As an illustrator for newspapers, and now as an author, people ask me, “Which came first?” I wrote occasional feature articles during my journalism career but was always an artist first. Now retired, I spend my time writing. I didn’t stop drawing after taking up writing. Authors have to train their minds and writing skills to “keep their hand in.”  Think of short writing exercises as a form of mental calisthenics to challenge your creativity. Aside from always reading, as author PD James advises to do, a good way to stimulate your talent is to write story “leads” daily or weekly. I always read the lead of a book when I’m browsing in a bookstore or library. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I want to see how well written the book’s lead is. Am I drawn in? This applies to newspaper stories as well. Clever headlines attract attention but if the story lead is dull the writer will lose the reader. Writers must pull readers into their orbit with words that make the reader stay with the story. I write leads constantly. I edit, re-write and create new ones. My words must entice readers to pursue the next sentence, paragraph, page and chapter. Compare your efforts with fellow authors in a writing group or share them with trusted friends whose opinions you value. Exercise those creative muscles. Get to work!

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