Recommendation Wednesday: The Artist’s Way

This book changed my life.

I mentioned in my musings on what I might do for my artist date that I was working through the book because I assigned it to my creative writing class and thought it might be a good idea to know what, exactly, I was asking them to do. I really wasn’t prepared for the impact this book would have on me.

The two biggest tools of the book are completing the morning pages and going on the artist date. That’s where I found the impact and the transformation. Well, those two tools and the reading deprivation during Week 4.

Basically, how the book works is that each week you read a chapter, write the morning pages, take yourself on an artist date, and complete some (or all) of the tasks at the end of the chapter. Repeat until the book is complete. Twelve chapters = twelve weeks.

How did it change my life?

The biggest deficit in my life is in the area of self-care. I suck at it. It is legit the hardest thing I do. What the morning pages and the artist date do is privilege self-care. Since I committed to completing the book, I committed to doing the work. (I am nothing if not a good student.) Doing the work meant writing the pages and going on the date. Every week.

I should note, though, that I rarely, if ever, wrote the morning pages in the actual morning. Even though Cameron says several times that it should be done before starting your day, that is not realistic for me. In fact, that’s what kept me from completing the book last time. Once I gave myself permission to just treat the morning pages as daily pages, finishing the work became manageable. I have done a lot of work on my perfectionism in the past few years, so understanding that I could do the pages imperfectly was key. Also, let’s be real: getting up a half-hour early is antithetical to my self-care.

Harder than the pages for me was the artist date. I had to start really small. Watching an hour of TV without doing anything else (like folding or separating clothes). Coloring at my dining room table. Going to the movies. However, as I kept with it, I started doing other things, bigger things. I went to plays. I took a West African dance class. I took a jazz dance class. I started planning other creative and fun things I could do with my time. Now it feels almost second nature to say yes to activities I would have previously told myself I didn’t have time for. I have made it a habit to sit down and watch TV shows I like because I like to watch them. I’m not too busy for the things I actually enjoy doing. It makes it a lot easier to do work or be creative when I know I’m not depriving myself of fun stuff.

Life is meant to be an artist date.

I will also note that I started The Artist’s Way in the summer when I wasn’t working. Completing the pages and the date became more difficult once school started back. But I kept at them.

The reading deprivation also marked a key point in my recovery (as the book calls it). I got a LOT of clarity. For one, I realized that part of the reason I was blocked (I haven’t written anything in years) was that I wasn’t interested in the type of writing I had told myself I needed to be doing or was interested in. I was, as they say, should-ing on myself, which kept me from doing what I wanted to do. The other major thing that happened during my deprivation is that I cleaned my room, set up an office, and opened up space for what I want my life to be.

So, yeah. Big changes.

I absolutely recommend this book for blocked creatives with the understanding that it is definitely not for everyone. The subtitle is “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” after all. For anyone resistant to ideas of spirituality or discussions/mentions of God (though Cameron does point out that you don’t have to believe in any god to use the book and gives suggestions for what word to replace God with as you read, e.g., “creative force” or “good orderly direction” among others), probably you might not be as open to some of the suggestions or language Cameron uses. However, if you are willing or able to look past that language, I think there’s a lot of value here.

And, of course, if you are willing to do the work.

Real Life Monsters: Top Ten Terrifying Realistic Reads

I do not do horror or vampires or zombies. However, I have read some realistic fiction that has disturbed me/creeped me out to varying degrees. So, without further ado, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (links go to my reviews):

 

hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

 

1. Miss Nelson Is Missing! by Harry Allard & James Marshall — I find the fact that sweet Miss Nelson was replaced (and let’s be real, probably eaten) by super mean Miss Swamp totally terrifying. Okay, so Miss Nelson probably just dressed up as Miss Swamp, but that makes it even more creepy. (I read this in elementary school and still remember the plot. See? Terrifying.)

2. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott — If I were counting down, this would probably be at the top of the list. This book CREEPED ME ALL THE WAY OUT.

3. The Circle by Dave Eggers — Okay, so The Circle seems like a cool place to work until you realize that they completely encroach on their employees’ personal lives and erase any semblance of personality from them.

4. The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coates — This book made me truly understand the conditions that bore out Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” Horrifying.

5. The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab — These are the kinds of books that make me happy I’m not rich.

6. The Selection by Keira Cass — I’m sorry, but I don’t want to live in a world in which teenage readers consider Aspen a viable love interest. The thought of anyone actively rooting for him horrifies me. (Technically, this is a dystopian novel, but there are no sci-fi/fantasy elements, so I’m keeping it on the list.)

7. Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn — This book is dark, y’all.

8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn — Oh, hello, psychopath.

9. Big Little Lies by Liane MoriartyNo spoilers, but the bad guy in this is even worse than I originally thought.

10. Invisible by Pete Hautman — Something ain’t right with Dougie.

All right, let’s hear it. What are some realistic reads that have creeped you out?

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Original hosted by Sheila @ Book Journeys. Children's lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.
Original hosted by Sheila @ Book Journeys. Children’s lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

This week, I finished:

  • Till You Hear from Me by Pearl Cleage (adult, audiobook)
  • Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri (middle grade)
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (middle grade)
  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall (children’s picture book)

I liked them all, but I absolutely loved the last two.

 

This week, I reviewed:

[wrap-up-posts week=”42″ year=”2015″ category=”Book Reviews” listtype=”ul”]

 

As of today, I’m reading:

As If!: The Oral History of Clueless… by Jen Chaney — Yes. Still. Some more. I am almost finished, though! Here, have a GIF to distract you from the fact that I’ve been reading this since the summer. Also, I just finished the section on remembering Brittany Murphy, and it had me in my feelings.

Tai

RIP, Brittany. ūüė¶

 

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender — I started this on audio but switched to the Kindle version. The author narrates it herself and is decent, but she’s clearly not an actress. I also felt like listening to some podcasts on my commute since I’ve listened to three books in a row. So the audiobook is fine, just not what I was in the mood for.

 

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

Also, and more importantly, I checked out The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy from the library! I have never read it before. So exciting! Ah, nostalgia. I used to watch the movie every year, so reading the book should be fun. I’m going to read it Saturday, just because. (Because it’s Halloween, obviously.)

I hope everyone else had a good reading week!

Audiobook Review: Smek for President!

Bahni Turpin is a delight. She’s the narrator for this book, and I love the way she did Tip’s voice. Tip sounds exactly the way I expect a 13-year-old who has saved the world with the help of her alien best friend to sound: a little world-weary but still uncertain. Also, the Boovs were awesome. I loooooved the way she voiced them.

This book was a lot of fun. I listened to it on the way to and from work on the bus, and I was often smiling or laughing along. The characters are great. Tip and J.Lo are, of course, the best, but the other characters they encounter on the way are all memorable and well-drawn. Including Dan Landry, that jerk.

This book deals with some heavy topics (loss, grief, rebellion, politics, displacement) with humor and grace. I absolutely LOVED the political commentary in the book. The New Boovworld presidential election looks a lot like what’s happening in the Republican party right now. So, basically, everything is a mess, and it’d be funny if it weren’t so serious. (Except it’s funny in the book because it’s fiction! And ridiculous!)

Tip is a bit of an arrogant American traveler, and there’s this great bit where J.Lo goes off on her because she didn’t bother to learn the flash cards with common Boov sayings on them that he had given her, which lands them in a jam. “Goes off” is a bit harsh, probably. He does fuss at her, though, and it’s hilarious. So there are lots of little moments like that in the book.

Though J.Lo and Tip are on an intergalactic adventure, the heart of the story is still their friendship and the meaning of family.

All in all, a really fun read and great way to spend my commute. And now I really want to see Home, which is based on the first book.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

In an effort to engage more with other bloggers and to talk a little bit more about the books I read, I have decided to start participating in this weekly meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journeys. There’s also a children’s lit one for people who focus on books from those categories hosted by Jen Vincent at¬†Teach Mentor Texts¬†and Kellee Moye from¬†Unleashing Readers. I’m seeing a lot of cross-posting in my future, basically.

This past week, I finished:

  • The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry (middle grade, audiobook)
  • I Love You, I Hate You, Get Lost by Ellen Conford (YA, short stories)
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (adult non-fiction, self-help)
  • Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger (adult non-fiction)

 

As of today, I’m reading:

As If!: The Oral History of Clueless‚Ķ by Jen Chaney — Yes, still. Here’s a fun quote from it since I have no idea when I’ll finish.

Donald Faison: That was my go-to when I wanted to be with a girl. I’d say, “Come over and let’s watch Clueless.” Absolutely. Clueless was the ultimate wingman. They love the movie. They didn’t give a shit about me being in the movie, they just loved the movie, period. I didn’t start getting girlfriends until Clueless came out. It worked well for me. It’s true. It’s because I kept it real. That’s exactly right. Because I was keepin’ it real.

 

Bless him.

 

Till You Hear from Me by Pearl Cleage

 

Till You Hear From Me by Pearl Cleage — I’m listening to this one on audiobook and one of the narrators is Bahni Turpin who I really enjoy. The plot is a little slow (I’m 1/3 of the way through and the two major players haven’t met yet), but I’m interested to see what happens. The male main character, Wes, is despicable so I’m really intrigued by that. So far, I can’t tell if this will end the way this type of narrative typically does (the two main characters fall in love) or if a whole lot of crazy is going to go down instead. I really feel like it’ll be the latter, so we’ll see.

 

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri — I *just* started this one today, and I am intrigued so far. The opening was definitely action packed, and I can see reluctant readers being totally sucked into it. A horse right in the middle of Philly! Intriguing.

Next week, I’ll add in some info about reading challenges and such, but I think this is a good first post for the meme, yes? Yes.

Welcome to Metropolis High!

I generally enjoyed this book, but I have to say I hated every single thing that had to do with Clark/Superman. WHY IS HE THERE? This is a prequel about Lois. And here’s the thing: Lois is a badass. She is a great character in her own right. She doesn’t need Clark to make her interesting or make her story worth telling.

I don’t hate the fact that an army brat who has traveled around a bunch has an online best friend. I don’t even mind that she maybe thinks she’s digging on the guy. That is all fine. In fact, it’s believable. But having it be Clark makes this more of a Superman prequel than a Lois from Superman prequel, and Lois is an interesting character in her own right.

She deserves better is all I’m saying.

Also: interesting characters, nice job setting up the world, etc. It was all fine. Except for stupid Clark being there. Oh and the school colors being red and blue. I know it’s a nod to Superman’s costume, but still. Can you imagine how hideous the team uniforms are? Gross.

So, I’m all caught up on The Flash S1…

…and it’s got me all up in my feelings. Just in time for S2 to start! So, you know, spoilers for S1 are inevitable.

I feel it important to document officially ON THE RECORD how much I love Cisco.

He is the best. (source)
He is the best. (source)

 

I love him with my whole heart. It is possible he is the actual best.

I also love Barry, which is good since the show revolves around him. Oh, Barry. And Joe! I do love me some Joe. I even love(d) Dr. Wells.

Do you notice who is missing from that list, though? Iris. And Caitlin.

And the thing is I don’t dislike them, but, wow, has The Flash got a female character problem. Namely, that the women are underdeveloped. I mean, I feel like I know more about the various villains of the week than I do about Iris or Caitlin. Well, except for the fact that Barry loves Iris, and Caitlin loves Ronnie. Oh, and she’s a doctor. I think Iris is also some kind of reporter or something?

(That’s a joke, guys. I know she works at the newspaper. She doesn’t really DO anything, but she does have a job there. But I digress.)

So, basically, I hope that changes this season. (Never forget that Iris is a reporter but she figured out Barry is The Flash because she touched his hand. I mean, really. That is how she figured it out. Sigh.)

But! I do not want to complain about the show! It makes me happy, even if Dr. Wells is completely dead. I love the father-son bonding that happens on ~levels~ (Barry and his dad! Barry and Joe!) and how pretty Barry and Iris are when they cry (they cry a lot). Barry getting to say good-bye to his mom may have made me feel things in my tear ducts. And my heart, I guess.

Oh, another thing I hope they fix next season is how dumb these smart people are. Was I the only one constantly disturbed by how often people walked right into STAR Labs with no one noticing until they were in the room? And how Barry and Cisco and Joe would have sensitive conversations about Dr. Wells IN THE LAB? Why were they so shocked he was watching them? There were cameras everywhere! Ugh.

Anyway, Joe continues to be amazing, and I love him. And I’m glad they kind of addressed the fact that they actually made sure the metaprisoners had something to eat. Though I guess they never have to use the bathroom.

I also enjoy Wentworth Miller chewing every available piece of scenery in every scene he is in. The camp! It makes me happy!

So, yeah, I love the show even if it did trick me into watching a show about freaking time travel. (I do not like time travel unless it involves The Terminator. Or Barry, apparently.)

Oh, I should probably mention Eddie. I’m glad he had a noble death since I found him kind of annoying. So I won’t miss him is what I’m saying. I will really miss Dr. Wells, though.

This is all over the place and is just a really long way of saying I’m ready for S2 to start. So. Let’s hope I can keep up with it this time, yeah?

 

Book Review: Mindset

Once, when my daughter was in third grade, she got her report card and was ready to celebrate her achievements for the quarter. “Fine,” I told her, “but I just want you to know that we don’t celebrate C’s in this family.”

My daughter, understandably, started crying and told me that she had worked really hard for that grade.

Ashamed, and rightfully so, I immediately backtracked and told her that OF COURSE we would celebrate her C since she had worked so hard for it and OF COURSE effort mattered, and I did know that she had tried her best.

That episode came to mind as I was reading Mindset, and I thought of several different ways I could’ve handled that conversation that wouldn’t have resulted in scarring my daughter for life and making her think her best wasn’t good enough. I would have avoided telling her how smart and bright she is (something that has actively contributed to her anxiety around school) and instead applauded her efforts when she completed a challenging task.

So, yes, this book can help parents and educators reframe the way we think and the way we speak to children (and ourselves!) about the way we approach challenges. I have learned elsewhere that changing the way I think about a situation changes the way I engage with it, and that’s basically the crux of this book.

Why only 2.5 stars? The presentation is kind of dry, though Dweck uses a lot (A LOT) of anecdotal evidence. Still, the information is accessible and the ideas are useful. If you’re trying to help someone get out of a black or white, there is only winning or losing mentality, this book may be worth a look.

September in Review and Looking Ahead

As predicted, I did not get many books read in September. In fact, I finished three:

  • Smek for President! by Adam Rex (middle grade, audiobook)
  • Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond (YA)
  • Mindset by Carol S. Dweck (adult, nonfiction)

I just have to accept that I will never get more than 3 or 4 books read in September. Oh well.

I do plan to review all three books, and, as a challenge to myself on that front, I am signing up for the Blog Ahead challenge.

 

blog ahead 2015

 

Participants are supposed to have 31+ posts scheduled by the end of the month (the number of scheduled posts you already have + 31), but let’s be real: I am probably not going to hit that goal. For one thing, I rarely, if ever, schedule posts. Secondly, I don’t even think I have 31 post ideas. Not to mention, the posts that count have to go up on Nov. 1 on later. Considering I have nothing scheduled for October and it’s the first week of the month, I can’t honestly say the posts I schedule will be for post-October. Oh, and my life is hectic and I barely have time to watch a half-hour comedy. But I’m going to give it a shot. After all, some is better than none. And if I can schedule some posts that actually get into November? So much the better.

 

I’m also looking forward to Aarti’s A More Diverse Universe Challenge, which starts tomorrow.

A More Diverse Universe 2015

I just have to pick up the book I’m planning to read from the library. Which, I promise, is not happening today. Because I have declared today a Nothing day, which means I’m not leaving the house (maybe to get some food…maybe). So what will I do today? I plan to write a couple of posts, read, and watch some TV. I started my Nothing day last night when I finally finished S1 of the The Flash, so I’m looking forward to getting into more of that kind of fun.