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Jane Friedman's Electric Speed newsletter

A note from Jane

Unmade beds remind me of my failed marriage. For the eight years I lived with my first husband, neither of us would make the bed—ever—maybe because we weren’t trained to do it as children.

But seeing that unmade bed every day bothered me a little, and then increasingly as time wore on. It seemed like a sign that we had never quite grown up.

So the first morning that I woke up in my own place, by myself, I made the bed. And I have been doing so ever since. I have often thought about why.

In an Alan Watts lecture, he talks about how we sometimes treat as serious those things that aren’t serious at all, like doing the dishes. He says, “The whole point of washing the dishes is playful. You don’t wash the dishes for a serious reason. You like the table to look nice. You don’t want to serve up the dishes with dinner with all the leavings of breakfast still lying on them. So why do you want the table to look nice? Well, again, it’s the nice, you see. You like the pattern on it that way.”

There’s no question I sought a new or nicer pattern. But also by making the bed look nice, maybe I would feel better, or become someone who hadn’t failed. I treated the issue as serious.

In my recent client work, I find writers sometimes describe characters using the universal and abstract language of emotion, without referring to how those emotions manifest in specific behavior. To make a more indelible mark on the reader, consider revealing even the smallest actions that bubble to the surface—like the decision to start making the bed.

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P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
How Do Publishers Decide Which Books to Bet On?
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Jane’s Electric Speed List

Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. (I have not been paid to mention any of these resources.)

A beautiful way to read public domain ebooks

Standard Ebooks is a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit initiative that shows just how beautiful and useful the ebook reading experience can be. It dedicates its work to public domain books and all titles are free to read. You’ll find poetry by Robert Frost, plays by William Shakespeare, novels by Edith Wharton, and so many others. Browse their catalog.


Do you use Notion (like I do)? Check out these free add-ons.

Notion is kind of like Evernote (or a note-taking app) on steroids. It’s endlessly customizable and has a community of developers who extend its functionality. To see some of the invaluable and fun ways to use Notion, check out these add-ons. They include tools for building slides in Notion, creating charts, and adding widgets/apps of all kinds.


Where to find free illustrations for your website or social media posts

This site aggregates dozens of sites that offer free illustrations and vectors across myriad formats, including JPG, PDF, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and more. (You can filter by file type.) Find everything from conceptual scribbles to avatars to round butts (really).

Don't Panic face mask

Just for fun (and your health): Bookish face masks

The merchandising arm of Penguin Random House, known as Out of Print, has begun selling bookish face masks. My favorite one: Don’t Panic, drawn from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A portion of each sale will be donated to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, to support bookstores affected by COVID-19.

The Courage to Create with Elizabeth Hope Derby

Next online class: The Courage to Create with Elizabeth Hope Derby

On Thursday, July 16: One of the biggest challenges experienced writers face is self-doubt—the voice inside their heads telling them they can’t succeed. This mindset can sabotage your ability to show up to the page, market yourself consistently, or share new and meaningful work like the professional you know you can be. Business coach Elizabeth Hope Derby will teach you a three-part process for activating your courage to continue creating work that matters to you and growing your writing career.
Learn more and register

Your turn: Where to find writing prompts

In the last issue, I asked you to share your favorite resource for writing prompts. Here’s what you said.
  • Creative Talents Unleashed [offers] weekly five great photo prompts ... as a result this year so far I have written over 300 poems!” —Jake Aller
  • “My favorite source for writing prompts is the weekly prompts at Yeah Write. My first published stories sprang from YW prompts!” —Jen Allen
  • “I primarily use More Odds Than Ends for writing prompts. I also look at the ideas at Reddit Writing Prompts.” —Fiona
  • “My favorite go-to writing prompt place is The 3 AM Epiphany by Brian Kiteley.”
  • “Would it be cheeky of me to mention the 10-year archive of writing prompts at StoryADay?” —Julie Duffy (creator of StoryADay)
Next question: We’re going old school this time. What’s your favorite pencil to use? (No pens allowed, just pencils for now.)


Classifieds support Electric Speed and get delivered to 34,000 subscribers each week. We’re sold out for 2020, but have sponsorships available in 2021.

WRITING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC. Join 7-time author Laura Davis’ weekly international class. Explore, express, grieve, pause to create, record history. Join our safe, sacred community.

There’s never been a better time to focus on your future book. IngramSpark shares everything you need to know in How to Self-Publish a Book: The Complete Guide to Publish Like a Pro.

Are you looking for the ultimate writing community for like-minded female-identifying writers? Join us in The Well, the writing sisterhood you’ve been longing for.

The Blog Post Inspiration Deck draws from your life & work to help you create original content for your readers. 8,000+ ideas, endless inspiration, for your blog & social feeds.

Upcoming online classes

🖋️ July 12: Before You Sign That Contract with Jane Friedman (free!)

🦁 July 16: The Courage to Create with Elizabeth Hope Derby

🔎 July 29: How to Research Your Life: A Memoir Writer’s Guide with Marion Roach Smith

🌟 August 12: Effective Book Marketing for Any Author with Jane Friedman

💸 August 26: Becoming a Paid Writer and Speaker with Benjamin Vogt

📖 October 25: The Foundations of Getting Published with Jane Friedman

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Electric Speed is a free newsletter published by Jane Friedman that’s been sending since 2009. More than 34,000 subscribers receive it. You can support it by (1) sponsoring an issue or (2) sharing it with friends and colleagues.
“At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.” 
—Marshall McLuhan
Copyright © 2020 Jane Friedman, All rights reserved.

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