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Heroes Community > Tavern of the Rising Sun > Thread: Inspirations for the Art of Writing, Etc.
Thread: Inspirations for the Art of Writing, Etc.
markkur
markkur


Honorable
Legendary Hero
Once upon a time
posted November 08, 2016 07:20 PM
Edited by markkur at 19:37, 08 Nov 2016.

Inspirations for the Art of Writing, Etc.

This Thread is for any discussion regarding what you find inspirational when pursuing ANY Art...not Writing only.

I enjoy my Guitars and have written songs, I treasure quick hard-hitting Poetry that makes you aware of something in minutes or writing a descriptive tale. I also enjoy oil painting a little but pencil-drawing even more. However, this first post will be a sort of study that I did a year or two back about <imo> one of J. R. R. Tolkien's important inspirational sources. This is total conjecture on my part but I think I succeed in making my case about the reality behind Tolkien's invented world...what he called the "Secondary-World."

“Well at the World’s End”
{The inspiration for a grander tale}

   In 1974 I first read the Hobbit and then devoured The Lord of the Rings. I well remember my thoughts after finishing the stories; I was enchanted like many people are but beyond that, I was absolutely enthralled by what I thought at the time was Tolkien’s inventive power.
   As a creative person I am and have always been very interested in the concept of inspiration. That interest led me into poetry first and only recently to writing some prose of my own. I’ve shared that personal bit only because that has been a driving force as the years have passed; I extended my JRRT library to include all of his self-published works as well as those by his son. In addition, I’ve learned from various lecturers, read opinions at various fan-sites and continued to buy books from various Tolkien scholars that discuss all sorts of topics related to Middle-Earth.
   Now that I’ve given an explanation for my passion regarding Tolkien and his works, both academic and his books, the subject that had been most on my mind has been his sources.
   It is now very well-known that Tolkien was an educated and gifted miner that knew probably all of the richest veins of fantasy literature that yet survive. There have been many sources given as important inspirations for Tolkien; Beowulf, The Wanderer, The Finnish Kalavala, the Icelandic Sagas, Norse Mythology and the writings of William Morris to name some of the more prominent. It is the last source in that list that I wish to carefully consider and though a case has been made that Morris’ The Wolfing’s may have been the inspiration for the men of Rohan, minus the use of the horse, I think there is a much more important Morris book we need to consider because I now believe it forms the foundation of the Lord of the Rings. After my reviewing The Well at the Worlds End, I know a sort of blueprint is present.
   I want to be very clear about what I am suggesting. I am not saying that the professor took this story and made some sort of outline in which he would follow in writing his own tales. What I am suggesting is just as he gleaned a great deal from older writings, i.e. the names of the Dwarves and some of the key elements of the Lord of the Rings, I believe the basic seed of his story is easily found within The Well at the World’s End. In short, I believe this story was an “inspirational-outline” (of a sort) for Tolkien’s later works and within the tale are a series of well-springs of great inspirational significance. I do not mean ideas that he would simply transplant, though there are those to be found in this and other works, but rather ideas that formed a huge backdrop and many ideas that could be bettered or enhanced. In my opinion the professor’s creative and inventive mind succeeded wonderfully.
   However, the best way for me to explain what I think I see, is to share excerpts from the earlier fantasy. For with these numerous examples my reasons become more than conjecture. In my opinion it becomes rather obvious.
   Before taking a look at what I will call an interesting comparison, I need to make a couple more points and reemphasize one I’ve already made. Again, my proposal is that there were many sources of inspirations but to my mind, this single story overwhelms all the rest of the sources combined.
   The chief points of this older tale are manifold. One, adventure is the key to the story. The Well at the World’s End is absolutely a there and back again tale. A second point is that the protagonists are greatly changed by the to and fro or back-tracking in the story, just as in The Lord of the Rings. Another aspect of this that I enjoy is that places within the story are revisited but under much different circumstances and our characters are greatly changed; think on the stature of the hobbits once they are back home in the Shire.
   There are two other points to be made but not about inspiration but rather what to absolutely avoid. The professor was a Catholic and though he was a man of strong faith, he did not like the mixing of real-life faith and his fantasy writing or anyone else writing in this manner; e. g. his friend C.S. Lewis. inside his children’s books. We know Tolkien did not care for (outright) allegory but believed applicability was the central tool of good storytelling. Readers would need to relate to the story’s scenes
   Regarding any sort of evangelism, The Professor did believe in what he called “scratching the ground” or “preparing the soil for seeds” and considered that work an important ministry and (I think) he was satisfied at that being his work for God. However, even in this effort, he objected to having obvious church objects or persons like Morris wrote into The Well or C.S. Lewis had in his Narnia stories. Instead, Tolkien injected his faith into his writing by weaving the values he treasured deep inside his tale.
   Another very important aspect to Tolkien, that everyone should know, was nomenclature. He avoided naming things at a whim, like Morris did in this story and E. R. Eddison did in his groundbreaking The Worm Ouroboros and of course pretty much every fantasy writer does when they do not possess the education that Tolkien had in “language and word” to supplement the sub-creation process. We all know the elaborate work he put into the languages he created and the place-names of Middle-Earth.

   Before I begin, for those that do not know writer of The Well at the World’s End I want to share a new things. William Morris lived from 1834 to 1896 and besides other things he was a writer. While at a student at Oxford he became very interested in medieval-ism and enjoyed studying the Classics. Besides the two men attending Oxford, the two writers shared a couple of other interesting facts. Morris just like Tolkien attended King Edward's School in Birmingham and in 1850 he and some friends got together and created The Birmingham Set, a group was largely within the visual arts, where they played a significant role in the birth of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

   Ok, onward  with what I consider fun discoveries. I hope you do too.

*******

 

   In Chapter 1 of The Well at the Wells End we meet a fellow named Longtongue, of course I instantly thought of Worm-tongue. Also in the chapter is overhill; underhill anyone?  As I’ve already said in the first chapters of this book we read a lot about “going on adventures” No, don’t groan…we are just beginning.
   In Chapter 4 we find , a tree leafless, …on top of the hill we discover; At the top of it was an earth-work of the ancient folk. One word here, Weathertop.
Further on we read two very familiar scenes; Little is to be told of his journey through the downs: as he topped a low hill whereon were seven grave-mounds of the ancient folk in a row and then we soon read of our hero; riding along the Greenway.  A character in the story is clad in a coat as green as the way, with the leafless tree done on his breast. If you’ve seen the recent movies it should not be hard for you to conjure a leafless tree on a breast.
   In Chapter 5 there are two statements which caused me to recall Beorn putting the fellowship up for the night and then later, putting them at ease about there be nothing to fear during the night; “I seek a good hostelry where I may abide the night” and then this; “Fear nothing, lord; there is no foeman in Higham.”
   In Chapter 6 we read there are worse evils in the forest; “Furthermore there are worse wights in the wood.”
   In Chapter 7 we get another hint when dangerous trees can be by the very name of a wood, The Wood Perilous. Also in this chapter we come across and interesting sort of people…Easterlings. Another hint of an inspiration; he bethought him of the Even-song of the High House…I loved the Elves singing songs by campfire and what singing in Rivendell meant to all who went there and me too.
   In Chapter 8 we read this; “Spur! spur, all men!" Therewith he blew one blast from a horn. Now what happens when Rohan sits on the ridge before Minas Tirith?
   In Chapter 9 we read a wonderful little story that speaks to me about a magical river to be found in The Hobbit; A while he sat musing but awake, though the faint sound of a little stream in the dale below mingled with all the lesser noises of the forest did its best to soothe him to sleep again: and presently had its way with him; for he leaned his head back on the bracken, and in a minute or two was sleeping once more and dreaming some dream made up of masterless memories of past days. Also in this chapter we read; “Nevertheless hold up thine heart, for I think that greater things await thee.” Fate and Doom, past and present are constant companions in Tolkien’s world.
   In Chapter 10 we read a couple of important things that sound familiar, like the Hobbits once they had left the Shire; Now he hears the sound of horse-hoofs on the hard road, and riseth to his feet and goeth to the very edge of the copse; looking thence he saw a rider who was just come to the very crossing of the roads. The new comer was much muffled in a wide cloak. And later; the Fellowship of the Dry Tree. There is also another reference to adventuring; “I have nought to do save to seek adventures.”
   Chapter 11 were learn of a Forest Lord and we also have someone joining the company; “…and if thou wilt I will walk beside thy rein, which fellowship, as aforesaid, shall be a gain to me.” Though Boromir’s gain was his bane.
   The scene in Chapter 12 of a guarded hall reminds me of entering Meduseld; one of the guard laid his spear across and bade them stand, and the captain spake in a dry cold voice: “Whence comest thou, man-at-arms?”
   In the 13th Chapter the hero hears the Queen of the story sing like Aragorn did one night outside Moria; and Ralph stayed to listen in his idle mood, and he heard how she sang. What comes next? We have a storytelling poem. Of course many others used this vehicle, Walter Scott employed it always but the point is, it is also in The Well.
   Chapter 14 brings a mysterious scene inside an Inn with something like Aragorn joining the Hobbits and Fate is in the mix; “Not so, young lord; if thou goest I will go with thee, for thou hast won my heart, I know not how: and I would verily be thy servant, to follow thee whithersoever thou goest; for I think that great deeds will come of thee.”
   In Chapter 15 we have a scene where the hero has slept overnight at an inn and needs to escape without detection. “I am thy fellow-farer, Roger,” said the speaker, “and this thou hast to do, get on thy raiment speedily, and take thy weapons without noise, if thou wouldst not be in the prison of the Burg before sunrise.” And there are those present at the inn they do not trust, like Bell Ferny and his sidekick. “Art thou all so sure of that?” quoth Ralph, “or who are these that be with us? meseems they smell of the Dry Tree.”
   In Chapter 16 as well as other spots we bump into a now famous word; “hast thou an inkling of the road whereon lies thine errand?"
   In Chapter 17 we encounter a moment similar to when Aragorn asked Gandalf; “what does your heart say; which means your heart will tell the truth if Frodo and Sam are still alive…"And thine heart lieth not," Also in this chapter we have one of many references that speak of old constructions still standing around the land; Ralph looking round deemed he had never seen fairer building than in the castle, what he could see of it, and yet it was built from of old. Both Tolkien and Morris were natives of a land where history could be seen everywhere around them.
   In Chapter 18 we meet a hall that is described in a very similar fashion as that of Theoden’s hall. He laughed gaily and went into the hall with her, and now was it well dight with bankers and dorsars of goodly figured cloth, and on the walls a goodly halling of arras of the Story of Alexander and later; and he entered a door therefrom, which was but on the latch, and went up a little stair into a chamber, which was the goodliest and the richest of all. Its roof was all done with gold and blue from over sea, and its pavement wrought delicately in Alexandrine work. On the dais was a throne of carven ivory, and above it a canopy of baudekin of the goodliest fashion, and there was a foot-carpet before it, wrought with beasts and the hunting of the deer. We hear of a powerful woman; Ralph started as she said the word, but held his peace awhile. Then he said: “And who is lord of this fair land?” “There is no lord, but a lady.”
Now listen to her description; Said Ralph: "Thou meanest, I suppose, that she is fair to look on, and soft-spoken when she is pleased?” “I mean far more than that” said the carle; “surely is she most heavenly fair, and her voice is like the music of heaven: but withal her deeds, and the kindness of her to us poor men and husbandmen, are no worse than should flow forth from that loveliness.” And I think this name says a lot; the “Lady of Abundance." The following passage causes me to remember the safety of the Shire and the danger of the lands beyond the border. “And that land north-away beyond the wildwood, canst thou tell me the tale of its wars, and if it were wasted in the same wars that tormented this land?” The carle shook his head: “As to the land beyond this wood,” quoth he, “I know nought of it, for beyond the wood go we never: nay, most often we go but a little way into it, no further than we can see the glimmer of the open daylight through its trees,—the daylight of the land of Abundance—that is enough for us.”  Next we find inside the castle is an important book; Then he went back to the castle and found the carline in the hall, and she had the book with her and gave it to him, and he sat down in the shot-window under the waxlights and fell to reading of it.
   Chapter 20, remember when the hobbits were deciding if they could trust Strider or not? nor foul; but fair
   Chapter 22 brings a very familiar character “a white horse” It is not just any white horse “Now, lord, I warn thee, draw not a single foot nigher to me; for thou seest that I have Silverfax between my knees, and thou knowest how swift he is, and if I see thee move, he shall spring away with me.”
    In Chapter 23 we read the Lady (on par with Aragorn) is has the gift of healing "The Leechcraft of the Lady" Also of interest, our heroine dons the guise of man. She smiled on him still more kindly, as if he were a dear friend, and said simply: “I was that lad in the cloak that ye saw in the Flower de Luce.”
    The title of Chapter 24 is "Supper and Slumber in the Woodland Hall" Sounds a bit like Rivendell to me. And again the Lady in this story; the Lady of Abundance was here for his helping; for from her hands goeth all healing. A little later in the story we don’t have trees talking but instead; “but I was sitting amongst the trees pondering many things, when I began to drowse, and drowsing I heard the thornbushes speaking to me like men.”
   Book 2 Chapter 2 we discover that Silverfax is as intelligent with his master as Shadowfax is with Gandalf. “I said a word in the ear of Silverfax or ever I departed, and now the good beast knows my mind.”
   In Chapter 6 I was reminded of the difficulty the hobbits faced when in the withywindle and also when Frodo and Sam are trying to progress into Mordor. Not that the way was long, as I found out afterwards, but that we went astray in the woodland, and at last came out of it into a dreadful stony waste which we strove to cross thrice, and thrice were driven back into the greenwood by thirst and hunger. In this instance I’m talking about feeling despair not descriptions.
   In Chapter 7 we read an echo that called to my mind the manner that the men of Rohan spoke about Galadrial. “And moreover with the wearing of the years those murmurs against me and the blind causeless hatred began to grow again, and chiefly methinks because I was the king, and my lord the king's cloak: but therewith tales concerning me began to spring up, how that I was not only a sorceress,  but even one foredoomed from of old and sent by the lords of hell to wreck that fair Land of the Tower and make it unhappy and desolate.”
   In Chapter 8 I read again of another “land of the tower”
   In Chapter 15 we find a feature of Gandalf; that old man, the wizard, to whom folk from Swevenham and other places about were used to seek for his lore in hidden matters.
   In 21 we have this; The fellowship were as then in such a place, that they were riding a high bare ridge This called to my mind when Saruman had the birds looking for the fellowship in an area where it was difficult to conceal themselves.
   Chapter 25 has this that hints at the scouring of the shire; and here and there long rows of ugly hovels, or whiles houses, big tall and long, but exceeding foul and ill-favoured, We also find mountains that are as bleak as Mordor; they came amongst the confused hills that lay before the great mountains, which were now often hidden from their sight; but whenever they appeared through the openings of the near hills, they seemed very great and terrible; dark and bare and stony;
   We have a “fellowship” traveling in Chapter 26; Five days the Fellowship abode at Whiteness and also what calls to my mind the lands that Frodo and Sam had to endure to reach the crack of doom. Seven days they rode the mountains, and the way was toilsome and weary enough, for it was naught but a stony maze of the rocks where nothing living dwelt, and nothing grew Interestingly, we also bump into a very simple name that we’ve read before; because they were over strong for the wild men to meddle with them.
   In Chapter 28 we again read a description of a town that sounds like Minas Tirith; a great white wall girt it all about. The very obvious appears in 30 with only a minor spelling difference, though it happened to be one the professor would have immensely disliked; under pain of falling into the displeasure of Gandolf.
   Again in Chapter 31 we find another familiar reference repeated; but taken out of the hands of the wild men from the further mountains.
   I think this description in Chapter 32 well describes the Orcs; “These were big men, and savage-looking, and their armour was utterly uncouth.” And there is a strange sighting that reminds me about a comment made about a glimpse of a Nazgul;
“but this is strange about it, though I have been watching it this half hour, and looking to see the rack come up from that quarter, yet it changes not at all. I never saw the like of this cloud.”
   Chapter 34 has a lot of story-telling-poetry
   Another description of what sounds very like Mordor appears in 35; and he saw that what he had taken for clouds was a huge wall of mountains, black and terrible,
   In 39; a woeful wood it is, Mirkwood is certainly woeful and men don’t trust Fangorn either.
   In Book3 chapter 3 we meet a sort of Sauron; “But tell me first, is that Lord of Utterbol as evil as men's fear would make him? for no man is feared so much unless he is deemed evil.” She was silent a while, and then she said: “He is so evil that it might be deemed that he has been brought up out of hell.” The Lord of Utterbol is the main bad-guy in The Well but he pales next to Sauron. We also bump into the makings of a great name for woods, just like in the Norse classic; and sweet it was to Ralph to see her face come clear again from out the "mirk of the wood".
   In Chapter 5 we read about an unusual river-display; …was the roaring of distant waters; and when they went to the lip of the river they saw flocks of foam floating. For me, the reach from flocks to herds is not a long one and near Rivendell we see water foam into horses. Later in this chapter, we bump into two hints of a future Gandalf; …and beside them a man, tall and white bearded, leaning on his staff. and also this; and saw the greybeard at once. We also discover there is an important book in Morris’ story;This book was mine heritage at Swevenham Here I need only remind that the Red-book became the generational responsibly of a certain hobbit family.
   Within Chapter 7 we read an account we should recognize in a different form and situation; The Sage spake softly but quickly: “Lie down together, ye two, and I shall cast my cloak over you, and look to it that ye stir not from out of it, nor speak one word till I bid you, whate'er may befall: for the riders of Utterbol are upon us.” Here, you should easily recall the scene of Sam and Frodo near the Black Gate.
   Again in Chapter 9 we read; at the end of the bight and much more important than a curious feature on a world-map, we learn that; Ralph shot a brace of conies just like Sam does before causing the disgust of Gollum. A little further in the reading,  I bumped into a line for me that conjured a scene out of the Hobbit; like to clinkers out of some monstrous forge of the earth-giants. Of course Peter Jackson made the bigger statement in his movie, when we see two earth-giants battling in around and with the Bilbo and the Dwarves.
   In Chapter 10 we meet a new creature in The Well; and wonderful indeed it seemed to them that anything save the Eagles could have aught to tell of what lay beyond it. And see a similar idea of a an old place; and on this smooth space was carven in the living rock the image of a warrior in mail and helm of ancient fashion, and holding a sword in his right hand. Helm Hammerhand anyone?
   The images in this story are vast and in 16 we find a very important comment that resembles something we have heard from Professor Tolkien; “for so have the Gods given us the gift of death lest we weary of life.”
   In Chapter 17 we read of bird talk; she held out the other to the said robin who perched on her wrist, and sat there as a hooded falcon had done, and fell to whistling his sweet notes, as if he were a-talking to those new-comers Further on I was blown away by this description of an army of the dead; I can note that this army of dead men has not come all in one day or one year, but in a long, long while, by one and two and three; for hast thou not noted that their raiment and wargear both, is of many fashions, and some much more perished than others and I fear neither the Waste nor the dead men if thou fearest not, beloved: but I lament for these poor souls. Sound like these guys could have used a rescue, say like “the King setting them free.”
   In Chapter 18 we come across a land feature in mountains that is known to exist in Rohan; when they were but a little way from the brow they saw, over a gap thereof.
In Twenty, another important land feature we now know goes to a Spider's lair; they could behold a kind of stair cut in the side of the cliff.
   Moving on to Book 4 Chapter 7 of The Well we meet some words that should carry much meaning to lovers of LoTR; in five minutes' time the Black Riders were fleeing all over the field and then this; Forth on they rode, and slept in a wood that night, keeping good watch; but saw no more of the Black Riders for that time.
   Within Chapter 13 we see a big seed for a grander thought; for now hast thou wedded into the World of living men, and not to a dream of the Land of Fairy. Also, no matter how subtle they may be, sometimes other Treebeard-notions; we have been feeling some stirring of the air about us; even as though matters were changing.
   On a general note, I love the feast for future story listed in Chapter 16; Meanwhile the carles fell to speech freely with the wayfarers, and told them much concerning their little land, were it hearsay, or stark sooth: such as tales of the wights that dwelt in the wood, wodehouses, and elf-women, and dwarfs, and such like, and how fearful it were to deal with such creatures. This is not small stuff it’s huge inspiration for me…too.
   I love everything about “seed-cakes” and we find; with some little deal of cakes baked on the hearth in Chapter 17.
   Within the 22nd Chapter we read a marvelous poem that speaks of a familiar renewal”

The Dry Tree shall be seen
On the green earth, and green
The Well-spring shall arise
For the hope of the wise.
They are one
which were twain,
The Tree bloometh again,
And the Well-spring hath come
From the waste to the home.


   Lastly I enjoyed one last feature of the tale that I have gleaned and it is one of the features of Tolkien’s tales that I treasure; it’s that someone else, other than the current story-teller has written much of what we have read; And ever when Ralph thus spoke was a brother of the House sitting with the Prior, which brother was a learned and wise man and very speedy and deft with his pen. Wherefore it has been deemed not unlike that from this monk's writing has come the more part of the tale above told.

   We’ve now reached this journey’s end. It is one I made not to take anything away from the best tales of my life but only to add more to the larger tapestry behind the wonderful tales.  I hope for creation’s sake, this little effort proves kindling to fire other imaginations and taps the inspirational well for many more adventures.
   In closing, Tolkien and Morris were two men cut from the same cloth and this being true, it is very likely that they formed similar inspirational-patterns from the reading of the same previous works. However true that is, Morris came first, and I believe like in all great art, this work became a large stone in the “tower” that Tolkien built for us all to climb and look out to the sea.


In Closing

   Regarding the act of creation and invention that I believed at the time, I thought that everything in those books had came from straight from the professor’s imagination. In short, I was flabbergasted, (whatever a gasted-flabber might be) at the depth and richness of the world that I had read and enjoyed.
   This will sound silly but soon after I sat down and began making-up all sorts of fantastic creatures and places, wanting desperately to unlock the uppermost of my own creative abilities; surely Tolkien was not the only person that had been given such an extraordinary gift? Needless to say, I soon had sand-people walking about in places where it never stopped raining and in the end I faced a brutal truth and I gave up such an undisciplined quest, that proved a grave stroll through my serious folly.
   My life went on and decades flew by, bringing the variety of tales that normal life brings to most people. Then one day my doom struck and my world was turned upside down. Because of new and difficult circumstances I faced the choice of what to do with a lot of spare time? My physical options were limited so I decided that I would go back to school. I don’t mean the formal route, there was no money for that path but with the internet and physical libraries I decided I would pursue my interests of old. Long story short, my list of interests including Legend, Lore, Myth, Poetry and tales by Tolkien,  many others and some unknown authors dominated a long tally.
   I had read Tolkien’s works many times since 1974 so there was not yet any discovery to be made there but rather I decided to take a closer look at the man behind the wonderful writing, that weaver of such a wondrous cloth of invention. (I still thought all had come from his creativity alone)
  My new studies began when I bought a few bio-DVDs and found out the facts about his life and then visited dedicated internet sites and learned more. When Peter Jackson made his first movies in the early two thousands I followed along inside and outside so to speak. However the most important part of this timeline was buying two books written by Tolkien scholar; Tom Shippey and buying and listening to a lecture on modern fantasy by professor Michael Drout {JRRT was his chief example} in the Barnes & Noble Portable Professor series.
   The single most important fact that I learned from the deeper look, was that Tolkien did not pull all elements from his own imagination. To be honest, I was shocked about that but not for any reason greater than that I had thought the opposite for so long a a period of time.
   With my being over keen on imagination, at first I was dismayed at this discovery.    However, I soon saw his creation process is a much more positive light than I ever could have if he’d just pulled everything from a hat. Briefly, had it had all been invention, my wanting to follow in his footsteps would have been an even larger fairy-tale because a person cannot easily manufacture hugely successful fantastic inventions whenever they wish. That route would be more a single-gift than any place to learn; more a lone stroll through an individual’s creative-process instead of a more rewarding look inside a greater community sharing a wonderful exchange of ideas.
  It did not take long for me to understand that professor Tolkien was a person to be admired for far more than having a good imagination and writing a few now famous books. Instead I discovered that a path of research and discipline lay behind his incredible scholarly and academic mind which in turn provided a very formidable foundation for his and, if we’ll also invest and learn, a gift to our own creative spirits.
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artu
artu


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posted November 08, 2016 09:45 PM

I don't understand how you were once under the impression that all of it was his own imagination. Isn't it very common knowledge that elves, dwarves, goblins and many more are folkloric mythology? Surely, you must have known he did not invent fire breathing dragons. Or were your assumptions exclusive only to specific structures and conventions of the storytelling?
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PandaTar
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posted November 08, 2016 10:27 PM

Quite nice topic. When I feel like it, I'll post some stuff here, given that I'm quite 'affected' by inspirational bursts over my writing and drawing business.
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