Truth

books-reading-read

There’s only one thing, one constant thing that I believe keeps me moving closer to my goals, and keeps me fixed on what I want to do. It’s got nothing to do with being close to the universe or attracting things to me with positive energy.

My secret weapon is that I read.

Running a business, being a writer, living a full life — these things depend on the knowledge that we can gain and use. What we call following our gut, is really us being subconsciously guided by every piece of information we’ve ever consumed, shaping our instincts and ideas and forming us.

I read constantly, throughout every single day. I read obsessively, consuming new books and revisiting old at an alarming rate…I read books on my iPhone when I’m on the treadmill at the gym, every morning…I read books about business, and startups, and entrepreneurship …I read books about dragons and wizards and ancient spells, and I read books where there are worlds full of fantastic creatures and heroes, and I read books where there are sacrifices and victories and where good people mourn their lovers…I read books about musketeers, and lamp posts in the woods, and the dangerous business of going out your front door. I read books about boarding schools and battlefields and a bridge to Terabithia…I read about economic theory…I read new books, to find new characters and ideas, and old books because there’s always a detail I missed or a theme that I’ve forgotten, no matter how many times I’ve gone over them. […]

So here’s my advice. If you want to accomplish anything of value, challenge yourself to read…If you don’t read, you won’t gain the information and the insight and the inspiration that you need to make the right calls, at the right time. You won’t learn to see beyond the shit that you have to deal with, every day.

I think people want to believe that there’s a secret, to what I do. When they ask me for advice, it’s as if they think I’ve hidden away a key, that can unlock writing and business and make everything happen the way I want it. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe that my habit of reading is what’s made the difference in my life, and I think it’s incredibly important.

Make reading a good book a part of what you do. If you’re the busiest person on earth, just give yourself 15 minutes a day.

Jon Westenberg, excerpts from Here’s My Secret Weapon

 


Photo: Your Eyes Blaze Out

Deep shame, maximum self-consciousness.

walk-through-walls-marina-abramovic

Deep shame, maximum self-consciousness. When I was young it was impossible for me to talk to people. Now I can stand in front of three thousand people without any notes, any preconception of what I’m going to say, even without visual material, and I can look at everyone in the audience and talk for two hours easily.

What happened?

Art happened.

When I was fourteen, I asked my father for a set of oil paints. He bought them for me, and also arranged for a painting lesson from an old partisan friend of his, an artist named Filo Filipović. Filipović, who was part of a group called Informel, painted what he called abstract landscapes. He arrived in my little studio carrying paints, canvas, and some other materials, and he gave me my first painting lesson.

He cut out a piece of canvas and put it on the floor. He opened a can of glue and threw the liquid on the canvas; he added a little bit of sand, some yellow pigment, some red pigment, and some black. Then he poured about half a liter of gasoline on it, lit a match, and everything exploded. “This is a sunset,” he told me. And then he left.

This made a big impression on me. I waited until the charred mess had dried, and then very carefully pinned it to the wall. Then my family and I left for vacation. When I came back, the August sun had dried everything up. The color was gone and the sand had fallen off. There was nothing left but a pile of ashes and sand on the floor. The sunset didn’t exist anymore.

Later on, I understood why this experience was so important. It taught me that the process was more important than the result, just as the performance means more to me than the object.

~ Marina Abramovic, Walk Through Walls: A Memoir (October 25, 2016)


Marina Abramović, 69, is a Serbian performance artist based in New York. Her work explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. Active for over three decades, Abramović has been described as the “grandmother of performance art.” She pioneered a new notion of identity by bringing in the participation of observers, focusing on “confronting pain, blood, and physical limits of the body.” The passage above is from her recently recently memoir.

Over 30,000,000 viewers have watched her performance on this Youtube video: Don’t miss it here.


Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: Ove!

frederik-backman

Fredrik Backman got tepid responses when he sent out the manuscript for his debut novel, “A Man Called Ove.” Most publishers ignored him, and several turned it down. After a few months and a few more rejections, he began to think perhaps there wasn’t a market for a story about a cranky 59-year-old Swedish widower… “It was rejected by one publisher with the line, ‘We like your novel, we think your writing has potential, but we see no commercial potential,” said Mr. Backman, 35, who lives outside Stockholm with his wife and two children. “That note I kept.”

In hindsight, that critique seems wildly, comically off base. Four years later, “A Man Called Ove” has sold more than 2.8 million copies worldwide…Translation rights have sold in 38 languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Latvian, Thai and Japanese. Mr. Backman has gained a passionate fan base in South Korea, where the novel became a huge best-seller. “No one really knows why,” Mr. Backman said in a recent telephone interview. “Not even the Korean publisher understands what the hell is going on.”

In the United States, “Ove” got off to a slow start. For months, it sold steadily but in modest numbers. Then sales surged. It landed on the best-seller list 18 months after it was first published and has remained there for 42 weeks. Demand has been so unrelenting that Atria Books has reprinted the novel 40 times and now has more than a million copies in print. […]

A college dropout, he once worked as a forklift driver at a food warehouse, taking night and weekend shifts so that he could write during the day…Mr. Backman said. “I’m not very socially competent. I’m not great at talking to people. My wife tends to say, your volume is always at 1 or 11, never in between.”

Mr. Backman started writing blog posts for Cafe about his own pet peeves and outbursts, under the heading, “I Am a Man Called Ove.”  Mr. Backman realized that he had the blueprint for a compelling fictional character, and the novel began to take shape. “There’s a lot of me in him,” he said of Ove. “When we get angry, it’s about a principle, and we get angry because people don’t understand why we’re angry.” […]

Mr. Backman still hasn’t adjusted to the life of a famous author.  “Everyone keeps telling you how great you are and what a great writer you are, and they want selfies, and that’s not healthy, because you start liking that,” he said. “You still have to write like you’re writing for 20 people, or you’re going to freak out.”

~ Alexandra Alter, The Man Behind ‘A Man Called Ove’ 


Notes:

 

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: A Passion for Work

 

mary-oliver-cdt-rachel-giese-brown

In books: truth, and daring, passion of all sorts. Clear and sweet and savory emotion did not run in a rippling stream in my personal world— more pity to it! But in stories and poems I found passion unfettered, and healthy. Not that such feelings were always or even commonly found in their clearest, most delectable states in all the books I read. Not at all! I saw what skill was needed, and persistence— how one must bend one’s spine, like a hoop, over the page— the long labor. I saw the difference between doing nothing, or doing a little, and the redemptive act of true effort. Reading, then writing, then desiring to write well, shaped in me that most joyful of circumstances— a passion for work.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Staying Alive” in Upstream, Selected Essays


Notes:

Imagine an infant lying in its cradle, discovering its voice, purring and murmuring MMM to itself

leonard-bernstein

Bernstein reminded me that the word “education” is related to the Latin educere—“ to bring forth what is within”— and then added: “Though I can’t prove it, deep in my heart I know that every person is born with the love of learning. Without exception. Every infant studies its toes and fingers, and a child’s discovery of his or her voice must be one of the most extraordinary of life’s moments. I’ve suggested that there must be proto-syllables existing at the beginnings of all languages— like ma (or some variant of it), which, in almost every tongue, means mother— mater, madre, mère, mutter, mat, Ima, shi-ma, mama. Imagine an infant lying in its cradle, discovering its voice, purring and murmuring MMM to itself… […]

Whether teaching children or adults, Bernstein understood that loving and learning are inextricably linked, that real knowledge is a concomitant of the desire to know, and that music itself— a meeting of living creator and creative listener— is one of the most efficacious vehicles for teaching. As a conductor, Bernstein experienced the relationship between himself and his orchestra as that of a lover and his beloved. As he remarked at the conclusion of his 1955 Omnibus television broadcast “The Art of Conducting”:

“The conductor must not only make his orchestra play; he must make them want to play…. It is not so much imposing his will on them like a dictator; it is more like projecting his feelings around him so that they reach the last man in the second violin section. And when this happens— when one hundred men share his feelings, exactly, simultaneously, responding as one to each rise and fall of the music, to each point of arrival and departure, to each little inner pulse— then there is a human identity of feeling that has no equal elsewhere. It is the closest thing I know to love itself.”

~ Jonathan Cott, Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein


Notes: Original Source – Brainpickings

We want to be called to our best selves. We long to figure out what that would look like.

krista-tippett-becoming-wise

I’ve traveled a long way since my early life in Oklahoma— far enough to know that I might be accused of taking this virtue of hope too far. So be it. My mind inclines now, more than ever, towards hope. I’m consciously shedding the assumption that a skeptical point of view is the most intellectually credible. Intellect does not function in opposition to mystery; tolerance is not more pragmatic than love; and cynicism is not more reasonable than hope. Unlike almost every worthwhile thing in life, cynicism is easy. It’s never proven wrong by the corruption or the catastrophe. It’s not generative. It judges things as they are, but does not lift a finger to try to shift them. I experience the soul of this moment— in people young and old— to be aspirational. This is something distinct from ambitious, though the two may overlap. I’d say it this way: we want to be called to our best selves. We long to figure out what that would look like. And we are figuring out that we need each other to do so. This listening for the calling, and the shining, fragile figuring out, are tucked inside the musings I hear from young people as much about how they want to be and who they want to be as about what they want to be.

~ Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

Permitting shame, error and guilt…

brian-blanchfield

Brian Blanchfield, 43, was born in Winston-Salem, NC and now resides in Tucson, AZ where he teaches at the University of Arizona. He is an award winning poet and recently published his second book of essays.  The essays from his new book “Proxies: Essays Near Knowing were written from memory, no referring to the internet or other “authoritative” sources. To give you a taste of his talent and his authenticity, here’s an excerpt from his opening “Note”. I shake my head in awe…

At the end of this book there is a rolling endnote called “Correction.” It sets right much— almost certainly not all— of what between here and there I get wrong. It runs to twenty-one pages. It may still be running. Susceptibility to error is a hazard inherent to Proxies. From the beginning…I decided on a total suppression of recourse to other authoritative sources. I wrote these essays with the internet off. I determined not to review again the books and other works I consulted in memory, and I did not stop thinking through the subject at hand to verify assertions or ground speculation or firm up approximations. Que sais-je?, Montaigne asked his library shelves one day late in the sixteenth century, and increasingly that seems a good start. Having determined that this would be unresearched essaying, analytic but nonacademic, I was almost immediately drawn to a second constraint— or, better, invitation: to stay with the subject until it gives onto an area of personal uneasiness, a site of vulnerability, and keep unpacking from there. The formula I found for titling the individual essays was generated very early on, to operate this request of self. Clumsy as it may be, I claim as part of a personal sortilege a devotion to the words I had bannered across the top of each new developing piece, an invocation of sorts, a ritual.

Permitting shame, error and guilt…

~ Brian Blanchfield, excerpt from his opening “Note” from Proxies, Essays Near Knowing (June, 2016)


Note: Find “Proxies” Book Reviews here – Goodreads.  Portrait from Poetry Foundation.

The Blogging Team: You, me, us…

laptop-computer-halo-shadow-back

Blogging is not only a new technology of writing; it’s also a new way of reading. In Christian antiquity, reading was a social activity, not a wholly private one. The earliest recorded incident of silent reading is found in Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine relates with astonishment Ambrose’s habit of reading in silence, a practice he had never seen before: “When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still.”…

In the world of Web 2.0, the ideal of the solitary reader is waning fast. Blogging is a kind of reading-together. It is the formation of a new kind of community of reading. No longer is reading an activity reserved for the private study, that carefully crafted space where thought is cultivated under conditions of silence, leisure, economic privilege. To read a blog is to participate in a collective reading process: on any given day, we all read the same post, the same thread of comments and responses. Such reading is far removed from solitude: the reading is understood primarily as a stimulus to conversation, criticism, discussion. Here, reading is not so much an end in itself as the means to a particular form of community. The very act of reading thus becomes a collective project…

~ Ben Myers, Blogging as a Technology of the Self


Notes:

 

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

hossein-zare-which-one-ladders-climb-learn

Too often, convinced of our own intelligence, we stay in a comfort zone that ensures that we never feel stupid (and are never challenged to learn or reconsider what we know). It obscures from view various weaknesses in our understanding, until eventually it’s too late to change course. This is where the silent toll is taken.

Each of us faces a threat as we pursue our craft. Like sirens on the rocks, ego sings a soothing, validating song— which can lead to a wreck. The second we let the ego tell us we have graduated, learning grinds to a halt. That’s why Frank Shamrock said, “Always stay a student.” As in, it never ends.

~ Ryan Holiday, excerpt from his new book “Ego is the Enemy” published June, 2016.


Notes:

 

 

Blogger’s Creed

the-writers-desk

I’ve never met Patricia Salamone and not sure how she found me.  She left a comment on a post and it stuck.


“I married, raised 3 children, worked for many years and wrote in my spare time. Don’t ask me how I ever had spare time but it was mostly in the wee hours of the morning. I sent a few stories to magazines but they always got rejected. I continued to write but never sent anything in again. I wrote because I loved it. Then I retired, my children all finished University, got married and started families. I had plenty of time on my hands and a computer so I wrote, and I still write.

Although my writing is raw and I have not been schooled in writing, I did have a book published: The Italian Thing. It was not edited and it was my first try. It is a humorous memoir about a trip to Naro, Sicily and meeting our family members that live there, for the first time. We have many adventures and misadventures but in the end we had a marvelous and unforgettable trip.

…I write because I love it, and that’s good enough for me. I will probably will never make much money at it, but a few things were published and my words are out there forever even when I’m gone. I’m happy.  :o)”


Thank you Patricia. For the inspiration.

Patricia’s a WordPress blogger at this handle: The Writers Desk.

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