Tag Archives: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

WWW Wednesdays – February 19, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

My bookshelf

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau– What I’m currently reading
For the past couple of months, I’ve been reading several books at once. I usually don’t do that but since I’ve been wanting to read books on writing and business, as well as novels, I’ve figured the mix would allow me to learn about various subjects all at once, rather than being stuck in one genre for a long time.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau. I’m almost done with this book and I’ll share my thoughts in my next update.

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul. This book is so simple and so good, I’ll probably purchase my own copy once I’m done with the library version.

Show Me a Story!: Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators by Leonard S. Marcus. A very insightful book so far, in which illustrators share their life stories and explain how they became children’s book illustrators.

Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande. This book was first published in 1934 and I understand every aspiring writer should read it, so we’ll see.

– What I recently finished reading
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I wish this book didn’t constantly switch between the past and the present, especially since it made the beginning of the story feel a lot slower than it could have been. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. It shows how friendship and love can be affected by war, racism, xenophobia, fear, and pure hatred. 12-year-old Henry and Keiko don’t see their different ethnic backgrounds as a barrier to their friendship, but the rest of the world does, including Henry’s Chinese father, who takes his hatred of Japanese people all the way to his grave, even if it means breaking his son’s heart over and over. This is one of the sweetest love stories (and historical novel) I’ve read in a long time and I highly recommend it.

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. DiCamillo is a master of storytelling and character development for children and she doesn’t dumb down the difficult issues her characters are facing. In The Tiger Rising, Rob is still suffering from the loss of his mom, while newcomer Sistine is in self-denial about her father’s relationship with her after having an affair and her mom moving way with Sistine. I love how DiCamillo always uses adults as supporting characters, showing how children can find the support they need in the least expected people. This is a very quick read and I recommend it if you’re looking for a great story.

The Shining by Stephen King. King is one of my favorite writers and the master of horror for a good reason. This book is proof that he earned that title early on in his career. What a spooky, chilling, horrifying tale of a hotel taking possession of its guests year after year. I’m not sure what I found scariest: the potential ghosts inside the hotel, the thoughts penetrating the characters’ minds to control them and make them do specific things, the idea of cabin fever, or the moving hedge sculptures in the garden. I usually read at night before going to sleep but this book is a bad choice if you’re tired and need the zzzzz. It may keep you up all night!

Don’t Pigeonhole Me! by Mo Willems. I’m a big fan of Mo Willems as a children’s book author/illustrator so I was glad to find a book that covers the past 20 years of his life and his emergence as an artist. Every year Willems has put together a little sketchbook featuring his doodlings. Some of them are just silly and others were actually the inspiration for a few children’s books. The content of this book is definitely aimed at adults, not his youngest fans. All in all, it reminds all of us that doodling is a great activity we should do more of.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This is an interesting collection of daily rituals of famous artists, mostly writers and painters. As different as these rituals are, they seem to have the same items in common: these artists found a daily routine that worked for them. They worked at the time of the day or night they felt most productive, whether it was a couple of hours or 10. Some of them relied on drugs to function but most  actually lived pretty normal lives, with little outside entertainment. For many of them, their artistic career came first, often at the expense of their spouses and/or children. You can sense the author did a lot of research to gather a bit of information on so many artists, but he didn’t have much to write since most of the content is copied from other sources, whether personal diaries, letters or magazine articles.

Goals! How To Get Everything You Want by Brian Tracy. If you want to set goals for various areas of your life (career, health, finances and personal), this is a good book to use. Tracy tells you step by step what to do to help you create these goals and how to get them accomplished. Breaking down your goals into smaller steps and working on them every day are just a few pieces of advice you’ll find in this book. Goal setting can be a challenge and this book is inspiring and motivating.

The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield. If you’re looking to bring more focus into your personal, work and financial life, this book can offer a lot of guidance. Full of real life examples for everyday people who managed to turn their lives around, as well as many footnotes from the three authors, this book can be very helpful in identifying the reasons why you may be struggling in some areas of your life. Does this book answer all questions? Probably not, but it’s good enough to get you thinking and going, and hopefully know how to find help for the steps after that. Definitely worth your reading time.

I recently read several books on procrastination and getting things done. Some of them are definitely better than others at helping you identify the specific reasons why you may procrastinate and give you some advice to avoid procrastination. Overall, I think the people at Nike figured it out a long time ago. “Just do it” is the best advice you can follow to get things done, whether you enjoy the activity or not.

The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing by John Perry. This is a funny book on procrastination, written by a philosopher who happens to be a procrastinator. Full of quirky anecdotes and real-life examples, this book won’t tell you how to solve your procrastinating habit, but it will at least help you admit you may have a problem, and point out a few tricks. These include breaking things down the Kaisen way (many small steps), and making a list of everything you need to do and NOT do (e.g. not browse the internet when you’re supposed to be working on something important). It even recommends patting yourself on the back every time you get something crossed off your list, and associating yourself with non-procrastinators to make sure you get the most important things done. Above all, John Perry recommends you don’t let your procrastinating habit get in the way of enjoying life and stressing over deadlines you could easily avoid. In the end, happiness is key.

Time Power: A Proven System for Getting More Done in Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracy. A very useful book on how to regain lost time for productivity every day, from identifying and avoiding timewasters, to improving efficiency to creating a schedule and sticking to it. Plan your work and then work your plan is the way to go, so you spend most of your time on the activities that will get you when you want to go. This book includes tips of goal setting, thorough planning and execution. It’s worth spending a few hours reading.

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting Things Done by Monica Ramirez Basco. This is a simple little book on identifying which type of procrastinator you are, identify the reasons why you procrastinate and how to change your behavior and avoid procrastination. The identification process is well explained but I think this book doesn’t cover strategic solutions in enough detail. Brian Tracy’s “No Excuses!” book offers a lot more hands-on, practical solutions to procrastination, in my opinion.

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil A. Fiore. A good book on how we can fight procrastination one day at a time by noticing why we procrastinate and when, setting up new habits, finding a schedule that works for us, and measuring accountability. It even has a chapter on relaxing and how to find the flow. I’m not sure that really works for everyone but it could be worth a try for some people.

Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It by Jane B. Burka. If you’re looking for a book that explains the various psychological reasons for procrastination, this is probably a good choice. Full of theory and relevant examples to help you identify the reason(s) why you may procrastinate, it then goes into a solution to make things happen, including some exercises you can do every week to break the cycle. Examples include time management skills, strict scheduling breaking large tasks into smaller tasks, and finding the times of the day you’re most productive.

The Procrastinator’s Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing It Now by Rita Emmett. If you’ve never read a book on how to stop procrastinating and how to plan better, this is a good start. If you have read on the subject, this book won’t tell you what you already know. You need to identify all the times you procrastinate and the reason(s) why. Setting goals and planning the steps to reach them will help, as well as declutter your environment. This book includes a lot of concrete examples and quotes to motivate you. I recommend reading Brian Tracy’s book No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline for more thorough and helpful advice on the subject.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass– What I think I’ll read next 
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. Four 12-year olds are inviting to a candymaking factory to enter a contest and create the most delicious candy. If this sounds a bit like Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, it’s meant to be. I can’t wait to read this middle grade story!

My kids’ bookshelf

I’ll skip my kids’ bookshelf this week and will focus on that exclusively in my next WWW Wednesdays post. We’ve read some excellent children’s books recently and I think they deserve their own post.

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WWW Wednesdays – January 15, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

Wow, my last WWW Wednesdays post was two months ago… What can I say? The good new is, I read 61 books in 2013, not including the children’s books I read with my kids. I did read a lot of books in November and December, but somehow never got to write about them here. So I guess this is a catch-up post, for adult and children’s books, or at least a listing of our favorites in the past few months. I also want to put a list of my favorite books in 2013 very soon, and I hope you get to add to the list.

My bookshelf

– What I’m currently reading 
The Shining by Stephen KingThe Shining by Stephen King. I’ve read a lot of King’s books but I don’t think I ever read this one. Terrible choice for bedtime reading, especially on those nights I need the sleep. Oh well…
Goals! How To Get Everything You Want by Brian Tracy. As I’m still working on listing and organizing my many, many goals for 2014, I’m looking for ways to lay them out so they’ll be easier to achieve step-by-step. Quite a challenge.

– What I recently finished reading 
No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy. If you’ve never read any of Brian Tracy’s books, this is a good one to start with. Full of quotes you might find insightful (or annoying if you’re not a fan of quotes), this book shows you how to implement self-discipline throughout the various areas of your life, including personal success, work, finances, health and relationships. Tracy makes it very clear that self-discipline is one character trait that differentiates the more successful people from the others. You can make small changes in your life to be more disciplined to get what you want.  Most women with children will want to take some of Tracy’s advice with a grain of salt or adapt it to their individual lifestyle.

Remarkable by Lizzie K FoleyRemarkable by Lizzie K. Foley. This first young adult novel was entertaining and easy to read. I enjoyed the variety of characters and how each of them played a role in the development of the story. I think many kids can identify with Jane Doe, who feels she’s nothing special among all these extremely talented people living in her town. She’s considered not as smart and gifted as the other kids, and yet, she’s the one who solves many problems and puzzles by the end of the book. A nice lesson for kids illustrating that when you’re too wrapped up in yourself, you miss out on the world around you. I just wish the pace had been a little more energetic in delivering the story.

Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinski. If you’re looking for a book full of insightful data on the life skills a child needs to develop, this is probably it. If you’re looking for a book that gives you a lot of practical advice on help your child develop those skills past the preschool years, this is not. Although I found the research interesting and valuable, I realized that the majority of this book is more theoretical than practical, and mostly focuses on infants up to preschoolers.

Eat Move Sleep by Tom RathEat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath. If you’re looking for a miracle diet or type of exercise to help you lose weight, this isn’t the book for you. Tom Rath provides nothing earth-shattering or a deep secret only a few know about. Instead, he lists the many, many small choices we can make in our daily life to improve our health. Most importantly, he explains why you can’t just eat right, or move more, or sleep better, but rather you have to make changes to ALL three, as they work in unison to keep you healthy. For example, if you don’t sleep enough, you may overeat as well as feel too tired to exercise. If you don’t eat the right foods, you may not have the energy to work out but feel to stimulated to sleep well. I recommend you sign up for  a 30-day personalized challenge, which gives you specific recommendations for your diet, sleep and exercise habits depending on the answers you provide for the initial quiz.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. This is another young adult fun adventure by Kate DiCamillo, this time featuring a squirrel that somehow acquires super powers, as well as intelligence and a gift for poetry writing, after being sucked up a vacuum. DiCamillo is a brilliant storyteller and you can’t help but root for her main character, Flora, who’s in desperate need of love, comfort and friendship after her parents divorce. And she will find all three in the several people she runs into, who all have their own story to tell. I love how DiCamillo shows that friendship and support can be found across generations – a great example of how much life can bring, if we care to look around. The hilarious illustrations are a wonderful addition to this fun story.

The Secret Keeper by Kate MortonThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. This book was such a slow read, I almost put it down after reading a third of it. Instead I decided to scheme through it so I could reach the end. I liked the premise of the story: a young girl witnessing a murder at her house, and fifty years later she tries to make sense of it all, going back in time all the way to World War II in England. The delivery of this story is painful: so many dialogs that seem to repeat themselves and go nowhere, so many words to describe the scenes, even when not much happens, so little character development. It’s as if the author was given a number of words to write and she had a hard time filling every page. Also, why do so many books today have to switch back between past and present storytelling??? Really, it’s getting old, especially when it adds nothing to the story. Oh, and the “twist” at the end of the book is nothing you can’t guess on your own halfway through the book. Unless you’re a big fan of Kate Morton, you may be disappointed with this book’s pace and style.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. This is a very interesting collection of essays on a number of life subjects. I read the 15th anniversary edition, so the author updated it with new essays and removed outdated ones. He also added some comments here and then that added to the original story. All essays were drawn from his personal life and experience and most of them rang a bell. It is indeed true that everything you need to know about life, you learned it in kindergarten, including share, clean up your mess, say you’re sorry, don’t take what’s not yours, play fair, and my favorite one, wonder.

100 Secrets of Happy Families by David Niven. This book is a good reminder off what really matters to make your family relationships the best they can be. A few of my favorites are:
– Dedication matters more than occupation (deciding how your occupation fits within your family life and not the other way around is what matters most).
– Let your goals live with you (even if you can’t work on your goals at specific times, there’s no reason to abandon them; let them adapt to the life you live).
– You define a child every day (did you know a child’s feelings about his family relationship does more to define that child’s outlook and self-image than anything else?).
– Cherish traditions (hey, at our house we celebrate Christmas twice a year, in December and in July!)
– See the big picture (don’t see your life as tiny pieces but as a whole, to get a broader perspective and not let small frustrations overwhelm you).

100 Secrets of Healthy People by David Niven. This book is full of simple tips to live a healthier lifestyle, most of which you already know, while others are interesting to discover or remember. My favorite health tips? “Healthy living is an attitude” (seeing your health in a positive light helps you maintain healthy habits), “breathe right” (it’s amazing what proper breathing can do to you), “laughter really is medicine” (it reduces anxiety and pain), and “hug for health” (hugs relieve stress and provide comfort).

1984 by George Orwell1984 by George Orwell. This is the second time I’ve read this book (I was in high school the first time) and I’ve found it just as terrifying today. Orwell wrote this book in 1948, right at the end of the second world war, establishing England and its allies as Oceania, a land in state of constant war against changing enemies. The main character, Winston Smith, works at the Ministry of Truth, where every day he has to “rewrite” newspaper articles and books to change the news according to the latesst events, therefore rewriting history, even deleting the very existence of some public officials once in a while. A lot more goes on after that and I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t read the book. The policy held by Big Brother’s party against the middle class and the lower class is chilling, and somehow not so far off from our world today, in many ways. A definite read.

The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People by David Niven. By “successful”, Niven doesn’t mean “rich”, but rather people who are satisfied with their career, enjoy what they do and are growing. Here are just a few secrets that spoke directly to me: “boredom is the enemy” (you need to find something you enjoy or your persistence and interest will quickly diminish), “don’t want everything” (choose what you really want out of your career and focus on that, rather than look at what others have and want the same), and “it starts and ends with you” (access personal responsibility for your decisions and be open to new opportunities). If you’re looking for some inspiration in the workplace, this is a great little book.

– What I think I’ll read next 
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. I also requested more books on goal setting, procrastination and children’s book writing from the library. This is going to be a busy reading year.

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
National Geographic Angry Birds: AnimalsMy youngest is really into Angry Birds and I discovered there are many, many books with those little pesky guys. Some of the books are for early readers and discuss Angry Birds Star Wars theme (Angry Birds Star Wars: Angry Birds Star Wars: Lard Vader’s Villains, and Angry Birds Star Wars: Darth Swindle’s Secret). They sure are a great way to motivate a young reader! Other books were made in collaboration with National Geographic. We’ve been reading National Geographic Angry Birds: Animals, which goes all around the globe to introduce some animals and their habitat. On each page, the birds talk to each other, while they’re looking for their eggs. Again, a great way to motivate a young reader to read all of the speech bubbles on each page. I’ve requested more books in the series from the library and I hope they’re as much fun.

My oldest recently discovered Calvin & Hobbes and he’s been reading and rereading the Calvin & Hobbes complete collection. This is a great way to keep a reader interested, but definitely not a quiet way. Lots of giggling and laughing out loud going around.

– What they recently finished reading
Down To The Sea with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen
We’ve been reading so many books in the past couple of months, I’ll just list some of our favorite. We LOVE Chris Van Dusen’s gouache illustrations (they’re so precise and detailed, they look like they were made on a computer) and although he’s illustrated a lot of children’s books for other authors, including Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series, Van Dusen is quite a talented writer too, opting for rhyme for his very funny books, including Down To The Sea with Mr. Magee, The Circus Ship (we really, really liked this story), If I Built A House, and If I Built A Car.

We’ve also read some very funny books by Aaron Reynolds (most recently the author of Creepy Carrots), including:
Buffalo Wings by Aaron ReynoldsBuffalo Wings: farm chickens want to make them as a snack. While most of them take care of the sauce, one of them goes search for the main ingredient. That’s until the buffaloes tell him how buffalo wings are really made…
Chicks and salsa: chickens are tired of chicken feed and decide to try some Southwestern cuisine instead.
Pirates vs. Cowboys: what happens when pirates and cowboys speak two different languages and suffer from miscommunication?

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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