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Pin up your role models

I’m a great believer in role models. Not the perfect, squeaky-clean, morally upright saints who make us feel inadequate but rather the wonderfully real, complex, true to life role models who spur us to hope and dream and reach higher. These role models are human enough to feel in reach but also wonderful enough to encourage us on our way, whatever that way may be.

For every novel I write, I create a collage that I keep above my desk. It has pictures related to story I’m working on – pictures of places that remind me of where my novel’s set, of people who look like my characters, of animals. These collages also include the faces of writers I love and admire: writers who inspire me, each in their own way, to be the best novelist I can. I also stick pictures of these writers into my notebooks so that, wherever I am, I can turn to them for wisdom.

Every time I look up, or turn a page in my notebook, my role-model writers catch my eye and inspire me to keep going.

When I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated or just a little low, I look at their faces and wonder what they’d say to me. Anne Tyler might say, ‘Forget the distractions of the world, get your head down, focus on your story.’ Jodi Picoult might say, ‘Keep writing, focus on the stories that matter, write about the world in which we live.’ Stephen King might say, ‘Remember how I started out? Washing maggots out of restaurant table-clothes? Your life’s pretty rosy compared to that – so get writing! Oh, and cut those adverbs.’ Charles Dickens might say, ‘Work on those characters, make them real and memorable – write about issues that you really care about. And keep that plot going!’

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 03:  Stephen King attends Meet the Creators at Apple Store Soho on June 3, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Challenge: At some point this week, find a picture in a magazine or online or a writer you love and admire who will encourage you as you work on your current project. And when you need a coach to yell at you from the side-lines to pick up your feet and keep running, take a few seconds to look into their eyes – and then go back to your story and write.