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What Does the Christian Book Market Need?

Discussion in 'The Writers Guild' started by Stancet, Jul 2, 2017.

  1. AlexDTX

    AlexDTX Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yes, but not based upon Creation Science.
     
  2. Godlovesmetwo

    Godlovesmetwo Fringe Catholic

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    Theres a guy on OBOB that swears by that book as a classic Christian story. Watches it every year.
     
  3. Kerensa

    Kerensa Well-Known Member

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    I do remember finding a book once that was all about the underlying Christian themes and symbolism in Tolkien's Middle-earth books — never got around to reading it, though. Tolkien was a devout Catholic and I'm sure that must have influenced his writings, even possibly on an almost subconscious level, but it's very subtle (I've certainly never picked up on it in reading the books myself). I don't think he ever deliberately shaped the entire plot according to Christian ideas like Lewis did in his space trilogy and Narnia, with the view of encouraging people to think about those concepts and possibly to come to live their own lives by them.
     
  4. AlexDTX

    AlexDTX Well-Known Member Supporter

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    All of those books had a preliminary impact on my accepting Christ. I read the Perelandra Trilogy by CS Lewis that Stancet referred to as a teenager. The 3 books are: 1) "Out of the Silent Planet" where Ransom goes to Mars in a coffin and discovers that outer space is filled with life and Mars is an old planet with a dying race upon it; 2) "Perelandra" where he is sent to Venus which God is beginning a new Adam and Eve that he must protect from Satan; and 3) "That Hideous Strength" where he remains on Earth at Oxford where they are experimenting on immortality with a head that is connected to a machine. Turns out the machine did nothing and the head was being animated by Satan. The last book scared me as much as a Stephen King novel.

    Regarding the works of Tolkien: yes it has a Catholic influence, and it has Christian themes, but it is not a deliberate Christian work. He drew upon the Icelandic poem called the "Kalevala" which is the story of the sampo (ring) that causes all who desire it to become evil. Tolkien wanted to create a myth for England since the English had no myths of their own. Since the Angles (Germans) were Teutons that intermarried with the British (Gaelic) they had the Norse myths, but that, apparently was lost to the English.

    God used Tokien as a major stepping stone to my own salvation. When I was 19 (raised without Christ or church by self proclaimed atheists) I decided to read the Bible from cover to cover just to see what was in it. I had also read the Carlos Castaneda series on Don Juan the Yaqui Indian that used peyote as spiritual tool. In the series Carlos was told by Don Juan to try to become conscious in his dreams. I tried to do the same thing. So I had been faithful to record my dreams to remember them and had become aware that I was dreaming while dreaming.

    While reading the Bible I had a dream where this frisky old man with youthful eyes (like Gandalf, I suppose) came into my living room and told me that the book, "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley would be on TV. When I started watching it the title of the show was "The Silmarillion". I had no idea what that meant. This was back in 1973.

    At that time I was reading tons of fantasy and science fiction from a Christian book store. I went to the store and told the owner about the dream. He told me that "The Silmarillion" is a book by Tolkien that was scheduled to be published in a few years. Since I had never heard of the book before I knew that the dream could not be just my subconscious creating the dream. The book is from reality but at that time was unpublished. That convinced me that the dream had come from God.

    Years later when the book was published, I bought the book and read it. I still did not understand the significance until I gave my life to Christ at the age of 32. I began reading the Bible from cover to cover again, this time with the aid of the Holy Spirit. I realized the whole meaning of the dream then. The Silmarillion is Tolkien's bible of Middle Earth. The brave new world that God was showing me was the Bible I was reading at the age of 19 when I had that dream. Being a Christian is the brave new world that totally transformed my life.

    Christian fiction has a place as a stepping stone to faith. But not only Christian fiction, all fiction. Huxley was an atheist. The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. God will use anything He can to bring people to Him. Do not dismiss the stepping stones as not worthwhile.
     
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  5. AlexDTX

    AlexDTX Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I loved the Brothers Karamazov! I read Crime and Punishment, too. Dostoevsky and the other Russian classics were Russian Orthodox Christians, which is why their books have such depth and significance. I would love to read great fiction today by mature followers of Christ that were also mature observers of life.
     
  6. AlexDTX

    AlexDTX Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I agree completely. Christian literature today is canned formula without a real view of the struggles of life and the way God works with us in those struggles. It is as though they are intended for a 3rd grade reading level.

    I have the same disdain for Christian movies and how Christians view secular movies. If there is no nudity, sex, profanity or violence, it gets a Christian approval. How shallow and stupid is that for a rating system? I am more concerned with the message the story tells than cursing. I understand the grief that constant cursing brings, but there is a time and a place in a story for a four letter word if the story is trying to be realistic.
     
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  7. Kerensa

    Kerensa Well-Known Member

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    That's a remarkable testimony, AlexDTX. I love The Lord of the Rings, but haven't read The Silmarillion, so have never really gone that much deeper into Tolkien's world. But as you say, God can and does bring people to Him by whatever means works for each individual.

    I've read Out of the Silent Planet quite recently (late last year or early this year, I think it was), and I must say it didn't grab me... I was aware of its Christian basis, of course, and went into it with full appreciation of that, but I'll be honest and admit that a lot of the time while reading it, I was tempted to think "Woah, what exactly was Lewis drinking when he came up with all this?!" :confused: :D ;) But that's just me. I've heard tell that Perelandra, in particular, was one of his own favourites of the books that he wrote and I'd certainly be open to trying it.

    For me, though, as I said, it was Narnia (from the age of 5 onwards) that spoke to my heart. I just twigged from the start, having The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe read to me (and also coming from a non-religious background), that Aslan was someone very special; then after a few more of the books it became obvious who He was and is. I don't think I could have had a better introduction to Christianity than that. But again, that's just me — it's different for everyone and the world can do with as many "good books" (explicitly Christian or otherwise) as it can get! :blacksunrays:
     
  8. AlexDTX

    AlexDTX Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I mentioned an idea for a story during the 1,000 year reign of Christ. Here some of the ideas that I have thought about over the years.

    My story would take place near the end of the 1,000 years when Satan is released again. Up until that time the world had total peace and harmony even though there are millions of unregenerates born and living to ripe old ages in the centuries, yet still youthful in ability. The world had peace through the rod of iron rule of Jesus and his Church who governed the world for Him. His capital would be Jerusalem and Saints from all generations rule cities and areas all over the world. Both Jesus and his Saints are in immortal glorified bodies. It is speculated that the pre-flood world people were much taller, 15 or 16 feet tall, so there would be giants among on the Earth that believed in the Messiah to come who serve under the Church. Also, heaven and Earth have a two way free flow, so Angels would also be seen on Earth.

    My main character would be a man born after Christ had returned who lived in peace but was still a sinner. The story would be his realization of his own sins when Satan is released to tempt mankind again. Of course, he would realize his need for salvation and would not be in the group that join Satan in his second rebellion against God.

    I doubt if I will ever get around to writing the story, so if anyone wants the idea, you are welcome to it. How do you like the idea?
     
  9. AlexDTX

    AlexDTX Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I agree that his first book in the trilogy is not that strong. I am the type of person that completes what I start so I read through the entire trilogy (like I did the Bible) just to see where it went. That Hideous Strength is his most powerful book in the series in my opinion. As a believer I look back and see that the evil in universities was going on even back in the 1940's when he wrote the book.

    I, too, have read the Chronicles of Narnia several times. Recently a book and DVD was published by Michael Ward called, "The Narnia Code". In the book he shows how Lewis had drawn upon the Medieval view of the planets (combined with the myths behind the planets) as the frame work for the stories. So "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is about Christ as Jupiter the king of the planets. "Prince Caspian" is about Christ as the Warrior planet of Mars. "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is about Christ as the Sunlight of the World. "Silver Chair" is about the lunacy (the moon) of mankind's delusion and insanity in sin, not realizing that we are the prince of the King (Jesus). "The Horse and His Boy" is Mercury as the messenger, Christ being sent to share the Gospel. "The Magician's Nephew" is the love of Christ in Venus. And "The Last Battle" is Saturn, Chronos, the end of time when Christ concludes the age of this creation.

    I am inclined to re-read the Chronicles with this point of view to see how well his theory works.
     
  10. Kerensa

    Kerensa Well-Known Member

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    I've heard of that theory too, but haven't read it in detail and don't know how far it holds water, so to speak, if at all. Doesn't hurt to consider, though. I will look into it when I find the time — I have an ever-growing "must-read" list as it is! ;)

    A very good Narnia commentary I read not too long ago was The Lion's World by Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury. He's a very engaging writer (and speaker — I heard him give a wonderful talk on Julian of Norwich a few years ago) and does a good job of exploring a range of themes in Lewis's fantasy world.
     
  11. AlexDTX

    AlexDTX Well-Known Member Supporter

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    One thing about the Inklings, they were not afraid to draw upon the world to tell their stories with Christian themes.

    Speaking of Lewis, I read his book, "The Problem with Pain" many years ago. He made a comment that has stood out in my mind for decades. In discussing why animals have to suffer because of mankind's sin, he said that animals in the wild is not God's plan. Animals should be in relationship with humanity, not afraid of humanity. So in his opinion, pets are the only animals that are in the relationship with man that God intended.

    I started organic gardening this year and have been struggling with insects and other things destroying my crop. The thought crossed my mind yesterday that Adam was given dominion over the Earth. Before the Fall he lived in the Garden of Eden. I realized that the Bible does not call it the "Wilderness of Eden" but the "Garden". The implication that came to my mind is that the world was a wilderness and the intention of God was for Adam to use the garden as an example on how to tame the wilderness. Of course, my struggle is dealing with the curse upon the Earth today. But if there was no Fall, then Adam and his descendants would have been tending to all the animals of the Earth and working with all the plants of the Earth to expand the Garden world wide.

    This is no biblical doctrine I am sharing, only the musing of my thoughts. But it is food for thought.
     
  12. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) <><

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    My mission statement in the fiction writing I do is to express the Person and work of Christ in the reality of wickedness we live in in this world. In my personal opinion, a lot of Christian media is watered down to the point where it's not even relevant. You see this in film and even more so in novels, I would assume. Even if I never get published, that's fine with me. I enjoy the writing that I do. As far as non-fiction goes.. I don't think I'm qualified enough to write on any topic in Christianity and think it could pass muster to a general church crowd that's probably already heard it. (And quite frankly doesn't need another exposition)
     
  13. ejcopping

    ejcopping New Member

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    It's really difficult if you want to write for the Christian market and have what I'd call realism.

    I have two novels in development and both are hitting problems with content.

    The first is a redemption story but I am getting told I am glorifying unGodly things (drug taking mainly). My arguement is if you don't show or acknowledge the characters reality then how can you take him on a journey.

    It's like starting Christmas Carol with the ghost of Christmas yet to come.

    The second is harder because I understand the feedback but can't balance not having swearing with being true to the scene.

    For clarity in this book the main character (a Christian) has an encounter with a demonic being. The demon cusses and curses Jesus which is authentic and real but not allowed in Christian Literature.

    I've spoken with agents and they simply say the book wouldn't get placed in book shops, covered by Christian media or promoted by Christian sites.

    It leaves me frustrated and confused. I have a vision I want to create Christian books that you are not ashamed to be seen reading in public.
     
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  14. AlexDTX

    AlexDTX Well-Known Member Supporter

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    So don't aim for a Christian market. I read the biography of CS Lewis, called, "Jack" by George Sayer. George is the son of Dorothy Sayer who was a member of the Inklings and wrote murder mysteries. In the biography Lewis says that when he published his Perelandra Triology, the reviews came from the science fiction community, and none were aware that it was a Christians Science Fiction. Lewis and Tolkien realized that they could share the gospel to a pagan world through their story telling.

    The Christian market is myopic and destructive in my opinion. Write for the world and stay true to your heart.

    I also heard "Left Behind" author Jerry Jenkins once say that he got a lot of criticism for the theology of the story. His response was, "So, go write your theology in your own book."

    There is a multitude of self publishing options. When William Young wrote "The Shack" he went to the ministry of Wayne Jacobsen who self publishes with his own company called Wind blown Media (not certain about the name of the company). They collaborated together in publishing and distributing the book and it became a national best seller.

    Follow your heart, EJ and trust the Lord to work out the details for you.
     
  15. Kerensa

    Kerensa Well-Known Member

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    Good point, Alex. I was just thinking, one of the reasons C.S. Lewis's fictional works have been so successful over the years was that he didn't publish them with an official Christian publisher as explicitly "Christian" works, but with a mainstream publisher — one that became part of one of the world's largest publishing companies, HarperCollins, which unabashedly keeps all his major writings, fiction and non-fiction, in print today, much though they're definitely not a specialised Christian publisher! ;)

    I'm sure plenty of people over the years have read the space trilogy and Narnia without twigging that there's an underlying Christian message in them, clear as a bell though it is once readers become aware of it. Whereas anything that's put out by an openly Christian publishing house is going to be thought of as "only for Christians" or as designed to preach at people and convert them — along with being subject to that publisher's ideas of what "should" and "shouldn't" be in a Christian book, as you've seen, ejcopping. I too would stick with what you find yourself called to write and trust that God will provide the right way for it to reach the public.
     
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  16. mark kennedy

    mark kennedy Natura non facit saltum Supporter

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    It seems to me that historic narrative is a huge untapped resource. I'm all the time finding narratives in the prophets, song of Solomon, the epistles and of course the normal historic narratives of the first five chapters of the OT and the NT. The rise of the prophets, the united kingdom, the explosive and spontaneous growth of the churches in Asian Minor.

    Ben-Hur was based loosely on Biblical texts and it became a famous epic. Historic narrative could be a much larger literary market if some writer could be true to the Biblical narrative while bringing out the historic narrative.

    Grace and peace,
    Mark
     
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  17. ejcopping

    ejcopping New Member

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    Thanks @Kerensa and @AlexDTX for the encouragement I'll be sticking with the stories and probably go down the kdp route.

    In general I'd like to see Christian literature push a few boundaries. The Bible deals with a lot of issues that we willfully brush over in the Bible but rebuke in literature.
     
  18. GandalfTheWise

    GandalfTheWise In search of lost causes and hopeless battles

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    Here's an observation I've made about the arts (writing, music, painting, etc.). There seems to be a huge divide between "folk" art and "cultured" art. Cultured art treats technique and mastery as a prerequisite for personal expression; folk art values personal expression as a prerequisite for learning more and improving. Cultured art tends to say, "If you are unwilling to dedicate your life to mastery, you've got no business dabbling in this." Folk art tends to say, "If you've got something to say, start saying it."

    The person who dedicates themselves to mastery of a particular instrument can play the most intricate pieces of music, join elite symphonies, and become a master of what they do. How many people listen to them? A few people can form a garage band after having learned 3 chords and then improve some over time and play music that many people like. Turn on the radio and (other than public radio), it's almost all "garage" band to some extent. To become elite, it's about playing what someone else tells you to play (composer and conductor) in the proper manner at the correct time. Without years of discipline and practice, it's not possible to be any good at that style. Improvisation and composition are considered advanced skills for exceptional people who are committed to music. Personal expression is often only putting your spin on how you play someone's work. On the other hand, pick up a guitar, learn C, D, and G chords and a couple blues scales and you can start reflecting your own feelings in music you can start creating. Enjoy doing that, and you'll keep practicing and improve your technique and skills.

    Museums of are full of paintings that took years and decades of work to develop the skills to paint. Yet, virtually anyone could start doing Bob Ross style landscapes and enjoy making them and hanging them in their house or giving them as gifts. In a period of months, anyone could enjoy painting happy little trees and having happy accidents.

    I think there is a similar parallel in telling stories. We've long lost the folk art of sitting around the family or communal fire at night and telling stories. We've long lost the folk art and given story telling over to the professional writer, the professional movie maker, the professional illustrator. In the west, we've largely lost our capability to be captivated by our imaginations and require professionals to fill in the details. I'm dreading the day when I go back and read Narnia or LOTR after having seen the movies. Indeed, I've been avoiding the books. I'm guessing most of the pictures I used to have in my head will be supplanted by the overwhelming power of the epic music and imagery of the movies.

    As a teen, some books that were formational on my thinking were the Louis L'Amour westerns. Not high literature by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, one could argue he basically re-told the same story over and over. But there was something there. A self-taught man who dropped out of school but loved reading and then writing stories about what he knew. He told stories about how men could survive in a hard world and retain their honor and integrity. Those stories in large part shaped my sense of a man's obligation to keep his word, to do whatever it took for a friend, to quickly repay any debts, to work hard, to thrive under any conditions, to be able to choose the right path no matter how far down the wrong one you've gone, and to be able to look anyone in the eye, and to keep getting back up on your feet.

    Two ways of expressing my thoughts on this:
    1. Perhaps our focus going forward needs to be how to recapture the magic and impact of the folk story, the fairy tale, the improvised campfire tale, the tale that doesn't lecture to the mind, but captivates the heart. That mesmerizes the children, and brings back nostalgia in the old. Not the polished professional orchestral version that requires massive amounts of resources and efforts from specialists and professionals, but the simple troubadour or storyteller capable of captivating with only voice and gesture and perhaps simple song.

    2.
    Where has the magic gone? The dreams and thoughts, wonder and fear, joy and sadness, that filled the air as men round the fire told their tales.
    Old gray hair and now creaky voice, shared wisdom, insight, vision, honor, and hard gained experience, that filled the air as men round the fire told their tales.
    The young boy learning what he could become; dreams of good or nightmares of ill, images coming to life that filled the air as men round the fire told their tales.
    The young man being accepted in by the old. At first repeating the stories he heard, then adding a few words of his own, taking his place, a new voice arose and filled the air as men round the fire told their tales.
    The fire is long gone. The voices now silent. The chain was broken. The stories lost from conscious thought. But, somewhere in the hearts of men, echoes still remain, awaiting a time when once again men round the fire tell their tales.

    Anyway, my musings for the evening. :)
     
  19. AlexDTX

    AlexDTX Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Very well said, Gandalf.

    I am self taught in playing the piano. I fit in the folk art category. I am embarrassed to play in front of others because I don't practice enough to be good. However, when I play my own worship music, I have a stronger sense of the Lord's presence than when I listen to professional worship songs. In my case, I know the Lord delights in my playing for Him, and I know He never criticizes my ability to play.
     
  20. GandalfTheWise

    GandalfTheWise In search of lost causes and hopeless battles

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    Thanks. I'm now in my mid 50s. One of my biggest regrets in life is that it's only been in the past 5 years or so that I've truly learned how best to self-teach myself. Sigh, if I'd have known what I do now back when I was 20.... A B.S. in education, a Ph.D. in physics, lots of experience teaching adults, having self-taught myself a lot of things, but in hindsight, I was terribly inefficient at it in spite of being very persistent and being a fast learner. For a time I was an active musician (and worship leader) that was largely self-taught. It was that experience that lead me in this direction of thinking.

    I tend to blame the western education system. At its core, it's really about training the masses to be good citizens and employees that can maintain and advance the status quo. Talented and gifted are usually accelerated through (so as to brag about graduating early) and getting into the workforce quicker. It wasn't until I worked as an engineer for a manufacturing company that I saw the similarities between manufacturing processes for making widgets and the education system. If you want to learn something new, you are basically put into an assembly line. You learn topic one, and then quality assurance (i.e. testing) is done to make sure you are adequate at it and that the teacher and process are doing their job. Then you can move on to topic two. Want to go out of order, well...that isn't allowed, you'll probably pick up bad habits and do it wrong. Experts have defined the order everything must be done so as to maximize the number of "successful graduates" of the process and insure quality control. It took me a long time to figure out how to break free of that mindset.

    The net result is a population full of people who now lack the confidence to go out and learn something completely new thinking that they lack the "talent" for it. How many people started "piano lessons" (i.e. keep practicing Mary Had a Little Lamb over and over) and quit because after playing enough "wrong" notes they were convinced they had no "musical talent"? How many people believe they have no ability to learn foreign languages (this is prevalent in the US) because a couple years of memorizing vocabulary lists and grammar paradigms (and nothing to show for it except barely being able to say Hi, My Name is ...) left them with the feeling that language learning is for people with a special gift for it.

    People's exposure to literature often involves being forced to read a few particular choices (out of the several hundred to thousands available) and then having to do literature critiques, tests on content, essays on weird comparisons of things using terms no one can remember. There are so many classics of different genres available. Most anyone could find some story that they would enjoy (whether reading "real" books, or online, or audio books). When someone's first introduction to Shakespeare is memorizing Mark Antony's "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech from Julius Caesar and then being testing on it by having to recite it from memory in front of the class, they're not going to be a big fan of any classical literature.

    With modern technology and a few hundred dollars of software and peripherals, it's possible for anyone to enter the world of graphic novels, illustration, animations, e-books, music videos, art, whatever to start telling stories. I believe that many people with good stories to tell could start off small and develop their story telling skills using many forms. However, many of them don't know where to start, and end up signing up for a traditional formal class (of the Mary Had a Little Lamb piano lesson style) and being discouraged away from it when they find they are making so many "mistakes" that they decide they don't have the "talent" for it.

    I think the church could start a revolution in western culture by encouraging people and showing them how to self-educate. This is something that's been on my heart for some time and will probably be a large part of what I do with the rest of my life. There are many believers with stories to tell and gifts to share that have been convinced by the world that it's something that they cannot be any good at.

    FWIW, I've decided to start writing stories for my new granddaughter and to illustrate them myself. I've got no real art background other than some image editing and data visualization. I've now been practicing digital art averaging a few hours per day for the past month or so. I've uploaded my latest practice piece. If I'd been going at this the "traditional" way, I'd probably still be spending most of my time practicing straight lines, and circles from various perspectives and probably would have already decided I didn't have the talent or patience for it. This rate of learning is the result of decades of figuring how I can learn new skills most efficiently while having fun. Basically, this piece is me playing with doing fur, putting clouds in perspective heading toward the horizon, using placement of 3D objects for outlines, and figuring out grass/plants/flower type of foliage. This approach does not eliminate the need for disciplined practice, it redistributes the practice holistically so I can achieve global progress while focusing on specific skills when needed. I believe anyone can learn how to learn efficiently and enjoyably.

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