writing

Retreat

For the next three days I am on a writing and restoration retreat of my own making. (And that of my sweet husband’s, since he’s holding down the fort at home.) So in honor of my retreat I (quickly, because I’m supposed to be working on my book not writing a blog entry) offer you your own opportunity for retreat:

Five Favorite Mini-Retreat Books

  1. 8 Weeks to Optimum Health: A Proven Program for Taking Full Advantage of Your Body’s Natural Healing Power by Andrew Weil. I woke up this morning and drank lemon water and practiced yoga. I know these two things are the perfect way to start each day, yet I never do them. Retreats are a good time to re-focus on our health and healthy habits. Over the years I’ve often turned to this book to re-focus myself. Dr. Weil is simple and elegant in his health advice and his steps, though not revolutionary, are easy and effective ways to take care of yourself. 
  2. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes. This one’s for the ladies. A funny, intimate, irreverent, poignant, straight shooting, heart baring, girl power book that will jazz you. Rhimes is known for her hit shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder but now she can add bestselling author and sisterhood guru to her resume. 
  3. Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: A Mindfulness Retreat with Sylvia Boorstein by Sylvia Boorstein. Don’t you love this title? I’m a “doer” so Boorstein’s book is a good reminder for me to just stop. Stop and Be. My favorite meditation teacher/writer, Jack Kornfield, called this book: “Graceful, clear, completely user-friendly instructions for mindfulness practice.“ And it’s true, Boorstein makes Buddhism and mindfulness accessible; she also adds humor and stories to enliven and engage.
  4. Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch. When I think of David Lynch I think of his surreal, often violent, arguably brilliant and weird films, including Blue Velvet, the only movie I’ve ever self-censored. (I started watching when I was 17 and quickly realized that I was too young.) But Lynch is also a spiritual and philosophical being with 30 years of transcendental meditation practice that informs his creative process. His book of 85 brief chapters is random and somewhat incohesive but I didn’t care; it was refreshing to have someone discuss spirituality and creativity in a unique way and the panning for gold pays off. (There’s also a scattering of biography, filmmaking, and gossip.)
  5. Anne Lamott. If you’re a writer, you should read Anne Lamott. If you’re a human being, you should read Anne Lamott. And if you’re looking for a retreat, well, Anne Lamott is your facilitator, your guide, your new kick ass best friend. Read Bird by Bird as a reminder to take baby steps when things seem overwhelming. Read Operating Instructions as a reminder to let go of worry and control and allow events to unfold naturally. Read Help Thanks Wow for a reminder to ask for help, show gratitude, and ook for the sacred and extraordinary in the everyday. Read any of her nonfiction books and you’ll be given the gift of a funny, wise, entertaining teacher.

I’m off to write and restore…

Writing and Other Attrocities

I’ve read dozens of books about writing. In fact, reading books about writing is one of my favorite ways to procrastinate from writing. But the best advice I’ve ever received about writing is this: Commit to writing for 15 minutes a day. That’s it. Just 15 minutes. There’s no way you can’t carve out 15 minutes from a hectic day to jot down a few thoughts. Even when I’m bone tired, I can throw back the covers, make myself get up out of bed, and go into my office to write for 15 minutes, And nine times out of ten once I start, I end up writing far longer than I intended. Like tonight, when writing for 15 minutes has stretched into two hours…

Here are my favorite books on writing:

Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro–I met Dani at a publishing party years ago. I recognized in her a fellow introvert and book lover. So when she mentioned to me that she had just written a book about writing, I was quick to mentally add it to the top of my reading list. Dani is a great writer, and this book turned out to be one of  the best I’ve read about the writing process and writing life, in a very long time. It’s a meditation and musing informed by her 20 years of teaching and writing, at once a moving memoir and a survival guide for the creative spirit.

Bird by Bird and Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott–Obviously, Bird by Bird is one of the bibles for the tribe of writers. By now most of us have heard the story of Anne’s father helping her brother with a school report on birds, reminding her overwhelmed brother to just take it “bird by bird.” The book is filled with great reminders, tricks, and support. But Operating Instructions has become a writing resourse for me too. Anne’s journal of the first year with her son reminds me of the kind of support one needs to live, how often we need to let go of things, and how much better we are than we think we are–all important reminders for writers, or at least for this one.