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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott [Book]

April 29th, 2017 Comments off

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

I first read Bird by Bird a long time ago and often recommend it to people who have a desire to write. After talking with a friend about the book recently, I thought it time to revisit and re-read the book and see what new things I might take away from it.

Unlike Big Magic, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, Bird by Bird is more of a traditional book on writing — offering direct advice, exercises and support to help you write and write better. That said, Lamott has a great way of interjecting the realities of being a writer along with a strong dose of humor to help you cope with the ups, downs, sideways and convolutions of writing a being a writer.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

On the concrete side of the writing equation, Lamott details her advice on writing using “Short Assignments” — committing to only a few hundred words detailing a particular character or scene. Just enough to get your writing — something — which can often be the most difficult part of any project.

Next is allowing yourself to write, in her words, “Shitty First Drafts. This is Lamott’s way of saying that sometimes you just have to write. We can all get tied up in trying to make every word we write perfect — the first time. Almost anyone who has ever written will tell you that this is a sure road to madness, writer’s block and worse.

An entire essay on Perfectionism follows to give some reasons and some tools to combat it and continue writing, no matter how bad you might think your project is right now.

Lamott then follows with chapters on other important aspects of writing including Set Design, Plot, Dialogue and more.

Part II of Bird by Bird, The Writing Frame of Mind is a series of in-depth essays on “Looking Around” or how better to see the world around you and use it in your writing, “The Moral Point of View” which explains how it is very difficult to complete any writing project that you don’t care passionately about — at least in some small way. You have to have the thread that drives you through your project. Something important you want to say. There is also an important section on “Jealousy” that I think is required reading for any writer. Jealousy is something we must all learn to deal with if we want to have a happy life and a successful (or at least, fun) writing career. Otherwise the “green-eyed dragon” will gobble you up with a moment’s thought.

In Part III, an essay on “Calling Around” explains how important it is for a writer to find sources for their writing — those people who can call on with specific information about world’s you may not move in, but still want to use as a setting in your writing. Lamott also details why it is so very important to find a trusted friend to read your early drafts and how you may go about finding them. Writing groups might be one solution and Lamott shares her thoughts on how important a good (and functional) group like this might be for you.

Part IV deals with the nasty bits of being a “professional”, “published” writer. It isn’t an easy life and there are a few things you need to know before you head down that road. It can be unforgiving. It can be crushing to your ego. It can also be exhilarating and dramatic and a host of other feelings.

I read Bird by Bird essay by essay in most cases. Taking time to think and digest the lesson in each section before moving on. You might also turn to (or return to) individual sections were you need a bit more support and a bit more thinking to use the lessons in your own writing.

After this re-read of Bird by Bird, I still think this is one of the foremost books for writers of all levels, but especially for those just beginning their writing journey. There is a lot of great advice, guidance, and truth in this book that can benefit everyone.

Categories: Books, Creativity, Education, Writing Tags:

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert [Book]

April 21st, 2017 Comments off

I first saw mention of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear in some magazine I was reading. There were several writing and creativity books mentioned and I quickly requested those I hadn’t previously read from my local library. What I hadn’t noticed, until I started reading the book was that it was written by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love. This often happens to me. I don’t recognize famous people out in public or important people in a company or government. It is just not something I am attuned to. In this case, I might not even have started to the read the book had I known more about the author. Sometimes coming to a new resource “cold” allow you to take in important lessons without any preconceptions.

One big thing I agree with Gilbert on is that writing — like many creative pursuits — is indeed magic. Whether I have been writing, performing music, singing with a choir, performing solo or walking onstage in the play or musical, there is something amazingly magical in what results. Thinking that creativity is magic doesn’t mean that it is unattainable for everyone, though, only that we have to treat creativity as something that is special and — most importantly — something that everyone should experience, as often as possible, in their lives. 

Big Magic isn’t a book about writing, with special exercises, meditations, or prescriptions. Rather it is a book about having and coping with a creative life. Creativity is always seen as something special — found only in select others — and this can lead to our own denial of its power and rewards and our own abilities. In a section entitled Permission, Gilbert says that we should all be “entitled”. This is a loaded word these days, but the fact is, we should all feel entitled to engage in creativity throughout our lives, regardless of what others might say or do or how much they try to dissuade us. Creativity is a certain, inalienable right, like those others laid out in the Declaration of Independence. In fact, I consider it one large part of “the pursuit of happiness” that Jefferson gave such importance.

One of the most important lessons Gilbert imparts is one that many creatives might not want to hear. She says that, in most cases, you shouldn’t depend on or expect your creativity to support you financially. In fact, she thinks this is one of the best ways to kill of your creativity entirely. If you expect your music or poetry or photography to support you, you quickly turn the magical into drudgery. What you once loved to do becomes a hateful burden and if allowed to continue, will kill your desire to create. 

Sure, some lucky few might be able to support themselves from their creativity, but most will not. In fact, she says, “with rare exceptions, creative fields make for crap careers. (They make for crap careers, that is, if you define a “career” as something that provides for your financially in a fair and foreseeable manner, which is a pretty reasonable definition of a career.)”

No matter how successful you may become, there will still be aspects of any job that you hate — the bureaucracy, the finances, the constant travel and more. On the other hand, Gilbert says, “Creative living can be an amazing vocation, if you have the love and courage and persistence to see it that way.” For myself, I often say, “Love your creativity, but don’t necessarily expect for it to love you back.” There is much to be gained from creativity, but money not be the most abundant nor important.

Big Magic is divided into short, easily consumable, sections — more like a collection of essays, although unlike some similar books, it holds together well as a complete book, too. You can read it from cover to cover, as I did, or jump from essay to another as your mood — and your creative need — strikes you.

Come to Big Magic to help you understand and better manage your own creative life. Creativity is never an easy path, as either vocation or avocation, but it is amazing and something that everyone should experience in some way. Like most things in life, though, having a guide along a strange and confusing path is always more helpful than we might like to admit. Consider Big Magic one such guide in your creative life. Now, head out on your own creative journey.

Other books by Elizabeth Gilbert

See more of her books on Amazon

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** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 
** 74 copies of Big Magic are available to check out from the Los Angeles Public Library 


Rustic Genuine Leather Pencil Roll – Pen and Pencil Case by Rustic Ridge Leather

April 20th, 2017 Comments off

I spotted this via Boing Boing and it looks sweet. I could see adding this to my travel art kit although i would probably use it more fro paintbrushes than pencils or pastels. Still, you might find this nice for your own artistic pursuits, whatever they may be. — Douglas

 Rustic Genuine Leather Pencil Roll - Pen and Pencil Case by Rustic Ridge Leather

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs


Get Inspired By This Jaw-Dropping Cardboard Armor For Kids via Geek & Sundry

April 11th, 2017 Comments off

This is an amazing example of cardboard crafting. The final look is absolutely wonderful and would please almost any cosplayer, big or small. — Douglas

Get Inspired By This Jaw-Dropping Cardboard Armor For Kids via Geek & Sundry

Superdad and artist Warren King says on his Flickr page that he used mostly Amazon shipping boxes, storage and moving boxes, and packaging for the armor, then gloss spray paint on top. But, what’s even cooler than the finished product is actually seeing the work that’s underneath it. Looking at the steps taken to create this suit of armor, you can truly see the artistry with just the bare cardboard.

Read Get Inspired By This Jaw-Dropping Cardboard Armor For Kids via Geek & Sundry


Find more on cardboard crafting with these books from Amazon.com

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

Categories: Creativity, DIY, Fun, Make, Shared Items Tags:

Do It 2017 #9: When Life Gets In The Way

March 30th, 2017 Comments off

Did you miss me? Did you even know I was gone? I’m hoping you didn’t notice

I’m hoping you didn’t notice, but I have basically been a housebound invalid since Friday, March 17. We had planned a family trip back to Ohio that had to be canceled and, instead, I have spent these last few weeks moving painfully from chair to chair and doctor to doctor.

What happened? Sciatica, for the most part. I’ve never experienced this before and certainly never want to experience it again. While I am somewhat better now, I am still not 100%. Standing or walking for more than a few minutes is nearly impossible, so I have spent the days sitting — and posting to the blogs, but not much else. While I am improving, I am still not “better.” Right now I feel like it is going to take at least another week before I approach “normal” again.

Pushing through the fog…or getting lost within it

That said, this isn’t about being ill. Rather, I have been having thoughts about how to be creative while being ill. I will be the first to admit it is really difficult. Most of my output has been curated posts from other sources, photographs from the archives and such. When your mind is addled with pain it often can’t think much about anything else. It tends to push out other thoughts, distract you from reading or actively, physically creating, but it can also give you time to think and create mentally by forcing your STOP and heal. It is amazing what thoughts and ideas can come to you when you simply can’t do much else.

Looking back over these last 2 weeks, I think I have generated some interesting ideas that I can start to work on once things get a little bit better. That helps to give me some extra motivation to get better, even I can’t really do much about it. That is a reality about life in general, actually. We often come up with ideas when we have no time or energy to put them in motion. This is why it is so important to capture any and all ideas you have when they occur, so you can go back and “mine” them later. Don’t let ideas get away. You might never get them back. Sure, you’ll collect a lot of ho-hum ideas, but scattered among them could be your next great project.

On some days, though, as it was earlier this week, there is no possibility of pushing through the fog. All I could do was let myself get lost within it. Sleep is one of the best ways to heal, so I took advantage of it whenever I could. As almost always happens, though, sleep bring odd dreams, thoughts, fleeting images and more. Use them. You may have no idea why you were dreaming about far-flung planets, weird animals, odd situations and more, but you might be able to use this different frame of mind to find a new path into your creativity. I know it’s not fun, but there is some solace in making use of something that is otherwise quite annoying and traumatic.

A good distraction

If nothing else, looking to your creativity during an illness can help provide a small distraction from the day-to-day grind and boredom that quickly sets in. I have found great solace in being able to, at least, sit at the computer comfortably and engage in my typical day-to-day work. It has given me a few moments without thinking about the pain — at least until I need to move somewhere else. Small favors are better than none, though.

What distractions can you give yourself when you are ill? Is there a small “lap-sized” project you can start or finish. Can someone help bring your painting supplies closer to your chair so you can paint a little when you have the energy and attention? You might find yourself creating something entirely different from your usual work. You changed mental state is sure to effect your output. I know I have certainly been having different thoughts and ideas over the last 2 weeks. Some good. Some bad. Some weird, but all useful.

So the next time you are laid up, like I am, help yourself heal by staying creative and keeping an active mind, even if your body is still. There is often very little you can do to heal, but you can, at least, try to keep your mind, your creativity, your productivity ticking along as best as possible. I think it is as important to your healing as a good night’s rest. I’ll let you know how it works for me in the coming weeks.

Categories: Creativity, Do It! Tags:

On Podcast: Charles Duhigg on Self-Motivation, Mental Models, and Getting Stuff Done – The Upgrade by Lifehacker

March 25th, 2017 Comments off

Charles Duhigg on Self-Motivation, Mental Models, and Getting Stuff Done – The Upgrade by Lifehacker

Listen to this podcast

If anyone knows the difference between being busy and being productive it’s Charles Duhigg. The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times and author of The Power of Habit has made a name for himself plumbing the science of productivity, and this week he’s joining us on the podcast.

Charles is, by any measure, a very productive person—he wrote a bestseller while working full-time and raising a family. And even though success begat success, he started to feel like he was treading water and didn’t want to come home every day after work to spend another five hours answering emails.

So he started calling researchers who study productivity as well as very productive people he admired to learn why some people manage to do so much while others struggle to reach the inbox zero promised land. Those phone calls and conversations are what led to his second book, Smarter Better Faster.

In today’s show we talk about many of the key principles Charles detailed in his book, including how pilots used ‘mental models’ to land a severely damaged airplane, how the worst automotive manufacturing plant in the country turned itself around when new owners gave the workers more control, and what it means to be truly productive.

Categories: Business, Careers, Creativity, Education, Podcast Tags:

Noted: 15 Photography Ideas to Boost Your Creativity

March 25th, 2017 Comments off

Noted: Podcast: The Assassins Of Creativity (and How To Spot Them)

March 22nd, 2017 Comments off

On YouTube: Intro to 3D Printing – A Series

March 9th, 2017 Comments off

On YouTube: Intro to 3D Printing - A Series

Watch YouTube: Intro to 3D Printing – A Series

This is the first video in a series of 3D Printing video’s i plan on doing. Since 3D printing and 3D Printing Technology is relatively new i am going to start as though you’ve never printed anything before and work my way through everything you need to know. I will go over what to look for in a printer, how much does a printer cost, tips and tools, settings, enclosures, modifications, filament explanations, prints you need, adding a glass bed, fixing clogs, insulation, and the best 3D design software.

Hopefully you can watch these video’s and save yourself the hassle of making the typical mistakes that most people do who are just starting out.


I liked this video and think you might find it interesting, too!

Noted: Everything You Need to Get Started in Screen Printing for about $50 (or Only $100 to Go All Out)

March 7th, 2017 Comments off
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