Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Gilbert’

May

3

2016

I’m Committed to my Growth

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Pondering, Writing

Today I’m saying something out loud that I’ve been thinking for awhile–I’m committed to my growth.

One of the many ways I’m honoring this commitment is by spending less time on the internet and attached to my phone. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, my fabulous cyber friends, but the more I look, listen and learn, the more I realize that the internet isn’t the best place to spend my time. Let’s be honest–a lot of bullsh*t goes on over there–a lot.

So, I’ve decided I’m not committed to my bullsh*t. Instead I’m committed to my growth.

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What does that mean?

It means I’ve watched my writing productivity sky rocket when I prioritize deep work over shallow work. Read DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport if you want more information about what that entails.

I’ve also realized that I love this blog and very much enjoy writing it–when I organically have something to say. But, if I have to spend too much of my quality writing time and family time thinking about what to pen–I probably didn’t have to struggle with a post that day. And I don’t need to apologize for it. If it was that hard to write, then you probably didn’t want to read it anyway.

And yesterday I saw a great quote on Elizabeth Gilbert’s FB page that resonated with me…

“Nothing will bring you greater peace than minding your own business.”

It’s come to my attention lately that when I’m too engaged in social media, I feel the need to have opinions and give commentary on things that really aren’t my business. This is especially true in this political climate. The truth is, I never walk away, from minding other people’s business, feeling welcome or believing I made positive change. In fact, I usually feel anxious and frustrated–occasionally a little sick to my stomach. And internet trolls are horrifying. I’ve decided I want to limit my exposure to that kind of stuff.

And then there is that insane addiction going on where you can’t talk to a person without them having their face in their phone. It’s so disheartening when you’re at a restaurant and their right in front of you on FB. Or your having a conversation with someone and you lose the face off. But, since I’m more dedicated to trying to mind my own business, I’m not going to talk more about what kind of bullsh*t that is. I’m just going to say that I don’t want to be that person. I can’t change them and I’m aware of that. But I don’t have to be rude–that’s my choice. I want to be a listener. I want other’s to feel valued when they are around me. And I’m also trying to stop using my phone as a mental pacifier. I used to be able to be with myself for more than 30 seconds without needing to be entertained. How can I grow when I’m not thinking? When I’m not day dreaming? And putting my phone away is another opportunity to pull out a book and read!

And then there’s the hype about needing a crazy social media presence. And I hate to admit this… there are a ton of fabulous authors that blog and do crazy social media–and I read their posts and follow them–but I’ve never bought or read their books.

I am skeptical about how social media translates into book sales and success as an author. I’m not saying it can’t happen or that a strong presence doesn’t have some beneficial side effects, but I’ve become convinced that it’s not the best way for my growth to occur. If time on social media directly translated into book sales and followers–I probably would have sold more books. #hardtruths

Do you see what I’m declaring here?

I’m still going to be on social media, write a blog, have a smart phone and adore my laptop. But I need to make sure that I’m functioning like an intelligent human being. I need to use these things as tools. I do not need to let them use me. I must be sure they aren’t ruling my life. Instead, I have to be running the show and doing productive things that matter.

Today I’m taking another step towards balance and sanity.

I’m committed to my growth.

Share your thoughts if it resonates.

I’ll see you when I see you.

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Feb

5

2016

Eat Your Noodles and Toss Your Balls

Filed under: Check-it-out, Freaky Friday, Pondering, Writing

Yes, I’m a day late on this blog post. But I’m here now. I’ve been working really hard to return to being a consistent and diligent blogger. Why? It makes me feel good. So, because of unexpected obstacles in my yesterday, you are getting a Thursday blog on Friday. How do you like them apples? That’s what I thought–you probably don’t give a flying fig. You’ve got plenty of things to sidetrack you from your own goals. I am only the center of my own universe.

But I’m not alone in that, we are all the sun and the planets of of life orbit around around us. We are jugglers. For gravity we have two hands–only TWO HANDS–to keep three or more balls in the air. Then some monkey starts throwing extra balls at us. It’s SO easy to get sidetracked and drop a ball or two.

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When this happens, because it will, do not self flagellate with wet noodles. Seriously, it’s a waste of noodles.

Go home.

Make some sauce or if you’re really tired, drench them in butter and grated cheese.

Have a good meal.

Pick up your balls. Yes, even the one that rolled under the radiator where the dust bunnies live.

Then toss them back up into the air and move on with your juggling. That’s all. Just do it.

It is a good practice for everything in life. Spend less time worrying about what you didn’t do and just move forward doing the things you need to. Last time I looked, complaining about not writing a blog post doesn’t produce a blog post. And trust me, staring at all the laundry you didn’t do this week only makes your kids have to turn their underwear inside out. Eat your noodles and toss your balls.

But digging in isn’t just for the laundry pile, it also is a strategy for your creative life–especially for writers. You WILL get sidetracked on your journey to create.  You’ll be led astray by good things and bad things. Your balls will drop, roll and scatter at the most unexpected times.

Know how to pick them up and how to get home…

 

TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s Friday and I’m pretty excited about getting this blog post out to you. I’m also going to write today, too. Although I’m still pretty iffy on the laundry. Hey–nobody’s perfect.

How do you combat dropping your balls and being knocked off course? What’s your wet noodle of choice when beating yourself up? What’s your favorite way to eat noodles? Gosh, I want pasta now.

Happy Friday all–have a fabulous weekend and don’t forget to eat your noodles and toss your balls!

 

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Jan

28

2016

The Universe’s Librarian

Filed under: Audiobooks, Family, Pondering, Reading, Stuff I Love

Over and over again, I’ve had the strange and slightly mystical situation of having books show up in my life–demanding I read them. When this phenomenon happens, it always makes me feel as if the Head Librarian of the Library of the Universe has a book recommendation for me.

It always starts off with the book I need to read, catching my eye in a very subtle way. Then, with increasing frequency, I’ll begin to hear people talking about or I’ll keep bumping into blog posts or reviews or social media posts referencing said book. If I continue to be dense about picking the book up, I’ll find that it continues to keep popping up in front of me in different locations. I’ll see it on a shelf, I’ll notice someone reading it or it will stare back at me from a magazine I’m reading.

Sometimes, I’ll go so far as to be compelled to pick up the book and flip to the cover flap, and yet I still won’t understand why I’m supposed to read THAT book. I must drive the Universe’s Head Librarian bat shit crazy sometimes.

It seems accurate that I always picture the Head Librarian at the Library of the Universe as Yvonne Craig in the roll of Bat Girl. It’s hard enough to be a Librarian at a book and mortar building and get people to read. Imagine being an unexplainable force of book nature. The Universe’s Librarian must be a little bit of a super hero to help the people who rationalize everything, understand that what we need shows up. And sometimes it’s a book.

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One of the most memorable examples of Bat Girl, on her motorcycle, doing a high speed chase after me with a book in hand was with Malcolm Galdwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.

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This book was IN MY FACE. I saw it in magazines. I saw it on bookshelves. I couldn’t turn around without bumping into this book. From time to time I’d pick it up and contemplate it. I’d let my fingers run over the description before deciding that even though I’d read a couple of Gladwell’s books and was fascinated by them, I wasn’t ready to pick this one up at the moment. The wording didn’t overly resonate with me

In his #1 bestselling books The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has explored the ways we understand and change our world. Now he looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success. Drawing upon examples from the world of business, sports, culture, cutting-edge psychology, and an array of unforgettable characters around the world, David and Goliath is in many ways the most practical and provocative book Malcolm Gladwell has ever written.

I wasn’t going to read it. At least not now. I convinced myself the book was showing up everywhere because Mr. Gladwell had some mighty fine marketing people. I thought it was a coincidence that this book kept stepping in front of my face. I was so naive.

I can remember the moment that book won the battle and I made the decision to read it. I sometimes wonder if maybe I subconsciously agreed to read it, in order to shut the Universe’s Librarian up. Either way, I was in my local airport and attempting to grab snacks for a family journey. As I stepped off the escalator and walked to the shop–there is was–directly in front of me. AGAIN. I picked up the book one more time and then sat it back down, telling the universe that it could relax because I was going to purchase it as an audiobook–ASAP.

And I did. And a couple chapters in, a lightbulb went off in my head. THIS book was filled with profound thoughts on dyslexia. That book that I didn’t think I would connect with, moved me, supported my instinctual thoughts, it enlightened me, it gave me a dialogue to share with my husband and my dyslexic kids and it added to a spark that had been growing inside me in regards to a manuscript that was forming. I needed that book. I love that book. And I reread it often, because it unfolds for me differently every time I return to it.

Thank you Bat Girl–for not giving up on me so easily. But because of the memorable persistence of that particular book, I have never taken the all knowing Librarian’s book recommendations so lightly again. You don’t have to hit me with a Bat-a-rang over and over again…forever. Now I listen closer and watch more carefully.

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Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t have to work quite as hard to get me to pay attention. The Gift of Big Magic.

And most recently, When Breath Becomes Air, found me. I saw the cover on iTunes and without reading about it, I acknowledged that the title and the cover spoke to me, but I was in a rush and I’d have to check it out later. Then I opened a magazine and there it was. Immediately I understood it was for me and I had to know what it was about.

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For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

I dropped everything and bought it on the spot. I’m reading it now. If you aren’t aware, my lovely mother-in-law was just diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. So, today I wanted to acknowledge the Universe’s Librarian for always having my back. I appreciate you.

What books has the Universe’s Librarian persuaded you to check out and read?

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Jan

19

2016

The Gift of Big Magic

Filed under: Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Dancing, Pondering, Reading, Stuff I Love, Touching the Surface, Writing

I’m going to start this blog post by giving you a GUSH ALERT.

Gush Alert!!!!

If you choose to continue reading, you will hear me gushing about a book I read last week–a book I’ve been dying to share with you. In fact, as I finished reading it, what came to mind was…this is a book that all the humans should read! So, if you can’t handle my enthusiasm, this might be the time to slowly step away from your lap top.

You’re still here? Excellent! Then I’m so excited to tell you about BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

This book called to me. Certain books do. The ones I’m supposed to ready will pop up in my direct and peripheral vision over and over again. People will casually and even directly mention them to me until I pick those books up. Big Magic was one of those books that demanded I read it. And as always–I’m so glad I did.

I grabbed Big Magic in audiobook form after being pummeled with hints from the universe. Right off the bat, I was thrilled to hear that the delightful voice I was listening to, belonged to the author herself, Elizabeth Gilbert. If you decide you want to try the audio version–I promise you will not be disappointed. In fact, I feel as if Gilbert brings something extra to the reading through her connectedness to the content.

BUT…my one disappointment as I devoured Big Magic, was that I wasn’t able to underline quotes that I wanted to return to. I wasn’t able to write little notes in the margins–I always do that with books that will clearly be my companions over and over again though the years.

Here are some of the ones that I would have wanted to highlight as I was listening…

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

“You can clear out whatever obstacles are preventing you from living your most creative life, with the simple understanding that whatever is bad for you is probably also bad for your work.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

“Basically, your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone “safe.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

“If I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

“Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

While adding to that list of quotes, I quickly realized I could keep going for pages. Make no mistake–I want to, but I won’t–for your sake. But if you do want more, you can click the link and see all the quotes that effected people on Goodreads.

But even though I was able to find the inspirational words that (I missed being able to grasp more tangibly by reading the audio version) I still wasn’t satisfied. Then I remembered this…

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I had received a Barnes & Noble gift card as a thank you from three of my little ballerina’s this year. I hadn’t used it yet, because when you receive a special gift from special people–the purchase should be just as memorable as the people who gave it to you. I finally knew what to do with it. My ballerinas bought me a copy of Big Magic, which is it’s own kind of magic. Next time I see those girls, I’m going to have them write something in the cover because very quickly, little magic grows into big magic, and I always want to be reminded of that.

I know this post and my gushing is now all over the place. And I’m aware that I may not be doing the best job in explaining why YOU should read this book, but perhaps the best way I can explain why I think you should explore Big Magic, is to share why I believe it spoke to me so strongly…

I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by IDEAS. Ideas are disembodied, energetic life-forms. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us–albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have a consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.

Therefore, ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners. (I’m talking about all ideas here–artistic, scientific, industrial, commercial, ethical, religious, political.) When an idea thinks it has found somebody–say, you–who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention.

This is how my writing process works. When I wrote my debut YA novel, Touching the Surface, I had this niggling fear that once I was done with it, I would have no idea what to write next.

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Life altering mistakes are meant to alter lives…

But I didn’t have to worry. Once the story became fully formed in my mind, the next idea landed. I was still revising and working with my editor, but I knew I had captured the truth of my story and it would one day soon have wings. And as that happened, there was room for the next idea to perch along side me and begin to take shape.

This happens every single time. In fact, I was never as joyful as I was recently, when the next new idea flew at me. I have been “struggling” for quite a long time on my latest book. Dare I say it has been much like a dyslexic reader trying to attack War and Peace. It is a great idea–a worthy idea. It is an exciting and fulfilling idea. But it’s also been less then flexible at times–like a cold lump of clay that has had to be worked over and over again to find it’s shape. So, when the next new idea for a project began to relentless peck at me, I did a happy dance. I was a roller coaster that had reached it’s highest point after slowly chugging along for what felt like an eternity.

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There is still track to ride, but I now have momentum to move me along. I have finally captured the essence of my current project. And I know I’ve done it according to the idea’s expectations, because it’s now inviting another idea to work with me. I feels as if my former employer had given me an outstanding letter of recommendation.

What I’m trying to tell you is that I didn’t fall in love with Big Magic because it told me things I didn’t know. The opposite was true. Elizabeth Gilbert spoke to me because she put into words all the things that I already knew to be true about ideas, fear, creativity, hard work and magic. I resonated deeply with what she said. Magic has always been discretely woven throughout my books, like delicate, shimmering threads that wait for someone sees the glint. But outside of that, my thoughts on magic have mostly been deep held beliefs I’ve been afraid to say out loud. What if no one else has these kinds of thoughts or experiences and I’m just a big weirdo?

But I’m not.

And you’re not either.

And that’s the gift of Big Magic.

So, go read it because there are ideas out there waiting for you. They are trying to get your attention.

Have you read Big Magic? Is it on your TBR list? What is your proof that big magic exists? How do ideas find you?

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Oct

30

2014

Drafting Series: Monkey Mind and Writing the Wrong Book

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Publishing, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style

I didn’t consciously set out to do a series on drafting, but it’s where I am in my writing life right now. Obviously, it’s what I need to talk and think about. I’ve been working like a fiend on a project that’s been elusive for quite some time. In fact, this is a project I drafted for NaNoMriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last year. At that point it was the 2.0 version of my current 4.1 manuscript, meaning I also have dead end 1.0, 3.0 and 4.0 versions of the same project. Shoot me now.

In my last blog post–Drafting Series: Thought Splinters–I talked about the questions that dig into our subconscious and become the beginning of a first draft. They are the irritants that make us so uncomfortable we have to write about them to get them out. For today’s episode in my drafting series, I’m talking about writing the wrong book in order to find the right one.

Don’t be scared. It happens to everyone. And if it hasn’t happened to you…it will.  *Come here–I’ll hold you. Everything will be okay* Here’s the truth, at some point, you’re going to write a book that isn’t working. I’ll be honest, this can happen in any phase of a book embryo’s life, but today I’m going to talk about writing the wrong book in the early drafting stage. Ya know, because this is a drafting series and all.

What I’m about to say is a no brainer, but I’m going to announce it out loud anyway.

It sucks monkey balls to spend a huge amount of time and creative energy putting 50,000 words (give or take) on the page to only discover that you were writing the wrong book.

It’s a nightmare. A catastrophic event like this is the catalyst for some really awful things like binge chocolate eating or insane wine consumption. Pick your comfort vice and insert it here__________. I had to make myself a hot chocolate just to get through this post. *shudders* Once you realize everything has gone wrong–very, very wrong–and you’re ripping your hair out from the roots, there is literally a ticker tape of thoughts running through your head. That tape holds the list of things you could’ve been doing instead of writing the wrong book. My ticker tape was screaming that I could’ve read a hundred books while eating an epic ton of chocolate and then had time to go for a run so my butt wouldn’t get too big. Then it said there would have been time for a massage–that would’ve been nice after all that running. And everyone would’ve benefitted because I could’ve cooked real food instead of using my toes to hand out slices of pizza to my kids while trying to make my word count. And I easily could have done lots of laundry in my spare time and saved all that money I spent buying back-up underwear for a household of five. I know there would’ve been enough extra cash to go on a warm family vacation during the polar effing vortex.

All of that is true, slightly embellished, because after all I am a writer, but still kinda mostly true. *sigh* Almost makes you wonder about giving up writing in favor of chocolate, massages and warm vacations funded by underwear. Yet, here’s the thing you also need to know. I needed to write the wrong book in order to know what shouldn’t be in the book I do need to write. Which I have to write because I have this great Though Splinter that won’t go away. It’s there when I eat chocolate, get a massage or wash underwear. (Although I’m sure I could easily ditched it for a tropical vacation in the middle of the winter LOL!)  So, if I’m so compelled to write out this thought splinter, what went wrong? I was writing my monkey mind. If you don’t know what monkey mind is, you need to read WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg. But Elizabeth Gilbert explains it well…

 

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind. The thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert   Eat, Pray, Love

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There is always a part of me that writes for publication. That is likely never going to change. I love having my stories on the shelves and in the hands of readers. But I’m beginning to learn that I don’t write the RIGHT books when the publishing-savvy part of me has it’s foot in my drafting process. I can not let my monkey mind cause interference with my inner compass. Once I write down the bones without a monkey on my back, there will be time to put my publishing hat on. Then I can see how to take my authentic draft and incorporate what I know about the publishing industry in order to show case my work to it’s best advantage. Chasing publication, writing with monkey mind during the drafting process, had me swinging from limb to limb. When you let the monkey get the best of you, all you’re likely to end up with for your effort is a bunch of words you think people want to read. But the best books come when we write what we feel compelled to say.

Writing the wrong book is never easy, but after you’ve had your completely legitimate and appropriate freak out, remember you didn’t write yourself into a dead end–you were just swinging past the wrong book to learn how to write the right one. Don’t give up. And get a cage to put your monkey in when you’re going bananas.

How often does monkey mind get the best of you? Have you written the wrong book before? Did it take you to the right one?

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