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Month: September 2016

Why I am Rereading my favorite books this fall, and you should too!

Why I am Rereading my favorite books this fall, and you should too!

Reading is a lot like dating.  A new book is like a first date.  You don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s exciting and nerve-wracking and intriguing and confusing.  Sometimes the date is amazing and sometimes it is a total dud, but you can only discover that after you’ve lived through it.  An old book, one that you’ve read before is like a stable, healthy, loving, long-term relationship.  You know what you are getting, but it is still wonderful to experience it.   You can connect deeper because of the familiarity and you feel safe and secure amongst the ups and downs.

Ok, I might have romanticized that metaphor quite a bit, but I stand by the point of it.  New books are fun and wonderful, but rereading books is also worth your time.  

I once met a girl in college (who is awesome and we totally clicked) who had never reread a book ever in her adult life.  When she told me this I am pretty sure my mouth fell open and hit the floor.  The thought didn’t compute in my brain.  How could she resist diving back between the covers of her favorite novels?  How could she fully appreciate the fantasticness of a story after only one read?.  Her argument was simple, there are so many books in the world, why would she waste her time rereading something she’d already read.

I won’t lie, this is a super valid point.  There are more books in the world than one could ever read, there are amazing sagas out there we won’t even know exist during our lifetimes. –  Ah, that thought stresses me out! I don’t want to miss out on those stories!  It makes me want to quit my job, go live in a tiny house filled with books and watch cats to make money to buy more books! –  Ok, craziness aside this statement is true and it is something we all have to accept and live with.  And true acceptance of this fact means that we are willing to invest our time in something familiar rather than always venturing off into something new.  

We do this a lot in our lives outside of reading.  I’ve never lived in Paraguay, or New Zealand or Japan or New York City.  Does that mean I am going to pick up my life and try to spend every year living in a new place, just so I can experience them all?  No, because while there is a lot to experience elsewhere – there is also a lot left for me to experience exactly where I am.  I believe the same principle can be applied to books.  There is a whole world of nuance, symbolism and character depth we can experience on the second read of a book and here are my top seven reasons why I think you should go back to your bookshelf and reread your favorite novel this fall.

  1. You need to recharge:  If your summer was anything like mine it was busy, and fast and go go go.  I feel burnt out. I am tired.  This fall I am entering into a season of rest and recharging.  Instead of wearing myself out tackling a new reading project – bombarding myself with the stresses and emotional roller coasters of the unfamiliar – I am retreating back into the comforting arms of my old friends who I know I can depend on.
  2. You will learn something new:  Even though you’ve read a story before, I promise on your second, third, twelfth, and twenty-fifth reads you will catch something new from a story and you will still enjoy reading it.  Even though you know how it ends, it is about the experience of getting there, not the destination itself.
  3. Respect:  As a writer. you know how hard you work on your novel.  Don’t you want readers to have the desire to peruse your pages more than once?  Give your favorite author that same respect, they worked hard and created something you enjoyed, so allow them to entertain you again.
  4. Inspiration:  There are some books that just inspire me to write, and whenever I fall into a writing rut I always return to reading them because it will remind me why I am doing this, what I am trying to accomplish and what my ultimate goal is.
  5. You will become a better writer:  When you reread a book you can do so, not just for the plot elements and the external layers of character development, you can really dig in and read with a critical lens.  For example, I have been struggling with the passage of time in my novel, the story takes place over a few months so I can’t detail out every day of my characters lives.  But skipping large chunks of time has felt choppy, so I am rereading a book series that I know does this well to get a refresher on a good example of how this can be done right.
  6. You need practice rereading:  You are going to be reading and rereading and rerereading your novel an innumerable number of times before it is ready to go out into the world, you might as well start practicing the art of rereading now so that you can do it with your own novel and not grow bored or tired or frustrated by it.  
  7. You don’t want to forget:  I am kind of obsessed with the Harry Potter series, as I am of the Harry Potter generation, and I will shamelessly tell you that I have read all of the books over a dozen times.  I reread these books once every two-ish years because I don’t want to forget what these books mean to me.  It is because of these books that I first realized my dream of writing.  The first story I ever took from my head to the page was a complete plagiarism of The Sorcerer’s Stone (I was like 9 so I don’t feel too bad about this – I was trying!).  These books are special to me and I don’t want to forget anything about them, or what they mean to me so I continue to go back to them and I continue to enjoy them every time I return.  I’m sure there is a story out there that inspires you too, don’t forget about it, return to it.

 

After reading only new books so far all of 2016 I am excited to dive back into a few of my favorites and see how these familiar tales inspire my writing.

What about you?  Do you love to reread books like me, or are you more of a one and done type of person?  I would love to hear your reasons for reading the way you do!  Join me in this fall challenge and let me know what book you are going to reread in the comments below.  Happy reading and happy writing.


Stay Amazing my friends

Why Netflix is Toxic to my Writing (and really my whole life)

Why Netflix is Toxic to my Writing (and really my whole life)

I love stories.  Any kind of story, long, short, funny, serious, fantasy, mystery, drama they are all good.  I will gobble up stories through any form of media, internet, television, paper, billboard, audiobook, spoken, interpretive dance, whatever.  On one level this is great.  There is a sea of inspiration out in the world and I will happily drink it in through any format.  This is also super dangerous, especially when I have easy access to unlimited story input at my fingertips.

I am talking about Netflix.  I love Netflix, but ever since it came into my life I’ve struggled with the biggest, most common pitfall of it:  Binge Watching.

 

This has become such a universal activity for myself – and my entire generation – that it is hardly seen as a problem.  Rather, it is just a joke, we laugh about how late we stayed up watching, how fast we got through the 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls, and the things we forgot to do because we had to watch just one more episode.  I’m not judging, because I do this – a lot.

This tendency to become addicted to watching the show of my choice on Netflix has become especially toxic to my writing life.  For three and a half main reasons.

  1. I don’t watch high quality stories:  Yes, this is a self imposed problem.  Netflix has some AMAZING shows that maybe could offer some inspiration for my writing, but those stories are not usually what I choose to watch.  Instead I gravitate towards the simple, the silly and the easy to understand as I am often multitasking while I binge watch two seasons worth of episodes in one week.  As the saying goes, quality in, quality out.  When I am not putting quality stories into my brain, quality stories do not come out of my brain.  I see this whenever I go on a Netflix bender, as well as when I sober up and suddenly my story makes sense again.
  2. It is easier to choose watching over reading:  I have multiple really awesome books I am in the middle of right now, one paper, one audio book.  I could easily listen to my audiobook instead of watching my shows, but there is something about the flashing lights of the screen that always pull me in.  I used to spend nearly 45 minutes a night reading, I could power through a 300 page book in less than a week.  Lately, I barely make time to read and it took me three weeks to read a simple 400 page YA fiction book.  When given the choice between Netflix and reading, it takes less energy and brain strength to go with the screen which loops back to point number 1.  Poor input = poor output.

      2.5  It is easier to choose watching over writing:  If I can hardly muster the strength to read a book, I certainly won’t have the strength to write a book.  Though I made some amazing book breakthroughs in July, and am actually really excited about where I am at in revising my novel, forcing myself to commit time to writing is like forcing a vegan to eat pork chops.  It’s a real battle.  Where I used to easily spend an hour every night writing, I find myself tiring after barely fifteen minutes.  I can’t blame a busy  schedule for this problem, rather it boils down to the fact that I’ve been valuing entertainment over pursuing my passion which, frankly, is not okay.

  1. It encourages instant gratification:  Television has long been criticized for the three things I’ve listed above.  It makes us lazy, and stupid and fat.  Netflix has added a new layer to these problems, it encourages instant gratification.  Back in the old days, we had to wait for the next season of a show to come out.  It took patience, and dedication to watch a show from pilot to final (My family was super into Lost, and we literally watched every episode from every season in real time.  Hey can you hang out on Wednesday – No my show is on!) With Netflix, we no longer need that kind of dedication.  I can watch all the episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” without any work or patience required.  This translates to me wanting to rush ahead with my stories.  I find that I no longer have the patience to delve into an important theme, or to rewrite a scene 12 times until it is perfect.  I just want to push through and get to the next episode.

As the saying goes, realizing I have a problem is the first step to fixing my problem.  So, here’s my plan for ditching my Netflix obsession:

  1. Create Rules:  For me, I need to do a total cold turkey to really shake off my Netflix cravings.  Others might be able to set rules like 1 episode a night, or only watching on Mondays.  I do not have that kind of will power so I need to just stop, detox for a while and focus on other things  
  2. Read:  My best cure for a Netflix bender is to switch over to reading.  It satiates my desire to be entertained while still putting good stories and good ideas into my brain.  To encourage reading, I’m going to reread my favorite book series of all time because I know I will be hooked from day one.
  3. Write:  Plain and simple, I need to put my foot down and focus on writing instead of entertaining myself.
  4. Don’t go back:  My biggest issue with Netflix is I always seem to relapse.  Every time I think I’m finally done with binge watching I get over confident, find a new show and relapse myself into this mess once again.  I’m tired of the cycle.  In order to avoid falling back into this familiar pattern I need to keep looking forward towards my goals and be intentional about prioritizing my time.  This includes setting concrete goals for my writing timeline, choosing healthier entertainment options, and keeping a good work life balance.  With some perspective, and a lot of discipline I believe this will be the time I kick the Netflix habit for good.  And a little external motivation from sharing this all with you probably won’t hurt either.

Do you have anything in your life that consistently keeps you from writing, or from writing your best?  Do you have any tips for me on how to break my Netflix addiction?  Let me know in the comments below and together we can find our best life balance so we can write at our best level!


Stay Amazing my Friends,

Do You Ever Feel Like These Oranges?

Do You Ever Feel Like These Oranges?

Do you ever feel like these oranges?  This image made me laugh the first time I saw it, because it is a joke and jokes are funny.  Then I started seeing this image everywhere, and it began to resonate with me, not because it was funny, but because it was speaking an insightful message. 

We live in a culture that teaches us to be the best, that all our hard work will pay off when we finally reach the top.  This theme is particularly dominant in sports and I saw it everywhere during  the Rio Olympics.  They had whole segments on the USA female gymnasts, focusing on their hard work, dedication, the sacrifices they made to get to Rio – and how winning a gold medal made it all worth it.  Those girls are amazing yes, and I am sure they worked very hard to earn their spot on the team, but what about the girls and boys who tried but didn’t make it to the Olympics.  Did they work any less hard, or make fewer sacrifices?  Was their effort not worth it?

Our society focuses on those that reach the top, but we neglect to recognize all of the people who work just as hard as those on top, but still fall short.  The people out there who are like these oranges.  Not the best, but still good – great even.

When it comes to me and my writing, my focus gets skewed towards what society values.  I want my story to be the best, my writing to be the best, my characters to be the best.  I want to be the best author there ever was.

But, odds are that I won’t be.  Sure, there is a chance me or you or the amazing Kayla could one day reach the top, but the truth is, most likely, we won’t.  If I were writing for fame, or money, writing with the goal of becoming the best, then I would want to stop right now.  Because odds are I’ll never get there and odds are it might not be worth the sacrifices I’d have to make.

Thankfully, I don’t write for fame or money (newsflash writing is not one of the highest grossing careers) I write for my story.  I write because it feeds my soul.  But because I am impacted by society’s values of competition, perfection and greatness I struggle with writing doubts, feel like my writing is unworthy, my dreams are unattainable and my efforts are unprofitable.

I’ll read a scene I wrote yesterday and think – it’s not the best.  Then, my instinct is to spend hours editing, revising, rewriting and stressing over the scene until I can get it absolutely perfect.  This is the wrong frame of mind!  If I scrutinize all my writing that way, before I even open it up to the opinion of others, before I even try to get it published then I will never finish my story.  Instead, when I read my writing I need to learn to accept that it’s not the best, but see that it is still good.

As writers we are our own toughest critics!  We know the potential our stories have, we can see every place they fall short on paper, compared to how they look in our heads.  What we struggle to see is the shock of reading our plot twists for the first time, or the wonder of the magical world we’ve created.  It is easy to get so absorbed in seeing what’s not the best about our stories, that we can’t see the good at all.

This happens to me in other places besides my story.  I know I’m not the best blogger, so sometimes I wonder why I am trying.  I know I’m not an expert on certain subjects, so why would I write about them?  Someone else could do this better.  Who would want to see my mediocrity?

The answer is a lot of people!  Because where I see myself as mediocre, someone else might see me as great – or even the best.  The beauty with art and writing and creativity is that it is subjective.  Though this means there will always be haters, it means there will also always be people who get what you are going for, who love what you do!

My goal for my writing life is to be more like these oranges.  To have the confidence to say, I’m not the best – but I’m still good.  Here’s my three tips to achieving this attitude in your own writing life.

  1. Read:  When I read a book, very rarely does it fall into the “OMG this is the best book I have ever read category”  usually it is just good, I like it, it is average.  And I still enjoyed it.  Seeing other published books that are just good is very encouraging, it means I can to the same.  I also find encouragement from reading books with poor writing.  I try really hard not to hate on these authors, because as a fellow writer I know the struggle, and I know I have a more critical eye than most readers.  Instead, when I see weaknesses in writing I pause to consider if maybe my own writing shares this flaw and if I could use this story for personal growth.  I also try tp practice humility recognizing that this book that I hate is published, while my story that I love is still finding its way.  No matter if I pick up a good book or a bad one, it gives me hope for my story and inspiration to continue on my writing journey.
  2. Step back:  When I get in a big rut, hating everything I write and feeling like I will never accomplish my writing dreams – sometimes the best solution is to take a step back.  I take a week, sometimes longer and I do not work on my story, or the part of my story that is giving me grief.  In the meantime I still write, whether it is blog posts, character development, or a different chunk of my book.  Then when I return I have fresh eyes to see the good parts of my writing and to improve the less than satisfactory parts
  3. Tell those doubts to shut up:   Sometimes my writing is good, but I still feel like it might not be.  I like what I’ve written, but still believe someone else could have written it better, still doubt if it is the best.  On my good days, I can tell that little voice to shut up and move on.  Other times I need a little help through the support of friends, family, and beta-readers.  These are the people in my life who can always see the goodness in my writing, and can teach me to improve the weak parts.  They are strong for me when I can’t be, helping me to push through to victory.

 

Maybe you have a lot of courage like these oranges, maybe you are like me and get stuck on the “not the best” part of the phrase.  But remember, just like an athlete needs to train to get better, you need to write to become a better writer.  Don’t let the fear of rejection or failure keep you from your passion.  Push on, write on and…

Stay amazing my friends