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Posts from the ‘Good Reads’ Category

Good Read: Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind

I recently finished reading the book entitled, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn K. Glei and Scott Belsky.

This book explores a few facets of the creative life — increasing your idea generation; dealing with perfectionism; managing procrastination; and working through creative blocks, which are all common themes that artists face regularly.  Most of all, there are many insights from Seth Godin; Dan Ariely; Gretchen Rubin; and Steven Pressfield, among others who share their expertise.

Some of my favorite quotes from this book are shown below.

“It’s time to stop blaming our surroundings and start taking responsibility.  While no workplace is perfect, it turns out that our gravest challenges are a lot more primal and personal.  Our individual practices ultimately determine what we do and how well we do it. Specifically, it’s our routine (or lack thereof), our capacity to work proactively rather than reactively, and our ability to systematically optimize our work habits over time that determine our ability to make ideas happen….Only by taking charge of your day-to-day can you truly make an impact in what matters most to you.  I urge you to build a better routine by stepping outside of it, find your focus by rising above the constant cacophony, and sharpen your creative prowess by analyzing what really matters most when it comes to making your ideas happen.” -Scott Belsky

 

“Everybody who does creative work has figured out how to deal with their own demons to get their work done.  There is no evidence that setting up your easel like Van Gogh makes you paint better.  Tactics are idiosyncratic.  But strategies are universal, and there are a lot of talented folks who are not succeeding the way they want to because their strategies are broken.

The strategy is simple, I think.  The strategy is to have a practice, and what it means to have a practice is to regularly and reliably do the work in a habitual way.

There are many ways you can signify to yourself that you are doing your practice.  For example, some people wear a white lab coat or a particular pair of glasses, or always work in a specific place — in doing these things, they are professionalizing their art.”  -Seth Godin

 

“Step by step, you make your way forward.  That’s why practices such as daily writing exercises or keeping a daily blog can be so helpful.  You see yourself do the work, which shows you that you can do the work.  Progress is reassuring and inspiring; panic and then despair set in when you find yourself getting nothing done day after day.  One of the painful ironies of work life is that the anxiety of procrastination often makes people even less likely to buckle down in the future.” -Gretchen Rubin

 

“Creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project.  When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly.” -Gretchen Rubin

 

If you are a creative, I highly recommend reading this book — there are many great insights and words of wisdom!  The biggest take away for me, from this book, is to maintain a regular daily art practice in order to keep moving forward and staying inspired.

 

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Good Read: Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon

I recently finished reading Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist by Lisa Congdon.  This was a good read!  This book offers a concise guide for anyone seeking to start or enhance their career in art, with actionable tasks and helpful tools.  Lisa Congdon’s writing is clear, easy to understand, and inspiring.  I especially enjoyed the interviews with other artists that appeared throughout the book.  I also enjoyed reading the information relating to exhibitions and gallery representation.  The information contained in this book was very helpful.

So, if you are a creative, I highly recommend reading this book!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the word.” ~Albert Einstein

 

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Good Read: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

During our vacation, I read a few books and I also reread Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  I always enjoy Anne Lamott’s books.  Although this is book is mainly for writers, I found that her words are transferable to any creative discipline.  Below are some of my favorite quotes from her book, and perhaps you will find her words inspiring, too.

 

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“E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’  You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way.  You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.  This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

 

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.  You need to start somewhere.   Start by getting something — anything — down on paper.  A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down.  The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up.  You try to say what you have to say more accurately.  And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or eve, God help us, healthy.”

 

“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop.  You can’t — and, in fact, you’re not supposed to — know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.”

 

“You may need someone else to bounce your material off of, probably a friend or a mate, someone who can tell you if the seams show, or if you’ve lurched off track, or even that it is not as bad as you thought … But by all means let someone else take a look at your work.  It’s too hard always to have to be the executioner.”

 

“That’s how real life works, in our daily lives as well as in the convalescent home and even at the deathbed, and this is what good writing allows us to notice sometimes.  You can see the underlying essence only when you strip away the busyness, and then some surprising connections appear.”

 

“So we need to sit there, and breathe, calm ourselves down, push up our sleeves, and begin again.”

 

“Writers tend to be so paranoid about talking about their work because no one, including us, really understands how it works.  But it can help a great deal if you have someone you can call when you need a pep talk, someone you have learned to trust, someone who is honest and generous and who won’t jinx you.”

 

“And I don’t think you have that kind of time either.  I don’t think you have the time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it, and I don’t think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect.”

 

“If you look around, I think you will find the person you need.  Almost every writer I’ve ever known has been able to find someone who could be both a friend and a critic.  You’ll know when the person is right for you and when you are right for that person.  It’s not unlike finding a mate, where little by little you begin to feel that you’ve stepped into a share that was waiting there all along.”

 

“Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems.  Publication will not make you more confident or more beautiful, and it will probably not make you any richer.”

 

“Being enough was going to have to be an inside job.”

 

“You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time.  You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when  you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.”

 

“The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madam or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work.”

 

Good Read: Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro

I recently finished reading Still Writing by Dani Shapiro.  This was a good read and I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to creatives.  Still Writing is an intimate companion to living a creative life.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from this book.

“The writing life requires courage, patience, persistence, empathy, openness, and the ability to deal with rejection. It requires the willingness to be alone with oneself.  To be gentle with oneself.  To look at the world without blinders on.  To observe and withstand what one sees.  To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks.  To be willing to fail — not just once, but again and again, over the course of a lifetime.  ‘Ever tried, ever failed,’ Samuel Beckett once wrote.  ‘No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.’  It requires what the great editor Ted Solotoroff once called endurability.”

“We are all unsure of ourselves.  Every one of us walking the planet wonders, secretly, if we are getting it wrong.  We stumble along.  We love and we lose.  At times, we find unexpected strength, and at other times, we succumb to our fears.  We are impatient.  We want to know what’s around the corner, and the writing life won’t offer us this.  It forces us into the here and now.  There is only this moment, when we put pen to page.

[…]

The page is your mirror.  What happens inside you is reflected back.  You come face-to-face with your own resistance, lack of balance, self-loathing, and insatiable ego—and also with your singular vision, guts, and fortitude.  No matter what you’ve achieved the day before, you begin each day at the bottom of the mountain. … Life is usually right there, though, ready to knock us over when we get too sure of ourselves.  Fortunately, if we have learned the lessons that years of practice have taught us, when this happens, we endure.  We fail better.  We sit up, dust ourselves off, and begin again.”

“If I dismiss the ordinary — waiting for the special, the extreme, the extraordinary to happen — I may just miss my life.”

“If beginnings are leaps of faith, and middles are vexing, absorbing, full of trap doors and wrong turns and dead ends, sensing an ending is your reward.  It’s better than selling your book.  It’s better than a good review.  When you’re in the home stretch, it seems the universe reaches out to support you.  It meets you more than half way.  Whatever you still needing order to finish your novel, you story, you memoir, appears as if by the decree of some literary deity who understands just how hard you’ve worked, just how much you’ve struggled, and now will give you a break.”

 

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Good Read: Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

I recently finished reading Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon.  (I previously read another one of Austin Kleon’s books, Steal Like an Artist).  Through personal stories and experiences, Austin shares ten big ideas about what he has learned about sharing and promoting, including:

-share something small every day

-tell good stories

-stick around

These items listed above are just a few of my personal favorites.

Austin’s book is based on the premise that sharing and not hiding your process (how you do what you do and how you think about what you do) is what draws people to you and helps gain a following that can provide a community and even help you make a living from your art.  The book is wonderful for all creative types.

So, if you are looking for some inspiration and for ways to share your work, I highly recommend this book!

“Amateurs [are] just regular people who get obsessed by something and spend a ton of time thinking out loud about it…Raw enthusiasm is contagious.

The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs.  Even for professionals, the best way to flourish is to retain an amateur’s spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown.” ~Austin Kleon

 

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Good Read: Make Your Creative Dreams Real by SARK

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“Invent your world.  Surround yourself with people, color, sounds, and work that nourishes you.” ~SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy)

A while back, my friend recommended the book, Make Your Creative Dreams Real, by SARK.  I really enjoyed this book!  SARK provides a step-by-step guide that gives you micro-movements to work towards your goals over the course of a year.  These are very tiny steps that get you moving in the right direction, which does not require a lot of time or energy but they help you keep moving, the operative word!  Once you have completed several steps, big changes can happen.  Getting started and continuing to move is often the most difficult part.  This is a book that helps you not only with specific goals but in your whole overall approach and outlook to life.  I found this book to be very helpful!

 

Good Read: The In-Between by Jeff Goins

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I recently finished reading The In-Between — Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing by Jeff Goins.  This was a good read!  This book is a timely reminder to slow down and enjoy the perfect moments in life that otherwise go unnoticed.  A few of my favorite quotes from this book are below.

“Maybe our disappointments aren’t missed appointments at all.  Maybe they’re calls to patience, or simply signs of a change to come.  When we lose a dream, it may be more than a loss.  It may be a gain of something we never expected or understood.  So perhaps the fact that life doesn’t always turn out the way we’d hoped is a blessing, not a curse — if we have eyes to see it.”

“We are all waiting for something.  And in that wait, there is a necessary tension, even a frustration, that doesn’t fully resolve.  This doesn’t mean some things aren’t worth waiting for.  It just means we don’t always get what we want, and rarely does it come all at once.  Believe it or not, this is a good thing.  Just like the delayed gratification between Christmas and Epiphany, we need to understand that the wait sometimes is essential to appreciate the gifts that follow, no matter how much we may resent the process.  So through the angst and anticipation, in our longing to have and be more, we need to learn to enjoy this place.”

We go through life, dashing from moment to moment, all the while missing little glories in the middle.  Goins refers to those parts of life as “The In-Between,” the title of his this book.

Goins writes, “Waiting is the great grace.  It’s a subtle sign for those with eyes to see, reminding us there is work yet to be done–not just around us, but in us.”  Waiting requires slowing down and stopping, taking the time to examine our inner selves, and allowing for the development of that third eye, the one that reads between the lines and sees the value in the small things.

Thus, some simple themes that I took away from reading this book are to:

  • Slow Down
  • Let Go
  • Be Grateful

In this season of waiting, consider adding this excellent read to your reading shelf or for someone on your holiday list.  And blessings to you in your wait!

Happy Wednesday!

Good Read: The Power of Patience by M.J. Ryan

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Good Read: The Power of Patience by M.J. Ryan

I finished reading The Power of Patience by M.J. Ryan.  This book offers many different ways of looking at patience and practicing patience each day.  I really enjoyed this book.  I found this book easy to read and filled with helpful information and various perspectives concerning patience.  Doug, my husband, has the most patience of anyone I have ever met.

The portion of this book that resonated with me discussed patience in relation to receptivity.  Here is a quote from this book.  “However, the receptive energy of patience is real work!  It takes effort to not simply run off and do something for the sake of doing it, to live in the unknown for as long as it takes without becoming angry, bitter, or depressed.  It may look like nothing on the surface.  But underneath, within ourselves, we’re lifting some heavy timber.”

“Sometimes no amount of dynamic energy will get us what we want.  At those times, all we can do is stop and wait patiently for the future to unfold.  This capacity to wait expectantly, opening ourselves up to help from the universe is what receptivity is all about.  Not everything can be accomplished through willpower — sometimes what we need is a bit of wait power.”

I found this premise outlined above to be powerful — sometimes we need a bit of “wait power” versus taking action.  I find sometimes it is difficult to determine, depending on the circumstances, whether to “take action” or not.  Sometimes, no action is a form of action.

Below are a few more quotes from this book that really struck a chord with me.

“Waiting patiently asks us to allow life to move through and transform us as we bend like cattails in the wind, twisting and turning but somehow surviving.”

“Patience is created when we keep our eyes on the big picture and don’t get so caught up in the minutia of our daily lives.  It’s like having a wide-angle lens on a camera as well as a zoom.  Up close, even a molehill can seem overwhelming; from a distance, we can see that in fact it’s not a mountain.  The good news is that you’re holding the camera — and can switch lenses anytime you want.”

“Patience is the willingness to be in the now exactly as it is.  Even if we wish or hope or pray that someday it will change, patience allows us to live as happily and contentedly as possible right now.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to increase his/her awareness concerning patience.

Good Read: Healing Books After Loss

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some special books concerning our tremendous loss of Biscuit.  Well, I recently finished reading all three books: (1) Dog Heavenby Cynthia Rylant; (2) Mayas First Rose by Martin S. Kosins; and (3) Little Dog Like You by Rosemary Sutcliff.  All three of these books were really helpful, and I recommend them all.

I greatly enjoyed Dog Heavenby Cynthia Rylant.  It is a wonderful book that is  also wonderfully illustrated.  Here is one of my favorite passages from the book, Dog Heaven, ”Dogs in Dog Heaven have almost always belonged to somebody on Earth and, of course, the gods remember this.  Heaven is full of memories.  So sometimes an angel will walk a dog back to Earth for a little visit and quietly, invisibly, the dog will sniff about his old backyard, will investigate the cat next door, will follow the child to school, will sit on the front porch and wait for the mail.  When he is satisfied that all is well, the dog will return to Heaven with the angel.”  I hope that Biscuit will come back and “visit” us.

I also greatly enjoyed Mayas First Rose by Martin S. Kosins.  This book illustrated the wonderful bond between man and dog.  This story reminded me so very much of our relationship with Biscuit, which was like no other.  We would do anything to help Biscuit as Martin did for Maya.  This story brought tears to my eyes, but reminded me that we are not alone in our strong love for our furry family members.  I highly recommend this book, and this author is from my home state, Michigan.

I also loved the children’s book entitled, Little Dog Like You by Rosemary Sutcliff.  In this book, sadly, Pippin, a little Chihuahua, passes away.  What is so moving about this story is that Pippin finds his way back to his Mom in this touching story.  I sure hope that Biscuit will come back to us in some form.

We recently had a special ceremony to honor our little Biscuit whom we miss very much.

 

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Good Read: Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

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Good Read: Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

I recently finished reading the book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayersby Anne Lamott.  I picked up this book in a small locally owned book store in Manchester, Vermont during our recent trip.  (In Vermont, especially in Manchester, there were no “big box” stores and restaurants.  Everything was local, which is a nice change!)  I have enjoyed other books by Anne Lamott, so I thought I would purchase and read this book.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers is a book about getting through life.  It is rich, raw, and funny.  I believe that I read this book at the perfect time for me.  I feel as though my life has been broken open with a whole new attitude towards prayer, and even more, towards being alive.  This is not a religious book at all, but a book for anyone who is spiritually oriented and maybe especially for those who are not, because Lamott writes about prayer in a way that every single person can relate to.  This is a book about being real and true and simple and clear and about living a worthwhile life.

This book brought me a sense of calmness and thankfulness for all I have received in my life.  What I gained from reading this book is not to take for granted all the little pleasures in life.  For example, enjoy looking at flowers and trees and enjoy your friendships, etc.  Everything counts.  Most of all, be aware and present of all that happens to you.

Lamott notes at the outset that,“Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up.”

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to further their spiritual path.