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There is something to be said for a change of environment. For the past couple of weeks my writing has been stuck, stagnant. The answer was to get away.

I am a creature of habit. Every morning I make coffee and then eat breakfast while I check my e-mail. After eating, while drinking my second cup, I start looking over my writing and create a list of things to work on for the day. All of this is done at the same desk, sitting in the same chair, looking at the same view. But the habits have not spawned much creativity as of late, so it was time to shake things up.

Last Saturday my wife and I got in the car and drove to Longwood, Florida, to spend a week at a house on a lake with a gorgeous view of the sunset and a kitchen full of good food. Since our arrival, I have been able to relax and have gotten a renewed excitement for my writing. The fresh air, the warm pool, the food—they have given me a clear mind and have helped me make substantial progress. The words are coming easier now, and the end appears in sight.

Traveling has always sparked my creative energy. How has your traveling affected your writing? Has your writing affected your travels?

As we reach the end of the semester, most of us are extremely busy editing our literary papers, poems, and stories.

Here are a few quotes I hope you will find inspirational:

I never write ‘metropolis’ for seven cents when I can write ‘city’ and get paid the same.” –Mark Twain

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.” –George Orwell

“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.” –William Butler Yeats

“Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.” –Joan Didion

“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” – C.S. Lewis

“I believe more in the scissors that I do in the pencil.” –Truman Capote

“The role of writer’s is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” –Anais Nin

*What are some of your favorite quotes on writing/editing?

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It’s rare in this day and age that films move us to tears. With movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and High School Musical 3 topping the charts, the majority of American films do little to affect us.

I recently saw The Lives of Others, a German film about the strict monitoring of the East German cultural scene by 91,000 Stasi employees and their 300,000 citizen informants.

The Stasi were the East German secret police who used extreme forms of interrogation against people they thought were “enemies of the state.” They had state-of-the-art prison facilities that used bizarre and inhumane tactics. And due to the paranoia of top officials, the Stasi wiretapped and monitored thousands of its citizens. Any of this sound familiar? Now, please don’t think I’m saying America is like the communist oppressed East Germany of the late ’80’s, because for obvious reasons it’s not. But the similarities are there and it’s hard not to make a connection.

The film focuses on a Stasi captain who is assigned to monitor a prominent playwright, with the intention of finding something that will put him away. Instead, the captain is forced to act on what he considers morally right versus what the state deems to be right. Ultimately, a writer tells the country of the abuse of power at the highest levels through an anonymous letter to a popular magazine. The film shows the influence artists had and how a few power-hungry leaders were afraid it could all change with the stroke of a brush, the scribble of a word, the playing of a note, or the performance of a scene.

It’s easy for artists to lose sight of what we actually do. We’re so busy trying to be seen and heard, and  trying to make a living at what we do, that we forget we’re endowed with the ability to document our culture. We write the poetry of our generation and the literature that can change lives.

I don’t mean to slap on the pressure. That is an awful lot to live up to. But it is something we should occasionally keep in mind.

We don’t know if the things we write will change the world. With every short story and poem, we hope to reach someone. It’s doubtful anything we write will have such a large impact that it kicks the legs out from under an entire government.

But it’s always worth a try.