Pinterest: A Prompter of Procrastination, or Progress?

I’ve been using Pinterest for quite some time now, and was recently asked how I feel about it as a tool for authors. Would I recommend it? Do I think it’s a good idea? What benefits does it have? What about negatives? Are there reasons writers shouldn’t use Pinterest?

A lot of the answers to these questions depend. They depend on what type of writer you are. There are certainly things to take into consideration when considering whether or not Pinterest would be a good tool for you. What are your tendencies? Are you visual or auditory? Are you well-focused, or do you get easily distracted? Do you need any more excuses for procrastinating your work? The short answer is that I think some authors will find Pinterest more helpful than others, depending on the answers to these questions, and ultimately, you are the only one who can determine whether or not it will benefit you or not.

Personally, my tendencies as a writer are to focus on my plots and, even more so, my characters in extreme detail, to the point of sometimes delving into the miniscule. I’m what I like to call a “micro” author; I look at my stories under the lens of a microscope. Others, who I like to think of as “macro” authors, like to look at their outlines from a birds-eye view. They ask themselves how the plot works, what concept drives it, and what ways it might be improved from a general standpoint. It has been my experience that Pinterest seems to be more suited for the Micro Writer, but I believe it has its purposes for the Macro Writer as well, though they often have a harder time seeing the point in it.  

I also happen to be a very visual person. I like to see what I’m working with, and be able to watch my story come together in front of me. I have a tendency to sometimes obsess over connecting details inside my scenes into an intricate web. I find that when I have visual aids, often in the form of notes, quotes, pictures, and outlines, I make better progress on my projects. On the other hand, my details obsession aside, I generally tend to be pretty well-focused on finishing a project, and don’t often find things like Pinterest to be a distraction, as much as a motivator.

These all come from my personality as a writer, which is why what works for me and what works, or doesn’t work for another person may be completely different. This is a list of my personal pros and cons regarding Pinterest as a tool for authors.

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Pros:

  • Due to my tendency to focus on detail, I find the setup of Pinterest to be of incredible value when trying to keep things straight in my mind. It gives me the ability to storyboard scenes and run scenarios visually, which actually helps to keep my focus clear.
  • I am a character-based writer, through and through. When outlining, 98% of the time, my characters come first. Because of this, I tend to dedicate a lot of my outlining process to developing them into believable, relatable human beings. Due to the immense amounts of detail that I put into this development, Pinterest has proved to be a great help in visualizing my characters as humans, rather than cardboard cutouts.
  • Also, because of this detailed focus, I often struggle with the broader arts of writing, such as worldbuilding, and overall plot development. I’ve found that the organization of Pinterest helps me to work on those aspects in a manner that suits my style and tendencies. It is also a great benefit to me personally to be able to see my world in pictures. It’s part of what helps to make that jump from concept to reality in my mind; a reality that I can then put into a novel.
  • Despite the obvious distraction hazard, I have found Pinterest to be a good motivator. When I see my unfinished works sitting on my computer screen in a bunch of photographed fragments, it gives me the desire to bring those pictures to life. There are days when I’ll browse my story boards on Pinterest for a few minutes before sitting down to write, just to give myself a fresh burst of motivation. A fresh look at my world and characters.  

Cons:

  • Although I am not easily distracted, Pinterest can become an easy excuse for any writer to use to escape the task of writing. I know I’m not the only author to feel lazy and apathetic towards my current project, log on to Pinterest, and say, “Well, I’m just looking for motivation”, when really, I’m tired and I feel like looking at pictures, occasionally even unrelated to my novel at all. I think this is especially a danger to Micro Writers, like me, who get hung up in the details. This may seem a direct contradiction to the last point in the “Pros” section, but it’s not. Pinterest is a fantastic tool for gathering and visualizing those details, and yes, even getting motivated, (and this is nothing against hard days; we all have ‘em), but reality is still that pinning pictures doesn’t write you a novel.
  • Time. It’s easy to spend way too much time immersing one’s self in your story world once it’s visible. It’s all too easy to log in and think, “Oh, I’m just looking for one picture of this character, and then I’ll be ready to get to work”, and then, two hours and thirty pictures of said character later, you realize that, despite your new arsenal of photos, you’ve still got a blank Word document in front of you.

Overall, from my personal experience, I would say that Pinterest has provided me more benefits than hindrances, but I think that if you plan on using it as a tool for writing, it needs to be well-managed. As I mentioned in the “Cons”, it’s easy for this to become an excuse for procrastination, rather than a prompter of progress. As a writer who uses it, I have experienced both. But, when wielded with purpose, direction, and a dash of self-control, Pinterest is definitely a tool that I would recommend for other authors. 

Why Do Writers Take Such Long Showers?

What? You’re seriously asking this? Though it’s hardly a surprise, because you’ve all wondered it at some point. I know; it’s just one of the great mysteries of life. But lucky for you, I’m here to shed some light on this enigma of why writers take long showers.

 Well, the short answer is that the shower is the place where we can display our insanity to the fullest extent without disturbing those around us.

 The long answer is when we try to explain to others what that means.

 And of course, even after we do explain it, our only response is generally the classic look of “I’m-Sorry-But-I-Have-Absolutely-No-Comprehension-Of-What-You-Just-Said.” In other words, they stare at us like we just came in on the last shuttle from Mars.

 Further explanation usually doesn’t help. Because, the truth is, we didn’t just get back from Mars. In fact, we’ve probably just arrived from even more…exotic.

 Truth be told, the shower is another world. It is only possible to realize the fullness of this statement in the event that you enter the mind of a writer as they are drawing back the curtain. So really, unless you are of the race of insanity as well, you will likely never understand this phenomenon.

 Some people sing in the shower. A LOT of people sing in the shower. Why?

 Well, if you’re one of them, you know EXACTLY why you do it. Nobody hears you. Or that’s what you think. But they don’t see you, and so don’t know that you were actually holding an imaginary microphone the entire time. Yep. We all know that’s what really goes on.

 There are also people who talk in the shower. Some talk to themselves, or role-play conversations with other people.

 Don’t laugh. You know you’ve done it.

 And there are still others who spend the whole time discussing highly important matters of plot, state, and diplomacy with people of the imaginary realm.

 These are the writers.

 Yes, folks, it’s true. The undertone mumblings you hear coming from the bathroom when the writer is taking a shower is not when they’re giving themselves a pep-talk. They may be giving a pep-talk, but the likelihood is far grater that they are speaking to a misbehaving character. Often, when this happens, the author will try to puzzle out why said character is acting this way. This sometimes includes a variety of odd processes, such as conducting an interrogation, dishing out threats, or just acting the scene out yourself.

 That last one is very popular.

 Aaaaand this is when we get The Look.

 You see, to the casual passerby, when they hear a thud in the bathroom, they’ll just naturally assume we dropped the shampoo on the floor. What they don’t realize is that we were actually punching the wall.

 So if you ever see a CAUTION sign on the bathroom door while someone is in the shower, don’t question it.

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 How many of you have ever wondered what would happen if showers were BIGGER?

 All the writers out there are probably thinking, “That would be awesome. My world would expand!”

 All the other people are probably thinking, “Oh sure, that’s just what they need. I can just see our water bills skyrocketing.” And then they do a headdesk.

 But, what would you see if this really did happen?

 Well, longer showers for sure. But this expansion would probably also include a lot more thudding against walls.

 With plastic weapons.

 It is at this point where people begin to back away in terror. Like, “Lord have mercy! Everybody, stay away from the bathroom for about an hour! So-and-so is in the shower and something might explode.”

 You may be thinking, “Gee, an hour sure does seem like a long time.”

 Well, I can just about guarantee you that we’re thinking the opposite. “What? I only have an hour? I was going to deal with my villain today! Do you have any concept at all of how long that will take?!”

 Well, to be honest, as writers, we can pack a lot into that hour. Seriously.

 This is why you sometimes hear frenzied thudding and scrambling coming from the other side of the bathroom door followed by remarks of, “Well, it sounds like so-and-so’s villain is giving them some trouble. Listen to all that banging around.”

 A good rule to remember is this: Never ask a writer how they got that random bruise on their shoulder.

 Since the chances are good that we’ve been practicing our fight skills, you would also be well-advised to reconsider ever doing the old pour-cold-water-over-the-shower-curtain trick when the author is on the other side.  You never know when you might get clubbed in the head with a bottle of shampoo that was doubling as a sword two seconds ago.  

 So ladies and gentlemen, there you have it; the long answer to the long-pondered question, “Why do writers take such long showers?”

 The short answer? Just…don’t ask.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 [A Dreaming Hobbit Review]

*WARNING: Contains spoilers. Proceed at own risk.*

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My younger sister turned 16 today, and for her birthday we went to the theaters to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Our whole family really enjoyed the first movie, and we were excited to see the second one. As a writer, I’m always a bit wary of sequels, because, more often than not, they end up trying too hard to be “bigger and better” than the first one, and therefore lose a lot of their believability as a story. However, I thought that Spiderman did a good job, though it did have a bit more “over-the-top” action than the first one did, so it wasn’t completely exempt from the “sequel trap.”

Peter Parker, or more famously, Spiderman, is my favorite superhero. There’s something different about him; something that sets him apart from others that I have seen. Of all the superheroes I have been exposed to, Peter feels the most human and the most relatable, despite the fact that he has incredible powers. (I mean, let’s be honest, there’s nothing relatable about shooting webbing from your wrists.) There’s an audience/character bond there that I don’t feel with other characters of his nature.

Who is Peter Parker? The most obvious answer, and the one that most people will probably give you is that he’s Spiderman. But he’s more than that. Inside the character of Peter Parker, we see a normal high school kid. He’s a bit quirky and on the quiet side, and we see why. He’s had a difficult life, and lots of pain that he isn’t sure how to deal with. We see a boy whose parents have left him, and he struggles with his past. In him, we see a human; someone who has hurts, fears, dreams, desires, frustrations, successes, and needs just like everyone else. 

Unlike some other superhero characters, we see that Peter needs others. Not necessarily physically, because after all, he is Spidey, but he has an emotional need for other people; for their support, their care, their friendship, their love. In his character, we see a need to belong; a need to feel secure. His real power, as a character, comes not out of his amazing web-shooting capabilities and being a great skydiver, but out of his humanity. And I can really agree with his girlfriend, Gwen Stacey, when she says, “You’re Spiderman, and I love that. But I love Peter Parker more.”

This was one of my biggest concerns going into the theater; that the humanity which Peter displayed in the first film would be lost amidst the action of the second. It was to my great relief to discover that this was not the case. Everything I loved about Peter Parker held true in the second movie. (And there was much rejoicing.)

Characters:

One thing I have noticed about the majority of superhero movies is a lack of development in any characters besides the MC (and sometimes even in them as well). It seems like 98% of the supporting characters are there for the sake of merely existing, or to be a plot device of some sort.  After all, the movie is all about action, right? But in both of the Spiderman movies, one of the things that shines bright in setting them apart are the relationships between the characters. In both the first and the second film, we see that Peter has real relationships with real people, which gives him a real life outside of his superheroness. This is especially true of his relationship with Gwen Stacey.

In every superhero movie I have seen, the love interest/romantic subplot has been nothing more than a plot device; a relationship forced into the story for some ulterior motive. The love interest merely exists to raise the stakes for the hero, which cheapens the whole relationship to a number on the list of things he has to lose. But in the case of Peter and Gwen, we see a relationship that precedes Peter becoming Spiderman. They’re classmates, they know each other, and there’s some mutual attraction going on. This was not a manufactured relationship; it was natural, and because of that, it is one of the most genuine relationships I have seen in fiction.

The realness of Peter’s relationship with Gwen automatically causes the stakes to rise, due to the very fact that that is not why she exists. Gwen has her own part to play in the story, and without her, Peter would’ve been sunk in both films. It is this aspect that makes Gwen’s death in the second movie so heartbreaking. We feel the effects of her death so strongly because of the depth with which Peter cared for her; the genuineness of their relationship. If she were a plot device, there’s about a 90% chance that she wouldn’t have made it through the first film. One of, if not the strongest points in The Amazing Spider-Man’s is the characters.

Plot:

The first Spidey flick had a very well-written plot, and the second one held pretty high as well. The tie-ins made to the first movie were spectacular, and well-placed—especially when it came to Peter’s parents. Overall, the plot had one weak point that I could see, and that was the villains.

Max Dillon starts out as a very unassuming character who seems a little off. He’s kind of in his own world, not taking anything terribly seriously. He feels secluded, and wishes people would take more notice of him. Then he meets Spiderman, and his life changes. Spiderman saves his life, and so as he sees it, he is indebted to him. We see shortly after that he has basically become a Spiderman fanatic who wants to see all these good things about Peter make the front page of the news.

When Max gets bitten by a bunch of electric eels, he virtually turns into a mass of walking electricity. At first, he isn’t sure what to do with his powers, and is rather intimidated by them. He doesn’t intend to harm anyone, but when the police have him surrounded, and he realizes that everyone is finally noticing him, he becomes even more confused. Peter comes in and tries to help him control his power, but somewhere alone the line, Max becomes convinced that Peter lied to him, and then boom – he hates him and wants to kill him.

The other villain, Harry Osborn, is a long-time friend of Peter’s from his childhood. Harry’s father has died, leaving him in control of OSCORP, the base of scientific research in New York. However, Harry suffers from the same disease that killed his father, and he wants a cure. At first, he is quite enamored with Spiderman as well, and doesn’t realize that he’s an old friend. Somehow, he learns that the DNA from the spiders allows for self-healing, and becomes obsessed with getting Spiderman’s blood to cure himself, because all research by Doctor Connors (the villain from the first film) has been destroyed, including the radioactive spiders.

But there’s a catch here; Peter’s father, Dr. Richard Parker mixed only his own DNA with the spiders’ in order to prevent their widespread use (a brilliant twist), after realizing what he had created. Their power would die with him or be limited to his line. Peter refuses his blood in order to protect his friend’s life, and this is when Harry turns vicious, suddenly going from someone who’s glad to have been reconnected to his best friend after eight years, to someone who’s loathsome of even seeing him. He’s essentially put a price on Spiderman’s head, and nothing changes when he learns that this guy is his best friend. So he steals his girlfriend and kills her to get back at him.

This is the biggest problem I saw in the film; the ease with which the villains turned against someone they had previously admired, looked up to, and cared about. Their motivation here, particularly Harry’s, seemed more a plot device than anything. It seemed to be fulfilling the need for a villain, rather than believability.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a fantastic film. Just as with the first one, it tells a wonderful story with great characters and real emotions. Definitely a movie worth seeing.

7 Benefits of Writing Fiction

I’ve heard it said that stories aren’t important, and that being an author isn’t a worthy aspiration in life. Skeptics have said that storytelling and imagining is a waste of time. Dreams and desires to imagine and create aren’t beneficial to your life, and much less to your future. Fantasy is just a stupid illusion, and in no way practical. I’m guessing I am not the only one to have heard things like this, and if you have, let this post be an encouragement to you.

These statements are not true. I know so many aspiring authors who show beautiful talent. It’s discouraging to be told that your talents and how you choose to use them are “a waste”, or “unworthy.” The idea that using storytelling and using your imagination isn’t beneficial or worth pursuing is a lie. I’m here to share with you some of the many ways that being a writer is in fact a wonderfully brilliant and worthy goal.

  1. Stories Make a Difference

“It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding onto something.” – Samwise Gamgee, The Two Towers (J.R.R Tolkien)

This is a fantastic example of the benefit of fiction. Stories are inspiring. They show us that there are some things in this world that are worth holding onto, and fighting for. They use made-up characters to demonstrate to us the worth of believing in something. Stories make a difference, and so do the people who write them. In the words of another teenage writer:

“I want to be remembered as someone who was known for the good and great things they did with their life, and not forgotten for the OK things I occasionally do.” – Lela

Many young people want to make a difference, but aren’t certain how to do it. As writers, we have a clear shot at this goal, and that alone makes it worth pursuing. To any young writers who are struggling with whether or not your story will make a difference; it can. In the words of Christina: “If you write something, no matter what genre or type of story, it has the chance to impact someone. Even if you just show it to one person. They might not say it, but it could help them immensely. Writing also helps you as a person. Imagination and creativity are parts of who you are. If there’s none of that, how different are you from the next person?”

 

If you have a dream to write, or to tell stories and use your creativity in any capacity, don’t let go of it. It is worth something.

 

 

  1. Writing Teaches Valuable Lessons

It is true that storytelling can be one of our best teachers, and not just about the art and craft of writing fiction, but about people; about principles of right and wrong, and about life as a whole. Another of my author friends shares some of the ways this is true for him: “Writing fiction has opened my eyes to how complex God made people. I knew before that people are amazing creations, yet I never dwelt on it much before. … Writing fiction, especially fantasy, has been the single-most useful application of my academic studies. … Plotting out an entire timeline stretching thousands of years gives me a great appreciation for the complexity and importance of history. Same with religion.”

 

The truth is that the skills learned through writing and using your imagination carry over into many, many aspects of life. My very good friend, Matt, puts it this way: “Writing is more than making up a dreamland, it’s more than creating imaginary friends for yourself and your readers. It is also very applicable to every occupation that requires written communication.”

This is something I can personally attest to. The art of crafting fictitious stories has enabled me to write better essays, articles, speeches, etc. It has taught me a great about writing and communication as a whole; not just writing novels or other forms of fiction.

Another brilliant point that Matt brings up is this: “How much information is shared through books? How much do you learn while researching to write a book? The answer is ‘a lot’ in both cases.” This is so very true. I can personally say that I channeled 90% of my high school education towards my passion for writing. I used my love of history to research for historical fiction, and my knowledge of science for practical use in stories. Even if someone doesn’t enjoy a particular academic study, the chance that their view will change through the pursuit of writing is definitely possible, if not probable.

The idea that writing [fiction] is worthless and doesn’t benefit a person in general is a lie.

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  1. It Expands Imagination and Inspires Critical Thinking

I know that, since I began taking my writing seriously, I have delved deeper into the consideration of certain subjects than ever before in my life, such as theology, the way people function and relate to each other, how to present beliefs, and general logic.

I’ve heard it said that using one’s imagination is impractical, but that is absurd. God created us with the ability to create. In the words of Lela, “We have a Great Author, so why not write?” A very good point. In fact, it has been my experience that using my imagination to create made-up people and scenarios helps me to consider reality in a different, more practical light.

“[…] Imagination isn’t bad…. We have creative minds for a reason. It’s not like God gave us the capacity to think creatively on accident. He Himself created a world and all of the characters in it. When we write stories, we reflect God.” – Anna R.

As Anna puts it, God enabled us to use our imaginations for a reason. When you channel your imaginings towards creating a believable and logical story, it allows for that thinking to carry over into the practical purposes of life. Imagining can often challenge you to think critically about things, and to consider subjects on a deeper level. In fact, it inspires it. Both writing and reading challenge us to think outside the box of mundane practicality. Pondering [read: imagining] is a very beneficial gift from God.

  1. Writing Reveals Truth

Every good story is based on conflict. Conflict happens when two people, or parties, or ideas differ. These differences can be between good and evil, two goods, or two evils. Telling stories demonstrates this truth in a way that many things fail to. It shows it in a way that cannot be otherwise explained.

Writing is simply a creative way to show the reasons that these things are true. One young writer puts it like this: “Stories were a big part of my childhood….I was enamored with them, even if I didn’t realize it at first. The heroes and characters did these awesome things and got to go on these awesome adventures that I never had or could have. Now, they help me understand things and confirm my belief of right and wrong. They remind me that the truth and right are actually quite simple.”

 

The beauty of this is expressed in the first sentence, when she states that stories were a major part of her childhood. Storytelling is a wonderful way to communicate truths, not only to adults, but to young children as well.

Jesus himself used parables—stories, to communicate truth to His followers. Why? Because there is a level of understanding that can only be grasped through the use of fiction. Storytelling has a way of putting the truth in a new light. It paints a unique picture that calls for readers to use their imagination as well as their intellect, and those two things, when coupled together, become incredibly powerful.

This entire segment can be summed up in one brilliant quote:

“Fairytales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – G.K. Chesteron

5. Storytelling Adds Perspective

One of the most valuable things that I have obtained from writing fiction is a fresh perspective on life, on people, and on the world in general. Working with made-up characters can give incredible insights into the way that real people work; how they act, what they think, why they do what they do. My ability to understand the complexity of life has been born of my passion for creating stories. And yet at the same time, it makes me appreciate the simple, lesser seen aspects.

One young author I know says, “[… ] I think my characters have helped me learn how to empathize. By getting into their heads, I can understand other people better.” This is something I identify with 100%. Before I began writing, I had far less perspective on how to relate to people who were different than I am. I had a different, more clouded view of how to solve conflicts. Learning how people work in stories of your own creation is one of the most valuable tools to recognizing how they work in everyday life.

Writing has also given me a new perspective on how I work. Just as it has caused me to think more deeply on subjects, it has caused me to realize things about myself that I never knew before. Another quote from a fellow author on this subject is: “It helps me understand myself, because, of course, a bit of myself goes into every fiber of my story and my characters. Sometimes I don’t realize things about me until I see a character do it.” Storytelling calls for the author to delve deeply into themselves to find their stories, because that is what makes them worth telling.

“A reader [or writer] lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

The perspectives gained through crafting and weaving tapestries of fiction are incredibly valuable.

“It helps me to understand people better, and why they act and do the things they do. It teaches that everyone has a story – all of us have worth. It builds communication skills and helps us to think logically, and broadens vocabulary. It has the same benefits you might attribute to putting together puzzles.” – Cnemi

  1. It Provides Freedom

Many young people, particularly teenagers, are often unsure of how to express themselves. The question comes up time and time again, “Does my opinion really matter?” And if it does, who would want to hear it? Writing, and the creating of fictional worlds allows freedom for expression. It’s a place to put feelings, and to sort out beliefs. It’s a place where you can see your mind at work and learn to be who God created you to be. It’s a place where you are free to create.

“Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” – John Adams

Writing frees you to delve deep into the life of a fictional character, to experience adventure, heartache, excitement, failure, and hope through someone else’s eyes when you can’t experience them through your own. As authors, we must be daring, as this quote says. We must dare to use this freedom.

“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

God gave us the gift of words, and the freedom to allow us to use them for His glory. He created, therefore, we create. He gave us the freedom to live a full life that we would never otherwise live.

  1. Writing Provides Purpose and Direction

Along with the struggle for expression, comes another struggle in every person’s life; the struggle for purpose. Some would say that writing is not a noble goal, but that is not the case. In fact, it is not true in the least. Writing is one of the greatest purposes known to man. People who have a passion for storytelling should never have to be told that “it is a waste” of their life.

“Writing is an extreme privilege but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.” – Amy Tan

Writing is a very noble purpose, and people who say otherwise simple don’t understand it. They lack knowledge of the depths and inner-workings of what makes a story powerful, along with the process of creating it. They speak to what they don’t comprehend. Because writing is a gift, just like Amy Tan states in this quote, and a powerful gift at that.

The purpose of writing can be summed up in all seven of these points, and the need for people to do it can be summed up in the words of Kristin, who says, “God gives us all talents to use for His glory….Would He really invent something if it wasn’t important, and if stories were not valuable, would He have written the greatest love story of all time? …. If writing wasn’t valuable, how would we have the Bible?”

She makes an excellent point by saying that God Himself created the purpose for writing. He is the one who made it valuable by providing us with the most incredible story ever told. And if God loves creating, who can say that such a thing is not a noble purpose or goal to strive for?

God created us in His image and to desire to craft stories is natural for many of us. I want this post to encourage writers, both young and old that your passions are not in vain. They are not worthless. They are not wasteful. If this is who God created you to be, your gifts and dreams and desires are precious, and no one can tell you that they mean nothing.

“Books can truly change our lives: the lives of those who read them, the lives of those who write them.” – Lloyd Alexander