquette that we part company like Paul and Barnabas for now in the interest of peace and as Hebrews 12:14-15 says:

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord: Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled (NKJV).

I know people will say, tithing was before the law, but make sure the people also know that Abram was not commanded to pay it and what he tithed came from the spoils of war. Plus he was already made rich based on a promise God made to him not because God commanded him to tithe. There is no biblical record that Abraham tithed any of his personal wealth and the nail in the coffin is that the Bible records him only tithing once and scripture never states he tithed again. Using Abraham as proof text to support tithing is a weak foundation and it cheapens the promises of the New Covenant. I know people will say that tithing is an expression of devotion by sincere people who love God but the fact remains; tithing is still a ceremonial law and an ordinance of the Old Testament that was nailed to the cross. Therefore tithing is low-realm, obsolete and defunct and the pontificators of tithing ultimately introduce weakness and confusion into the minds of believers. To substantiate the doctrine of tithing after the order of Melchizedek by saying you are tithing to Jesus then all tithers can only give one tithe as Abram did when he tithed once to Melchizedek. That is problematic because to give physically to the Messiah like Abram gave to Melchizedek, the tither or the church must go to war with another church or denomination like Abram did against kings and wins the battle. Then the tither or the denomination must take the tenth of the spoils captured from the loosing congregation and give it to Jesus. Now that is absurd because the argument is out of context and so is using Abram’s tithing example out of context for the modern cash flow tithe system. Abram’s tithing example before the law does not resemble the tithe under the law and that’s why no believer can follow it. Though the belief has been that tithing came before the law, if you look closely at the scriptures, the reality is the other way around. The law came first as the ten commandments in Exodus chapter 20, then the tithe followed in the statutes of Leviticus 27:30-33 and as an ordinance in Numbers chapter 18.

Let me make myself perfectly clear. If a person freely and willingly gives a percentage of their income as a personal decision based on grace and not out of fear of a curse ripped from a scriptural text with an implied new meaning, they are free to do so. But as soon as giving is called a tithe that’s mandated, forced or becomes a requirement based on Malachi chapter three or Matthew chapter 23 or some other dubious implied command from the Bible, it represents poor hermeneutics and sloppy exegesis. Tithe teachers who hold Malachi 3 to the heads of God’s people like a 357 magnum and pull the trigger with a curse upon them have committed the greatest betrayal of GRACE and the work of Christ on the cross that almost rivals Judas’ betrayal of Christ with a kiss. Of everything I’ve witnessed over thirty years, no one has ever been able to explain why there are ghettos and inner cities still full of generations of tithers who remain one paycheck away from the soup kitchen. Ok, I get it. The answer has always been they did not put their seed in the right place. Saying we’ve been blessed by tithing does not make it true biblically. We are blessed because of the New Covenant Principles of giving, not paying tithes. None of the epistles or letters written by the Apostles instructed or exhorted New Covenant believers to tithe, not as a law, a principle or even as a voluntary practice.

In the Old Testament, tithing is compulsory and does not translate to grace giving under the New Covenant. The tithe teachers throughout history have taught tithing on a weak foundation of proof text methodology. By definition, a proof text is a verse or short passage from the Bible used by someone as part of his or her accurate proof for a particular doctrinal belief they wish to substantiate to others. Over 30 years, I’ve heard many tithing sermons. Some of them were nothing more than slick fundraising techniques where scriptures are extracted from the Bible with the intent justify mandatory ten percent giving. However, since verses and passages may rely extensively on the context in which they appear for correct interpretation, pulling these verses out their context and having them stand alone in “proof” can at times be very misleading. A set of such proof texts can completely ignore other passages, which if inserted back into the mix, can lead to a totally different conclusion. Someone who relies on a list of proof texts from scripture to make a doctrinal argument stick has a very weak case for that argument.

In theological circles, a religious teacher who relies heavily on proof texting is viewed as very negative in evaluation. For example, after reading and examining the whole book Malachi in its context and the infamous verse in Malachi 3:10 that’s used by many to support tithing, I realized that Malachi is not talking to or suggesting any Gentile or New Covenant believer to tithe, but verse 10 speaks only to certain Israelites in the promise land. Even if tithing was actually commanded in the New Covenant (which it is not), how can anyone teach 10 percent and not teach the other tithing requirements outlined under the Law. I bet no leader in today’s church would demand 22 percent or more of people’s income and then ask for a freewill offering to boot. In fact, if we follow this logic, to obey any part of the law and not do all of it, you are guilty and accountable for all it. For tithe teachers to prove a doctrinal tithing requirement, proof text methodology is essential because it allows them to ignore the context of the whole book or chapter.

According to the Jewish Mishnah and the Talmud writers, tithes were always defined as everything eatable (food), and everything that was stored up or that grew out of the earth. In the Old Testament money was not a titheable commodity only crops, produce, and cattle. For 1600 years after the tithe was established, it remained a food item up to Mat 23:23 of Jesus’ time. And upon careful examination, the Pharisees through oral law extended the tithe of the Mosaic Law in the Talmud to include spices of anise, cumin, and mint, which was never a part of the original Law of Moses or the first five books of the Bible.

Biblical and secular history on this subject is replete with examples of the tithing wars among Christian leaders that have raged over the centuries. For example, biblical history tells us that the reformer Martin Luther stood for salvation by grace and was against confessing sin to a human priest but only to Christ. We hail him for his conviction, but we pass over, ignore and fail to declare the whole counsel about the man’s tithing beliefs and that he preached against tithing way back in a sermon on August 27, 1525. The sermon title was, “How Christians Should Regard Moses.”

You did agree that since the New Covenant standards are higher than the Old Covenant and if you ever accepted grace giving, the minimum standard would be ten percent at the start. In the final analysis, I would have to reject that notion as incorrect because after Calvary there is no biblical text to support any exact percentage as a starting point in the New Testament. The principle of interpreting New Covenant giving starting at ten percent sounds good, but it is pure assumption and nonsense. The New Covenant is filled with “free-will" giving principles only. Because of that, giving could range from 0 to 100 percent based on what a person has, not what a person does not have and not under compulsion or reluctantly but by ability and by the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

After thirty years of tithing, my heart aches at the carnage of mixed messages the tithe teaching community has left behind and the many shattered lives and new converts who will be damaged by this graceless teaching in the future. As I continue in the search for truth, I submit this resignation with no malice because I know that tithe teachers need forgiveness too for they know not what they do. For we all are in need of the Grace of God when disputes arise.

It is my prayer and honest desire that a real conversation happens when this book is read. One thing that might come from the truth is that people discover they never robbed God, but in fact they may have been robbed of the truth concerning the financial freedom to give from the heart. In fact, the blessing of Abraham and your inheritance comes through faith, not through the ordinance of tithing. Romans 4:13 makes this fact clear, For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. The promise was not based on tithing but based on faith alone and based on YHWH’s purposes, which already declares us blessed as it states in Galatians 3:9 and Ephesians 1:3. To that end, every believer who is concerned about the financial future of their family must never forget the words of Paul in 2 Tim 2:15, when he said, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (KJV). And we must always search the scriptures as he states in Acts 17:11 that you may personally know the truth about tithing and every other biblical subject. Never swallow anyone hook, line or sinker.

Author Isabel Allende on "The Wind Knows My Name"

Chilean-born author Isabel Allende has written more than two dozen books that have been translated into some 40 languages. The 80-year-old Allende, whose latest novel is "The Wind Knows My Name," talks with correspondent Rita Braver about her tumultuous family history, which inspired her stories' passionate and courageous characters; how her 1982 bestseller "House of the Spirits" changed her life; and about her foundation, which supports groups trying to help young girls at risk around the world.

Writing? A Mental Condition?

Writing—this desire to communicate one’s insights to strangers—borders on a mental condition. Only by words do they know you. A reader tries on your thoughts to test if they fit. The reader’s imagination hems the words, sometimes altering their meanings, to adjust the story to their world of perception.

Thousands of invisible Emily Dickinsons exist. Like her, they nightly roll their poem-pearls up and tie them in scrolls with blue ribbons and tuck them away in an ancient bureau for happenstance to discover someday-metaphorically speaking. Or maybe in this Age of the Internet, these souls spill their secrets, unloading them prematurely on a “cyber chest” to millions instead of buffing those stones, making them parables with meaning. Anonymous scribes blog, using the web as a confessional dump but never publish to be paid. Or they tweet!

The obsessed author is the shoe-in-the-door salesman pounding on every portal searching a customer willing to ogle his wares. Me, I don’t paint pictures on a cave’s wall and wish that someday boys playing will discover them and proclaim: “This caveman or cave dweller had a narrative to tell. Who’d have thunk it?” Too many objects d’art remain lost to the world because their creators didn’t seek an audience. Persist. Lincoln once wrote: “The world will little remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Au contraire. It’s the phrases, the elegant ones that remain and remind future generations of historic sacrifice. Without the words, one forgets the heroics. Amazing sentences are signposts to the deeds of history. Let your thoughts be fruitful and multiply. Shout them from the rooftops! What if Moses hadn’t revealed what was writ on God’s tablets?

It’s a dilemma for a writer, having an obsession which makes her feel, tell, reveal, and yet not want to proclaim, market, publicize. No writer wants to emulate Hester Prynne and mount the scaffold and stand there with her baby (her opus) for all to snicker about: So that’s what she’s been doing in her discretionary time, the gossips tweet. Yet, the truths revealed in a finely crafted story shouldn’t be kept under lock and key in one’s private art collection or overflowing drawer. The persistence to declare one’s own universal truths must take precedence over one’s reluctance to let the world stare at one’s obsessive-compulsive ritual of writing out one’s life. If you’re modest, fearful, or shy, find a pseudonym. Admiral Farragut said, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Let us writers rephrase the sailor’s edict: Damn the rejections, damn the critics, damn the self-doubting, full speed ahead! Use a stealthy pen name, then, and dodge under the radar of the flame throwers.

Why? Why write? Well, I read an email posted to a group of writers where the newbie fretted about telling of her bouts with mental illness and divulging too much of her diagnosis. Many in this writerly group advised her not to give up when an editor told her to avoid spelling out what exactly she suffered from. The consensus was to continue to pen about mental illness, using a fake name if she feared repercussions or a stigma associated with her byline. She feared becoming labelled as the gal who copes with “such and such.”

Yet, many classics have been scribed by folks who have dealt with overwhelming mental issues. Instinctively, you can rattle off the names: Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolfe, Hans Christian Anderson. If you add to these authors the names of musical composers, artists, actors, dancers, and other creative types, one may wonder if any person who taps into his imagination isn’t destined to be more afflicted than the regular Joe who grows up to be a plumber, a business manager, an accountant, or a salesman.

Perhaps sensitive souls are more attuned to the world around them to observe, feel, and record what they see and maybe feel more intensely than the usual Tom, Dick, or Karen? Yet, is that true? I think artistic types can suffer from anxiety, neuroses, phobias, and dreaded psychoses, but so can folks who follow more mundane vocations where their names only appear in the dated yellow pages or discarded phone books; they have no bylines and their moniker doesn’t decorate the spine of any novel.

In ways, I understand why therapists tell folks to write down their stories. Sometimes, one doesn’t know how one feels until it’s put down in black letters on white paper. Then, you read it back to yourself and exclaim, “Aha, that is what I think, after all.” Things gel when you give voice to them on paper more than they do when you orally converse. If you are prone to daydreaming, then you may be adept at creating a new world or taking an old one and giving it a fresh twist by composing fiction. After indulging in reverie instead of repeating your ruminations to someone, write them down in a story, a poem, or …a tome.

To me, writing is a type of mental condition. It’s like yoga, meditation, or prayer. You still yourself to understand, for a little while, what you’re thinking about your life or the lives of others or the world’s life. It’s an exercise in uncomplicating life. Writing is therapeutic. It’s a means of putting things in perspective while creating something— maybe of beauty, maybe memorable, and, at the least, something that builds your confidence and perhaps makes a connection for you with the world now or the world’s offspring of the future.

Yes, writing is a mental condition. It’s something that fulfills one. If exercise is good for one’s body, health, and mind then writing is good for one’s intellect, equanimity, and personality. Personality? Yes. Definitely. Writers always have stories to tell so long as they don’t tell everything. Create a bit of mystery. Or if that is not in your wheelhouse, give them an insight they’ll remember like quoting Warren Buffet: “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” Like getting your body toned at a gym takes time, writing takes time. No one wants a flabby body; ergo one seeks to condition it. Even if you never sell your writing or see it published anywhere, your brain has benefitted from your scribbling conditioning. Your personality, too.

Why Do I Write Like I'm Running Out of Time?

On the day the dental specialist told me I had cancer, I started a blog. It was the only response that made any sense to me – to put down words, to document it all. It was the easiest way to keep everyone updated, but more importantly, it felt like the only way I could take control of my own narrative. It was my opportunity to show people how to approach my illness: with honesty, compassion, and humour.

I don’t have enough fingers to count the times I’ve been asked if writing was therapy. I have a therapist for that, and I wouldn’t use my friends, family, or the Internet for that purpose. But writing does help me make sense of the world. The act of getting thoughts out of our heads creates both a closeness and a distance that allows us space to heal.

Cancer has a way of finding whatever is closest to your identity and taking it away from you. It keeps taking chunks of my face – my jaw, my bones, my teeth, and now my eye. I’m losing parts I’ve relied on my whole life. It’s also taken away my ability to sing, something that is part of my very essence. Perhaps one day I will be able to sing again; after reconstruction, after temporary measures are made more permanent. But for now, my written word is how I cling to the identity that keeps being taken away.

My oldest friend lives on the other side of the world. Through Covid, we started a new tradition – assigning each other a song every Monday and by Sunday we’d send back a short story inspired by it. Each week, we felt safe to explore new things that we’d never have the courage to do were it not with an old, trusted friend. It helped her through the struggles of navigating a new life with a small human expecting her constant attention. It helped me through the days of recovering from surgery, alone in my flat during a pandemic. Through sharing our words, we held each other close. Everyone has around 25,000 genes, but our genetic code only differs by about 1 percent from that of the person next to us. I think we get closer to realising this through writing.

I write in cafes and pubs, on trains and buses. Sometimes people ask me what I’m writing. Others tell me they’re writers too, or that they want to be. I write in the bath with my purple fountain pen with purple ink that has occasionally fallen in. I’ve written in gigs, reviewing the band with my little black notebook clutched in my hands in the dark. I’ve interviewed my musical heroes and written up their words. I’ve used far too many adverbs, adjectives and superlatives. But I absolutely have learned to write better now (mostly). I’ve had men come and write their numbers in my notebook. I’d draw a cloud or a tree or some sort of shape with jagged edges around them and never call.

I write like I’m running out of time.

Because it feels like I am.

It’s a cliché to say that our written words are a legacy, but they are part of me that I can leave behind. If I don’t leave some trace of myself in this world, how could anyone know I was even here at all? Long after the last person remembers how I made them feel, long after my parent’s tears dry up if their only daughter dies before they do, long after my friends stop going to message me only to realise I’m no longer there.

I haven’t stopped trying to write messages to my best mate who died earlier this year. When my phone died and I lost all my messages, I lost the last tangible connection I had with her. I could no longer flick back and look at the things she’d written to me – the time she said we’d be living together in our 80s, with a penchant for young men and old whisky. The time she told me to find a way to get back from where I was stranded in Australia because she was dying. I know she exists in my memories, but I wish I had something more: the recording of her voice on old voicenotes, the ability to read back over what she wrote.

I recently found the cassette tapes my parents had made of my Pop talking about his time on mining ships in the war. He died many years ago at an impressive 90 years-old, but his words are still there to be written down and shared. I am slowly making my way through them. I had almost forgotten his accent – a strange mix of New Zealand and Geordie, which can be attributed to a 6-week, one way boat trip from England to New Zealand when my father was 5. By deciding to leave England, my grandparents never saw their parents again. They existed only in letters; words scrawled on a piece of blue paper that folded up neatly into an envelope and made its way back across the sea that they couldn’t.

In my Pop’s words are lessons that the world should learn from. We need to write about the past to learn for the future. So that we don’t make the same mistakes again, so that as a society we can move forward and progress.

I write like I’m running out of time because there are still so many words I need to get down, so many thoughts to document, so many more things I want to say. I don’t think I’ll ever be finished, but that’s the beauty of it all – we never reach the end. It never dries up, we never run out of things to write. This is our gift: to each other, to ourselves, to the world. To let out the words that swirl inside us, and never, ever, stop.

How to Create a Problem and How to Undo It: The End of Chasing Answers

There is a video depicting a twelve-year-old girl suffering from a “Habit Cough” – a chronic condition in which the patient has an illness that involves coughing, but once the illness goes away the cough persists. For this young girl, her coughing was so constant she had to stop going to school. The video shows her working with a doctor using Suggestion Therapy. He explains there is no physiological reason for the cough – it’s more of an automatic response or reaction. He teaches her how to take control of the cough by showing her she can resist it for a few minutes at first, and then walking her through adding a minute at a time. She is to take deep, slow breaths and sip water when the impulse to cough comes. He tells her she has to concentrate; it’s the only way for her to gain control.

The girl inadvertently created a problem by habitually reacting to a feeling (in her throat). In our day-to-day lives, our reactions to things can create the same kind of effect and the same similar oppressive patterns that keep us feeling stuck. The areas in which we feel out of control have to do with us habitually reacting to our feelings, which is not the same as allowing ourselves to feel them.

The doctor teaches her to be aware of what she’s feeling, to slow down her response, to keep her mind from wandering. When our minds wander, we leave our responses on autopilot and the power of our focus becomes out of our conscious control. She doesn’t try to hold back the sensation, she pauses her reaction (coughing) to the sensation. The girl deconstructs her problem by letting the sensation be – that’s where the deep breaths come in. She walks herself out of the pattern of reaction – her only real problem – little by little, by practicing being aware of what she is feeling and her response.

Coughing, in this context, is like chasing an answer. We want the uncomfortable feeling to go away, but chasing the answer – not unlike habitually scratching an itch – creates more problem and we are left perpetually chasing. The doctor teaches her to refuse the impulse to go after the perceived problem. In learning to do this, she regains control and the problem fades.

“There is no limit to your creative power.”

The first step in creating a problem is to negatively judge our experience. Until that moment, we’re just having an experience. When we label something as a problem, it puts our mind in a contracted state, which does not support new ideas or insights. We live all kinds of things: our foot hurts, the toilet won’t flush, our kid resents us; work is hard. It’s understandable that we label these experiences as problems because they’re unwanted. But we don’t have to label them in order to best address them. The more we engage in negative judgment, the more burdened we feel and the harder life becomes. Seeing life through the lens of problem makes us perceive things as problems first; our day-to-day lives become an exercise in management and overcoming, rather than in expression, engagement, and creativity.

After the birth of my first child, I had a miscarriage. This unviable pregnancy became my main focus. It wasn’t just something that had happened, it was something to prevent from happening again, and something I feared might mean I would never have another child. My mind fixated. The subject was like a box, the contents of which I kept emptying and examining. The facts of the event had no power to help me. The baby idea was a creative project that didn’t work out; what I needed was to remember my power to create. I set up a small space away from everything - to make stuff. At the time, I was interested in stop-motion animation and took to building tiny furniture and a room with windows that opened and closed. I imagined a world and started feeling my strength again. I deconstructed the problem by purposefully using my focus and remembering my ability to create.

The curative factor in every problem is optimism. And authentic optimism only comes when we’re aware of our creative ability – because that’s our power. When we deliberately use and witness our creativity, regardless of what we make, we engage with life rather than trying to solve it. We stop the habitual reactions and start paying attention. We take those slow, deep breaths and allow ourselves to let the difficult moments pass and reclaim our ability to create what we want.

How to Write a Novel in 10 Minutes

A novel is long. It takes an average of 10 hours to finish reading a novel, so it would make sense that it would take over 10 hours to write a novel, but I wrote a novel in 10 minutes.

This isn’t a crazy scheme—or a lie. During the pandemic, I was working up to five writing jobs at a time. I wanted to spend time with my wife, with my baby, walk my dog, and see the light of day, even if only in my front yard. By the end of the day, after putting my daughter to bed, I barely had enough energy to eat dinner, let alone write a novel.

Up until that point, I had been a marathon writer, working on the page for hours at a time. If I didn’t devote at least two hours to writing at a given time, I considered it time wasted, or not enough time to get anything done. If I only had an hour, I would spend most of the time organizing my thoughts, or my workspace, researching random facts that I didn’t actually need, or trying to figure out the right song for the mood I wanted in the scene. Then I’d spend about five minutes staring at the blank page until the hour was up and I could return to ignoring my novel all over again.

Then a friend recommended we write together. She lives in a different city, and we decided that we could pop into a chat at the same time and keep each other accountable for showing up. We tried for an hour, but that timeline puttered out quickly. Then we tried a half hour. We couldn’t keep that stable either. She joined a writing group. The first week they would only write for 10 minutes. She asked if I wanted to try the same idea for the first week—a simple premise; write every day for 10 minutes a day. That was it. She showed up for 10 minutes for her writing group and another 10 minutes with me. I only showed up for our 10-minute sessions.

I took Saturday nights for myself, away from writing, away from thinking about my book. For six nights a week, I wrote for 10 minutes. At first, I didn’t think I would get much on the page. Then the timeline freed me up to write about anything, to forget my inner critic and just write. Instead of worrying about what I was writing, I was worried about the time: running out of it, wasting it. Instead of thinking I only had 10 minutes, I now showed up to work, even if only for 10 minutes.

Sometimes I had a prompt I could dive into immediately. Other times I knew exactly what I would write about. There were days when I just wrote to see how many words I could get on the page before time ran out, days when I challenged myself to complete an entire chapter in 10 minutes, days when I wrote just about characterization, and times when I explored setting, dug deeper into the tone of the story, and an entire week of 10-minute writing sessions when I just moved chapters around and looked at where they fit best within the larger plot structure.

The six steps you can use to write a novel in 10 minutes include:

  1. Use a timer – don’t just look at the clock and think you will stop 10 minutes from that time. You will waste seconds looking at the clock wondering if you had hit your limit yet. A timer will sound when your session is over, and you don’t need to think about it after you hit start.

  2. Use a prompt to get you started – If you don’t already have a novel in progress, or even if you do, a prompt can kickstart you’re writing because it gives you an idea to immediately work with, even if it has nothing to do with your novel initially. I used thematic prompts, I used circumstantial prompts, I even used a sci-fi prompt when I was writing about World War II, occupied Paris. I made it work. And those prompts that didn’t result in full chapters included inside the complete novel, still gave me scenes, sections, or ideas that I used elsewhere within the story. Nothing was wasted.

  3. Choose the prompt at random – Choosing the prompt should not take hours; it shouldn’t even take 10 minutes in itself. If you nitpick your prompt, you are procrastinating. By choosing one at random, you aren’t wasting time on an element that doesn’t actually matter. What matters is the task of writing.

  4. Challenge yourself – You can gamify your own writing. Find a time to write for 10 minutes at any time of day. Keep your streak going or challenge yourself to write 1,000 words in the 10 minutes. Find a challenge that both excites and scares you, one that is not too easily reached but is also not too farfetched. No one would actually believe if you wrote an entire novel in only one 10-minute session.

  5. Find what works for you – 10 minutes worked for me but maybe only five minutes works for you. Perhaps you have more time and can devote 20 minutes to writing each day. I had very little energy or mental focus left by the end of my day to sit at my chair for longer than 10 minutes. I enjoyed what I wrote and felt re-energized after each session completed. The most important thing about those 10 minutes across six days was that it worked for me and my schedule. I could make time for 10 minutes.

  6. Start immediately – Don’t wait until you find time. Don’t wait to start on a Monday. Start the day you read this, perhaps after you finish reading or later that night. Just like staring at a blank page, the longer you put off starting, the larger the task will feel or the more indifferent you will become.

It may sound hyperbolic when I say that I wrote a novel in 10 minutes but in reality, 10-minute writing sessions completely changed how I write and how I perceive showing up to write. I no longer demand hours at a time; instead, I suck every ounce of opportunity out of each second. It’s easy to scoff at the idea, to think that 10 minutes is not enough but then you take the challenge.

Ten minutes is more than enough time to write a novel, take a picture, share a story, soak up the sun, stand in the sunlight, or create a world. Ten minutes is all I need.

Gwen W Segal describes how one cat, Jim, inspired her to start a fund to help animals and the selfless people how many times go broke trying to fix a broken system that creates unwanted kittens and puppies every year.

Elevate Your Writing Journey with WriteZenith

In today's digital age, a plethora of platforms cater to various niches, from tech enthusiasts to culinary wizards. Yet, for writers and publishers, finding a comprehensive and dedicated platform can be a daunting task. Enter: – a beacon for all things writing and publishing.

A Glimpse into WriteZenith

Originating as an ambitious project to empower writers, WriteZenith has evolved into a thriving hub for literary enthusiasts, budding authors, and seasoned publishers. Here's why it stands out in the crowded virtual cosmos:

  1. Complimentary Book Listing: Visibility is paramount for new authors. At WriteZenith, the free book listing initiative ensures authors receive the recognition they deserve. Showcase your masterpiece to an eager audience and watch it gain traction!

  2. An Arsenal of Writing Resources: Every writer, irrespective of their expertise, occasionally faces the dreaded writer's block. WriteZenith's extensive library of resources offers creative prompts, technical guidelines, and motivational pieces to reignite your passion.

  3. Demystifying Book Publishing: The world of publishing can be enigmatic. With WriteZenith's trove of expert advice and industry insights, transitioning from a manuscript to a published book becomes an exhilarating journey instead of an intimidating chore.

  4. Curated Writing Opportunities: Aspiring to make a career out of your passion? WriteZenith's repository of writing jobs ensures you don't have to scour the internet. From freelance gigs to full-time roles, there's a match for every writer.

  5. Skill Enhancement with Writing Courses: The world of literature is vast and ever-evolving. Stay ahead of the curve with WriteZenith's curated courses that cater to various genres and skill levels.

Why Choose WriteZenith?

In an era of information overload, it's crucial to find a platform that's both genuine and insightful. WriteZenith isn't just another website; it's a community. It's a space where writers can connect, share, and grow. Every feature, every article, and every listing is tailored, keeping in mind the unique challenges and aspirations of writers.

Moreover, WriteZenith understands that writing isn't just a hobby – for many, it's a vocation, a calling. This platform respects and nurtures this sentiment, making it an indispensable tool in a writer's toolkit.

Whether you're a novice, dabbling with the idea of writing your first piece, or a seasoned author scouting for publishing tips, WriteZenith welcomes you with open arms. Experience a realm where words weave magic, stories come alive, and every writer finds a home.

So why wait? Begin your WriteZenith journey today and witness your literary dreams take flight.


Newsletter Subscription

New books, writing advice, technology, and more will make your mailbox happy. Stay calm. We don't spam. © All Rights Reserved -