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Make Art Not War Art Challenge:

Rules, Essays, and 31 Creative Prompts

Written by Monica Valentinelli

Credits & Copyright

© 2017 Monica Valentinelli

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For queries about reproducing the contents found in this book, contact the publisher and author at or visit the author’s website at

Both the Cover Art and Make Art Not War 2017 Participant logos were designed by Meredith Anne Gerber. You are free to use the Make Art Note War 2017 Participant logos for your personal use, using the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Creative Commons license.

About this eBook

A portion of this material originally appeared as blog posts published on The content has since been revised and expanded upon for this eBook titled: Make Art Not War Challenge: Rules, Essays, and 31 Creative Prompts.

An advocate for her peers and new artists, Monica created the Make Art Not War Challenge to inspire, uplift, and encourage artists to continue making art. As such, this challenge was, in no way shape or form, created by, with, or for any of the many publishers or individuals she’s worked with over the years, nor does it reflect anyone else’s political or personal views except her own.

The Make Art Not War Challenge is also not intended to downplay, minimize, or ignore the issues today’s society are facing, nor is it designed as a replacement for addressing problems or offering assistance. It is simply meant to be a motivational tool of support.

Special Thanks

I’d like to offer a note of special thanks to the many creative and professional individuals who have walked with me on my journey as an artist. I could not do what I do without Matt M. McElroy, who is the reason why my work is possible today. I have also learned a great deal about being a better human being and artist from fine folk including Rich Thomas from Onyx Path Publishing, Howard and Sandra Tayler from Schlock Mercenary, Katherine Cross, Victor Raymond, Tanya De Pass from We Need Diverse Games, my favorite princess, Alethea Kontis, K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl from Writing The Other, Cat Rambo, and many, many others too numerous to count. You know who you are, and I salute you.

About the Author

Monica Valentinelli is an Italian-American writer, game developer, and artist who lurks in the dark. Described as a force of nature by her peers, she writes critical essays, original and media/tie-in fiction, and lends her talents to developing, editing, and writing games, too.

Monica is a frequent guest at conventions, and is best known for her award-winning work related to the Firefly TV show by Joss Whedon. She was the lead writer and developer for the award-winning line of Firefly RPG books, and wrote the Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ’Verse released by Titan Publishing in April 2016.

Her published stories and games also include “Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” for Extreme Zombies, “The Dig” for the Lovecraft Zine, Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade, and “In Volo’s Wake” for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. Last year, Monica successfully ran a Kickstarter for her co-edited anthology titled Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling from Apex Book Company. The collection was released in December 2016, and earned a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.

Monica holds a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop 2016 graduate. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling, designing jewelry, cooking, taking photos, gaming, watching anime and martial arts movies, exploring historic places, and hiking.

She is represented by Jennie Goloboy from Red Sofa Literary.

For more about Monica and her upcoming books and games, visit her website at You can also find her contributions throughout the web on sites including and, too.

Interested in connecting with Monica? Follow her on Twitter at @booksofm or on Facebook at Monica Valentinelli, her public profile page.

Table of Contents

Credits & Copyright

About the Author

Make Art Not War Challenge & Rules

Alternate Rules


My Inspiration for Creating the MANW Challenge

On Personal Power

On Permission and Self-Care

Writer’s Block? Maybe It’s Writer’s Avoidance Behavior

Have Confidence In Yourself! Your Mileage Will Vary

On Not Making Art

On Keeping Your Eyes On Your Own Page

When Art Isn’t Solitary

On Expectations, Failure, and Removing Heart-Splinters

Struggling to Make Art? 25 Tips for Getting Your Shit Together

Stop Waiting and Make Art

Artists Persist by Making More Art

31 Creative Prompts

Bonus! Creative Challenge

Letter to the Reader

Make Art Not War Challenge & Rules

Born out of both my personal experiences and the knowledge that oppression tends to crush the artistic spirit on a cellular level, I have created a Make Art Not War Challenge in December of 2016 for those who need it.

This challenge, which came together from inspiration to draft guidelines, is designed to be flexible to work with your talents and lifestyle. I’ve been taking it myself for many months and it’s made a huge difference!

You can start or modify the Make Art Not War Challenge rules now, or you can use it to form your New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of future years. Don’t be afraid to customize the specifics to fit your needs. Your art? Your rules.

Remember: you can join at any time — it is never too late to make art!

Why take the Make Art Not War Challenge? When times are tough, the feeling that artists are not necessary tends to permeate. Art is viewed as frivolous or a luxury since we don’t produce food, clothing, or housing. The exact opposite is true, however, because in charged political climates artists document and represent our humanity and all our struggles be they violent or peaceful for present day and future generations. Often, propaganda posters, victory songs, and other forms of art are specifically commissioned as well. Art is omnipresent, it is always political, and the choices we make affect our audiences and everyone around us.

For some artists, making art is an act of resistance; for others, like myself, making art is a way of life. Even if your goal is to avoid politics altogether, remember that people turn to stories, games, and comics to find hope, to be inspired, to reach inside themselves and discover their own courage. Those emotions, even if they provide a temporary reprieve from whatever they’re facing, are powerful motivators to live and fight another day.

I created this challenge to help encourage you to tap into your voice and tell your story. After all, one story can change someone’s life. The problem is, we have no idea which story that will be, when it will be told, or in what medium. It’s up to us to find it — by making art!

To ensure that the rules don’t get bogged down in details, I’ve designed the challenge to be simple, but grounded in four actionable areas. They are: Motivation, Discipline, Accountability, and Connection.

Make Art Not War Challenge Rules Summary

This is a summary of the rules I’ve designed for the challenge. In the longer version, I offer means of customization to fit your lifestyles. After you’ve read the rules, write down in four-to-five sentences what you’ll pledge to do and post them publicly or privately. Remember: you can join at any time! Combined, the actionable items will help keep you grounded and focused on making art, while remaining connected to the world around you.

My Make Art Not War Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote one hour a day to my original art.

  • If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to write down the reasons why I wanted to take this challenge for fifteen minutes or one-to-three pages whichever comes first.

  • I pledge to mark down on the calendar whenever I complete a day’s efforts.

  • As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post on my website at every Wednesday. Comments will be open, and you can use a dated or undated hashtag like #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017 or #makeartnotwar.

  • I pledge to check into social media less for personal use, and once a month with my local community of artists and writers in person.


Find your personal reason to make art and use that as your rallying cry.

Artists are human beings, not robots. Writers need to discover our characters’ voices. Painters need to glance at a blank canvas and draw that first line. Musicians need to hear the first stanza. Sometimes, however, we get stuck. We don’t know what to write. We don’t know if our art will resonate. We don’t see how our words will matter, because we can’t predict the future. So, we freeze up. We punish ourselves. Then, we read the news and get depressed; or, we get bad news and get even more depressed. Caught in that never-ending cycle of wondering what our worth is, some artists cease to create altogether.

There are 1,000 reasons to never pick up that pen, that inkwell, that stylus. What could be more important than them? Those precious few reasons why you’re making art. Before you begin the challenge, figure out why you want to make art to find your motivation. Maybe you have a mantra, like “I want to make readers laugh.” Maybe, however, making art is so ingrained in your identity you might say: “I need to write to be happy.” Or, maybe you have a goal or business plan that helps keep you grounded on: “I need to draw to pay the bills”.

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