6 Things I’ve Been Reading This Week

Folks, here’s a fun fact: I’m currently in the midst of serving jury duty. I don’t know if I’m even allowed to say that, (Is this government watching me type this?!), but there you have it. What I’ve learned about jury duty, is that it’s insanely long. Like, the hours you normally spend happily living life, somehow stretch off and into a cement-walled eternity.

All that being said, it’s given me plenty of time to catch up on some READING. And this week has definitely seen its fair share of great reads:

  • Joe Jonas wrote a piece with the help of some Vulture staff about what it’s really like to be a Jonas Brother. He talks about sex, that pesky promise ring, and all of his fellow Disney kids. Here’s a quote I enjoyed:

“The first time I smoked weed was with Demi and Miley. I must have been 17 or 18. They kept saying, “Try it! Try it!” so I gave it a shot, and it was all right. I don’t even smoke weed that often anymore…”

Joe Jonas, photographed by Andreas Laszlo Konrath.

Joe Jonas, photographed by Andreas Laszlo Konrath.

  • Rape culture is becoming talked about more and more now. And a lot of women have been coming forward to speak out about their experiences with sexual assault. BuzzFeed’s Jessica Testa wrote a piece about exactly WHY they are starting to do this. She has interviews with some of the women you might recognize from news stories, and gets down to the reasons why they’ve decided to tell their story. It’s an incredibly empowering story.
  • Have you heard of pug shaming? I laughed until I was literally weeping with tears of joy. You’re welcome.

Pug Shaming Is Awesome

 

  • Jessie Rosen’s article about things she still can’t do at the age of 30 made me feel better, and it also made me laugh.
  • Here’s an insane story we all should be reading about: An Italian immigrant in the UK was pregnant, and the UK decided to take her baby from her by means of an involuntary c-section. It has been 15 months since her baby was taken, and she still hasn’t been able to even address the idea of getting custody back. It’s an insane human rights story.
  • Mental Floss’s holiday gift guide is organized by what type of person you’re shopping for. (e.g.Booklovers, neat freaks, and foodies.) As someone who will be doing all of their shopping online, all I have to say about this is GOD IS GOOD.

This holiday gift guide is everything

 

The Benefits of Writing, In Infograph Form

Infographics are pretty much the best thing since cream cheese filled bagel holes. (And yes, those are a thing that exists IRL.) Maybe it’s because my attention span is shot, or I just like to look at pretty things. Either way, I found these badass graphics that relate to writing and wanted to share.

This first one is about the physical act of writing and how it affects our brain. I thought it was interesting to see that writing can have the same calming effects as meditation, that telling a story with emotion can force your readers to connect in a different way, and that books have 50% more rare words than TV. (So, TV writing could stand to get a bit smarter. If for no other reason than people need some intellectual stimulation.)

What Writing Does To Your Brain

This second graphic surprised me quite a bit. I usually get a little sleepy when I drink beer. Interesting to see, though, that by having one beer, you can actually be more creative.

Coffee vs. BeerDrink up, writers!

5 Blogs That Will Inspire You To Write More

NaNoWriMo Inspiration

It’s National Novel Writing Month, aka time to kick NaNoWriMo into high gear! And I’m constantly looking for writing inspiration. I rarely get writers block, but I definitely get a lack of motivation. Especially when there’s a new episode of Sleepy Hollow on my DVR, and it comes down to whether or not I could be watching that with some snacks, or writing another page…

Even though I LOVE me some TV and snacks, if I can get another page out, I always feel so much better. That being said, sometimes taking a little internet break to get inspired can be helpful for that. Here are the blogs I frequent when I need a good writing kick in the ass:

  1. Janet Fitch’s “The Word” series on her blog Paint It Black. Some of you may know Janet as an amazing novelist from her books White Oleander and Paint It Black, but she’s also an inspiring blogger. In her series “The Word,” she encourages readers to take a one word prompt, and write a few paragraphs from it. It doesn’t need to be long, or even edited, it just needs to be writing that flows from that one word. The other great thing is that she writes based off of that one word too. (Practice what you preach!)
  2. Pretty much anything on Prince Gomolvilas’ Bamboo Nation blog. Full disclosure: I’m obsessed with Prince. I took two classes with him when I got my masters at USC, and he absolutely changed the way I write. Prince is a playwright, but also the kind of person who just encourages you to get your story out. His blog has career advice, videos from his performances, and even a TED talk in there.
  3. The Mark On The Wall. Go here when you need to see upcoming writing contests. I’ve found that seeing an actual submission deadline is often enough to get me back to work.
  4. Poets & Writer’s Writing Prompts. This site, in general, is a great resource for writers, and filled with info on contests, publishers, and advice. But the writing prompts in particular can and have sparked me to run to my laptop and start jotting things down.
  5. Jeff Goins Writer. This blog is basically therapy for writers. If you’re feeling lost, or like you should just quit, this blog will give you a big hug and tell you everything will be OK. (And sometimes, we all need a little of that!

What It’s Like To Attend A Blogging Boot Camp

I spent the past weekend at an all-day boot camp for bloggers. Yes, that’s right: a boot camp specifically geared toward people who want to step up their blogging game. The two day camp was hosted by Leah Bergman, who runs a really fun lifestyle blog called Freutcake. (Go there for DIY, recipes, and some truly amazing food porn photos.)
Freutcake-Collage

 

The camp was held in Pasadena at a large park called Descanso Gardens. I’d never been out that way and, if I’m being honest, I make it out to Pasadena about once a year. But it was like being in another world very removed from Los Angeles. There were rows and rows of oak trees, strip malls, and dare I say it… fresher air. We ate breakfast and lunch on picnic benches in the woods, then retreated to a small room inside the gardens to get down to business. (Did I mention that the lunches were amazing? Like the one pictured above, which had sushi, fresh veggies, and teriyaki chicken.)

The first day there, we were given really beautiful tote bags filled with goodies. Things like notebooks, pins, Post-It’s, pens, Blue Diamond almonds, a mousepad, and even a funky little apron. I’ve never had an apron, always wanted one, and it felt like Christmas!

Leah led the discussions each day, and topics included Photoshop, how to use social media to improve your audience, and finding your voice. I think some of the most important things I learned included the importance of being true to yourself so people can get to know you. I think the web has a tendency to make us present the best versions of ourselves, (i.e. filters, selfies, and everything in between), when it’s really important to include the honest parts too. Like, for example, my pants are unbuttoned right now, because I’m wearing my skinny jeans and I really am not at a weight where I should be. THERE: HONESTY.
Freutcake BagsI’m not really a camp person. I didn’t do sleep away camps, I was never in the Girl Scouts, and group projects are kind of my nightmare. But going to Freutcamp was really a nice break from my routine, and it helped me to get out of my comfort zone. When you’re a writer, you spend a lot of time in your own head, and that can get very isolating. So being surrounded by smart women who want to improve their online presence was really inspiring and refreshing. I think it just goes to show that when you have the opportunity to be around people who will motivate you to be better, DO IT.

The experience also inspired me to get an Instagram account, and you can follow me here. The above Instagrams came from fellow attendees: @inmyredkitchen, @raina_rain, @fromraintoshine, @joannepio, @jacolynmurphydesigns, and @chelseaandthecity.

 

5 Perfect Books To Read This Fall

1. And Sons, by David Gilbert

and_sons_wtrI love reading books about novelists, and this beautiful work of fiction just so happens to open in New York in the fall. Winter coats abound, there’s plenty of fall foliage to be had, and a very Royal Tenenbaums-esque family drama unfolds. Totally worth the read.

2. The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green

tfios2E just tore through this book in three days. He wasn’t able to put it down, and he even LOL’d a few times, even though it’s a totally sad book about two kids who fall in love while dealing with cancer diagnoses. The page turner quality, coupled with the fact that it’s an easy read, make this an ideal book to pair with some hot cocoa, and finish over a weekend when it’s too cold to go outside.

3. Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks

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If you’re looking for a great non-fiction read for fall, then I think you’ve got to get Hallucinations. I remember hearing about this book on NPR when I was driving home from Comic-Con, and listening as Dr. Sacks talked about hallucinations in a way that made them seem eerily common. Almost like everyone has them, but nobody talks about them.

After reading the book, I was a bit surprised to learn that I have, in fact, experienced hallucinations. (i.e. whenever I think I’ve heard my phone beep. That’s a hallucination, sorry folks! We all do it.) Rather than exploring something specific, like schizophrenia, this book covers the wide range of hallucinations that people experience, and discusses reasons for why they happen in the first place. For example, many elderly people experience hallucinations after the loss of their eyesight, because it’s the body’s way of compensating for that lost sense. The book really is fascinating, and will give you some cool talking points at all those holiday parties.

4. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

goldfinch-3_4

 

Everyone is talking about how great this novel is, and you will be too after reading it. Much like The Fault In Our Stars, this is one of those books you won’t be able to put down and will finish one cold and wonderful weekend. It clocks in at 700 pages, but once you start reading about Theo Decker, a 13-year-old boy who’s just lost his mother, you truly won’t want to stop.

5. Blankets, by Craig Thompson

blankets-craig-thompsonThis was the first graphic novel I ever read, it’s 600 pages, and I loved each part of it. Blankets is a memoir by Craig Thompson, and it’s all about his first love. It’s epic, and tragic, and will make you feel like you’re in high school again, dealing with your first crush. It’s a great book to read as people are starting to go back to school, and chances are there will be some moments where you’ll tear up. (In a good way.)

 

Writing Inspiration: Lily Myers’ “Shrinking Women”

I have a love-hate relationship when it comes to poetry. In that I hate writing it, but I love listening to it. In particular, I think some of the best poetry is slam poetry, where you can really feel the person’s intention with each word.

When I watched “Shrinking Women,” performed by Lily Myers, I was just floored. Every word she used is perfect, and she gets it all across in three minutes. I’m not a poet, but this is a great reminder that you don’t need 100 pages to prove your point.

My Writing Routine Is Everything

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I got into the habit of writing every morning when I had a job where my hours were 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. I’d get home from work, completely exhausted, and realize that I didn’t have anything to show for it. I was telling people that I was a “writer,” but not actually getting any writing done.

So I decided to try waking up before work and writing for me. I figured that if I could get up at 6 a.m., then I’d have two hours to write before I’d need to get ready for work. Easy enough, right? That first morning when my alarm was set for 6, I hit snooze for about an hour. Then I woke up, got a paragraph done, and went to work. If I’m being honest, it took me about a month before I actually woke up at 6 without hitting snooze. But eventually, my body got used to the early wakeup call, and if I slept in, I started to miss that time when I could’ve been writing.

It’s been about three years since I had that terrible job, but the writing routine has stuck. I wake up at 6, I make coffee immediately. I wash my face. I sit at my couch with my computer, and I work for two hours. Some mornings I get four to five pages out, others I only get a page. Either way, getting any personal writing done makes me feel better.

Since starting this routine, I’ve discovered that a lot of famous writers were firm believers in viewing writing as something that had to be done everyday. I’m not a famous writer, but it makes me feel extra motivated to read that routines kept them in check too.

E.B. White said that,

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

I think there’s a lot of truth to that quote. I hear people regularly say that they want to write, but “haven’t found the time,” or “need to wait until things slow down.” It’s been my experience that life never really slows down, and when it does, that’s never the time when I’m actually writing. The only time I do write for me is in the mornings.

That being said, I don’t think morning routines are for everyone. My boyfriend, for example, is not a morning person. He’s a writer as well, and a successful one, but he just works much better in the afternoons and at night. Simone de Beauvoir was similar — aka not a morning person — but she still had a routine:

“I’m always in a hurry to get going, though in general I dislike starting the day. I first have tea and then, at about ten o’clock, I get under way and work until one. Then I see my friends and after that, at five o’clock, I go back to work and continue until nine.”

If you’re thinking of starting a writing routine, some things to consider include…

  • What do you want to write? Pick a project, or an idea you have, and try to make that part of the goal for your routine. (i.e. “OK, I want to write every day at 5 p.m. for an hour until this screenplay is finished.)
  • What time of day are you most productive? If you’re most productive during the time when you have a day job, that’s totally OK. Just try and think about when you’ll be able to keep momentum up, and focus on that time.
  • What do you need to motivate yourself? I am a very reward-based person. If I get up at 6, I’m rewarded with coffee. So maybe for you, if you write for an hour, you get a glass of wine.
  • Where do you work best? Personally, I love my couch. It’s nice to lay down on, and when I’m on it I feel ready to write. Some people work better in loud coffee shops though. So, figure out which space will be most conducive to your creativity, and

Do you have a writing routine? What’s your secret? (Mainly so that I can try it out!)