One of the best presents in the world is an autographed copy of a book. I was reminded of this just last week. My friend V and I Skype regularly and the last time I was telling her that I’m not in the best mental health lately. No stranger to dips in mental health, I have lots of coping mechanisms, and one of them is re-reading a collection of Ray Bradbury’s essays called Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. I have a cheap Bantam paperback that I dog-ear and mark up to my heart’s content, and it is cathartic, this reading and mangling of pages, over and over again. She wrote the title down because she was feeling a bit out-of-sorts as well, having just moved to a new home for a new job and learning to establish a new social circle and the rest.
So last week we had an unexpected parcel delivered, which is a strange occurrence because on the rare occasions we do receive parcels we are expecting their arrival. But inside this parcel addressed to me was a copy of the Bradbury collection. It was a nicer edition than my own and in excellent condition, but I was perplexed: I thought certainly someone I had recommended this book to had made a mistake and accidentally had it shipped to me instead of themselves. Then I opened it to the title page: Ray Bradbury’s autograph, which made me gasp, and dated 6/26/1996. 1996 was the year I left everything I knew and moved to Alabama for a guy I met online, a significant pivot-point in my development as a person and as a writer. V didn’t know that about the date, I’m sure, but she opened the door for that lovely coincidence.
I’m struggling this year to find gifts of significance instead of convenience for the people closest to me, and I had forgotten the power of an autographed book until now, gripping an old paperback to my heart with tears filling my eyes.
Writing from: a very chilly lounge, as the fireplace is currently broken. Listening to: SomaFM Christmas Lounge. Yes, it’s Holidailies time once more, which means with any luck you’ll be hearing from me every day this month.
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
While I appreciated the tone of Rubin’s writing, the depth of her research on the topic of happiness, and the overall organisation of the project, I found the read itself to be a slog. This is likely because I was already familiar with (and a little tired of) the premise through undertaking my own self-improvement projects. My friend Mako’s review of the book was so glowing that I wanted to read the book to find my excitement for self-improvement again. The truth is that whereas Rubin’s book would have been an exciting, inspiring read a year ago, I’m now the wrong audience for it. And I’m okay with that.
One quote did resonate with me: “All this thinking about fun made me realize that I had to make time for it. Too often, I’d give up fun in order to work….In fact, though, turning from one chore to another just made me feel trapped and drained….Fun is energizing.” It sure is.
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So I’m drifting on a sea of sadness and the only way I know how to get out of it is to shove this “too busy for [thing I like to do]” stupidity off the raft.
Last year I didn’t read many books or see many films, so this year I’m aiming to consume 50 of each. Throw your favourites at me in the comments.
And today I decided to add another goal onto that: I want 50 rejection letters for my writing. I’d rather get 50 acceptances, of course, but rejection means I’m submitting stories which means I’m writing stories which means I’m doing what I love. I’ll be tallying it up on my fiction page if you want to follow along.
Yesterday I finished the first draft of my story for Bloc’s show in the Edinburgh International Science Festival. As per usual, my first idea completely morphed into something else. It’s become a pattern: the first idea is the cocoon that turns into the butterfly. Or, in my case, the slipstream moth.
My Bloc pal Bram a/k/a Texture is always creating interesting, evocative stuff. He announced his new poetry video a few weeks ago but I just made the mental space to sit down and appreciate it. I was mesmerised. Tell me what you think. And please share it if you enjoy it.
My Beta Phi Mu bookmark arrived in the post today, making me an official member of the international library and information studies honour society. A friend said I should be able to show this at bookstores to get access to their secret stash.
For now, I’ll carry it around just in case.
Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity by SARK
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was my first exposure to SARK’s writing, aside from her posters. It was a gift from a former co-worker as I left my job at the San Francisco Public Library. At the time, I didn’t feel very gracious about the transition, and so it has taken me a while to finish reading this.
“Glad No Matter What” is primarily a book about the type of loss and change that surrounds the death of a loved one, but I could apply some of it to the loss and change I am currently experiencing as I transition to my new home. SARK’s unbridled enthusiasm and good nature bursts from every page, and it is difficult not to be cheered by her multicolored scrawls.
My favorite portion of her book was about her “emotional GPS” and how she notices negative thought patterns and reactions as she is having them, then tells herself “recalculating” as she finds a new “emotional route”. I chuckled over this, and then gave it some thought. Sometimes I feel very guilty about my negative responses to things while feeling helpless to change them. But with the emotional GPS idea, I can recalculate negative reactions into less negative responses.
I admit to skimming over some parts that were simply too spiritual for my tastes, but I remain an admirer of SARK as a creative force and a positive influence in a cynical world.
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