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Breaching the Creative Schism

Mending the Schism: Conclusion

We’ve seen a great deal of methods through which we can all reconnect to those stories of ours. Hours upon hours may drift away while you work toward this goal. Perhaps days…maybe even a month or two. It might–it will–seem like an eternity. There will always be days were it just feels like it’s impossible to reestablish that old bond you had with your story. But that’s were we make the greatest mistake.

It’s not impossible, and it never will be. And when you tell yourself that this is the case, all you do is multiply your suffering tenfold.

Our stories can seem like unreachable goals that have been locked deep within the golden cities of heaven. And we, the authors, but mere humans trying to grasp at the stars with desperate hands. Those pearly gates of heaven, wherein lies that perfect version of your story, forever out of your reach. But when the author looks towards the heavens in search of reaching that story, he loses sight of the world that is before him.

The ground might split beneath his feet, buildings might crumble all around him, and the deathly tides of a flood might threaten to drown him! Yet this author is too caught up with his dreams of a heavenly book. One with no flaws, one that is always a thrill to right, and one that he will never lose passion for. All while the world is torn apart.

But what the author is to do is not just to turn their eyes away from the heavens and attend to the matters of the earth. The author may yet look to the sky, but rather than judging the world based on an ideal, he should seek to mold the world that lies before him into as close an image as that of his dream. Bearing the glistening glory of heaven in his mind, he should use it as an inspiration rather than a detractor.

He should fasten the plates of earth that have split under him so that they may near the perfection of the heavens, he should take up the hammer and rebuild those fallen structures brick by brick, and he should build the dams that will prevent future floods with the image of heaven’s security fresh in his mind.

The goal of writing advice should not just be to disillusion the author, nor is it to tell him that his desired work is impossible. For the Creative Schism cracks in both ways, not just by looking toward the ideal.

When you remove the ideal, you crumble the foundation of hope that the author has placed into his own work. You strip away that finish line which marks the end of the race, and all of a sudden writing feels aimless. And aimlessness only serves to perpetuate the Creative Schism.

I hope that if there is anything you can take away from this past series of posts, it’s that that feeling you had when you first started writing can happen to you again. But I won’t tell you to expect an easy journey to get to that point of crossing divide instantly. It’s a treacherous, painful journey, which is why I gave you tools to facilitate it.

You must not look into the darkness of the chasm that stands between you and dread venturing into it. With all of these gifts, your sure to make it out. If not today, then tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, the day after that.

This has been the QuestingAuthor. We have Mended the Schism, my friends.

Posts in the Series:

Mending the Schism I: Partake in a Visual Medium

Mending the Schism II: Read Your Past

Mending the Schism III: It’s not a Lonely Road

Mending the Schism IV: A Song or Two Helps

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Mending the Schism IV: A Song or Two Helps

It’s all fine and dandy to go around and take part in other visual mediums, and it might even help for you to read some of your past chapters, but that doesn’t always help. When you get around to watching films, playing games, or examining art, you might be able to gain inspiration from similar atmosphere and tones from those works, but they’re never really yours. You could get a new perspective on a scene that you are writing just by watching a similar scene in a movie, but this is never a fool-proof method to create scenes that are tailored to your tastes. And while reading your past can cast a light on your capabilities, the most it can do is to renew faith in your WIP.

Yet these limitations are not as bad as they might seem. For most cases of a Creative Schism being formed, I would argue that these are enough to get you back writing. But the

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Imagine this same painting with all the animals dead and the vegetation rotting. That’s the Creative Schism

Creative Schism, as with most diseases, only gets worse the more you ignore it. Before you even know it, the dark chasm that creates a gulf between you and your imagination is suddenly impossible to cross, and the methods I mentioned earlier would be rendered null.

Now before you smash your laptop against a nearby wall, I would exhort you to calm down. This doesn’t mean that the Creative Schism is impossible to cross (It almost never is) it just means that the situation has escalated to a rather tense phase. And tense phases require more elaborate solutions.

You’ll notice a pattern when I speak about Mending the Schism, never once do I mention anything that has to do directly with writing. It’s always about adding on another activity to enhance your writing experience. The closest we’ve ever gotten to me referencing the act of writing was when I advised all of you to read your past chapters, and that’s not as much writing as it is reading.

But bearing that in mind, there is still a certain degree of alienation between the

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(Insert pun about aliens here)

activities that I’ve already listed and whatever scene you may be planning on writing next. One would fool himself into believing that it is impossible to find an activity that directly assists the writing process, and in many respects I can see why someone would come to this conclusion. I mean, who in the world would spend time to craft an add-on specifically designed to a scene that’s bubbling up in your mind? But there’s a problem with this assertion.

It’s entirely bogus.

There is one add-on that can be given to your process that can be tailored directly to your writing. Only one add-on can be customized in whatever way that you wish and arranged to fit anything you’re working on. And that, my friends, is the elusive art of music.

We live in a digital age, and despite pseudo-philosophical teenagers complaining about how we need to get in touch with nature, I’d advise all of you to take advantage of the times we live in. Music is literally anywhere, and not just that. Music is anywhere, in any way, in any length, and in any tone that you wish it to be in the wonderful joyland of the internet. And never has there been a tool so fitting for writers.

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The internet gives you choices, many of which you might regret taking

Think about it, when it comes to music, we can organize it according to our tastes and preferences. We want to hear something sad? Then we’ll go ahead and look up sad music. We want to smile like buffoons? Then we’ll search up the Benny Hill’s theme and wait for wacky hijinks to ensue! And this can be said for any emotion.

As writers, one of the greatest difficulties we have is trying to connect with how the tone of a certain scene should be set. We don’t know what kind of emotion it should have, nor do we know what manner expressions we want to see on our character’s faces. Feelings are such abstract things that we have a hard time placing them down into words. But that’s the wonder in music. It’s just as abstract as feeling, it’s capable of giving you the same response that a feeling would, but it takes no work to immerse yourself in it. It’s all just a matter of making a playlist and…playing it!

Just think about it, there’s one song out there that’s perfect for what you’re trying to convey in your novel. It’s waiting for you to find it.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Mending the Schism, my friends.

 

 

Mending the Schism III: It’s not a Lonely Road

You’ve trekked through this desert as far as your memory can take you. You struggle to recall a time in which you weren’t there, flaming up under a scorching heat with an endless horizon of sand dunes being your only company. Your feet grow heavier with every passing day, your steps leaving a deeper imprint in the sand with each hour you spend on that desert.Libya_5230_Wan_Caza_Dunes_Luca_Galuzzi_2007.jpg

You set off on this journey long ago, and if those loose fragments of memory that have yet to leave you are credible, you knew this would be a long trek from the very beginning. Yet not once did you stop to prepare. Your backpack holds nothing, when within it you could have hauled a month’s worth of perishables to feed you in your travels. Your waterskin empty after you slaked your thirst with it previously. A coating of sweat runs along your forehead. You swipe it off with your free arm.

What could have ever driven you to such folly? You had been so confident and aware of the choices you made in the past, which only serves to confound you with the absurdity of your current task. Beads of sand whip against your eyes when the wind lashes at you, your eyes teary from whenever they lodge themselves in them. How could you have ever done something so foolish? How could you have set yourself up to die?

You sigh.

What does it even matter anymore? You’re out in the middle of nowhere, your stomach is thrashing, your lips dry, and your legs could go numb just at any moment. You’re going to die and all you have left is to keep walking. Where you go? You don’t even have the slightest idea. You might as well have been traveling in circles for the past month! And what have you even been doing all this time? You’ve been alone!

Berghaus_Vulcan.jpgAll of this pain, this entire burden you have upon your shoulders and only your shoulders. Perhaps it would be better if you had suffered with another. Perhaps then…perhaps then…you would have been able to make it through this journey.

The moment comes where your feet give up on you. Your knees crash on the mounds of sand below them, the bare desert searing them with its embrace. You claw your hands into the sand, droplets of tears leave stains when they die on your arms. You would have never known either way. But the curiosity still gnawed at you–it still teased you with all the possibilities if you had gone with another. But even you crumble under your own weight, the last traces of golden sunlight fading away to black…

***

      In order to spare all of you from my typical metaphor of writing being an uphill battle, I’ll introduce you all with a similar, albeit different metaphor. Writing is a Battle of Attrition.

   But what do I mean by this?

   In the Middle Ages, one of the primary ways in which wars were won were through events known as sieges. In a siege, an invading army would surround a castle and cut it off from whatever supplies could make their way in there. Since the defenders of a castle had such an advantage should the attackers wish to raid it, the idea was that the attackers would make the defenders starve until they handed the castle over to the enemy.

   But a siege conducted by an army of 100 would not be able to take a castle manned by the same number. With all the time that the soldiers had to spend out in the field,

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Your Novel is the castle’s defender. You’re all the poor sods that have to attack it.

many would die due to outbreaks in camp or assaults from bands of enemies. As a result, should one wish to directly attack a castle they needed more than even twice the amount of warriors guarding it. The point is, that a siege did not require a small army, but rather, a massive one.

   And I find that this image is apt for explaining one of the most crucial aspects of the writing process. The sheer loneliness that comes with this hobby can be unbearable to people. Sure, a goodly portion of writers take comfort in their status as eccentric freaks, but even they long for company to read their works. Writing can be so unlike anything else in our daily routines that it can feel like we step into a bubble whenever we type on our laptops. This creates two different realities, which rather than complement one another, could almost be said to be pitted against one another. And this can lead to a widening of the Creative Schism.

   When we seal ourselves away

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The Shut-in writer can be more than just a stereotype

behind the walls formed by our minds, we become prey for pesky things like Writers Block, First Draft DepressionDescription Overload, and Puppetmaster’s Syndrome. When we see these on our own, we’re overwhelmed by the copious amounts of negative energy being radiated by them. We shrivel up and lose confidence in our manuscripts almost immediately. Some of us even give up!

   But we often love to tell ourselves lies that won’t do us any good at all. Lies that are detrimental to both ourselves and our writing. And one of these, among many, is that the  path of writing needs to be a lonely one.

   Perhaps if you had told me this a few decades ago, I could have believed you. With the severe lack of people around me that share in my hobby and have

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There is a world of writers waiting for you to meet them

 actually gotten around to finishing a WIP, I’m usually discouraged in my writing. It really feels like I’m alone, trapped within my own echo chamber of ideas and concepts for my stories. But with the internet, this outlook that crops up within me on occasions is inexcusable.

   At your fingertips, you have treasure trove of millions of writers that struggle in the same things that you do. People who feel as discouraged as you do, people whom have Writer’s Block in the same way that you do, and people who wish they could chuck their manuscripts into a crackling fireplace as much as you do. Not only that, but there are competitions like National Novel Writing Month, were you can all struggle together!

   We love telling ourselves that our pain and screams are only hear by a vast void of nothingness, that everything we do is heard by none other. But one thing we must learn because of these things is the undeniable truth that we are simply not alone.

   Your novel is a castle manned by a million knights waiting to skewer you at the ends of their blades. For months you have tried to siege it on your own, but you found that a lonely attempt was futile. Luckily for you, there’s an army of millions that willing to wait out that siege along your side. It’s just a matter of reaching out to them.

   As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Mending the Schism, my friends.

Mending the Schism II: Read Your Past

Often times, when we feel the divide between our personal experience and that of our creative works, it has to do with us reaching the Second Act of our story. This is the part of the story in which most authors die after suffering from long hours of attrition. If I was to reintroduce that analogy of writing being an uphill battle, then the second act would be were the bulk of the combat takes place in. It is here that the warriors whom fight for your imagination do battle and perish in the name of your cause. Coincidentally, it is here where countless battles are lost.

It can seem hopeless–in fact–it is hopeless to many people.

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It’s that cursed middle part that everybody loathes

 

But before I can tell you how to fix the Schism that forms during the Second Act, we must first identify which core feature causes this portion of the novel to be so infamous in how it discourages people. Writers know that writing is just about one of the most infuriating hobbies that exist on the face of the planet, but what makes the Second Act stand out? Well, as it turns out, there is one glaring reason for this.

By this point in the book, all the magic has vanished. You’re no longer being introduced to these characters that you had yet to meet and it’s still too early for all those interesting things you had planned out for the Third Act to start occurring. You’re starting to see that the bulk of writing consist of build-up and it’s here that we begin to realize that making a novel is no different from a job.

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It’ll be a while before you get to the awesome parts of a story

The Schism begins to widen when we take note of this. Suddenly, typing words on a word processor is not nearly as fulfilling as you had thought it to be, and suddenly you find yourself loathing the sight of that blinking cursor in Microsoft Word. Where you had first seen a mystery, you know see a dreaded chore.  And a lot of this is from what you would feel as being a lack of progress.

When all you’re doing is building up to future events, it can often feel like you’re doing nothing at all. There’s none of the excitement of your characters getting past that opening sequence, nor the satisfaction of writing that event you’ve been building up to. Everything is hollow all of a sudden. All those actions that our characters take are merely repetitions of things that they’ve already done in the past.

To you it might be like trudging through Limbo for generations, or perhaps just being stuck in a ceaseless cycle of work. But I’ve got good news for you all. The solution is a simple one.

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This is what the Second Act feels like

Independent of whatever you feel is the case,  your characters have been changing all along! You’ve just been blind to all of it happening!

I would encourage all of you to take a hard look at the current page of your manuscript in just this instant. No, I’m not asking you to just read through it the way you usually would, but to analyze it. Analyze how your characters are acting, how they are perceiving the world, and how they interact with the other people around them. Yes, yes, I know that you’re wrapped up with thinking that they haven’t changed in the slightest, but bear with me as I elaborate.

Take all of those mental notes of your character’s behavior in that latest page of yours, and allow them to sink into your mind. Mock your writing, mock your characters, mock the story, mock whatever it is that pleases you! But keep it in your mind for just a few more moments. Trust me, this is all building up tot something.

Now storing in your mind all of those tidbits of info, close that latest page of yours.

Scrounge through your documents in the PC, get to whatever folder is in possession of your novel. Then do yourself the favor of opening up that very first chapter you created. Can you keep up so far? I’m serious when I’m asking you to do all of this you know. Don’t worry, this post is separate from the space-time continuum, take as long as you wish

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Any day now…

while you search for your first chapter.

I’ll just be here.

Waiting.

Very well. Now that you’ve opened your first chapter (I’m not kidding around, open it if you haven’t done so), sit down and browse through your prose. Read those first few moments in which you breathed life into those characters. Reminisce on how new that world felt to you when you had first entered. Drown yourself in that childish glee that had galvanized you into writing that book in the first place.

I can personally guarantee you that if you’ve already reached the Second Act and are deep into it, that something in your story has changed. It could be as concrete as a character or even as abstract as the tone in which you tell the tale. But I  know for a fact that something has changed. Usually, multiple things change.

And the moment you lay eyes on these is the moment that you realize that all of those unrecognized hours spent laboring behind a monitor had a purpose. You’ll see that you’ve been making progress in one way or another all along. And that ounce of progress should be enough inspiration to renew hope in your novel.

The creation of a novel is as much of a life experience as is a summer of travel or a night of partying with friends. There will be countless bumps in the road, and countless ditches as well. There will be choices you might regret and people you might never see again. But one thing is certain. You will change as a person, and your novel will change with you.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Mending the Schism, my friends.

Mending the Schism I: Partake in a Visual Medium

Allow me to share a little-known fact about myself when it comes to writing. I hate describing Urban areas. Be it cities, large towns, a metropolis, or mega-cities, I am wracked with some of the most severe headaches by just having to deal with these settings in my fantasy writing. The pain and difficulty that comes with visualizing anything is epitomized in the act of your characters reaching a place inhabited by other humans.

It’s one thing to be pondering on how that little forest trail that your characters are strolling through looks like. It might take a while to think of how the flora would be perceived by your characters, what kind of animals would be within the forest, or maybe plopping down a stream here or there. Yet when all is said and done, the amount of descriptors you’ll need for a wilderness area would be rather limited.

This is not the case with cities.

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This is the amount of detail that taunts me when I think of medieval cities

If you’re anything like me and you had the gall to start writing a medieval fantasy novel, you’re probably aware of how crowded cities were in the Middle Ages. And once you become aware of this, a whole world of tiny details needs to spawn from your mind just for you to describe the experience of entering through the city’s main gate. You have to think of merchants with their carts coming in and out of town, the city guard peering at your MC through slit eyes, peddlers screaming out their goods, decorations hung around the city, events going around in town, the clothes that people wear, and etc.

As you can see, adding humans to anything makes it at least five times more complicated. If not more than that.

Not only do you have to describe these features that are exclusive to cities, but you also have to describe all the other details your characters would notice in any other part of the world. But in all scenarios you end up suffering Description Overload and this is not pretty. When the human mind is bombarded with so many items to keep track off, it just short-circuits and leaves your imagination with a masterful visualization of a brick wall.

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Overall, thinking of brick walls is not a productive exercise on creativity

(Meaning you can’t visualize anything at all.)

And this is the great barrier that prevents many people from wishing to continue with their WIPS. They see such an enormous world of detail that they might need to make up on the fly just to continue their plot, and this discourages them. And who can blame them?

Creating an entire city forged solely through your imagination is a rather herculean feat. You probably have to wrestle with your mind while you attempt to squeeze out those few creative sentences that actually manage to get their way in there. It can feel daunting to know that you’ll have to take on all of this alone, and I too, have given up on many a writing session because I didn’t know how to describe anything. But then a certain realization dawned upon me.

I wasn’t alone when it came to visualizing entirely new environments. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We like to tell ourselves that all the visualization in our work is up to us, but this is far from the truth. This is the 21st century!

There’s a whole slew of entertaining mediums created with the sole purpose of providing a visual experience! You have movies, videos, games, and photos that have probably visualized environments that have been bubbling up in your mind, but have never come to fruition. This is why it is pertinent that the writer should not only find enjoyment in reading and writing books, but he should also try to find other mediums that could work to help him in his writing process.

Part of the reason that we suffer from the Creative Schism comes from the fact that

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There are no shortage of options. How you use them is up to you

writing down words is immensely hard to make engaging. Our realities are divorced from these symbols that we expect to represent something when written on a page! While the power of pure imagination is a force to be reckoned with, we must also understand the limits of imagination. It takes more mental exercises to get you describing your settings in the way that you want from just your mind.

But visual mediums are different.

These are designed in such a way that they can engage anyone just based on the fact that they are visual representations. We have an easier time identifying with the reality we see in a film, than the reality that we read in a book. Sure, you might be able to argue that a book’s reality will ultimately provide a deeper portrait into the events of the story, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are harder to immerse yourself in. And watching things like movies or playing video games has served to help me with novel-writing.

For example, some time ago I was working on the sequel to my first drafted novel (A sneak peek), and I had to start off in one of the major cities in the world. Problem is that I wasn’t used to writing about the large cities in my world of Altarum as often as I was used to working in the woods or forests of the land. So when it first came to describing that massive city, I reached the dark chasm of the Creative Schism the moment I tried typing down the first words.

For a time, I took a break and would occasionally return to the book, only to find that I was in an even deeper conundrum than I was originally. Day after day, I would return to my laptop only to write a thousand or so words that had been arranged into crude and vague sentences. So one day I woke up and decided to spend a few minutes playing a video game. The Witcher 3 to be precise, which I recommend all of you to buy.

When I first slid the disk into my console, I was just expecting a bit of relief after all the stress of working on the book, but this game provided for me in ways that I was not expecting at all.

 

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This isn’t the first time I’ve shown the Battle of Tours on this blog, but this is seriously one of the most inspiring artworks I’ve ever gazed at

Being a medieval fantasy game, I was able to see how the developers had modeled the cities in their gameworld. I was able to see the arched corridors that loomed over cobblestone streets, the banners that flapped on the walls of gabled and brick houses, and how all the inhabitants mingled amongst one another in town. I would spend ungodly amounts of time in the game just gawking at everything that had been created and when I saw those cities, they reminded me of the kind of image I wanted to have of the cities in my world.

And this isn’t something limited to video games either. It can be film, other games, photos, paintings, and even the covers of other books. How often do we allow the beauty presented in these visual mediums to be overshadowed by the usual brevity of their pace? These are people who can craft exact pictures of what writers have been thinking of, and it would only take a few seconds of observation to gain inspiration from it.

In one way or another, all creative mediums are connected. And we should never dismiss our visual brethren, rather, we should see potential for our own work in all the things that they create. We’re all in this together, after all.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Mending the Schism, my friends.

 

The Creative Schism

    When a reader opens a book, it can feel like he is quite truly being sucked away from everything that he’s ever known. While his eyes flit through sentences upon sentences of an author’s masterful prose, his mind ventures upon journeys to lands farther away than he could even fathom. Realms where things that he could truly describe as alien actually exist, yet a realm in which exist characters that he can relate to as well. A world that breathes and gasps and shouts and lives in the same way that he does. For the reader, immersion can persist for long stretches of the book, perhaps even all of it!

Yet the author’s experience with the novel…let’s just say that it’s a tidbit more complicated.

Actually, scratch that. The author’s experience with the novel is an ugly, bloody path filled with dozens of migraines and a set of aching fingers.

But it goes without saying that the discrepancies between an author’s experience with 3706385071_31d2c4a5dc_b

his own work and the experience of the reader with that same work tend to vary in radical extremes. When we’re the readers, we only get to see all the beautiful parts in a book. Those parts that didn’t need to get cut, those parts that were fixed, and those that were fine-tuned to tug at our hearts. But like the spectators to a play, we never get to see the hours of rehearsals that the actors had to go through. We never watch the scriptwriters toil on their desks with crumpled up manuscripts for days on end, nor do we see the administration of the production’s budget that could only just barely make ends meet.

Readers get to see a “self-actualized” version of the text, allowing them to get sucked into the world almost instantly if it is written well. But a novelist gets to see all the flaws in their product pasted right in front of his own eyes, as though all his efforts were for nothing. While the writer shovels through revisions upon revisions, it can feel increasingly impossible to form that connection that a reader might be able to form with your book. Slowly but surely, the divide between your real world self and this imaginary land that you’ve been creating for the past months begins to grow broader and broader. And soon enough, you start feeling like your novel is only a work load you’ve chosen to give yourself.

This, this is what I call the Creative Schism.

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That pitch dark valley that threatens to engulf all aspects of our imagination, that hazy veil that obscures the path that leads to your ideas, and that inability to form an emotional connection with this hobby you used to cherish. But even when you realize that it exists, the other side of the valley continues to erode away. That other land that exists within your mind gradually begins to be shrouded in uncertainty and a lack of passion.

This right here is the biggest challenge that writers must face. Who cares about Writer’s Block? What does First Draft Depression have on this? Even the most severe case of Manuscript Separation Anxiety doesn’t hold a candle to this.

This isn’t just a disconnect with your manuscript, this is a disconect with everything inside of your imagination. It’s a war that you wage with yourself. And one that you’re not sure you can even win. It carries none of the frustration that comes with Writer’s Block, none of the worries that come with Manuscript Separation Anxiety, and none of the sorrow that comes with characters not acting the way you wish them to.

The Creative Schism only brings cold indifference in its wake. One that eats at your passions from the very foundations of your imagination and creative process. An indifference that turns your characters into a blank slate, one that leaves your plot barren, and one that could leave severe damage to your craft. But my dearest reader, allow me to share a secret with you.

There is hope.Light_on_door_at_the_end_of_tunnel

As bleak and as hazy as that divide may seem, the tools to return to that passionate state you had in the past are in your grasp! All one needs to do is search, and work to find those very habits that plant new seeds of inspiration in your mind. But how do I go about doing this? Where do I start? Do I need to consult anything? I can’t do all of this on my own!

Perhaps these thoughts have already begun to take root within the garden of your mind. Perhaps these have been questions that have been brewing within you ever since you first started writing. Maybe you’ve only been made aware of the Creative Schism just now. I can’t answer all of your questions now, but I can answer one. You are not alone.

The next few posts that follow this one shall all be dedicated to the ongoing war we have with our mind. This endless struggle we have against those that would try to sunder the bonds we’ve struggled to reinforce with the worlds that we create. The time has come to bear arms, the time has come to take action, and the time has come to end this abuse.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Join me, as we strive to Mend the Schism.

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