Strange Writing Habits

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A recent article on Medium.com highlights some of the quirks of the world’s greatest writers. The article gives us a quick look at some notable, if odd, characteristics of several authors that have made huge contributions to American Literature. Not all of the routines are as odd as Gertrude Stein’s requirement to have “cows and rocks in her field of vision” while she wrote, but they are all interesting. This article gives a unique perspective into the creative process, more specifically the physical environments or surroundings that these famous authors chose to create some of their most famous works. You can read the article here:

The Strangest Habits of Some of the World’s Greatest Writers

This was written by the creators of Writing Routines.com, which I found to contain a wealth of information and original perspectives on writing. The article on Strange Habits specifically features some of the more extraordinary or unusual routines of authors, but Writing Routines.com typically features advice, recommendations, and suggestions from contemporary writers that is intended to help aspiring authors create a routine of their own. They discuss the importance of establishing a writing routine, and feature articles from Kazuo Ishiguro, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Ryan Holiday, and many other best-selling authors. I found the site very helpful and insightful. There are hundreds of ideas that you can use as inspiration or guidance in establishing or changing your routine.

WritingRoutines.com

While I am still working on establishing my own personal writing routine, here is one point of advice that I have personally found to be useful:

Do not write after midnight.

I found myself staying up until two or three in the morning on occasion writing frantically with a feeling that my creative abilities were suddenly awakened. There was a feeling like adrenaline that would run through me as I wrote as many words as possible before finally retiring exhausted and wondering how I could possibly wake up to go to my job early the next morning. As soon as I had a chance I would read the stories that had been so exciting the night before… and they are typically unintelligible, rambling ideas that don’t contain any actual plot or specific ideas. I found that too often, my exhausted mind would either create ideas and concepts that made no sense at all, or I would revert to cliche characters and plot lines not realizing that I was essentially re-creating stories that I had heard before.

Now, instead of writing during that time after midnight before I drift off to sleep, I simply jot down one or two sentences about whatever comes to my mind. In the morning I will take a look at the list of ideas and select any that still seem interesting or actionable to my now refreshed mind! Sometimes I am surprised by the brilliance of the notes I find on my list, other times I laugh at the strange or bizarre things that I find there. I find notes like “Ravens are actually real!”, or “If we start in the mountain, we end in the valley.” On one occasion, there was a note that was just a series of numbers… and I could not remember what significance they had or why I had written them down.

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It was probably an old locker combination or PIN number that was floating around in the far reaches of my consciousness. Ha!

What tips do you have for establishing a writing routine?

Have you heard of any other strange habits from your favorite authors?

Five books that will blow your Western Mind

One of the greatest benefits of reading is the ability that books have to expand your mind. I enjoy a good story, but the books that I love the most are the ones that teach me something new, or help me to view the world from a perspective different than my own. The best books do not “instruct”, but “allow” the reader to learn something that was previously unknown to them. Some of the most memorable works that I have read come from authors who have a drastically different background than myself. You will be surprised by how much you can learn when you listen to (or read) voices that come from another part of the world, or from another time period.The more you read about the world around you, the more you will realize that each person sees it a little differently.  There is a miscalculation that is common, particularly in the Western world, which leads many to believe that they hold some advantage over other inhabitants of the Earth. One of the most effective ways to avoid or correct this misconception is by reading.  When you bring home a book that contains knowledge outside of your normal sphere, you have an opportunity to expand that sphere.

Here are five outstanding books that represent a different way of thinking or illustrate concepts that are outside of what I considered “ordinary”. These books have drastically different stories and origins, but they each have something in common. They represent ideas, places, people, and concepts that expanded my way of thinking in a way that I did not expect. These are five books that “blew my western mind”:

1  – Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

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Click this link to read the NY times Book review from 1969

 

2 – The Association of Small Bombs, Karan Mahajan

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Read the summary on Amazon.com

 

3 – The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In Between- Hisham Matar

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Read about the Pulitzer Prize winning story by Hisham Matar

 

4 – The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley

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This website will give you the Three minute synopsis, then you will want to read the complete autobiography.

 

5 – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Persig

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Over 100 publishers passed on this book before it was published in the 70’s, going on to sell more than 5 million copies. Read a review of the book here: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Which books have opened up your mind or changed the way you look at the world? Please share…

It’s too early to buy Christmas Gifts…

too early gift ad

If you do your shopping now, you will miss out on frozen fingers, black ice, ridiculous crowds, impulse buys, and settling for whatever is left in the stores. You won’t have anything to do for the last few weeks before the holidays except sit in a warm house, surrounded by friends and family. You will have too much time to read, enjoy your favorite movies, and go to various holiday parties.

Italic Bookmarks make the perfect, unique gift for the reader on your list. They are also great for people who travel frequently or like to take a book when they go on vacation. These bookmarks incorporate basic principles of neuroscience in order to enhance the reading experience. They will help you focus and avoid distractions, and can even create a deeper sense of “immersion” in whatever you are reading.

Just remember… it’s definitely too early to buy Christmas gifts.

But if you do… you can use this coupon to purchase through our Etsy shop with a discount:

3 FOR 10 COUPON

or you can buy directly from our site with secure billing through PayPal:

Buy Direct from Italic Bookmarks

Flipbooks are Magic!

This post is about writing – which I will get to – but I will start by talking about flipbooks. Most of you have probably made a flipbook at one time or another. You take a notepad and draw a picture on the first page. On the second page you draw a similar picture, but you change some aspect of it slightly. On the third, fourth, fifth pages the image moves or changes slightly in each iteration. After you have made twenty or thirty pages you put down your pen. When you grasp the notepad and flip through the pages, something amazing happens: you’re brain compiles each of the slightly different pictures that it sees in rapid succession and tells you that you are seeing movement. Your static drawings have come alive!

It looks something like this:

We also call this process “animation”. This phenomenon is the basis for the cartoons you enjoyed when you were younger, and computer animation that is so popular today.

I discovered a fun website that allows you to spend endless hours creating your own simple animations, like the inspirational one that I included above. I will provide the link below… but I want to make my point about writing before you get lost in a cloud of artistic, animated creativity.

I have been thinking or several weeks now about how to bring my writing to life. I want to create a similar effect to what a person experiences when they begin to flip pages and see an illustration come to life. I strive to create memorable characters, and meaningful storylines… but what I really want is for the reader to think that they are holding something that might be alive when they read my work. I tried to write down some of the characteristics of a flipbook that make it seem “real”, and emulate some of those things in my writing. Here is an incomplete list: movement, depth, dimensions, shifting frame, velocity, color, passage of time. Next, I tried to list some of the devices, methods, styles that I have read in some of my favorite books that help to achieve a similar sense of reality/movement/color: descriptions of touch, smell, and other sensation, vivid description of settings, metaphor, analogy…

I think that the goal of creating “animation” through writing will take me some time to achieve, but I like to keep it in the front of my mind while I am writing in hopes that I will be able to create a piece so memorable, moving, or disturbing that the reader will want to read it more than once.

Okay, here is the link for the animation website: Flip Anim

You can figure out all of the controls within a few minutes, watch animations from other users, leave comments, etc. You can even download your animations or send a link to your friends. P.S. you might want to set a timer, or you will find yourself spending hours on this site!

Culture Carton – featuring Italic Bookmarks

Culture Carton

We are excited to partner with Culture Carton to feature our neuroscience based bookmarks in an upcoming box. Culture Carton is dedicated to serving the literary gentleman with carefully curated items and books each month. Their boxes make excellent gifts for fathers, grandfathers, boyfriends and brothers. Their subscription service is a great option for a gift that keeps giving throughout the year.

 Visit Culture Carton

I have had a chance to see some of the items that Ryan and Joe Prosperi choose for each of their offerings and I couldn’t be more impressed. I have read each of the books that they have selected over the past few months, and these guys have great taste. On a personal level, I never know what to get for my own father for his birthday but I won’t have to worry about that this year. These guys have done it for me!

Sign up for your Culture Carton soon so you don’t miss the Italic Bookmarks contribution to the cause.

Learn about what defines a “Cultured Man” here: The Cultured Man

2017 was the year that I…

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It’s 2017. What have you done so far? Five years from now, when you look back on 2017, what will you remember? What have you accomplished this year that will change or improve the course of your life? Did you graduate? Did you earn your first $1 million? Did you meet someone new?

There are many things that I will remember from 2017. We took our kids to Mazatlan, Mexico… We got to see the total solar eclipse…  We visited Glacier National Park for the first time, and it took our breath away.

The accomplishment that I am most proud of is reading more books in 2017 than I ever have read in a year. I determined late 2016 that I wanted to spend at least as much time reading books as I do watching Netflix. It was difficult at first, but I found myself choosing more frequently to spend an evening reading with my wife rather than automatically turning on the television. Did I meet the goal of reading as much as I watch television? Unfortunately no, but I have been close. I was able to cut the amount of television I watch in half, and I have read 19 books this year. I usually only get through four or five. I have learned that when you find a really great goal it will begin to change your life and make a difference as you start working on it… you don’t have to wait until you complete it to see results.

Does this sound like the type of article you would normally read in late December, or early January? Why post this now?

Consider this… there are 4 months left in 2017. There are so many things that you can accomplish within 4 months if you dedicate your time and effort to it now! There may be some limits on what is practical to complete within the year, but there is no limit to the things that you could start! A Master’s Degree is out of reach for 2017 unless you are already almost finished… but signing up for a program is something you could still accomplish. Writing a book before the end of the year might not be a possibility… but starting a book certainly is! If you find that four months is not sufficient to accomplish your goals, this year can still be remembered as the year that you begin one of your most significant achievements.

Here are some examples:

1 – About this time last year, I decided that I would start writing a novel before the end of 2016. I found a topic, began thinking of my story, and I wrote the first chapter before the year was over. It might not seem like much, but I was able to finally start on a goal that I have put off for one reason or another for quite some time. After working on the story throughout this year, now I have a very achievable goal of completing it before the end of 2017. Four more months to go. (Now I can begin the equally challenging task of finding someone to read it.)Magnetism2 – I have wanted to visit Japan for a long time. There has not been time (or money) to make this trip a reality in 2017, and it is not realistic before the end of the year. Instead, decided to start learning Japanese. With the help of online resources, podcasts, and audio books from our local library I have learned many basic phrases and some simple conversations. I listen to the audio courses every day on the way to and from work. I am excited to learn more, and find opportunities to practice speaking with people… hopefully in Japan! I will remember 2017 as the year that I started learning Japanese!

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Take some time today to think about what you have done this year. Try to identify what else you want to accomplish before the end of the year, and write it down. For anything on your to-do list that will take longer than four months to complete, make a goal to at least get started before the end of the year.

The important thing is to consider what you CAN do, instead of what you CAN’T. Be brave, be dedicated, be excited!

2017 is your year!

Pictures of Famous Authors

When reading a great novel or short story we all create a mental picture of the main characters from the description and details that the author gives us. When I read a book, I can’t help but form a mental picture of the author as well. Have you ever been surprised when you come across an actual picture of one of your favorite authors and they look nothing like how you imagined them?

I discovered a great website recently  that highlights about 250 of the world’s most famous authors. There are pictures, and other information in an easy to find, fun to navigate format. (FamousAuthors.org)

How many of these famous writers can you name?

(Click or Hover over each picture when you are ready to see the name)

Let’s start with a few easy ones:

These are much trickier:  Continue reading

2017 Books to Read

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The title of this post might be misleading. There are not 2017 books to read… this is simply a list of books from 2017 – to read. There are actually only 29 on this list from “The Rumpus”. In fact, you don’t even have to read all 29. Maybe just one or two… you decide.

The thing that I love about lists like this is that there is a brief description of the novel that you can read through to help choose which ones sound the most appealing. There are a few on the list that I am really anxious to get my hands on.

The Rumpus – What to Read in 2017

This particular article features a short political rant in the beginning… but once you get through that you will find several recommendations for books that are getting a lot of attention this year.

Which of these books have you read? Are there any that you would recommend? Are there any excellent books that have come out this year that you don’t see on this list?

Watching Television vs Reading a Book

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This article from the website Medical Daily compares brain function and development while watching television or while reading books. There are references and descriptions of several studies conducted within the last few years that focus on various measurements of brain development and cognitive function in each scenario. Can you guess which activity is better for your brain? (Hint: Your mother has been right all along)

The article is interesting, the studies themselves are very fascinating and comprehensive.

Watching Television vs Reading a Book

… But lets face it, we love television. We can’t miss our favorite shows, and watching a good movie is like taking a trip to another planet. Some of us know more about our favorite actors than we do about members of our own family. Don’t want to give up television? Try this…

Keep track of the number of hours you spend watching Netflix for one week (or whatever your preferred source of screen-time may be), then commit to read at least as many hours in a week as you watch television. Since most of us cannot spontaneously add more hours to our day, you will likely have to spend a night or two with a book in your hands instead of the television remote. When I tried this in early 2016, and really tried to keep track of the hours, I found that I typically still fell short of equal time reading and watching television. On the other hand, I was suddenly reading four to five times more than I ever had before. Spending that much time with books made me much more excited about reading, which in turn made it easier to choose an hour with a book over an hour with a glowing screen.

Read the article above, then try the challenge. Spend at least as many hours reading this week as you spend watching television… let me know how it goes.

(TIP: Finding a really, really, really good book will make this challenge much easier. Let me know if you need a recommendation.)