Exactly what I needed to read to cross the bridge from self-help/psychology to the concepts I keep coming back to: the exploration of spirituality vs. soulfulness, of soulful work, of archetypal psychology, all of it. The very end doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me yet, but it probably will someday. I borrowed this book from the library and got halfway through before I knew I’d need it for real; picked up a used copy for $5 and plan to keep it forever.
A handful of reminders, a half page of notes. If you cut out all the quotes and put these tips in bullet points, you’d have a fine 50-page volume of good advice. As it is, it’s 239 pages of anecdotes and wordplay. Good for a skim.
Indispensable. If you’re working in any of these genres (picture books, young readers, middle grade, young adult), buy this book and join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators immediately. Like right this second. Then start saving for an SCBWI conference so you can pitch your project in person.
Rereading this right after finishing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was surreal . . . I heard Douglas Spaulding’s story in Chief’s voice on almost every page. A lovingly told, nostalgic and poetic chronicle of a magical summer and its cure. This year I’m only reading novels I’ve already read before — no new fiction unless it’s for work — and One Flew led me to Dandelion Wine, which is leading me to Little House on the Prairie. Back and back and back to see how limitations lead to innovations, whether the context is an asylum, a pre-modern childhood, or a lonely, physical frontier.
Reading this book cover to cover is like reading a chapter a week of Lord of the Flies or To Kill a Mockingbird in high school English class with a teacher who grades your reading journal and breaks down every paragraph out loud so everyone can really learn to Appreciate Literature. I do not recommend approaching it that way if you want to maintain momentum.
I DO, however, recommend using this book as a diagnostic and prescriptive tool. Its table of contents makes it an accessible handbook for improving your fiction once you’ve identified your weak spots.
The examinations and analyses throughout the book are thorough and specific and excellent for the writer who wants an intensive course in Getting It Right. This is a solid resource; I’d shelve it in Reference with the other hefty tomes kept safe within sight of the librarian’s desk.
(sent in early January & posted here for posterity)
I firmly believe that January is for writers. It’s bright and clean and full of hope, and it’s often so blessedly forbidding outside that I have no qualms about feathering my nest and making another cup of tea to fuel a long morning, and then a long afternoon, and maybe even a long night after that, of uninterrupted dreaming on paper.
Earlier this month, I read an excellent book that changed my life: Deep Work by Cal Newport. The author’s premise is that the ability to do focused, uninterrupted, meaningful work is rare and valuable. This resonates deeply with me. I’ve long had a habit of hibernating: several days spent diving deep into an editing project or a business idea and trusting that everything else (email, dishes, mail, phone calls) will work itself out when I can get to it. The most important thing is the work.
Deep Work validates that conviction and has inspired me to define my periods of deep work and shallow work better. It also brought to me, in a flash, a framework for the mentor service I’ve been offering to a few select clients over the past year. That clarity was a welcome gift that I’m looking forward to sharing with more writers over the coming months.
The most interesting element of this book’s influence on me, though, has been the steady desire and ability to write nearly every day. Maybe it’s because I ordered a box of my favorite pens and switched to a respectable notebook for my daily notes and to-do lists; maybe it’s because I love a new year and January is my favorite month. Maybe it’s because the work habits and routines I’ve forced upon myself over the last nine years of sole proprietorship are making it easy to follow the advice in this book. Probably all of that and much more.
In any case, in the event that you too are giving extra energy and attention to your writing practice this month, I thought I’d share my top three books about work habits and productivity. They’re listed in the order that I read them, and I cannot recommend any of them highly enough. Each one is a life changer!
- Getting Things Done – David Allen
- ReWork – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier
- Deep Work – Cal Newport
Have you read any of these? What are your favorites? I would love to know.
I hope your year is off to a happy start, writer. Let’s stay in touch.
These stories nail it. The last one is mercifully different, which is the only reason the book isn’t completely devastating. It will be a while before I have the balls to pick up another one by this author; I’m filing her under Emotional Arson and Favorites.
Highly recommended read:
Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson’s brilliant, brief book, REWORK.
This extract is perfectly suited for unpublished authors:
No one knows who you are right now. And that’s just fine. Being obscure is a great position to be in. Be happy you’re in the shadows.
Use this time to make mistakes without the whole world hearing about them. Keep tweaking. Work out the kinks. Test random ideas. Try new things. No one knows you, so it’s no big deal if you mess up. Obscurity helps protect your ego and preserve your confidence….
Would you want the whole world to watch you the first time you do anything? If you’ve never given a speech before, do you want your first speech to be in front of ten thousand people or ten people? You don’t want everyone to watch you starting your business. It makes no sense to tell everyone to look at you if you’re not ready to be looked at yet….
These early days of obscurity are something you’ll miss later on, when you’re really under the microscope. Now’s the time to take risks without worrying about embarrassing yourself.”
Can I get an amen from the beta readers in back?