Category Archives: writing
How you answer that question might determine your level of success, according to Stanford psychology professor, Carol Dweck. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, looks at why some people achieve their potential while others do not.
Early in her academic career, Dweck studied why some children gave up in the face of failure and why others persevered and went on to overcome obstacles. She discovered that the difference lay in the child’s belief about why they had failed: Those who believed they failed because they lacked an inherent ability gave up, but those who believed they failed simply because they hadn’t tried hard enough became even more motivated to keep trying.
Dweck’s studies apply to education, sports, careers, hobbies and personal relationships, and there’s another layer to this too.
Some students didn’t want to be seen to fail. For them, looking smart was far more important than learning anything, so they only took part in activities in which they knew they would not fail. They avoided any experiences that would require them to stretch and grow. Other students didn’t worry about appearances and took risks because their failures gave them a chance to learn.
In other words, some people want to showcase abilities they believe to be inherent, and other people want to enhance abilities they believe they to be malleable.
The good news is, Dweck discovered that people could change their beliefs and enjoy the benefits. When they learned to embrace failure and keep trying, they improved performance.
There’s hope for all of us who have ever said, “I can’t do math to save my life,” or “I’m no artist.” Perhaps we just need a few more failures and a little more perseverance.
Read more in Standford Alumni
I love the book The Alchemist, and I find its author, Paulo Coelho, inspirational as a writer and a human being.
Many people don’t agree. I made a visit to the “1 star” section of the Goodreads reviews of The Alchemist and discovered myriad variations on the “What a load of tripe” theme.
Those readers didn’t fall in with the fabled story of a hero journey. They didn’t buy the life wisdoms like the one quoted above. After all, since when does everyone in the universe get what they want? And what about good people who end up suffering?
Coelho recently responded to those concerns with this:
“I realized that despite the fear and the bruises of life, one has to keep on fighting for one’s dream. As Borges said in his writings ‘there no other virtue than being brave’. And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.”
I think he means this: If you have the ability to complain about NOT getting what you want, then that means that you’re still breathing, and your story is not over yet. There’s still time.
Get busy. Work hard. Stop whining, because if you don’t, all you’ll get is more of the same. Fight past all those things you fear. Don’t let them paralyze you into inaction.
If you do, you might be amazed at the machinations of the universe.
Consider Paulo Coelho’s 25 Important Points. Read them here: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2014/09/03/25-important-points/
It took a few days for all the technological pieces to fall into place at my new job. For the first while, I had no laptop or computer. I spent the time reading about files I would need to know in future and listening to the sounds of the office.
Office sounds have evolved.
Today, the ticky-ticky sound of laptop keys softly touched dominates the space. No more thunk of Selectric typewriter keys, the clickety-clack of its spinning ball of letters, and the ding of its bell at the margin.
A gentle ping signals new e-mails in Inboxes. No more rustling pink memo slips piled on desks.
The click of a mouse—computer mouse, not the real kind that might have cleaned up crumbs in drafty older offices— is far more common than the scratch of a pen.
There is the scrape of plastic security badges, not the jangle of loaded sets of keys.
My office phone, which rarely rings, plays a tune that sounds like melodic mariachi music. That is a big improvement over the spine-rattling trill of old black phones.
From time to time, the gentle murmur of a meeting conversation carries through the open-office environment. So different from the closed-door work meetings of decades ago.
When footsteps echo from managers’ offices, these days those footsteps could be made by either a male or female. Hallelujah.
Office sounds have evolved because our society has evolved.
We’re more efficient, we’re more secure, and we’re more equitable. That’s all good. But I sure do miss the sound of a good old Selectric typewriter.
I have started a new writing contract, and this one requires me to make some adjustments.
My home is my usual base of operations. I wear comfy clothes, I take frequent breaks, and when I read my writing out loud to myself no one around me questions my sanity.
But for this contract, I need to put on nice clothes, walk to a bus stop early in the morning, and commute to downtown Ottawa. I don’t have access to my email at my office, so I feel untethered. It makes it more difficult to do things I love to do but don’t get paid for, like this blog.
Shock. To. My. System.
I know, I know—what’s the big deal, right? People do this every day. True, and I’m making the adjustment.
And I look for things to appreciate. The work is interesting, my boss is fantastic, and my co-workers are positive and supportive. The experience allows me to build my writing skills in a lucrative area. I learn to juggle domestic duties more effectively.
Best of all, I don’t have a work life like the one described by a woman on the bus. (Yes, I was eavesdropping.) She said:
“I break my day up because it’s the only way I can deal with it:
8:30 to 12:00 is work;
12:00 to 1:00 is waiting for lunch;
1:00 to 1:30 is lunch;
1:30 to 3:30 is work;
3:30 to 4:30 is waiting to go home;
4:30 is home.”
I’ll adjust, and I’ll appreciate. And I’ll try not to let the blog slip . . .
Lots of people ask me where I get my ideas.
Stephen King answers the same question this way:
“. . . good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, interviewed the American poet, Ruth Stone. During that interview, Ruth Stone spoke of feeling poems:
“. . . coming at her from over the landscape like a thunderous train of air.” She said that when this happened, she felt the poem coming, it shook the earth beneath her feet, and the only thing she could do was run like hell to the house, chased by the poem. She had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Sometimes, she said, she wouldn’t be fast enough and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and it would continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.”
Wouldn’t that be exciting?
I’m helped by Julia Cameron’s morning pages. In The Artist’s Way, she recommends the daily practice of writing three pages every morning. Weird and wonderful stuff comes to me on those pages. The ideas feed this blog and my other creative writing. The ideas arise out of a creative primordial ooze; I dredge them out of the muck, and they rise to the surface with a sucking sound, brand new and unevolved.
Without fail, something comes up. Almost always I think: “I could never have thought of that on my own.”
Out of the empty sky, barreling across the landscape, or rising out of the primordial soup—however we choose to describe it—the ideas come from somewhere, someone, someplace, something outside of us.
We just recognize them when they show up.
“. . . it’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking, and it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about. —John Cleese
I’ll be taking a blog break for the next few weeks—time to refill my creative well. While I enjoy this breather, I will ponder the wisdom of the oh-so-creative John Cleese and his five keys to creativity:
1. Space – a playful a creative space away from demands, an “oasis of quiet”
2. Time – a specific period of time, because play must begin and end, otherwise it is not play
3. Time (No. That’s not a typo.) – all the time the creativity requires to turn a problem into an opportunity
4. Confidence – openness to anything that might happen
5. Humour – silliness
When I return from playing on the open road, I will seek to play in his open mode.