Tag Archives: resolutions

The Reading Stack #2

Here’s my reading stack #2 from the library:

reading stack no 2

All nonfiction in this stack, in keeping with my reading resolution this year to read more nonfiction. Mind you, my intention is to read more nonfiction as research for my writing, so perhaps this reading stack #2 doesn’t really qualify as helping me to fulfill this particular resolution!

1. Freehand: Sketching Tips and Tricks Drawn from Art, by Helen Birch

Because another one of my resolutions is to “make good art”, as Neil Gaiman says. For me, that would be both writing and art – not that my artwork is any good, mind you. But there was a time when making visual art played a larger role in my life, and I’d like to get back into the habit this year.

Make good art.

2. Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do, edited by Meredith Maran

My writer-self loves reading books like this. For some reason, reading about other writers’ creative processes both motivates me and inspires me to keep on writing.

3. Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination, edited by Alex Cornell

An assortment of creative types give their solutions to getting through those creative blocks: “a lively compilation of strategies for combating creative block offered by a who’s who of leading graphic designers, typographers, cartoonists, photographers, illustrators, musicians, writers, and other creative professionals.” Sounds good to me.

4. Writers and Their Notebooks, by Diana M. Raab

I have this thing about writers’ notebooks, mainly because I keep trying to make a habit of keeping one. I can’t tell you how many half-finished notebooks I have lying around. I was decluttering earlier this week, and found so many notebooks that are about half-full (better than half-empty, right?) I’m getting much better at it, though. Keeping a writer’s notebook is a habit kind of thing, I’ve discovered.

5. Quotology, by Willis Goth Regier

This one is all about quotes, including how they are collected and organized. Apparently there are fifty-nine types of quotations! One of my creativity resolutions this year involves quotes, so I thought this might be a helpful read.

6. Illustration School: Let’s Draw Cute Animals, by Sachiko Umoto

This one is just too cute for words. Seriously. I couldn’t resist it. See for yourself:

illustration school lets draw cute animals

7. A Blueprint for Your Castle in the Clouds: Make the Inside of Your Head Your Favorite Place to Be, by Barbara Sophia Tammes

A self-help book … although there’s also Sherlock Holmes’ mind palace, right?

8. The Collage Workbook, by Randel Plowman

Back to my “make good art” resolution. I’ve always found collage challenging, probably because it’s so playful. I get way too serious about things like this sometimes.

9. Garfield’s Sunday Finest: 35 Years of My Best Sunday Funnies , by Jim Davis

garfields sunday finest

It’s Garfield! I simply couldn’t resist this one.

I’m pleased to say I’ve finished Writers and Their Notebooks. So that’s one down, and eight to go (let’s not mention my reading stack #1 …)

Any plans to read nonfiction this year? Writing this post I realized a lot of the books have something to do with the resolutions I’ve made. Are you reading any books that will help you stick with your New Year’s Resolutions?

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

I have this funny feeling most of my posts this month will be about goals, intentions, resolutions – all those things you want to change in your life that suddenly start popping up with real frequency and intensity at the start of the new year.

I’m starting to see that, if I realize every single one of the numerous potential changes I’ve been playing around with, my entire life would be very very different. Different for the better, of course.

This hasn’t happened to me in past years, at least not with the same kind of intensity, but I do know why it’s happening now. It’s that old adage, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. And never has this adage been so clear to me as it is right now, this moment – and frankly, in all the moments since 2014 started being a lot closer than “next year”.

This year I really have to get out of my comfort zone, mainly because it’s become more and more obvious that my comfort zone actually won’t be that comfortable for too much longer.

comfort zone

There are so many things on my want-to-do list that have nothing whatsoever to do with maintaining my current life as it is. (See how I’m still ambivalent? I can’t quite call it a “to-do” list, because that implies I actually intend to do these things.)

Partly, it’s because things in my current life are changing, especially in the work arena (well, okay, mostly in the work arena), and I have to adapt to these changes, and partly, it’s because the things I want to do have been things I’ve wanted to do for a very long while, but up until now, I couldn’t resist the safe feeling of the comfort zone.

It’s time to really shake things up. I feel daring right now, and all I have to do is keep feeling daring. It sounds so simple when I put it like that. “All I have to do is …”

A funny thing. I actually sat down to write a post about sticking to a blogging schedule, and it morphed into this.

(By the way, I really did step out of my comfort zone with this post. I created the Neale Donald Walsh picture quote  above, using PicMonkey. It wasn’t as hard as I’d been thinking it would be.)

What about you? Do any of your new year intentions or resolutions or goals take you out of your comfort zone?

[The Sunday Salon] Filling the Creative Well with Nonfiction

This year I’m committing to something a little different from previous years’ reading resolutions. I’d like to read a lot more nonfiction as well as keeping up with all the fiction on my to-read list.

I love reading fiction because good fiction transports me into another world and introduces me to interesting characters and thought-provoking situations. I can become immersed in a good book and it’s that immersion that forms the foundation of the pleasure I get from reading fiction.

Fiction can also fuel my creativity; I’ve gotten many ideas for stories and novels as a result of seeing something in another novel I’m reading. This happens to me with television and movies, too.

But it’s nonfiction that really ups my creative output. Maria Popova talks about combinatorial creativity – how all the bits and pieces of information and memories and knowledge you carry inside your head comes together to form ideas, lots and lots of ideas if you let the process happen – and this has always been the way creativity has worked for me.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about "filling the well". She’s referring to the idea of an inner artistic well that informs all of our creativity. It’s an analogy that I think works well with the idea of combinatorial creativity. While Cameron advocates going on "artist’s dates" – actual physical excursions – in order to keep our inner artistic well maintained, for me such excursions are more appropriate for helping me open up to the present moment, something else that’s required when I’m involved in a creative endeavour.

But the best way for me to keep my inner artistic well pumped and primed and well-maintained is by opening myself up to a flotsam of information. Anything and everything I find interesting has a place in my creativity, and the randomness of the information plays a key role. It’s in reading nonfiction that I most often stumble onto such things – interesting-to-me ideas, facts, concepts, often mere scraps of information, sometimes just a sentence or phrase – that ignite the spark that pulls together other completely unrelated pieces of information to form a shiny new idea.

Myths and legends work that way for me, too. I guess such work is really fiction, but I tend to place myths and legends in a category all its own, not quite nonfiction, not quite fiction – but definitely fertile fuel for the imagination.

So this year, along with tackling my fiction to-read list, I’ll be reading stacks and stacks of nonfiction too, with a stack of blank index cards at my side for jotting down the bits and pieces that interest me. I plan on using the index cards as a tactile, visual aid when playing with my creativity, in much the same way I use archetypal oracle cards.

Here are some of the nonfiction titles I’ll be using to fill my creative well over the next few weeks:

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson

Finding Arthur by Adam Ardrey

Finding Arthur, by Adam Ardrey

making of middle earth by Christopher Snyder

The Making of Middle Earth, by Christopher Snyder

A London Year by Travis Elborough and Nick Rennison

A London Year: 365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters,

by Travis Elborough and Nick Rennison

Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary,

by Caspar Henderson

What about you? Do you read nonfiction, or do you mostly stick with fiction? If you’re a writer, what are some ways you use to fill your creative well?

2014: My Year of Reading

Happy New Year, everyone!

After a very hectic three months of deadlines, during which time I had absolutely no time to read, I am committed to making 2014 my year of reading.

I’m off to a good start. Ward and I spent New Year’s Eve moving furniture (I know, I know … but we did get a cute little “reading nook” as a result of our efforts); we finally finished at around 11 pm, and, exhausted, I sat myself down in my comfy reading spot in the living room, pulled out my Kobo reader and began reading Lee Child’s Never Go Back.

Never Go Back by Lee Child

Yes, that’s right. I welcomed in the new year with Jack Reacher!

I finished up Never Go Back on New Year’s Day, and was very happy to see an email notice from my library, telling me that the ebook version of Elizabeth George’s Just One Evil Act was ready for me.

Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George

You know how you get into a reading mood, and you put a book down and immediately want to pick another one up? That was the feeling I had, probably one of the best bookish feelings ever.

I started reading Just One Evil Act, but didn’t manage to get too far before we had to go to my sister’s. I didn’t feel too badly, since the purpose of our New Year’s Day visit to my sister’s was to watch Pacific Rim, which I found to be a little cheesy, a whole lot of fun and extremely entertaining.

When we came back, I would have gone straight back to Just One Evil Act, but I had a deadline due on January 2, so I had to finish that first. When I finished, I had another hour or two before bedtime (or so I thought), so I started reading again.

As it turns out, I stayed up until 4:00 a.m., reading. The next day my body told me, you’re really getting too old to pull stunts like this.

I’m still working my way through Just One Evil Act (so nice to be back with Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Havers), but when that’s finished, I’m hoping to maintain my reading streak (an absolute must, if I want to make 2014 “My Year of Reading”). And it shouldn’t be too hard, because here are my first book arrivals of the new year!

Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Yes! The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The Rosie Project has been on my to-read list for a while, and I’ve been hearing so many good things about The Goldfinch, so I splurged and bought both of these for myself (*cough* because self-care is another one of my new year intentions …).

I won’t be challenging myself to read any set number of books (reading challenges just never work that well for me), but I’d like to read a bit of something every day. And not just fiction (but that’s a whole other post!). Since it’s the new year which means I tend to feel particularly motivated and productive (really wish I could bottle all these feelings), I even created a new Pinterest board to help me keep track (let’s hope it works out better than the board I created for last year’s reading …).

What are your reading intentions for the new year?

Welcome, 2012!

Happy new year!(Photo credit)

Happy new year, everyone!

I can’t believe how excited I’m feeling about this new year. There’s an almost palpable, tangible energy in the air right now, a really good energy that’s lifting me right up there.

All this, despite another heavy deadline-filled week ahead of me. But after that, things shift back to normal – and that’s exciting, too!

2011 was quite an incredible year for me, filled with a lot of learning experiences. My good friend Jules wrote, about her Christmas, that everything was the same, but at the same time, so incredibly different – because she was different.

That’s the way I’m feeling today. I am different. And the experience of this new year is very different from past new years.

I’d never been one to make resolutions. The thought of goals used to make me cringe. Other than my work, I would have said “undisciplined” was one word that described me quite well. (I say, “other than my work”, because I am incredibly deadline-oriented, which means when it comes to my work, I have no option but to be disciplined!)

Somehow, all of that has evaporated. I’ve learned to let go of a good portion of my resistance to some of the things that worked as a barrier between me and my dreams in the past. Also, the old adage, “if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting” keeps coming to me.

So this year? I’m letting go of “doing what I’ve been doing” and embracing doing things differently.

Goals for 2012

Yes, I have them! That, in and of itself, is well worth celebrating!

I finished creating my DIY planner the other day, complete with a customized-just-for-me planning system. And this system incorporates both daily goals, weekly goals, and project goals.

For someone who’s refused to set goals for so many years, this is a huge, huge change.

My daily goals? Read. Write. Create. Meditate. Exercise.

My regular weekly goals? So far, I only have a one. Experience life. It shouldn’t be that difficult, now that I’m living in Toronto. There’s so much to do around here!

And my new system lets me have flexible weekly goals, too.

I haven’t tackled my project list yet. I’m adapting the projects portion of Getting Things Done (GTD is an enticing system but it is way overkill for what I want in my life), so that’s one of my weekly goals this first week of the new year.

So yes, I’m all set! I’m welcoming 2012 with wide open arms.

What do you have planned for yourself in the new year? Do you like to set goals or make resolutions, or are you happiest when you just wing it?