Friday Book Love #4

In this series, I give a brief snapshot of three unrelated books that I recently read and enjoyed. If you decide to read them too, I’d love to hear what you thought! 

10percent happierThe Category: Memoir/Self-Improvement

The Book: 10% Happier by Dan Harris

In Three Words: Exploration. Meditation. Change.

Biggest Takeaway: For some reason, I thought this book was a self-improvement tome along the lines of The Happiness Project. I wasn’t completely wrong, but it read more like a memoir. It was a surprisingly personal journey, written by a public figure. I was impressed by Harris’s genuine account of his journey toward emotional/spiritual growth and increased life satisfaction. And I’ve been inspired to try doing meditation outside the yoga studio.

the girl who came homeThe Category: Historical Fiction

The Book: The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor

In Three Words: Titanic. (Do you really need another two words?) [Read more…]

How Do You Say No To Yourself?

One of the things I love best about myself is the idea-generator in my head. I’m taking a walk or doing chores, and something just comes to me: the thread of a children’s story; the idea for a self-improvement book; a way I can write in the theme of an upcoming writing contest. The other night I woke up at 2:00 in the morning from a very frightening dream, then hurried to write it down as a short story idea. When I get these ideas, I feel very excited and full of potential. I can see myself nourishing the idea, then writing and producing great work to be published by myself or others. In moments of fantasy, I can envision it as my “breakthrough piece.” I immediately want to carve out time to devote to the new project, to see it through to the end.

But, more often than not, the idea just goes into a file on my computer or a note on my phone, and that is the end. I may look at it some time later and think, “that was a great idea,” but because I didn’t follow up with it right away, the passion and excitement has waned. It’s much harder to pick up an idea some time after it’s been thought of. (There are some exceptions. The truly great ideas never stop inciting action.)Idea image

It makes me sad to think about this process.  [Read more…]

The First Sentence Always Sucks

First sentences suck. 

Sometimes you find one that’s brilliant, and you write it down with excitement… but then you realize you have no idea what comes next. (Many a blog post has been abandoned for that reason.) More often, you have an idea for a piece and maybe a rough thesis statement, but you don’t know how to start, so you stare at the page for awhile. Then you start typing something completely inane, hoping that it leads you to your thesis. Often, it does, and the writing goes pretty well from there… but then you still have to go back to the beginning and fix that damned first sentence.

We all know how much first sentences matter. It’s the first thing- and sometimes the only thing- people read. If they don’t like your first sentence, they might not bother with the rest. [Read more…]

How “Better Than Before” Is Changing My Habits

I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s for a long time now, so I was incredibly excited when she began promoting her latest book, Better Than Before, a personal manifesto about a topic I adore: habits. It’s the first book I’ve ever ordered prior to release, other than Harry Potter books. (There is no greater honor than being classified with Harry Potter!) After reading the book, I’m an even bigger fan. In Better Than Before, Rubin continues to share countless secrets of happiness-directed, purposeful living, and gives name to simple steps we can all take to make our lives more fulfilling.

My cat Miles isn't as receptive to habit formation as I am.

My cat Miles isn’t as receptive to habit formation as I am.

In the first section, Rubin extols the virtues of “knowing thyself” before trying to create habits, and helps readers explore their particular tendencies and habit pillars. The tendencies/pillars provide a wealth of self-information. You can find out your own tendency here; for the pillars, you’ll have to read the book. (In case you’re curious, I’m an Upholder, lark, marathoner, under-buyer, simplicity lover, finisher, familiarity lover, promotion-focused, small-steps person. I think this is a very accurate list of my characteristics.)

The rest of the book is devoted to strategies for habit forming and protecting. I’d like to share the ones that had the greatest impact on me, though there are many others discussed in the book. [Read more…]

I’m Not Ready To Write A Memoir… Yet

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Traveling an old road

About a month ago, I started working on some ideas for a short piece that I’d planned to write during my spring break from teaching. I wanted to submit an entry for a contest run by Writer’s Digest (check it out, fellow writers!). The word limit is on the low side; I struggle with keeping fiction short, and I knew I wouldn’t have the time to struggle with it before the deadline, so I decided to try for a memoir/personal essay instead. I turned it over in my mind for a few days and found the nugget of a topic, then fleshed it out on paper via mind-mapping. I try to do this sort of brainstorming at night, so that my brain can work out problems while I sleep. Over the course of several days, I came up with some solid ideas for the essay. Before writing, I decided to go back into my journals from the time period I’d be writing about (a wonderful perk of journal writing) and refresh my memories.

Which gave me a huge case of writer’s block.

Now, I’ve said before that I don’t believe in writer’s block, so I need to clarify this statement a little. [Read more…]