The Elegance of Reading on Your Writing

Photo of a hedgehogIt has been eons since I’ve written anything here on my blog, and for that I apologize. It’s not because I haven’t thought of you, my fabulous readers/followers, because believe me, I have…often.

The reason my blog has been silent for so long is because my life has been so packed with running, racing, and coaching—my other passions–that something had to give.

That something…which I can barely admit here because it’s truly unthinkable…is…reading.

Gasp. I know.

Considering how much I love to read, it’s not something I ever imagined I’d let happen. But being in constant motion over this past year, I could never keep my eyes open long enough to get to the bottom of a page, or stay focused long enough to swim in the magic of words on a Sunday afternoon.

And here’s the thing: without reading, there is no writing. At least no creative writing.

It’s that painfully simple.

When you are not enveloped in the beauty of language and pulled where your senses are awash in imagination, writing takes on a different quality. Oh sure, you can still knock out little blips here and there, and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to eke out a gem or two, but to fully tap into your inner-writing amazing-ness, you’ve got to read.

Fortunately, after far too long, I’ve finally crossed back into the literary world, thanks to a morning run up the street with my dog.

Photo of neighborhood lending library

Our sweet neighbors set up a little neighborhood lending library in front of their house (yes, I live in Mayberry, thank you very much). On a whim I grabbed The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

That’s all it took.

The writing is so fine, I lingered over words and sentences longer than my morning cup of coffee (if you know me, you know how long that can be). We’re talking goosebump producing prose, and characters that make you continually contemplate the over-arching beauty and complexity of the world around us.

After reading this book, I feel like I can breathe again, like my right arm has been reattached, and I’m suddenly back to where I cannot ‘not write.’ It’s the same feeling I had when I knocked out over a dozen chapters of my book in progress, The Art of an Improbable Life, while at the same time writing magazine articles, blog posts and three-quarters of a novel—one whose ending still bumps around in my head.

Who knew that reading could have such a profound affect on one’s writing? Well, of course we all know how important reading is, but until you’ve survived a literary drought, you will never fully understand the depths of its importance.

Now that I’ve finished Barbery’s masterpiece, my mind is gleefully spinning, trying to decide which book to linger over next. I’m searching for one just as compelling as the last so I don’t let old habits creep back in and let other responsibilities become more important than my precious reading time.

Do you have any book recommendations for me? I’d love to hear from you!

Photo of doggy running partner, Doodles

 

PS: In the meantime, I thought I’d share a picture of my big brown running partner, Doodles. This was taken on a rare rainy day here in CA. He doesn’t go far, but somehow he always manages to take me where I need to be–like the lending library up the street.


A Delicious Interview with Editor Krista Harris

Edible Santa Barbara Winter 13 Cover Fortune CookiesWhen I’m not blogging, working on my book, or delving into other creative projects, I have the great pleasure of writing magazine articles. One of my favorite publications to write for, Edible Santa Barbara, is right here in my own backyard.

Krista Harris and her husband, Steve Brown, started Edible Santa Barbara in the spring of 2009 with hopes of sharing in-depth stories behind the food and culinary traditions of Santa Barbara County. This beautifully produced magazine provides a visual and literary feast for anyone interested in food.

This quarter I had the joy of writing about the history of fortune cookies. Though they may not have specific ties to Santa Barbara, per se, fortune cookies do have surprising and intriguing West Coast roots. Several other stories I written for the magazine over the past few years include pieces on artichokes, almonds and latte art.

Krista happens to be one of of my favorite editors to work with, so it gives me great pleasure to interview her here today. Take a peek to see what makes this shaker and mover tick, and see how her passion is elevating Santa Barbara’s food movement.

Portrait of Krista Harris Editor of Edible Santa Barbara

Q: Why did you start Edible SB? What was your motivation? Continue reading

Favorite Five Friday: Habits that Stir My Imagination

It’s easy to be inspired, motivated, “on fire” when you first launch a project. When the glow of excitement fades though, you need to fall back on your habits to keep you moving in the direction of reaching your goal and completing your masterpiece. Here are a few habits I rely on to keep my imagination factory pumping and propelling me forward.

Favorite Five Friday Habits that Stir My Imagination

“Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going”–Jim Rohn

What habits do you rely on to stir your imagination? Please share! When I wrote #5 on my list, I was thinking of many of you who often inspire me by the way you view the world. 

Share Your Seven-Word Essay about Your Mom

Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful, hard-working mamas of the world! In honor of this special day, I’m hosting a seven-word essay contest. What seven words best describe your mom?  Leave your “mini essay” in the comment box below and share what is/was unique about your mother. Humor is welcome! The winner will have his or her essay posted on my blog along with a photo of you and your mom.

Photo of Mom Green, Becky and Olivia

Here’s mine: Loving, supportive character with fabulous funny bone.

 

The Story That Was Told

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the story below being inspired by this photograph of a woman walking along an allee of trees in France, but this is what swirled together during a “progressive story” project I posted on my blog last week. Each person added a new line or idea to the narrative, and voila, this is what it turned into…

Photo of an autumn scene with a woman walking

I never imagined I’d be here at this moment in my life, but…

Grandfather told me in his last letter that he wanted me to always be honest with myself and others. I’ve chosen today to tell my family about my partner.

I never thought I’d choose the weekend of his funeral, but here I am in the very place I swore I’d never come back to, as beautiful as I remember, and still haunted with the very things time and distance would not let me forget.

I spotted Aunt Nadine first, who always had a soft spot for me, and touched her shoulder. For a second she didn’t recognize me and I braced for the familiar pang in my gut as my eyes searched hers expectantly. But then she smiled, and I felt the moment expand with relief and gratitude.

“How are you?” I whispered quietly. Without answering me, she asked, “You are looking restless and nervous; it seems like something is hurting you from deep inside.” I stepped back, shocked that my inner turmoil was visible to others, others I haven’t seen in so many years.

Continue reading

A Story to Be Told…

Last year I was so inspired by my blogging friend, Monica Medina, and the clever progressive story project she created on her blog, Monica’s Tangled Web, I thought I’d give it a whirl myself. Monica simply posted a photograph and wrote the opening sentence to the story. Her readers then took the story and ran with it, adding new plot elements or emotional twists by leaving their contributions in her blog’s comment box. The story ended up being wildly creative and memorable.

So here it goes…based on the photograph below and my opening sentence, please join the fun and help create a story with me.

It’s important that you number your comment so that each person’s new sentence or idea flows in the correct order. For example, if you write the next sentence following my opener, you’d simply write 2. blah blah blah…. The next person would write 3. blah blah blah…. Simple, huh?

From time to time I may throw in a line or two along the way to keep the story going. When it feels like the story has come to its natural conclusion, I will post it in its entirety so you can marvel at your creativity.

Photo of an autumn scene with a woman walking

Here’s the opener:

I never imagined I’d be here at this moment in my life, but…


Savoring the Silent Muse

Olympic torchAt the end of July, when the Olympics kicked off in all its glory, Muse blissfully executed several mesmerizing backflips, complete with multiple mind-blowing triple watusi twists.

Her heart flitted and fluttered, and her skin prickled with excitement as she remembered all the things she loved about the pursuit of excellence.

Her unbridled enthusiasm inspired a river of words to flow from this writer’s fingertips.

Then just as suddenly as Muse’s inspiration took hold, Muse quickly and purposely flitted away.

She didn’t disappear without a flourish though.

No. No. No.

In classic Olympic form, she leaped onto the balance beam, glided across, arms gracefully extended, toes pointed. Then she carried out several impossible flips and dips before finally sailing through the air in an eye-popping dismount.

As she landed she shot me a knowing smile and whispered, “Balance, my friend. Balance. Remember there’s more to life than writing.” 

Huh? Wait a minute. Isn’t she supposed to inspire me to produce my most creative work and encourage me to write, write, and then write some more? 

“Step away from your computer,” she continued, “and savor these delicious weeks of summer with your friends and family.”

Why is she telling me to relax and focus on savoring summer?

Muse clearly knows me better than I know myself.

She’s been watching the ridiculous pace I’ve been keeping this summer, trying to squeeze in way too many events and activities in far too few hours, all the while trying to consistently produce fresh ideas for my blog every few days.

She has seen how in the midst of my blaze of daily activities that I’m often more focused on the end result rather than the journey. More than once she has cringed when she has seen me pay little attention to life’s gorgeous brushstrokes, and even less to its rich details.

Muse has also noticed the crown of hypocrisy I’ve been wearing. While I continually tell my daughter to slow down and enjoy what she is doing while she is doing it, rather than always focusing on what’s next, I continue to blaze on in perpetual motion, always thinking about what I should be doing next.

All of this has made Muse dizzy and cranky, especially as she has watched my mind spin like a hamster wheel. Knowing that blogging only perpetuates my need to be in constant mental motion, she has grown fussy and tired of trying to keep pace.

“If you’re not writing a post, you’re thinking about a post,” she has complained. “If you’re not thinking about a post, you’re worrying about when and what you should post next.”

I tried to ignore her annoying complaints, but Muse finally decided to put her foot down once and for all, the only way she knew how–by simply flitting away and wrapping me in a snug blanket of writer’s block.

Muse did not utter another word. She didn’t need to; her silence was clear: “Creativity needs time to percolate while living life, not just while writing about it. Turn off your computer and follow the advice you always give your daughter. Walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.”

So now you know why I haven’t been writing this past month. I’ve been living large—taking the advice of my wise and silent muse—savoring summer with my friends and family—enjoying life one slow tick on the clock at a time, and reveling in the richness of its myriad details.

Stepping away from my computer has allowed me to…

Continue reading

Apple-icious News and a Contest to Celebrate It

Steve and i book coverAfter sixty-five days in Apple’s “review process,” our ibook, Steve & i is finally available for purchase in the iTunes store.

We nearly gave up on Apple, but then remembered our reason for creating this book: to celebrate Steve Jobs and the friendship he and my husband, Jeffrey Aaronson, forged when they were both young and hungry, and to raise money for cancer research by contributing a portion of the sale of each book to prominent cancer institutes.

It’s hard not to chuckle though, wondering what the fine folks at Apple were doing with our book for the past sixty-five days. Keep in mind Steve & i is a little powerhouse 40 page book–including photographs and a video, and it took Amazon and Barnes & Noble less than a week to upload it onto their sites.

Just for fun…because I’m in such a good mood…I thought I’d hold a contest.

Leave a comment with your answer to: “What do you think Apple was doing with our book for the past 65 days?” and your name will automatically be entered into a random drawing for a $10 iTunes gift card. Humor is always appreciated!

Enter by Sunday, June 10th at midnight. The winner will be announced on Monday, June 11th.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll download a copy of the book for $2.99, and if you feel inspired by what you read, please leave a review. Your continued support and kindness is very much appreciated (and will also bring you a bucketload of good karma)!

Here’s the link to the iTunes store: Steve & i: One Photographer’s Improbable Journey with Steve Jobs

In the event you don’t have an iPad or idevice, here are other ways to purchase the book:
Amazon Kindle ebook
Barnes and Noble Nook ebook

Here’s to being inspired, re-living an unique piece of history, and seeing beyond the icon, Steve Jobs, to the complex and charismatic human being who not only “put a ding in the universe,” but did it in a way nobody else ever could.

Photo of Steve Jobs, 1984 inside Apple Computer headquarters, Cupertino, CA

Steve Jobs inside Apple Headquarters, 1984, just prior to the launch of the first Macintosh 128K computer. ©Jeffrey Aaronson

“An absolutely gorgeous, moving and important memoir. Steve Jobs was complicated, sweet, mad, inspirational beyond reason. Thank you for sharing this.”

                                        –Review by Doug Menuez

A Tasty 10-Step Recipe for Creative Success

Ingredients

1 Open Mind
1/2 cup Inspiration
3/4 cup Talent
1 cup Originality
1 cup Authenticity
2 cups Motivation
2 3/4 cups Passion
4 cups Belief
4 cups Commitment
6 cups Perseverance
8 cups Grit
1 lb. Courage

Step One: Preheat imagination by clearing mind of clutter and doubt. Do this with an activity of your choice—run, meditate, take a long shower, relax with a glass of wine…

Step Two: Gather all ingredients, pour into large mixing bowl and stir with abandon. Get messy. Let it fly. Embrace the process, and never think about the cleanup.

Step Three: Season to taste using the textures of your soul. If your creation is bland, add a pinch of spice, a pound of raw emotion and one additional cup of grit. Blend vigorously until flavor is sublime.

Step Four: Knead it and work it, work it, work it.

Step Five: Set aside and let your ideas rise. During this important time, make an effort to engage in other activities, further stirring your creative juices: read, listen to music, go for a hike, surround yourself with art or other creative people.

If necessary repeat steps four and five.

Step Six: Once you are satisfied with the overall flavor and consistency, shape into the form of your choice—one that most expresses your passion and personality.

Step Seven: Bake in creative oven until done. Only you will know at what temperature and how long this will take. During this step, be sure to check it occasionally, but trust your instincts and refrain from continually opening and closing the oven door; that only lets out the heat, and often makes a masterpiece fall. Rather, relax and allow it to reach its natural golden state.

Step Eight: Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.

Step Nine: Once cool, embellish. This is your chance to add your final pinches of panache and swirls of sweetness. Make sure you have sprinkled it sufficiently with the yearnings of your heart, and topped it with the magic of your imagination.

Step Ten: Enjoy and celebrate your creative masterpiece, and most importantly, be sure to SHARE IT.

*Note: This recipe works best when creating purely to impress yourself. If others appreciate it too, then that’s just icing on the cake.

©Becky Green Aaronson   The Art of an Improbable Life   2012

Is Social Media Killing Your Creativity?

Last night as I lay in bed counting sheep, two questions continually swirled through my mind.

  • What has happened to my creative mojo?
  • Why do I perpetually feel rushed, unfocused and unable to finish what I start?

It seems like months since a rich and textured story has poured out of me with grace and fluidity (at least on my best writing days). Now it feels like each word, thought, and gesture is clumsy and forced—as if I’m madly paddling down a river on a clunky, handmade raft, bumping into rocks all along the way.

Some would chock this up to writer’s block. I would disagree.

I would hand this dubious honor to the curse (and blessing) of social media.

Huh?! Whatcha talkin’ about Willis?

How could Facebook, Twitter and the likes change the flow of one’s creativity?

Simple. There is so much information out there now that our senses are being dulled like stones being tumbled along the bottom of a raging river. As the current of news and ideas continually grows wider and more intense, we are unable to keep pace with the pummeling flow.

I read somewhere that 290 million Tweets are sent each day, over 200 billion videos are viewed each month, and an estimated 100 billion photographs are now shared on Facebook. That’s a whole lot of sharing, and that doesn’t even include blogs or other forms of social media like Digg, Delicious, Tumblr, Squidoo, LinkedIn, or Pinterest.

To switch metaphors (because, as I mentioned I’m struggling with focus), social networking is like standing in the middle of a massive cocktail party in which everyone is talking loudly–all at the same time. Everybody is sharing their latest exciting adventures as well as their greatest discoveries, their juiciest gossip, their funniest jokes, their most heart-warming stories, and their mountains of indispensable advice. The din is mesmerizing. The only problem is that it’s so noisy it’s often difficult to decipher what anybody is saying. It’s also nearly impossible to gather your thoughts to contribute to the conversation in any meaningful way.

After leaving the party, you likely feel dizzy and a tad unfulfilled as random bits of conversations still float through your head. When you get back home and try to write, you realize you’re suddenly nursing a hangover from this gathering. It wavers between a dull haze and a nagging headache. As you rub your temples and try to keep your mind from jumping from thought to thought, you attempt to settle into a creative writing rhythm. It doesn’t happen though, so what do you do? Check your email, of course. Responding to a friend’s or colleague’s message is much less taxing than creating an original thought on a blank screen. Then one thing leads to another and viola, you’re suddenly back in the middle of that noisy party again.

Some would say, “Get a grip, girlfriend. Just turn it off. Drop out. Get back to your creative center.

And they would be right.

Well, sort of.

As an author, social networking provides an important outlet for connecting with readers and like-minded writers. Since I joined the world of blogging and social media last year, I have met some truly phenomenal people—people like you—many of whom I never would have met otherwise. For that I am grateful. Your support, enthusiasm, and generosity have added value to my life in ways I never would have imagined. I genuinely enjoy connecting with you.

The problem is that because you have been so supportive and I’ve come to enjoy you so much, I want to reciprocate. I’m interested in what you’re up to and look forward to reading your latest book, blog post, and Facebook entry. I want to comment and share with others how talented you are. I want to send you a virtual high five for receiving a rave review or winning a much-deserved award. Most of all, I want to say, “thank you.”

But all of this takes time, and a different style of writing, which splinters my focus and makes me feel perpetually rushed and distracted. Instead of writing long, delicious prose, I’m focused on writing brief, clever comments, and communicating in 140 characters or less. I no longer lose myself in a story I’m writing, inhaling the details of the imagery, exhaling the textures of the characters and dialogue.

So what’s a girl to do to get her creative mojo back?

The obvious answer is to turn off and drop out, but that’s tough for somebody who likes to mix it up and party with talented people. Perhaps create first, party later? I know what else I must do. It’s what I always do when I need inspiration: read. Finding a calm eddy in the torrent of social media and immersing myself in the world of literary fiction will no doubt stir my creative soul once again.

So tell me, do you feel like social media is killing your creativity? What is your approach to it all? Are you able to participate in virtual social circles, then transition into a different way of thinking and being creative? Drop me a comment. I’d love to know what’s buzzing through your mind.