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It’s weird. Anywhere I go, I find myself surrounded by books. When I moved to Texas and started over, books and magazines started piling on my desk. The same happened in Mississippi. When I got to Charleston, I immediately filled a bookshelf.

What amazes me is that other people aren’t like this. To me, books feel like home. They’re filled with so much knowledge. Someone felt so compelled by what they were doing or thinking that they had to write it into a book.

Yet, when I visit friends, sometimes I don’t see any books. They live their lives without these vessels of information. Somehow they live their lives without the curiosity to know what fills these pages.

The picture above is a bookstore on Ramstein AFB. A few years ago, I flew over to Germany and spent a few days exploring. This bookstore was small but I spent a lot of time sifting through the books.

It’s almost as though books carry physical comfort. When I’m surrounded by them, I feel as though I am with their authors. Somehow, if I read the pages, these people come to life. The struggles they’ve endured become my own. Through their difficulties, I’m able to better understand my own life.

Currently on my shelf: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

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After the incessant nudging of my mother, I’ve started reading “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown. If you haven’t heard her TEDtalk about vulnerability, you should check it out. While I’m only at the beginning of the book, there are a few concepts emerging that I wholeheartedly agree with. I expect to finish the book by next week and I’ll write more about it then.

It amazes me that vulnerability isn’t celebrated. Being totally authentic should be recognized as a great feat of courage. To be real, you must be vulnerable. You open yourself to ridicule when you express your ideas. This openness is necessary for living life fully.

There isn’t a lot to catch up on, I just wanted to talk briefly about Brené’s book before I went to bed. I hope you are all having a wonderful night!

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Day of Happy

Today’s post is inspired by Joel Robison‘s 100 days of happy project on Instagram! He just completed it last Wednesday! For this project, you take a photo of what you’re happy about in life for 100 days. While I’d love to participate in the project, I’m juggling this 365 project with work. Instead I’ve decided to blog today about things I’m happy about in my life!

A few months ago I bought Brooke Shaden‘s book “Inspiration in Photography” but I’m just starting to read it now! It’s so exciting to see an artist that I’ve watched grow on Flickr publish a book. It’s beautiful and I definitely recommend it!

After a couple weeks of procrastinating, I finally pinned maps onto the wall! It’s starting to feel homey in here!

With a gift card I received from my aunt for my birthday, I purchased Amanda Palmer’s upcoming book “The Art of Asking”. She’s a wonderful human-being and her music is fantastic. It’s incredible that she’s finally releasing a book!

Finally, Bath’s entire album “Obsidian” is incredible. I think I listened through this album 3 times today because I love it so much! Seriously Baths is an incredible artist!
Those are today’s moments of “happy” or “appreciation”. Maybe in the future, after this 365 project, I’ll do a #100daysofhappy or something! It’s a wonderful project and I encourage you to check out the tag on Instagram!

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11/31 Blogtober

P.S. Still happy about this:

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“The Sound of Colors” by Jimmy Liao

Last year I fell in love with a music album “Starry Starry Night” by world’s end girlfriend. Specifically the track “Storytelling“. In the fall, I played it when I woke up each morning and before I went to bed every night. Eventually I learned that the CD was written for a movie which shared the album’s name. It wasn’t until August that I watched the movie and fell in love.

The illustrator Jimmy Liao wrote the book “Starry Starry Night” which was adapted into a film. This is becoming complex but I fell in love with Liao’s work. I wanted to see all of it! The book arrived in the mail and I immediately read it completely.

“The Sound of Colors” is about a girl who is becoming blind. She starts by saying that her slight is slipping. The illustrations are of a young girl walking with cane into a subway. As the book progresses trains take her far into her imagination. She tells the reader about how she imagines what the world looks like. The scenes are filled with vibrant colors and beautiful words.

I found that I related to her perspectives and what she was going through. She writes about becoming lost, and having to move forward into the dark. These trains could lead her anywhere – they are the paths we pick in life. While the book is simplistic, Liao has a beautiful way of illustrating and I look forward to reading more of his books in the future. If you haven’t looked it up already, you can check out the book here!

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3/31 Blogtober

Gentleness and Joy

Yesterday’s post was about being part of a painting, or a greater picture. I felt connected with the world and at peace. That emotion extended into today and there is a gentle calmness in my life. Every moment feels like when you wake up in bed and just relax. There is no commitment to move or to hustle through the day – you can just lay there, in a blissful daze of appreciation.

While I haven’t completely “Walden”, I’ve heard this quote many times and yearned for the same joy that it describes. For the first time in a long time, I feel like this:

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal- that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself.” -Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Today I received a package of books in the mail from my mother. Occasionally she sends boxes of books and magazines that she thinks that I would enjoy. This pile made me roll over in joy. Each book seems beautiful and I can’t wait to start reading them.

Tomorrow I’ll write a review of another book that just arrived in the mail! Hope you are all having a wonderful second day of blogtober!

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2/31 Blogtober

Creative Contradiction

Mathew Schuler wrote on his blog about a book called: “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The book discusses creativity as the writer interviews 91 different artists. The resultant idea is that creativite people are full of contradictions. One of these contradictions that Schuler discusses is:

Most creative people tend to be both introverted and extroverted. Many people tend toward one extreme or the other, but highly creative people are a balance of both simultaneously.

This resonate with me because I feel caught at these two extremes; people are wonderful to be around but I don’t always want to be with them. Visiting a coffee shop or an airport is great because I’m at that in-between state. I’m introverted because I’m not interacting but I’ve extroverted because I’m near them.

It’s difficult to explain this to a person who hasn’t felt it. There are days that I need to go out but it isn’t to interact with people. It’s simply to be around them. Energetic environments motivate me but for some reason interaction with people is draining.

Even further I’m incredibly outgoing if I’m in a group of two. Add more than four and suddenly I’m introverted. Talking with one other person is great but I don’t know what to talk about if there are more people.

These contradictions are unusual and I cannot explain why I feel them. They are a huge part of who I am but yet there are two opposites inside of me: introversion and extraversion. Why do I need people but need independence? It’s bizarre and baffling.

Mathew’s post is interesting and I suggest you check it out. It’s titled “Why Creative People Sometimes Make No Sense” and you can find more information about the book I linked above. Creativity is such an odd and interesting topic! What contradictions do you experience in yourself?

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P.S. Mathew B. Crawford (“Shop Class as Soul Craft“) is releasing a new book next March titled: “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction“. I can’t wait for it! If you haven’t read his first book, you need to go to the library and check it out now!

How do you experience the world?

The world affects you; everything that you ingest through your senses changes how you see the world. Philosopher David Hume posed a great question: if you deprive a man of all his senses from birth – that means sight, taste, touch, smells, and hearing – will he have any thoughts by the age of 18? Hume believed no, thought consisted only of external experience. The man’s mind would be thoughtless because he had no experience of the world.

Immanuel Kant, inspired by Hume’s question, answered with a slight difference. He believed the humans have intrinsic thought that adds to the external experience of the world. These thoughts he called “a priori”. Hume believed that life is a blur of color in front of our eyes and sensations to our skin. This neglected the meaning of sensory input; there were no connections between image and what it meant.

To Kant, life was more than an unpredictable swirl of the senses. There were concepts that were too abstract for only sensory input. Time is not something we could feel but yet we understand it without question. Our knowledge of space, and the relationships between objects, is too complex for sensory input and were thus a prior.

This bore what Robert Pirsig (Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) calls the “classical” and “romantic” mindset. Classical understanding believes that form underlies itself, that what we sense is what exists as reality. On the other hand, the romantic understanding believes that there’s meaning behind form. The romantics believe in more a priori thought, as opposed to relying solely on sensory input.

By acknowledging both extremes, we gain a wider understanding. When I look at a car, I see potential for road trips, going out to shows, and more romantic ideas. Others see a car merely as a method of transportation. Through learning these different perspectives, we can see a greater part of the world. The question becomes, what do you see when you look at the world?

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“AWOL on the Appalachian Trail” by David Miller

Flipping through the last pages of a well-liked book is like coming to the end of a great friendship. Both people and books take you places and make you experience the world in a different way. When I reached the end of “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail”, I felt as though I had hiked the trail with him and I was sorrowful that it had to end.

AWOL’s journey resonated with the wanderer inside and, if only for a moment, made me escape the humdrum of my daily life. In 2003, David Miller gave up his day job to spend five months grueling up the eastern United States. The Appalachian Trail (AT) is over 2,000 miles long and goes into 14 states.

When David got on the path, he took the trail name “AWOL” to represent the abandonment of his stable job. Perhaps also to show the escapism involved with hiking a 6-month long trail. He went AWOL from his life and set course for Maine.

This book is heavily descriptive and lingers on the what it’s like to live in the woods. It doesn’t romanticize hiking in heavy rain or sleeping in uncomfortable shelters but it creates an enticing environment where AWOL ventures into the wilderness. He encounters bears, snakes, handfuls of foot injuries, and a myriad of hikers. Nonetheless it is an interest read.

I highly recommend this for anyone who is caught up in the 9-5. Similar to Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, AWOL explains aspects of modern life that we seem to forget. He writes about the openness of hikers, and the community that he quickly finds himself immersed in.

After spending two weeks reading this book I’ve decided that I want to hike the AT. It may be a while before I do but it’s a journey I want to take in my lifetime. Again, I highly encourage you to read this book.

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Creativity is a Habit, Cultivate it!

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Earlier this week I wrote about Twyla’s book “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life“. It’s my second time reading it and I really enjoy the writing style, the content, and beauty of the book. The design is incredibly pleasing and I couldn’t help but pick it up again.

In one of the chapters, titled, “Rituals of Preparation”, Twyla explains how creativity is a habit that we form rather than a gift from the gods. People used to believe that inspiration was divine, coming from the heavens when the gods granted it. Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat.Pray.Love.) has talked about this in one of her TED talks. While society no longer believes in Greek (or Roman) gods, we still linger to this idea that inspiration is external, generating from outside of us.

Twyla argues that inspiration comes from routine, and, thus, is created inside each person. She uses herself as an example, explaining that each day she wakes up at 5:30am to go to the gym. By establishing this regularity, she’s able to routinely create. Rather than waiting for a lightning-strike of ideas, she’s preparing herself to do her art. In this way, Twyla believes creativity comes from hard work rather than spontaneity.

Her book elaborates further but I’ll leave that for you to read.

To test this for myself I’ve started my routine. Working at night has altered my sleep schedule and I find myself sleeping through most of my free time. This week I’ve decided to change that and start going to bed immediately after I finish work. By going to bed a few hours earlier, I can get up at a decent hour.

When I roll out of bed in the morning, I begin the day by running 2 1/2 miles. This kick-starts my metabolism and jolts me awake. After finishing I have a big breakfast and sit down to write (much like I’m doing now). This simple routine improves the quality of blog posts, my mood throughout the day, and the amount of time I have for the activities I love. I find that I don’t feel pressured to write (like I do at 2am), and I can think clearly.

Nothing in this process directly generates inspiration or creativity, however I feel like I have an overabundance of both. It’s the accumulation of these tasks that support the artist inside. By doing the same activities daily, I wear into them. This is why writing daily, or a 365 project, works so well: you build the habits of creating each day.

When I combine the artistic task (writing) with other routines (waking up early, running), I build a system where my mind understands when to be creative. I get up, go for the run, and, internally my head goes “it’s time to create!” Then the creative juices flow and bam!, here we are.

While today is only day two of this experiment, I feel like I already agree with Twyla Tharp: creativity comes from hard work. There will be moments where you feel struck by lightning with new ideas but you can’t wait for the lightning to strike. You have to work for an environment that cultivates your creativity.

Again, I highly recommend this book. Look I’ve already linked it three times!

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Over the past few days my building has been repainted and, while doing the job, they disconnected the public WiFi. I’m updating the last three days of posts as we speak!

 

Growing Up With Books

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Yesterday I suggested 5 Books That I’m Reading and I wrote a bit about how my parent’s house was always filled with books. As a child, there never was a shortage of things to read. In the crawl space of their house there was a section of children’s book, piles of National Geographic magazines, and anything else that would interests me.

Before I left home last year, I counted 17 full-sized bookcases worth of text. This was a rough estimate because some books were stacked in the closet, on tables, and in man-build (or should I say Dad-built?) bookcases.

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This surplus of books taught me how to quench my thirst for knowledge as a kid. If we were talking about anatomy in school, I could go home and rest assured that I probably had a book on the subject. If I wanted to know more about acupuncture, I can think of three books off the top of my head that focus just on meridians. When I craved to learn, I found that there were enough books to satisfy my curiosity.

While many of you are looking at these images and noting how disorganized they are, I figure that placing all the books on shelves would remove the constant exposure to them. If we placed all of them into one “library room”, then we could go about our day without ever seeing a book. That constant exposure as a child made me comfortable with reading. Whereas many kids go to school and see books as homework or just plain work, I saw them as a part of my life.

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That life evolved into one of wonder and curiosity, where anything was possible. Looking across my own shelves, I’m balanced between biographies and “how-to…” books. I’m fascinated by other people’s lives and by learning how to do new things. Exposing me to those books at a young age taught me that I can learn anything and lead any life that I want. If Maura O’Holloran could study Zen Buddhism in Japan, then I could too. If Elizabeth Gilbert could travel around the world, so could I!

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Instead of watching television, I found that I’m able to take more information away from a book. Whereas a documentary talked about a person’s life, a biography felt like I was living it. Don’t get me wrong, I watched a lot of television as a kid, but as I’ve grown up, my passion for reading has increased. Usually this is backwards, we’re interested in reading when we’re young, then when we become adults, we watch television because it “takes up less time” and is “more entertaining”.

This is dangerous because we don’t usually watch one episode of a show. Instead we end up consuming more time watching television than if we were to have read. As an adult, I don’t even own a TV. Twyla Tharp writes in her book “The Creative Habit”, that she loves watching movies but she can’t watch them. If she does, she’ll lose her productivity from watching television all day. Being exposed to books taught me to grab for the binding rather than the remote, which has made me a more productive person.

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I write this post because I owe my mother gratitude for filling her house with books. I cannot express how much my life has been enriched by being surrounded by so many wonderful stories. Simply put, the person I am today was built from a coffee table of books that were always changing and always being read. Thank you Mom for filling your house with books.

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