I've been taking some time to read while on this working vacation and my fiction tip is "Child 44" by Tom Rob Smith - an excellent thriller set in Stalin's Russia. On the non-fiction side, we start with mini-reviews of two books that have a lot in common:
1: 60-Second Review: The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks
The basic idea: Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.
Three key points: Most people think they will finally feel good when they have more money, better relationships, and more creativity. All of us can find and nurture the capacity for positive feelings now, rather than waiting until some longed-for event occurs.
You'll never have enough money to buy all the stuff you don't really need, and you'll never have enough time to do all the things you really don't want to do.
While breakthroughs are important and thrilling, it's the subsequent stabilization and integration of the breakthrough into daily life that really allow the changes to be permanent.
The bottom line: Comic strip character Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and it is us." This book gives you a fresh perspective on how to break through the ceiling you may have imposed on yourself.
ACTION: Take a few moments to consider what you think you CAN'T do. ...Really?
2: 60 Second Review: The Think Big Manifesto, by Michael Port
The basic idea: Revolution is about one person at a time experiencing their own personal empowerment against deficient (small thinking) systems - political, family, job, relationships, or maybe just the way you think about yourself and your capabilities.
Three key points: Thinking big is creating a world of collaboration and cooperation instead of competition.
The power base in our country is dominated by small thinking... They want us to think small so we will willingly act against our own interests and the interests of our children and generations to come.
People will believe in you and what you do only if you believe. We need to set aside our trepidation and step out.
The bottom line: An invigorating rant that points to some ways of questioning the 'givens' that may be keeping us from being authentic and achieving the big things that have true meaning.
ACTION: Take a few minutes to consider what 'thinking big' would mean for you. Is there a part of your that life might benefit from expansion? What has been keeping you thinking small?
3: How to overcome creative blocks
The nature photographers' online magazine features an essay on exercising your creativity, written by Alain Briot. What he suggests for photographers applies equally to writers and any other creative people who may get blocked from time to time. He writes:
"How do you stop creative fear? How do you put an end to being unable to create, print, or show your work? A very effective solution is to focus on the positive rather than the negative aspects of the process. Focus on what you are going to learn... rather than on the criticisms that may come your way. Focus on the print quality you may be able to achieve rather than on the lack of it. Focus on the exciting new photographs you may take rather than on the ones you will have to discard.
In short, stop focusing on negative aspects of the art. All endeavors can potentially result in a negative outcome. However, if we focus on this negative aspect, we will get discouraged and give up even before we try.
Also, be playful with your medium. Give yourself the freedom to play with your subject. ... Playfulness only means that we are having fun, that we are being playful, and that we are exploring what can be done and what can happen when we try this approach or that technique."
It's quite a long essay and one of a series - go to the website for more:
ACTION: Think of one thing you'd do if you weren't worried about failing. When will you start doing it in the spirit of learning and play?
4: Lessons from Martha
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported a talk Martha Stewart gave at Pratt Institute recently. Here are three ideas based on her success:
Look for inspiration where you wouldn't normally think to look. The article reports, "She borrowed colors from seashells and her cats' fur to create her paint line. When she took the first 500 colors to be manufactured, she was told the computers could match every one. In fact the computers were only able to match 12, and Stewart was reassured that she was developing products that really weren't available anywhere else."
Go where the clients/customers are - which may not be where they were yesterday. The article says, "With more people staying home, crafting has become a multimillion-dollar industry; Stewart's own craft line has recently been her liveliest business. Martha Stewart glitter now comes in 80 different colors and does many thousand dollars of business each week at Walmart alone.
Use the web. The article revealed, "It is key for her business to have everything instantly on the web, she says, to be updating, blogging and, yes, twittering, which she called a 'good way to get people to think about things.'
ACTION: Could you learn anything useful from Martha? Consider how you could apply any of these three techniques to your arena.
5: A better definition of "perfect"
On Ali Edwards' crafts blog she wrote about working through creative fear. She identified five typical fears. I really liked what she said about this one:
"Thinking this is the one and only chance to tell this story so it simply must be perfect. Oh man, what a way to stop you in your tracks. What does perfect mean to you? And who is the judge? Perfect is so very relative. What is perfect to me in this moment may be entirely imperfect to you. To me, perfect is actually taking time to tell your stories. Risking that bit of yourself to document your experience. Perfect is carving out a bit of time to be creative. Perfect is embracing the imperfection inherent in creating something that comes from your heart, and your head, and your hands. Let it go. Simply begin writing. Tell the story in simple, plain sentences one word at a time. Keep writing until all the words have spilled onto the page and then go back and edit. Perfect is actually telling the story rather than letting fear keep you from sharing the lives and lessons of your family."
ACTION: She's talking about telling stories, but if perfectionism in any field is slowing you down, consider how her re-definition could help you overcome that.
6: And a quote to consider:
"There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost." - Martha Graham