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

April 29th, 2017 No comments

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:

On YouTube: Whole Phrases Hidden in English Words by Arika Okrent

April 29th, 2017 No comments

This is part of an excellent series by Arika Okrent on language. I have subscribed and look forward to seeing new videos in my YouTube daily watching list. — Douglas

Whole Phrases Hidden in English Words by Arika Okrent via YouTube

Why say a whole sentence when just a word will do? You might never have noticed that these English words contain whole phrases within them. Produced for Mental Floss

Watch Whole Phrases Hidden in English Words by Arika Okrent


An interesting link found among my daily reading

9 Books To Read If You Struggle With Anxiety via Romper

April 29th, 2017 No comments

I have had issues with anxiety all my life and I have recently begun looking for some ways of mitigating its effects. Here is a collection of 9 books (plus 2 recently recommended to me) to help you cope when anxiety in your life gets to be a bit too much. — Douglas

Read 9 Books To Read If You Struggle With Anxiety via Romper


Recommended to me, but not included in the linked article

I am currently reading My Age of Anxiety and I am in the 4th week of the Mindfulness program as outlined in the second book

Books included in the linked article

* 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! 


An interesting link found among my daily reading

10 Bits of Cooking Savvy We Picked Up Hanging Out in the Kitchen via Food52

April 28th, 2017 No comments
I have learned most — if not all – all my best cooking tricks from watching others, whether that is television chefs on the Food Network or Maria Gaetana in Agira — looking over her shoulder while she fried up cotoletta vittelo (Veal Cutlets) for pranza while all the other uomini (men) stood outside on the balcony smoking.
 
So, as a reinforcement of learning by watching, here are 10 great ideas you can apply in your kitchen — hopefully to great success! — Douglas
 
 
In the same way that I’m in awe of friends who have learned new languages by “immersion”—but how do you start, I’ve wondered? And what keeps you from just, you know, staying silent for all of eternity?—I am also confounded by older, wiser, better cooks who tell me that I’ll learn to cook by, well, cooking.
 
But how? It never seemed to add up. I’ve held a brain in biology class, and it really isn’t very much like a sponge.

And yet, when I think back to how I cooked five years ago, and think about the knowledge that I seem to have osmosed, I’m shocked to realize that just the act of cooking is also an act of learning. Nearly every recipe—even those not billed as life-changing—has a valuable tidbit or takeaway that can be applied to other future recipes.
 
Read 10 Bits of Cooking Savvy We Picked Up Hanging Out in the Kitchen via Food52



* 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!


An interesting link found among my daily reading

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

April 21st, 2017 No comments

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

* 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! 
** 74 copies of Big Magic are available to check out from the Los Angeles Public Library 


On YouTube: What Shakespeare’s English Sounded Like – and how we know via NativLang

April 18th, 2017 No comments

What Shakespeare’s English Sounded Like – and how we know

On YouTube: What Shakespeare's English Sounded Like - and how we know

Watch What Shakespeare’s English Sounded Like – and how we know on YouTube via NativLang

Botched rhymes, buried puns and a staged accent that sounds more Victorian than Elizabethan. No more! Use linguistic sleuthing to dig up the surprisingly different sound of the bard’s Early Modern English.

Learn more about Shakespeare’s English with these CD’s and books

* 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: Education, History, Theater Tags:

Advanced Shooting Modes: What They Are and When to Use Them via Digital Photography School

April 15th, 2017 Comments off

No matter how many photos I take, I am still learning every day. This article lays out some very basic — but very important — lessons about photography and how to best use your camera that I definitely need — and you might too!

Are you ready to get off Auto? When most people get started in digital photography, the first thing they do is set the shooting mode dial on the top of the camera to Auto. It makes sense to let the camera make decisions about things while you’re just getting used to using it.

On YouTube: 15 Minute Arduino Project: OLED Ammeter INA219

April 4th, 2017 Comments off

On YouTube: 15 Minute Arduino Project: OLED Ammeter INA219

Watch YouTube: 15 Minute Arduino Project: OLED Ammeter INA219

Another Arduino sandwich – this time the INA219 current sensor module, an Arduino Pro Mini and a 128×32 OLED. Part of my 18650 current monitoring project.


Learn more about Arduino with these books

* 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! 


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

On YouTube: Meaning Behind Camera Movement

April 2nd, 2017 Comments off

How you move your camera colors and changes the meaning and emotion of the scene. Are you doing it on purpose or giving your audience accidental misdirection to how they should feel. — Douglas

Watch YouTube: Meaning Behind Camera Movement

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

On YouTube: No-etch circuit boards with your laser printer

March 28th, 2017 Comments off
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