July Writing Goals

So here’s something ironic: I’d planned this post for July 1, but I didn’t get it posted in time because I was… working on my July writing goals.

(Actually, that’s only half true. I was also binge-reading Elin Hilderbrand’s new book The Rumor. Fantastic summer read. More on that in the July book review.)

start:finishBut seriously, I’m so close to the end of my re-write, I’m choreographing the “final word” victory dance.



This year, I’ve been making seasonal goals instead of annual ones. I like this system because it’s impossible to foresee how life circumstances might change over the course of a year, but a season is more manageable. Thinking seasonally also forces me to be mindful of the need for more sleep and self-care in the winter, extra time spent outdoors in the spring, and the start of a new school year in the fall. My summer season is the shortest, as I only plan for July and August, but also the most productive, because I’m not teaching full-time. [Read more…]

June Book Review

Welcome to the monthly book review! At the end of each month, I review the books I’ve read. Enjoy!

thenamesakeThe Book: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Category: Literary/Cultural Fiction

In Three Words: Full-circle family.

Biggest Takeaway: I love how Lahiri writes around major life events but gives them all a soft focus, showing the reader every detail in the packing of a just-deceased father’s apartment, the succulent meal eaten with a new girlfriend.

i know how she does itThe Book: I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam

The Category: Nonfiction/Self-Improvement

In Three Words: Yes, We Can!

Biggest Takeaway: Longtime readers of this blog will know I’m a Vanderkam fan (a Vanderfan?) and wrote a guest post for her blog last winter. This book is further celebration of Laura’s overall mission statement: that we all have time to do the things we care about if we just think creatively and consciously arrange the pieces of our lives.

The one point where I disagree with her is on the point of wasting your time cleaning up the house, because “the toys will just come out again in the morning, but you’ll never get that time back.” While that is true, I think it discounts the personality of the cleaner. I know that I feel happier and more creative in an ordered space. I think my other hours in the house would be less happy and productive if I didn’t spend a small amount of time clearing up daily (and getting physical exercise while doing so). [Read more…]

Three Keys To A Sumptuous Reading Life

Over the past month, some of my favorite book bloggers have posted summer reading lists. (Modern Mrs. Darcy’s is one of the best; it’s focused and well-researched.) I love perusing these lists and adding books to my to-read shelves on Goodreads.

But I’m never, ever going to make my own summer reading list. Not for myself, not for this blog.

The problem isn’t with making the list. I’m sure I’d have fun doing that. The problem is what happens after the list is made. If I make a list, I’m going to feel committed to it. I would feel I had to read every book on that list from beginning to end, or I’d have failed my blog readers and myself. I would insist on putting every one of those books in my July and August book review posts, so that my readers could see that I held myself accountable to the original list.

And that sounds like torture to me. (I’ve done it in the past, so I should know.)

I’ve heard it said that writers should follow a formula for reading: for example, always be reading a book of contemporary fiction, a book in your genre, and a book on writing craft.

That also sounds like torture to me.

Lists and formulas can be a wonderful help to people who want to encourage themselves to read more, or read better quality books. But so can having a regular system in place to help you consistently find fantastic books so that you always want to be reading.  [Read more…]

Make A Pioneer List

covered wagonI recently wrote a blog post for DIY MFA on parental figures in classic children’s literature (stay tuned for my new column for DIY MFA on writing health and wellness, starting in July!). One of the characters who taught me a lot about work ethic is Ma Ingalls from the Little House books. In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder describes Ma’s system for chores: Monday is washing, Tuesday is ironing, Wednesday is mending, etc. It seems likely that many pioneer women had a similar system for making sure weekly chores got done, on top of the daily chores such as cooking meals (all from scratch, no Chinese takeout) and taking care of livestock (cows need to be milked every morning).

Although I’m fortunate enough to live in an era where chores take up significantly less time, I’m intrigued by the idea of assigning a specific day of the week for a certain task. [Read more…]

Does Passion Need A Goal?

Yesterday morning, there was a race across the Walkway over the Hudson, a beautiful pedestrian bridge not ten minutes from my house. I’d seriously considered signing up for the race earlier in the spring, but decided (rightly) that I wouldn’t have enough time to train.

The Rail Trail, last fall

The Rail Trail, last fall

This morning, I went for a run. I usually go to a group exercise class on Sunday mornings, but it was gorgeous outside, and I just felt like moving. (Funny story: while on the rail trail, I passed two people who are also regulars at my Sunday morning Step class. Guess I wasn’t the only one!)

As I began to increase my tempo, two thoughts converged in my head.

I am so glad I didn’t do the race yesterday.

I love running!

Contrasting statements, wouldn’t you agree? I loved to run, and yet was glad I hadn’t run yesterday. I puzzled over this as I continued down the path. And then another thought came to me:

Because exercise and health have intrinsic value to me, I don’t necessarily need to set new challenges for myself, like a race or a time-per-mile. I’ll keep doing them because I really love exercise, and I really value my health. 

As soon as this thought occurred to me, I knew it to be true. Yet it opposes everything I previously knew about myself: that I’m competitive, goal-oriented, growth-seeking, and love a challenge. How can all of those things be true, if I’m happy doing certain things without any goal in mind, any need to compete with others or even with myself?  [Read more…]