Know How You Respond to Expectations

In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) she has found that people have one of four different tendencies when it comes to creating and/or breaking habits. I’ve written about habits before in this blog, but I’ve recently discovered this new book and I’ve used the information I’ve learned in the book to get more writing done.

The book addresses the question, “How do you respond to expectations?”

There are internal expectations (I want to start running again, I want to eat healthier) and external expectations (this report is due to my boss by Friday, my talk is Tuesday, so I have to print my handouts by Monday) and some of us do well with either and some of us have trouble with both. 

After figuring out which tendency describes you—take this short quiz here to find out—you can use this information to get more writing done!

After taking the quiz, I know I’m an Obliger. I respond well to external expectations but have a hard time upholding my own internal expectations. That translates to me being very reliable to others but not so reliable to myself. 

  • If I say I’ll make a pot of soup for the potluck, I will make that pot of soup no matter what. 
  • If I tell myself I’ll write for an hour after supper, I will let almost any other request, event, or circumstance derail that commitment. 

Rather than beat myself up about my tendency to bail on myself (I’ve done enough of that over the years,) I’m using the information in Ms. Rubin’s book to create external expectations related to my internal goals. 

I want to finish a first draft of my book, so I found an accountability partner. He and I are both working on nonfiction books and we make commitments to each other and meet every two weeks to keep the momentum going. 

I want to write every weekday, so I’ve joined multiple online productivity groups. We meet on Zoom, check in for 5 minutes, say what we’re going to do (= create an external expectation,) then we work silently together. 

If I was a Questioner (another of the 4 tendencies) I’d figure out ways to make the things I want to do make sense. Questioners ask, “Why should I do this?” and will only do things they believe are worth doing. 

Check out The Four Tendencies and see if it can help you get more writing done. 

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website, www.dianemackinnon.com.

Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

Book Review of Word by Word

Word By Word by Kory Stamper

“Language is one of the few common experiences humanity has.”

So begins the Preface to Kory Stamper’s wonderful memoir, Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries.

Hanging on Stamper’s personal narrative about how she came to be a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster and what that work is like is the entertaining history of the English words with which humans have recorded their knowledge, experience, beliefs and discoveries. This discussion of words also includes a discussion of linguistic prejudice, that attitude that self-appointed grammar police cop when someone doesn’t follow their[1]* prescribed rules.

You’d be correct if you imagined that dictionary editors spend eight hours a day in silent study, but you’d be dead wrong if for a moment you thought that reading about it would be boring.

Stamper writes with attitude.

That attitude arises from the little thought any normal person gives to the writing of dictionaries – including most lexicographers before they take the job. Before the internet, high school graduates received a dictionary before going off to college. I still have my red, clothbound Merriam-Webster Collegiate, which Stamper claims “is one of the best-selling books in American history and may be second in sales only to the Bible.” (In a footnote following this claim, she admits that this is more likely for having been “one of the oldest continuously published desk dictionaries around,” not because there’s any hard data.)

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate

I still have the 9th edition I took to college.

The Collegiate is a desk dictionary, not the big fat one that people use as booster seats for visiting grandkids. That one – The Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged – is, as Stamper notes, obsolete the moment it rolls off the press. Because even though most of us who use a dictionary do so to check meaning, spelling and usage, a dictionary is, ultimately, an historical document. It’s a snapshot of the language as it was during the ten or more years during which the lexicographers in a dingy building in Springfield, Massachusetts worked to update it.

As Stamper makes clear with humor and great stories, English is not static. Words can’t be caged on a page. How people use language changes all the time. And the history of those changes offer a glimpse into the history of those who use those words.

Word By Word is not just a terrific book about words, but also an excellently written personal memoir that tells the story about The Secret Life of Dictionaries, proving that any subject can spawn a compelling narrative when well told.

[1] Stamper explains that the singular “their” actually dates back to the fourteenth century.

alternate headshot

Deborah Lee Luskin is not ashamed to say that she owns about half a dozen English dictionaries – and regularly reads them.

Wrap-up of Best Books of 2016 Lists

This collection won’t be anything close to complete, but I hope it will at least offer up a few selections that pique your interest. So, peruse and enjoy. And, if you find other lists that should be added to the wrap-up, please feel free to leave links in the comments. (My list is skewed to my own preference for speculative fiction, so I have definitely overlooked other popular genres like thriller, mystery, and romance; so – please! – let me know your favorite picks!)

Here’s to making your To-read List even longer!!

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Tor.com Reviewers' Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR's Book Concierge - Best Books of 2016

NPR’s Book Concierge – Best Books of 2016

 

New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Happy reading!!

.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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How Do You Manage Your Personal Library?

too-many-books-too-little-time-to-readNo matter how many times I downsize my library, it still seems I have an abundance of books to read.

Not that I mind at all, of course, but space is an issue.

I spent a good chunk of Sunday sorting through all my books, yet again, because I really needed to finish unpacking (moved at the end of Aug and still had boxes upon boxes).

There were boxes of books in my new placet and also in a large outdoor storage unit that I’ve downsized to a small indoor one. It’s crazy.

If I still had my home, my library would be at least 2 of the 3 bedrooms, with piles of books in every other room, too. As it is now, I share space with a roommate, so have very limited shelf space.

In sorting, I discovered a few categories of books:

  • To read and review
  • To read for pure pleasure
  • To read for personal development
  • To keep for reference / research
  • To keep because they are signed
  • To keep because I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements as editor
  • To keep because I want to read them again “some day”

I think it’s too many categories and still too many books, but I feel I’ve trimmed my personal library down to the minimum. Many books need to remain boxed and put away – but at least I know what’s in each box now!

I have my car’s trunk full (literally) of books to donate. As long as I know someone might read them, I don’t feel too bad, but, still, it’s difficult to part with books that have been on my shelves and TBR (to be read) pile for years. Do you have this problem too?

I used to keep an inventory of titles I had in an Excel sheet, but that got overwhelming. I’m on Shelfari and Goodreads, and even with those easy ways to track my ‘library’ it’s still overwhelming.

If you have limited space, how do you manage your personal library? Have you moved to an e-reader to reduce paper books? Do you have books packed away? Do you keep an inventory? 

I’m curious to know how you manage your personal library. Please share.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Writer’s Weekend Resources: Reading and Writing Links

Coffee for Three

Coffee for Three

Earlier this year, before I had come to terms with the reality that an onslaught of colliding project deadlines would render this The Summer That Wasn’t, I wrote a post encouraging you writers to Get Out! … to enjoy participating in the world as much as you enjoy observing, recording, and – in many cases – creating it.

I was reminded of that post earlier this week when, for the first time in ages, I gave myself permission to spend part of my morning hanging out at the local coffee shop. As fate would have it, I ran into a couple of women (one whom I hadn’t talked to in a long while and another with whom I’d recently spent the day). While I had planned to use my coffee shop time to do some long overdue journaling, outline a post for this blog, and put together some notes for an upcoming guest appearance on a podcast, the chance encounter with these ladies swept all such intentions away. Instead, I surrendered to the pleasure of our spontaneous and meandering conversation.

My work still got done, it just got done later. More importantly, I came away from my redirected morning feeling energized and inspired.

As writers, looking within is a major part of the gig. It’s what we do. We spend a lot of our time in our own heads – creating, building, crafting. But, sometimes it’s a good idea to get out of our own heads and into the world where we can talk with other people and connect face to face instead of on the page.

_jamie sig

 

 


 Books I’m Reading:

This week, I read two middle grade novels, which – by coincidence – both featured misunderstood witches. Though I chose them more or less at random, they turned out to be quite pointedly apropos for the Halloween season, especially given the recent trips my daughter and I have made to nearby Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the tragic witch trials of the late 1600s.

book-girl-drank-moonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon is author Kelly Barnhill‘s fourth novel, and the first of her books that I’ve read. (I will definitely be reading others!) It’s the story of a girl named Luna, of secrets and lies, of growing up and growing old. It’s a story of magic, sorrow, and – most of all – hope. There is an old witch named Xan, a wise Swamp Monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. And there is moonlight and wonder and fierce love.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a fairytale, but one that can – despite adhering to many of the classic fairytale tropes – enchant and surprise. Barnhill’s storytelling style weaves a cocoon of time and place around the reader, drawing you in by piquing your curiosity and keeping you enthralled with the entwining threads of the story and her often poetic use of language. There is danger and mystery, but also laughter and comfort. Barnhill creates an exquisite balance between the dark and the light.

This was one of those books that I wanted to keep reading even after I’d turned the last page. I am very much looking forward to reading some of her other works.

··• )o( •··

book-thicketyThe Thickety – A Path Begins is the first in J.A. White’s four-book series about a dark, forbidding forest and magic – both good and evil. This one was a serious page turner. As White’s fellow author said in a back cover blurb, “The Thickety is a sinister, magical debut with a marvelous and shocking heroine. J.A. White’s elegant writing and masterful plot kept me turning pages late into the night.” She’s not kidding.

Thankfully, the book was a quick read. Even better, when I dropped into my local library yesterday morning, the second installment of the series was sitting on the shelf, waiting for me. (Which was, I assure you, a big relief since the first book ended on something of a cliffhanger.)

Like The Girl Who Drank the Moon, The Thickety is another story about misunderstandings and wrong assumptions. Nothing is quite as it seems, and there are many twists and turns that draw you through the story, always wanting to read “just one more chapter.”

··• )o( •··

In addition to being appropriate for the Halloween season (because of the witches and various monsters), both of these books reminded me of the truth that children don’t want nice stories. Also, in the context of the current cultural and political upheaval in the United States, the themes of exclusion, persecution, intolerance, and misunderstanding leap all the more dramatically and heart-wrenchingly off the page. Who says that children’s books are only for children? We could all use a little more education in those areas.


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE


Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-hungry-for-stories

Here’s to making new friends and spending time with old friends, getting out into the real world so you’re better equipped to create your own world, and “children’s” stories that teach us how to be better human beings.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Coffee Photo Credit: pr0digie Flickr via Compfight cc

Weekend Writing Ruminations and Links – The Odd Thing About Time

crows-timeTime flies, she said.

But where does it go? he asked.

In circles mostly, she answered.

I wish I knew more about time. I wish I understood quantum physics and theories of time relativity. Maybe then I would have power over time.

One of my recurring childhood fantasies involved a magic pocket watch that could stop time. I dearly wanted to be able to freeze time and bring the whole world to a halt so that I could catch my breath. I was fascinated with the idea of never running out of time, of being able to “have it all” because there was always enough time to do everything.

I could have used that watch this summer. I feel like this was the summer that wasn’t. My time was eaten up by projects that ripped hours from my days and swallowed them whole, making no distinction between weekdays and weekends. If only I’d had that watch, I could have stopped the world long enough to finish my work and still had time to indulge in the simple pleasures of summer irresponsibility.

But, I don’t have the watch. And neither do you. All we have, you and I, is the same twenty-four hours as everyone else and the very real power to decide how we spend them.

_jamie sig

 

 


 What I’m Reading:

book-many-selves-k-northI have just finished listening to the astonishing debut of author Emma Geen. I wish I could remember who first told me about the novel, The Many Selves of Katherine North, because I would like to send that person a thank you note.

The reviews on this book use words like exhilarating, horrifying, compelling, and riveting to describe the story of a girl named Kit who is a phenomenaut – someone whose consciousness is projected into the bodies of lab-grown animals for research purposes. Readers quoted on her website refer to the book as a “literary thriller,” “spine-chilling science fiction,” and a “compulsively readable sci-fi thriller,” but I like Havi Carel’s description best, “Geen weaves together philosophy and science fiction to create a magical, intelligent and intense novel.”

I was initially drawn to this book because I was intrigued by the idea of humans being able to project themselves into the lives of other animals, and I was not disappointed. While Geen’s disclaimer at the end of the book makes it clear that she is not a zoologist, she is nonetheless able to transfix her readers with the way she describes life as other creatures: fox, spider, whale, eagle, tiger. Her immersion into these other lives goes beyond the physical perceptions and sensations. When Kit slips into another body, she also slips into another set of emotions and impulses. It was a fascinating and thought-provoking shift in perspective.

While I was definitely carried along by the story (even becoming so caught up in the last few chapters that I abandoned my Friday afternoon deadlines and surrendered to a half hour of dedicated listening in the middle of the day), as a writer, I was also impressed by Geen’s prowess with both structure and language. Though I already own the audio version of this book (which was, by the way, beautifully narrated by Katy Sobey), I may end up purchasing a hard copy of the book. I want to be able to leaf through the pages so I can better understand the way Geen built the story, and there are probably (no lie) hundreds of passages that I’d end up underlining for future reference. 

Kit’s narrative bounces back and forth between two timelines – present and past – that eventually converge. To add to the complexity, much of the story takes place while Kit is projecting as other animals. Despite all this bouncing around in time and place and body, the story hangs together in a way that’s easy to follow. Geen does an excellent job of creating a pattern of rhythm and context that makes it easy for the reader (even one who is listening as I was) to stay in-step with the story.

And then there is Geen’s use of language. Had I been reading this as a print book, I would have had to keep a pencil with me at all times so I could make notes in the margins on every other page.  In Geen’s hands, something as simple as describing looking out onto the day turns into poetry, “I wake to the sky flashing lilac. Thunder follows soon after, a sound like the foundations of Heaven grinding loose. The silvered gleam of rain and vegetation writhes against the dark.”

Coming back to theme, I once again have to agree with Havi Carel’s assessment that this book is as much about philosophy as it is about science fiction. Or, perhaps, the two are so closely related as to be much the same thing. At any rate, I found this book to be a powerful catalyst for musings on what it means to be human, how we define self, the relationship between humans and animals, the relationships between humans, and how we perceive our lives. As deep as Geen dives into these waters, taking us along for the ride, it’s clear to see that there are depths still waiting to be explored. The Many Selves of Katherine North is an invitation to sink a little further into the darkness in search of the light.

··• )o( •··

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

··• )o( •··

Photo by Gina Easley

Photo by Gina Easley

Being so busy with deadlines means that I haven’t had much time for curling up with novel-length reads. (Hence, my liberal use of audio books to feed my story habit.) I can usually manage, however, to carve out a few minutes for shorter pieces; and have been known to bribe myself to the finish line on a piece of client work with the promise of a short story or an essay.

This week, I very happily returned to one of my favorite online stomping grounds, Full Grown People, and had the pleasure of reading Machines We Dream Into by Randy Osborne. This brief piece touches on themes of aging, art, and human interaction. If you have a few minutes, I recommend it.

··• )o( •··

Sundry Links and Articles:

emotion-wordsI came across this quirky post, 23 Emotions People Feel But Can’t Explain. on either Twitter or Facebook, and although I can’t verify that these are real words (the list looks like it covers a variety of languages), I absolutely loved this collection of emotions.

My favorites:

Sonder: The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own

Vellichor: The strange wistfulness of used bookshops

Chrysalism: The amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm

··• )o( •··

On a related note, there was this little gem that I initially saw on Facebook, but ultimately tracked back to a tumblr site called Red Blood, Black Ink, written by someone named Raquel. I just loved this piece. It’s a feeling I’ve felt countless times in my life.

I don’t know, my favorite was always witch weather. That moment that in a gust of wind or in the rumbling sky or at the edge of a fog bank where suddenly, you feel different. A restlessness, a sense of longing for a place that does not exist. I don’t know if anyone else has felt the electric tense changing of that moment. It calls the magic to your skin. For a moment, you feel ancient and powerful and lonely, as if you forgot something important. Witch weather. For some reason, in that wild instant: you remember you are alive, and that means some part of you belongs to the everlasting.

··• )o( •··

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-running-out-of-time

Here’s to making the best use of each hour you have – reading, writing, dreaming. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

Big Magic

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Not many books I’ve read about writing and staying inspired have confronted the fear factor, so I was eager to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. At long last, the library copy became available, and I have the book in my hands.

What I like about what I’ve read so far is that Gilbert expands creativity beyond the page and talks about “creative living . . . a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

One of the things I love about being a writer is license to be curious, because while I may escape to my studio every day to face the same blank page, I’m also tasked with learning new information, meeting new people, asking questions, being curious.

Gilbert acknowledges that courage is necessary for creativity. Some days, sitting at my desk is scary and I wish with all my heart that I’d become a lawyer. Meanwhile, I have friends who are lawyers who ask me, “How do you do it?” meaning get up and go to work without someone else providing the expectations, the office and the paycheck.

Most of the time I reply, “How do you do it?” meaning pull on a suit, commute to an office, and follow instructions.

Sometimes I wish I had an office job. (pixabay)

Sometimes I wish I had an office job. (pixabay)

Sometimes I wish I had an office job just for the camaraderie, coffee breaks and photocopier. I imagine life would be easier if I had someone else telling me what to do and handing me a weekly paycheck. But these are just details, and they’re not mine.

I’ve chosen the blank page, which some days feels like standing in front of a firing squad, and some days feels like floating weightless through outer space. Most days, it’s a mixture of the two. As Gilbert says, “It seems to me that my fear and my creativity are basically conjoined twins – as evidenced by the fact that creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside it.”

Having established that “Bravery, means doing something scary,” Gilbert discusses the magic of inspiration and recounts the remarkable story of abandoning a novel on which she’d been working long enough to develop significant and specific portions of the characterization, plot and setting, only to discover that Ann Pachett was just starting a book with similar characterization, plot and setting.

There's no limit on creativity. (pixabay)

There’s no limit on creativity. (pixabay)

What I like about this story is not so much Gilbert’s explanation of inspiration floating around until someone catches it, but her refutation that 1) creativity demands suffering, and 2) the amount of inspiration and creativity in the universe is limited. Both these ideas are commonplace – and untrue.

Where I write joyfully when I overcome fear. www.deborahleeluskin.com

Where I write joyfully when I overcome fear.
http://www.deborahleeluskin.com

It is entirely possible to be creative and joyful! In fact, being creative brings joy to the maker and the receiver(s) of creation, whether it be the cooking of a good meal or the writing of a good story. We live in an expanding universe – there’s no limit on creativity. Gilbert writes, “The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying.”

Reading that sentence was Big Magic for me, so I closed the book and returned gleefully to my desk.

 

Into the Wilderness, is an award-winning love story set in Vermont in 1964.

Into the Wilderness, is Luskin’s award-winning love story set in Vermont in 1964.

Deborah Lee Luskin blogs weekly at Living in Place.