Category Archives: Writing Tip Wednesday

The Absolute Best Books On Writing | BookBaby Blog

The list of favorite books on writing can be very different from one author to another. I’ve scoured 10 “top” lists to see which titles spanned the gamut.

Source: The Absolute Best Books On Writing | BookBaby Blog

By Dawn Field

What are your favorite books on writing? Do you have a large collection? How do you expand your corpus when you feel like reading another? Which would you recommend?

There are a huge number of books on writing and if you want to pick the absolute “best,” you have two choices. The first is to pick books that the most people have read and enjoyed. The second is to admit that the best books for each writer will be different. If you are a poet, nonfiction writer, or romance aspirant, you might want specialist advice and information.

Popularity contest

To find the books that are most popular, I looked at the intersection of lists of favorites — and I found an interesting pattern. If you combine the top books on Amazon and the picks found in a range of “top book” articles (Steven Spatz‘ 5 favorites, Shaunta Grimes‘ top 10, Jerry Jenkins’ “12 best,” Jeff Goin‘s “best books,” SmartBlogger‘s “9 Essentials,” The Write Life‘s “9 of the best,” Barnes & Noble‘s “6 best,” and Paste‘s “10 best”) we see some perennial favorites, but overall, surprisingly little overlap.

A few classics appear repeatedly, but most of the recommended books on writing only appear once. This is because excellent, but specialist, books fall down the ranks. The perfect book for you might never rank a “top 10” list of general writing books.

So, who are the winners? Two books stand head and shoulders above the rest in the tally of appearances. The winning category is “writers writing on writing” and the two top books are Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

Other books often in the top lists are Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and two on creativity: Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity and Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.

Most at the rarefied top of the normative lists have some good years on them. Remember the classics now “too old” to rank on such modern lists. This includes Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces which describes the hero’s journey that inspired Star Wars, Aristotle’s Poetics (which comes in various translations and interpretations from modern authors), and John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers.

New books continuously appear. Harvard linguist Stephen Pinker’s The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century already ranks as a modern classic update to the Elements of Style and writer and teacher John McPhee’s Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process is just out for nonfiction.

If you want to hear the advice of an expert editor and you are interested in nonfiction, go for Sol Stein’s On Writing. Blake Synder’s Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need is a textbook in screenwriting.

And the lists go on and on.

Just look at this list by Booker prize-winning author DBC Pierre in The Guardian to see how different and unique a personal choice list can be. It includes The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli to “discover what villains are born knowing.”

The best books to add to your collection fill the biggest gaps in your knowledge or provide the most inspiration. This could mean getting a tip from a colleague or mentor or scrolling curated lists to seek out something that matches your interests. Book Riot has a list of “100 Must-read, Best Books On Writing And The Writer’s Life.”

The choices might seem overwhelming, but it helps that you can download opening chapters for free on Kindle to have a look at style and content.

How many have you read? Which should you read next? In the end, pick to match your tastes and needs. The absolute best are the ones that help you most.

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26 of the Best Books On Writing

What’s the number one thing you can do to improve your writing?

Read. A lot.

Read anything and everything you can find, and you’ll become a better writer.

Read your favorite genre, whether that’s historical fiction, creative non-fiction or personal essays. Read books that are similar to what you like to write. And when you’re in the mood to learn about craft, read books on writing.

The titles below will help you with all aspects of your writing, from learning to write better to finding inspiration to figuring out where to pitch your ideas. We’ve even included some books about how to make money writing.

Here are some of the best books on writing.

Books on becoming a better writer

1. On Writing by Stephen King

Part memoir, part guidebook, Stephen King’s classic will appeal even to those who avoid King’s renowned horror-packed tales. In this book, King discusses how he came to be the writer we know today.

2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird is an essential part of any writer’s toolbox. In this work, Lamott shares herself and her craft with readers, including anecdotes that tie the pieces together into all-around great writing.

3. Writer’s Market edited by Robert Lee Brewer

Writer’s Market helps aspiring writers become published. Its listings contain hundreds of pages of suggested markets for nonfiction writers, as well as those looking to sell short stories, including details for how to pitch your work.

4. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

This classic book targets nonfiction writers and includes writing tips, as well as the fundamentals of craft. Zinsser discusses many forms of writing, from interviewing and telling stories about people to writing about travel.

5. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

For years, writing teachers have assigned The Elements of Style to their students. Brushing up on the basics from time to time is critical for continually developing your skills, and this book contains simple truths that every writer needs to know.

6. The Associated Press Stylebook by the Associated Press

AP Style is known by many as the “go-to” writing style for journalists and public relations pros. The Associated Press Stylebook contains more than 3,000 entries detailing rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation and word and numeral usage to help you master news writing.

7. How to Write Bestselling Fiction by Dean Koontz

While many books on this list are aimed at nonfiction writers, this one is for those who dream up their own stories to tell. If anyone is qualified to tell people how to write bestselling fiction, it’s prolific author Dean Koontz, who’s sold more 450 million copies of his books. This book was written in 1981 and is out of print, but has valuable insight for writers who manage to snag a copy (check the library!). It’s one of the best books on writing fiction.

8. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Goldberg’s book examines the craft of writing including how to start brainstorming, the importance of learning how to listen, the vital role verbs play in writing, and even how to find an inspiring place to write.

9. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Aimed at fiction writers, this book tackles everything from models to help with story structure to a variety of techniques to help with crafting great stories from start to finish. You’ll even find tips on creating plotting diagrams. and tools to overcome various plot problems that can arise.

Books on overcoming the struggles of writing

10. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

The author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek shares words of wisdom in this handy book where she discusses the difficulties of writing. She writes about how hard it is to write and how sometimes it is necessary to destroy paragraphs, phrases and words to re-form them as something even better.

11. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

From time to time, every writer suffers from burnout or writer’s block. Julia Cameron’s book focuses on the craft of writing and training yourself to be even more creative.

She offers valuable techniques like starting each morning with a free-writing exercise, and exploring one subject per week that you find fascinating. Her tips for reinvigorating the creative juices could be of help to any kind of writer.

12. Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer by Bruce Holland Rogers

Word Work is packed with practical advice for overcoming procrastination, finding happiness in writing and even conquering writer’s block via useful exercises. It also covers how to handle rejection and success.

13. A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld

This book focuses on how to be a happy and successful writer throughout your career. It covers everything from finding joy as a writer to avoiding burnout and the all-important challenge of balancing writing with a busy life. It also discusses how to fine-tune your craft, get in touch with your creative flow, revise your work, find critiques, and learn how to be resilient.

14. War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

Published in 2012, this book helps writers and creators of all kinds overcome the biggest obstacle of all: our inner naysayer. The Amazon description says this book is “tough love…for yourself.” If something inside of you is keeping you from your biggest accomplishments, this is the right book to pick up.

Books on writing as an art form

15. The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work edited by Marie Arana

This book contains columns from a decade of The Washington Post’s “Writing Life” column, with contributors as diverse as Jimmy Carter, Joyce Carol Oates and Carl Sagan. Essays are paired along with biographical information about each author, helping readers learn more about these skilled contributors and their ideas on writing.

16. The Paris Review Interviews

The Paris Review offers in-depth interviews with some of the leading names in the literature world, from novelists to playwrights and poets. This series of books features a collection of interviews with past and present writing superstars including Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, among many other famous names.

17. Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orlando

This book reflects on the artistic side of being a writer. Making art is no easy feat, and Bayles and Orlando — both artists themselves — explore the challenges of making art and the arious obstacles that can discourage people along the way.

Originally published in 1994, Art & Fear is now an underground classic, dishing out relatable, valuable advice.

18. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker offers a new take on some of the classic writing manuals. Inside The Sense of Style, he analyzes examples modern prose, pointing out fantastic writing and offering tips to spruce up lackluster work.

19. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, put together this book of essays portraying his passion for the craft.

20. The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story by Frank O’Connor

World-renowned Irish author Frank O’Connor takes on the short story in this favorite book on writing. Short stories are challenging, but O’Connor shares tips and tactics for mastering the art of the short story that can help any writer begin to feel more confident about crafting their own works. This is one of the best books on writing short stories.

Books on making money writing

21. Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing by Helen Sedwick

Attorney and self-published author Helen Sedwick uses her 30+ years of legal experience to help aspiring self-publishers navigate the business side of writing. This first-of-its-kind guidebook covers everything from business set up to spotting scams to help keep writers at their desks and out of court.

22. How to Make a Living With Your Writing by Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn’s How to Make a Living With Your Writing and her companion workbook can help any writer examine their current writing situation and make a plan for the future. Penn discusses her multiple income streams and shares the breakdown of her six-figure writing income, which includes book sales, affiliate marketing commissions, a series of courses she offers and speaking fees.

23. Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success by Kelly James-Enger

Divided into five sections James-Enger discusses everything from when it makes sense to ignore per-word rates, how to ask for more money, how to set goals and even how to fire troublesome clients. This book is a valuable read when working towards a sustainable career as a full-time freelance writer.

24. Earn More Money as a Freelance Writer by Nicole Dieker

The Write Life’s own contributor Nicole Dieker has a book out about writing and money. The book focuses on setting goals for each phase of a writer’s career, including getting rid of lower paying jobs to make way for better work and higher-paying clients.

25. Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living edited by Manjula Martin

In her new anthology, Martin includes a series of essays from well-known literary icons such as Cheryl Strayed, Jennifer Weiner, and Nick Hornby where they discuss the intersection of writing and money in essays and interviews.

26. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

This content-creation book, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, drives home the point that anyone with a web site or social media channels is a writer.

It focuses on how to craft quality writing that boosts business and helps find and retain customers, including writing tips, content help, grammar rules, and more.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “The tale of the two frogs”

Confined in the dark, narrow cage of our own making that we take for the whole universe, very few of us imagine another dimension of mind. There once was an old frog who lived all his life in a dank well. One day, a frog from the sea fell into his world.

“Where did you come from?” asked the frog in the well.

“From the great ocean,” the visiting frog said.

“How large is your ocean?”

“It’s gigantic.”

“A quarter of the size of my well here?” the old frog asked.

“Larger.”

“Larger? You mean half as large?”

“Even larger.”

“As large as my world?”

“There’s no comparison,” the visiting frog said.

“That’s impossible! I’ve got to see this for myself.”

The two frogs set off together. When the old frog from the well saw the ocean, it was such a shock that his head just exploded into pieces.

Moral: be willing to drop into your reader’s life and in some way “blow” your reader’s mind, to enlarge his or her world in some way. You might even enlarge yours along the way.

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Why Reading Books Should Be Your Priority, According to Science | Inc.com

More than a quarter–26 percent–of American adults admit to not having read even part of a book within the past year. That’s according to statistics coming out of the Pew Research Center. If you’re part of this group, know that science supports the idea that reading is good for you on several levels.

Reading fiction can help you be more open-minded and creative

According to research conducted at the University of Toronto, study participants who read short-story fiction experienced far less need for “cognitive closure” compared with counterparts who read nonfiction essays. Essentially, they tested as more open-minded, compared with the readers of essays. “Although nonfiction reading allows students to learn the subject matter, it may not always help them in thinking about it,” the authors write. “A physician may have an encyclopedic knowledge of his or her subject, but this may not prevent the physician from seizing and freezing on a diagnosis, when additional symptoms point to a different malady.”

People who read books live longer

That’s according to Yale researchers who studied 3,635 people older than 50 and found that those who read books for 30 minutes daily lived an average of 23 months longer than nonreaders or magazine readers. Apparently, the practice of reading books creates cognitive engagement that improves lots of things, including vocabulary, thinking skills, and concentration. It also can affect empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, the sum of which helps people stay on the planet longer.

Reading 50 books a year is something you can actually accomplish

While about a book a week might sound daunting, it’s probably doable by even the busiest of people. Writer Stephanie Huston says her thinking that she didn’t have enough time turned out to be a lame excuse. Now that she has made a goal to read 50 books in a year, she says that she has traded wasted time on her phone for flipping pages in bed, on trains, during meal breaks, and while waiting in line. Two months into her challenge, she reports having more peace and satisfaction and improved sleep, while learning more than she thought possible.

Successful people are readers

It’s because high achievers are keen on self-improvement. Hundreds of successful executives have shared with me the books that have helped them get where they are today. Need ideas on where to start? Titles that have repeatedly made their lists include: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz; Shoe Dog by Phil Knight; Good to Great by Jim Collins; and Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson.

Source: Why Reading Books Should Be Your Priority, According to Science | Inc.com

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12 Books That Will Improve Your Self-Knowledge – Darius Foroux – Pocket

Being yourself starts with knowing yourself.

Source: 12 Books That Will Improve Your Self-Knowledge – Darius Foroux – Pocket

Every piece of personal or professional growth you achieve in life starts with one thing: Self-knowledge.

Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, who lived in the 6th century BC, put it best:

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”

Whether you want to make a million bucks, build a strong relationship with your partner, or get in the best shape of your life — you can’t improve yourself without knowing yourself.

Self-knowledge is a skill, not a trait, talent, or divine insight. I used to live my life without one bit of introspection. Naturally, I had no idea who I was. Now, I’m getting better at it with practice. And the impact on my life has been huge.

I believe that knowing yourself is the key skill that predicts happiness and success in life. 

So I’ve made a list of 12 books that have helped me to know myself. I hope they will serve you too.

  1. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself

The book’s description starts with, “The path to your professional success starts with a critical look in the mirror.” I can’t agree more.

This HBR collection also includes one of my all time favorite pieces on self-awareness, Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker. It also includes another article that I’ve found very useful: “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen.

This collection does not disappoint. Every piece will make you think more about your mission, vision, strengths, weaknesses, and how you can advance your career.

  1. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

In today’s world, it’s probably not you IQ that’s going to make you successful — it’s your EQ. Daniel Goleman is the key expert when it comes to emotional intelligence.

Most people think emotional intelligence is about managing other people’s emotions.

Well, there’s something that’s more important: Identifying and managing your own emotions. I believe that you can’t be an effective leader without EQ. This book helps you to get better at it.

  1. Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday

This is one of my favorite books of the past year. No other person could have written this book better than Ryan Holiday.

He has an impressive career. And a lot of bragging rights. But if you follow his work (which I’ve been doing for three years), you can tell he is a humble person who lets his work speak for him.

To me, that’s the perfect example of someone who has his ego in check. Because we have to be real, everyone has an ego. The question is: How do you manage it? Ego Is The Enemy helps you to do that.

  1. Become What You Are by Alan Watts

A collection of 20 essays by Alan Watts. His work was greatly inspired by Zen. And I think that Zen is a great source of internal knowledge.

I’ve tried reading different things about Zen. Watt’s writing is clear, practical, and beautiful. That makes it easier to read and think about. When you apply all the advice in this book, you’ll learn more about yourself and others.

  1. I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont

I usually stick to books for grown-ups. But I just couldn’t resist mentioning this book here. One of my friends bought this book for his daughter a while back. And he loved the book as much as his daughter did.

I checked it out and it’s actually really fun. I can imagine that kids would love it too. It’s a great way to teach kids self-awareness.

I wish I had this book by Karen Beaumont as a child. So if you have kids, buy this book. And if you don’t have kids, get it for your family or friends who do.

  1. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

I only recently read Brené Brown’s book. I’d seen some of her videos and interviews and always appreciated her calm approach.

This book is exactly that. The Gifts of Imperfection helps you to understand that you’re good enough. We’re often too hard on ourselves. And that’s detrimental for our self-awareness.

When you learn that you have nothing to prove, you actually start living.

  1. Grinding It Out by Ray Kroc

Do you feel bad that you haven’t caught your big break yet? If so, read this book. You’ll feel different about it. Ray Kroc, who turned McDonald’s into a billion-dollar business, had to wait until his fifties to find some form of success.

It’s not only an inspirational story. It also helps you to put things in perspective. That’s a key aspect of self-awareness. It’s also good to read the perspective of a businessman. You can’t make a living by meditating all day.

  1. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Drucker. This book provides a practical perspective on productivity that I think every knowledge worker should read.

The most important lessons I’ve learned about work is this: It’s not about what you do, it’s about the results you get. That’s the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.

Sending 100 emails per hour might be very efficient use of your time. But what results does it bring you? That’s what matters the most.

  1. What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School by Mark H. McCormack

Even though I like scientific research, there are things science can’t teach you.

In this book, McCormack shares everything that people in business schools or companies will never tell you. He talks office politics, standing up for yourself, getting results, job-boredom, and making things happen.

The best thing? McCormack is street smart. His knowledge came from experience. And it’s still relevant.

  1. Notes To Myself by Hugh Prather

This book was recommended to me last year by a reader. Prather was a minister. When I first learned about that, I didn’t think I could relate to the book. But I gave it a try, and I really enjoyed it.

Notes To Myself is a good example of the fact that people are all the same internally. You might be from Japan, Chile, Portugal, Canada, Vietnam — you name it. At the end of the day, we face the same internal struggles.

  1. Mastery by George Leonard

Like Watts, George Leonard was also inspired by Zen. And his approach to life, learning, and mastery, is one that I’ve learned to appreciate a lot recently.

To me, it’s never about external things like praise, likes, sales, views, etc. Self-awareness has no end-destination. It’s about the process.

  1. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

You might think, “what does a book about running have to do with self-awareness?” To that, I say: Read this book.

It’s difficult to summarize What I Talk About When I Talk About Running other than that it’s a look inside the mind of a human being. It’s worth reading even if you don’t like running or Murakami. This is one of my all-time favorite books because it’s the most honest book I’ve read.

As you can see, there are no books about self-knowledge or self-awareness on this list. The best way to develop self-knowledge is to look inwardly. Do that enough, and you’ll know yourself better.

Yes, you can read about the thoughts of other people for inspiration. But remember they are NOT YOU.

To know yourself, you must follow that little voice inside of you. You might not hear it yet, but it’s definitely there.

You just have to find it. Within.

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A Better Way To Deal With The Negative Thoughts In Our Heads

Clinical psychology and Buddhist philosophy agree on how to address our negative thoughts.

Source: A Better Way To Deal With The Negative Thoughts In Our Heads

If you’re familiar with contemporary definitions of mindfulness, you’ve probably heard something along the lines of not getting too attached to our thoughts, but letting them arise and subside of their own accord, like clouds. Our job is just to witness them, non-judgmentally, and let them fade away.

Although this is pretty good advice, there’s a nuance to it, which isn’t always included: We have to inspect our thoughts a little bit, so that their frequency will diminish over time. We can’t just twiddle our thumbs till a negative thought goes away—that’s not so therapeutic in the long-run. And this is where clinical psychology and Buddhism have dovetailed: They both acknowledge that negative thoughts are really just a part of being human, and if we push them away or repress them, or even just wait for them to go, they’ll get worse. Rather, inspecting them just a bit, to understand their origins, is a more productive way of dealing with them.

Shannon Kolakowski, PsyD, a psychologist in the Sarasota area and author of When Depression Hurts Your Relationship, points out that we tend to avoid negative thoughts because we fear them. “In other areas of our life, such as seeing a dangerous driver on the road, we avoid things to stay safe,” she says. “So when we have a thought we don’t like, such as, ‘I’m going to be alone forever,’ it feels scary and we might try to avoid it. The problem is, it doesn’t work. The thought may even become stronger or more convincing because you’re dreading it so much, as if you’re running from a scary truth.”

The better way is to reconfigure your relationship to your thoughts, she says, by using a method like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which helps us “defuse” our thoughts, in part by recognizing that thoughts do come and go, but also by exploring them to get a bit of a handle on them.

“Defusion is the process of noticing your negative or anxious thoughts, such as ‘I’m going to be alone forever,’ and then responding to it with openness and curiosity as a distant observer,” says Kolakowski. “Rather than accept your thought as the ultimate truth, you recognize that thoughts will come and go, but you don’t have to believe them or act on them. You become an observer, saying to yourself ‘I’m having the thought that I’m going to be alone forever,’ and then try to explore that thought with curiosity. ‘Because I’m going through a divorce right now, it’s understandable I’m having a hard time thinking positively about being in a relationship again. But that doesn’t mean it’s true that I’ll be alone forever. There are lots of reasons to think I’ll find a partner when I’m more ready if that’s what I want.’”

The interesting thing about ACT is that it acknowledges that our natural state will include some negativity. It doesn’t try to get rid of the negative thinking, just change how we react to it.

“Creating a new relationship with your thoughts is freeing,” says Kolakowski. “You may not be able to control what thoughts pop up, but you can control how you respond to them. And you can control what action you take. For example, the thought of being alone forever doesn’t have to lead you to give up on dating or stay in an unhappy relationship. It’s just a thought, and you get to decide how to live your life according to what you value.”

And this idea has been around for a very long time. Ajahn Amaro, a Theravada Buddhist monk and abbot at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery just north of London, has a similar take. He points out that reframing our relationship to our thoughts has existed for thousands of years, in Buddhism, and modern psychology has built on many of these tenets in practices like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), a variation of the gold-standard CBT.

“We tend to think that our thoughts are oppressive,” says Amaro, “and that therefore we should make them go away…Oftentimes meditation instruction is about stopping your thinking, as if thoughts are a kind of brain disease, an infection, an intruder. But the very act of pushing them away, and adopting the sense that they’re intrinsically intrusive, actually makes them more powerful. Rather than relating to them in that way, there’s another attitude we can have toward them—not taking them personally.”

He adds that the vast majority of our thoughts are, at best, random, and at worst, destructive. “One of the first things I emphasize when teaching,” he says, “is that 5% of our thoughts are actually meaningful and relevant, and 95% are replaying movies, music, and recollecting. It’s mostly just debris. I often encourage people to look at it like listening to neighbor’s radio–you understand the content, you can hear the words; you might sometimes get excited about an ad, or a talk show. But you don’t really care on a personal level. You relate to your neighbor’s radio in a non-personal way—we can have the same relationship to activity of the mind. It doesn’t have to make a big story around the thoughts. It’s an attitudinal shift.”

Like psychology suggests, we should first notice our thoughts and, rather than just waiting for them to go away, investigate them just a bit—especially the negative ones—to understand why a certain thought might pop up, especially repeatedly. “In terms of meditation, it’s not just waiting for thoughts to end,” says Amaro, “but reflecting, ‘I’m thinking this because I heard that tune earlier,’ or whatever it may be. You can do a small amount of investigation…. This helps difficult or oppressive patterns of thinking lose their power and go away.”

Again, realizing that negative thoughts are just a part of how the mind works can help relieve us of the idea that every thought means something deeper or tells some deep truth about ourselves. “Recognizing that this is just a part of nature,” he says, “helps us shift from a self-centered view to one of nature. At this moment it’s exactly this way. When the heart opens and we say: ‘This feeling is this way’; in a strange manner, by fully accepting it, it loses its power to convince.”

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that this method works not just for individual negative thoughts, but for depression itself, which isn’t always a matter of discrete thoughts, but more often, a dull sensation of pain or despair.

“Again,” says Amaro, “the idea is not to say, ‘boy, this is a horrible feeling,’ and waiting for it to be over. If in depression, your body feels like lead weight, heavy and dull, or you have tightness across shoulders. There’s a physicality to the dark ache of depression. You can meditate with kindness toward it–‘this is the lead-weight feeling.’ A kind of chemistry is then going on, so that which knows heaviness isn’t heavy; that which knows tightness is not tight; that which knows agitation isn’t agitated.”

And all of this intersects really neatly with what we know about the brain—the more practice we have shifting attention and changing our thought patterns with methods like MBCT, CBT, ACT, or mindfulness meditation, the more we lay down different (better) neural tracks over time.

“The Buddha described how he divided his thoughts into two different categories; on the one hand wholesome thoughts, which lead to happiness and peacefulness, and on the other those that lead to harm or confusion or stress,” says Amaro. “He observed that that which the mind dwells upon conditions the tendencies of the mind in the future–in other words, each type of thought makes a track, a rut in the brain. So, if we want to experience peace and happiness, we should follow the thoughts that conduce to those qualities, and leave the others aside. And, amazingly, modern neuroscientific studies on the brain’s plasticity have confirmed this.”

 

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Work Alone”

Work Alone: Ernest Hemingway’s 1954 Nobel Acceptance Speech

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”

By Maria Popova

https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/03/21/ernest-hemingway-1954-nobel-speech/

“One can never be alone enough to write,” Susan Sontag observed. Solitude, in fact, seems central to many great writers’ daily routines — so much so, it appears, that part of the writer’s curse might be the ineffable struggle to submit to the spell of solitude and escape the grip of loneliness at the same time.

Ernest Hemingway

In October of 1954, Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. But he didn’t exactly live every writer’s dream: First, he told the press that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen and Bernard Berenson were far more worthy of the honor, but he could use the prize money; then, depressed and recovering from two consecutive plane crashes that had nearly killed him, he decided against traveling to Sweden altogether. Choosing not to attend the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm on December 10, 1954, Hemingway asked John C. Cabot, the United States Ambassador to Sweden at the time, to read his Nobel acceptance speech, found in the 1972 biography Hemingway: The Writer as Artist (public library). At a later date, Hemingway recorded the speech in his own voice. Hear an excerpt, then read the transcript of the complete speech below:

Having no facility for speech-making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this Prize.

No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.

It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my country to read a speech in which a writer said all of the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.

How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again I thank you.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Too much head”

Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL

Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Success”

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Work Alone: Ernest Hemingway’s 1954 Nobel Acceptance Speech”

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”

By Maria Popova

https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/03/21/ernest-hemingway-1954-nobel-speech/

“One can never be alone enough to write,” Susan Sontag observed. Solitude, in fact, seems central to many great writers’ daily routines — so much so, it appears, that part of the writer’s curse might be the ineffable struggle to submit to the spell of solitude and escape the grip of loneliness at the same time.

Ernest Hemingway

In October of 1954, Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. But he didn’t exactly live every writer’s dream: First, he told the press that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen and Bernard Berenson were far more worthy of the honor, but he could use the prize money; then, depressed and recovering from two consecutive plane crashes that had nearly killed him, he decided against traveling to Sweden altogether. Choosing not to attend the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm on December 10, 1954, Hemingway asked John C. Cabot, the United States Ambassador to Sweden at the time, to read his Nobel acceptance speech, found in the 1972 biography Hemingway: The Writer as Artist (public library). At a later date, Hemingway recorded the speech in his own voice. Hear an excerpt, then read the transcript of the complete speech below:

Having no facility for speech-making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this Prize.

No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.

It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my country to read a speech in which a writer said all of the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.

How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again I thank you.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2019, writing tip, Writing Tip Wednesday