Don’t be evil–read!

It’s no secret that I love reading. I love reading all types of books and, as I’ve said before, while some people binge watch TV shows, I binge read book series. I just finished with Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and had to share this quote about reading and people.

And in my experience, well-read people are less likely to be evil." Quigley Quagmire

He of course goes on to say that this doesn’t hold true for all people, but for most. This quote makes me smile, even if it isn’t always true. It makes me think of my books as an antidote to evil, a vaccine to ensure I don’t become too cynical, too negative, and too tired to see good in the world and to do good in the world. Plus, it reminds me that I need to read, too.

As we enter the second half of October, it feels like we are running downhill, picking up steam, so we’ll blast through the last box on the calendar into the craziness of November. And, for my readers who are writers, you know it isn’t crazy just because it is the start of the holiday season–NaNoWriMo will be upon us.

But even when the days grow short and the word counts grow large, I will still carve out time in my day to read something not work-related and not the news. Books are a solace, a refuge, a place to think and to dream and to refresh so we can come back to our work with new eyes and open hearts. So, as the post title says, Don’t be evil–Read!

I hope you have something wonderful, something hopeful, something amazing that is capturing your reading attention. If you have book suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m always looking for new authors to binge read. 🙂

Challenging Fate

With the change of seasons, it seems to be a good time to take stock of what we’ve accomplished this year and what remains to be done. I don’t know about you, but it always seems like there are too few hours in the day and too few weeks in the year to get done everything I want to do. And, sometimes, when things seem to not being going so well, it can be a comforting if slippery slope to say that it wasn’t meant to be or it wasn’t my fate or maybe my luck will change. So if you are in that boat, or ever feel that way, today’s quote is for you:

There is much to be said for challenging fate instead of ducking behind it. Diana Trilling

I’m all for challenging fate rather than ducking or believing that I’m at its mercy. There’s so much we don’t control in life, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop working towards our goals and our dreams. It doesn’t mean we stop working towards being better people, being more mindful and thoughtful, being more kind and more creative.

While these words are great for all parts of life, they are especially important to remember for those of us who want to create and share our art–in whatever form it takes. Sometimes it feels like everything is just left up to chance or fate or luck or whatever that we don’t have and it can be discouraging. Like leaving behind the hopefulness of spring, the carefree days of summer, and watching the senescence of autumn. But what we can control is how we work, what we do, and who we help through our work and our art.

Sometimes challenging ourselves to do something other than use fate as an excuse for why we aren’t doing what we want to can be scary. Sometimes it can seem as if we are just being blown around like leaves by forces we can’t see, but that’s why we are stubborn and tough like old oak trees and just keep doing and making and creating what we do. But we do it because we have to, because if we didn’t we wouldn’t create what we feel in our hearts we were meant to do.

So I hope your autumn is full of fate challenging work along with mugs of hot apple cider, and plates full of warm pumpkin bread. 🙂


Meaning to Read

Do you have a stack of books on your nightstand (or cued on your device) that you’ve been meaning to read? Do you keep a list of titles that you want to read, but the list just seems to get longer instead of shorter? If this sounds like you, you’ll empathize with the quote today:

It is likely I will die next to a pile of things I was meaning to read. Lemony Snicket

There always seems to be too many interesting things to read and too little time to read them all in. So I, like Lemony Snicket, will probably found in this state. But, until then, I’ll keep reading everything I can get my hands on–even if it is the crucial, but dreadfully boring, reading of propositions in my state for the general elections.

I’ve rather been on a Lemony Snicket reading kick lately. I’m sure hardly anyone would call A Series of Unfortunate Events light or fluffy reading as they are rather glum books, but they are so wonderfully entertaining that I’ve been devouring over the last few days and had to share today’s quote. (My local, independent bookstore put the quote on one of their bookmarks, which was almost too perfect.) His series, All the Wrong Questions, was creative and ridiculous and entertaining and everything you want in a series for younger readers that it makes me wish some of the supposedly books written for adults would be so clever or make me care about the characters as much.

So I don’t have any profound thoughts about today’s quote, but it was too true not to share. But I do hope, when you have a moment of solitude (or make a moment of solitude as we can all too easily get sucked in by a million and one other things vying for our attention) you take the time to get swept up in a good book. Whether or not that book is about unfortunate events, Bombinating Beasts, or wrong questions is entirely up to you.

Hope you have a lovely day and a lovely read.

P.S. Is anyone else getting excited that we are only a bit over a month away from NaNoWriMo? 🙂

P.P.S Did you know it’s ALA’s Banned Books Week?  Celebrate by reading a banned or challenged book and check to see if your local library or bookstore is hosting events. Long live the freedom to read!

Being Yourself

Sometimes it seems like every post about life-hacks, self-fulfillment, and finding your passion talks about being yourself, right? That if you are yourself–whatever that actually means–you’ll find yourself falling into luck and success and whatever else you want in life. But, in actuality, being yourself can be hard, lonely, and unproductive sometimes. However, as Oscar Wilde reminds us, there’s not much else we can be.

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. Oscar Wilde

So I promise this blog post is not all negative and down in the gutters. I love this quote because it reminds me that no matter what, I can only be me. Even if I tried as hard as I could to model myself after someone else or try to copy what they do, in the end I’ll still be me. So why not be a unique me? A me that I’ll want to have a cup of tea with when I’m seventy?

It is hard to be yourself, especially if some of your goals and ideas and aspirations don’t mesh with your closest family members or friends. It can be difficult to keep creating, whether that’s a poem, a novel, a song, a recipe, a new project, without support (or sometimes even in the face of ridicule). But, at the end of it all, what other people think really doesn’t matter in terms of what we create. (I mean, I’m not advocating being mean or spiteful or anything, so don’t take it that way, okay? Okay. Thanks.)

What we create through whatever we do is about expressing who we are, what we believe, and what we want to do in life. I believe it gets both easier in some respects and harder in others as we get older. But I hope it gets easier for you and you like who you are and who you are becoming.

So be bold, be you, and be willing to share your art with the world. And, if you are ever in the gutters, make sure you are looking at the stars (thanks, Oscar Wilde, for being so quotable). 😉

The Shuttering of Summer

We’re over a week into September and it feels as though everyone has officially called the end to summer. We’ve effectively shuttered summer; we’ve put away the picnic gear, rolled up the beach towels, and traded flip-flops for boots. (Even though, I’d like to point out that fall doesn’t start until the 22nd with the equinox, mainly because I love summer and hate to see it end.) So today, it seems more than appropriate, it seems necessary to have this quote from Emily Dickinson:

How softly summer shuts without the creaking of a door. Emily Dickinson

Summer is going away, as it has to each year so we can move on with the other seasons. But I hope, if you like summer, you keep a bit of it in your heart even as the weather begins to cool and the leaves begin to change. That you hold onto the whimsy, the fun, the calm, and the energy of summer. Because it is far too easy to get swept along like the falling leaves in all the busyness of the start of school and of the upcoming holiday season. (I just saw Thanksgiving decorations and cards in the store today; I’m not ready.)

I hope you keep the spirit of summer in your work and your art, even as the door to that season is closing. That we all are able to continuing creating even as the days shorten and it seems like a very nice time to hibernate. At least we have NaNoWriMo to keep our writing going, right?

I hope you have a lovely day with time to do what you love with whomever you love. As Neil Gaiman said, “Make good art.” 🙂

Smiles and Welcome

As I get older, there seem to be fewer and fewer ideas, beliefs, and truths that are universal. There seem to be more areas in life that are in the grey, that change depending on how one looks at them. For the most part, I suppose, this is seen to be a good thing. That it is a natural and decent progression from black and white ideas to understanding context and nuance. For the most part, I agree. But I am happy that there are somethings that are universal:

A smile is the universal welcome. Max Eastman

Smiling is one of those expressions that appears to be universal. It meant welcome when I was five and will mean welcome when I’m scores older than five. I think about smiling a lot, probably because I’m a librarian (in addition to many other things), and we think about how we can be welcoming a lot. A smile is one of the easiest ways to be welcoming.

Also, I find it fascinating that your body doesn’t discern the difference between what we think of as a true smile and a fake smile. If you move your muscles to smile, your body will produce the same chemicals either way to make you feel better. And I think that is a universally wonderful thing. That we can make ourselves feel just a bit better, just by smiling.

So I hope that this week you find welcome where you go. That you find someone who smiles so it reaches their eyes and their hearts when they see you. And that you find reasons to smile not because anyone tells you, too, but because your cheeks will just burst if you don’t from happiness. That’s my smiling wish for you. 🙂

Loud Actions

Do you favor words or actions? It seems like a trick question, doesn’t it? Like it is really a binary or a clean split between the two. And, as with most things in life, there really is a grey area, but if you had to pick, would you pick words or actions? Or, perhaps the better, more appropriate question is: what do you trust more, someone’s words or actions? I’m with Emerson on this one:

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anyone’s actions speak much louder than their words, no matter how pretty or eloquent or “on message” or hip their words are. Actions always win out. I’m reminded of this especially when people’s actions don’t match their words. What a person does tells me more than what they say. Because, although it is cliche, it is true: actions really do speak louder than words.

So what does this have to do with anything about writing or creating or reading or calligraphy that this blog usually talks about? Pretty much everything. I work everyday to ensure that my actions match my words. It is important to me that I don’t just say something, but I back it up with action. If I say that I’m a writer, then I better actually put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. If I say that I care about making the world a better place, then I better put my time and my talents and my money to causes that match what I say.

So my hope for all of us is that we don’t just think about what our actions say and we don’t just say the “right” things, but we actually do the work that is in alignment with our values and our words–even when it is a lot of work, even if we’re tired, and even if others don’t get it and might even say nasty things about us. Our actions are loud, so let’s make what they say worth something.

I hope you are having a lovely week full of creating and sharing and doing things that make you and the world a better place. 🙂

Order and Creativity

Do you ever feel that your life is boring? That you don’t have anything to add to the conversation when people are talking about the latest uber-cool thing they did this weekend or how they are taking up yet another extreme hobby? No? That’s just me. Well, that’s okay. I’ll be the first to admit that to outside eyes my life looks quite boring and regular and orderly. I do the same routine everyday. I cook mostly the same meals every month and get my work done. But you know what? I’m on the same page as Gustave Flaubert:

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. Gustave Flaubert

Being orderly and a bit boring shouldn’t be seen as the antithesis of being creative and creating great art. You can be both and having stability in one area of your life can help give you space to be incredibly bold and daring in other areas. For me, my orderly existence helps make a place for my writing and art. If others think I’m dull, I’m okay with that because they aren’t the ones creating my art–I am.

It really doesn’t matter what others think of your life. It’s about what you think about it and what you do with it. It is between you and yourself, not them. So here’s to being regular and flying under the radar and the secret smile you have inside when someone says your life seems dull because they just became a part of a character in your book or fodder for your next art piece. There’s something wonderful about being a butterfly on the inside while everyone else sees a dull moth on the outside. It gives you the secret space to create what you want away from prying eyes.

So I hope you revel in your week and your work. Go create something wonderful and, when you’re ready, I hope you share it with the world. 🙂

Listening and Respect

When was the last time you truly listened to someone? I mean, really listened–you put down whatever you were doing, stopped your internal dialogue in your head, and gave a person your full attention. Hopefully you’ve done that today. If not, I hope you do. We hear a lot of people each day, but I’m not sure if we do enough listening. So that’s why we have today’s quote:

When you listen to someone, it's the most profound act of human respect. William Ury

It might sound a bit cheesy, but I do believe that listening to someone is an act of respect. Listening can be a profound experience for both the person talking–because they are truly being heard–and for the listener–because you have the opportunity to truly connect with another person. And that’s what we’re here for, right? Connection. That’s what life and art and creating and listening are about.

This was brought home to me last week when I was in a meeting that was long (I’m not a fan of meetings in the first place), didn’t have a set agenda (always a bad sign), and had people talking over each other and not truly listening (disheartening, but unfortunately not surprising in this context). At one point in the meeting, I tried unsuccessfully for five minutes to try to interject into the conversation but people kept talking over each other and when finally the group took a collective breath and I was going to say something I was caught off by the facilitator to let someone else who had been talking previously.

This story isn’t being told to elicit sympathy, and while it also shows the need to facilitate meetings better and to be courteous, it is being told because it is  about listening and respect. Because listening is a whole body activity. You have to pay full attention to whomever is talking and if you are in a group, you have to pay attention to who is waiting to talk, to share, and to add to the conversation. You need to help create space for others to share. It is hard work, but it is so important in the cultivation of respect. And respect will lead to good things, good connections, and good outcomes–no matter what you’re talking about or working on.

So today, as you converse with others, listen to them and show them respect. You never know what you may learn when you listen deeply and how it may impact your life and your art. I hope you are listened to and listen today and take the opportunity to connect. Who knows, it may even give you inspiration to make some good art. 🙂


Stepping Up Even if You Don’t Know the Way

It’s August 1st. We’re at the start of a new month, already. The summer is flying by and the start of the new month fills me with both excitement and sadness. Excitement for a whole new month to do new things and finish up projects. Sadness because summer will be ending soon and even with another month it seems like there is never enough time to do everything. And, sometimes we don’t even know which path to take while we’re working, which is why I think the words of Frodo Baggins are important today:

"I will take the Ring," he said, "though I do not know the way." Frodo Baggins

Luckily the fate of Middle Earth isn’t in my hands (talk about way too much pressure), but we’re all responsible for various things in our life–big and small. We all have the opportunity, if not daily, at least weekly–in my experience–to step up even if we don’t know the way. Sometimes we step up, and sometimes we don’t. But if it is true that we regret more the things we don’t do than those that we do, then I think we should probably step up more often than not. Even when we’re scared, even when we can’t even dream of knowing the way.

And, if we are lucky, we’ll figure out the way and even get good people to help us along the way. We’ll get bruised and fall and have to get back up even when we don’t want to. But looking back at our month, we won’t feel the hurt of regret. We’ll feel some pride and maybe have figured out a bit more of our way.

I hope you have a lovely week and month. I’m sorry there was no Saturday Short last week, but I’d caught the icky summer cold/flu that’s been going around. This week, the Saturday Short will be back as usual. Until then, keep creating your way and taking risks with your art. 🙂