Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: memoir Page 1 of 3

Thank the Maker for Marketing!

The universe moves in mysterious ways…and most of them are due to marketing. How did I end up with Will Smith’s memoir bumped up the TBR list to #1 and landing in my mailbox? I thought it was because a friend was loving the book so much and because I also happen to be a big Will Smith fan, like my first post mentioned. But…alas…

The pile grows.

Over the last few days, I’ve noticed the book prominently placed on a shelf at Target, and several blog posts, interviews, and podcasts talking about it. The man is the master of promotion, and it has trickled its way down to me. And I am 100% happy that it did.

Everyone is at least some level of a fan of Will Smith. Why? He’s a magnet, not only as a rapper and an actor, but as a person. If you want to read about a life lived by real human being, read this. I’ve never read a memoir from an actor that didn’t make me cringe, and this one had its moments. Creatives have a certain “look at me” that makes me uncomfortable…probably why I have such a hard time moving forward and promoting my blog posts and submitting my own book. But most of those moments were followed up by beautiful insight and growth.

It didn’t make me feel like I wasted my life by not being famous. It only opened my eyes to another world, another way of life. We have a lot in common, including a similar life-changing reading list. And you know that’s enough to make me fall in love with a person.

Just a few quotes and some thoughts before I shelve this beauty.

“The human mind is a story telling machine. The creation of narrative is hard-wired into us. What we call “memory” and “imagination” are essentially just stories that we program into our minds as a survival mechanism to protect ourselves and help us thrive. We need our lives to mean something. It is a kind of mental illness if we cannot shape our experiences into a story that gives our existence a sense of purpose.”

The first part, yes, I agree. That brain of ours is amazing. It takes everything we experience around us and turns it into magic. The problem is that none of it is really true. Our imaginative re-telling of what it means isn’t the reality of what is going here. And yes, we need our lives to mean something, but we can make them mean anything we want. The great part is that we can shape our experience into a story, and then change that story as much as we need to get where we want to go.

That can also be a negative. We can believe our story, hold onto it so tightly, that we hurt ourselves and those around us. The story Will Smith tells about his life is his version of his life. It isn’t the whole story, the reality of his life. It’s a narrative woven together in his mind for our benefit and his. And I loved reading every page.

“Purpose and desire can seem similar, but they are very different, sometimes even opposing forces. Desire is what you want; purpose is the flowering of what you are.”

If only more of us understood the difference, learned to see it young and actively choose which to follow and when.

“Feelings are extremely valuable tools for maneuvering and manifesting in the world. They are like fire – they can be used to cook and heat and cleanse. But when extreme emotions go unchecked, my experience has been that they will incinerate your dreams.”

Another experience we share. I’ve always been a “feelings” person and I’ve let my emotions run my life for far longer than I should. I should have (cringy word, maybe I wish I had) learned far earlier how to harness them and use them to my benefit, not control and suppress them.

“To place responsibility for your happiness on anybody other than yourself is a recipe for misery.”

This one gets my usual response of “sure, maybe, and in some cases.” Maybe to place sole responsibility for your happiness is something you shouldn’t try, but assuming that the person you are attached to would do things and act in ways to an attempt to make you happy isn’t crazy. Ultimately, it is my responsibility to accept people’s behavior or move away from them so that I can be happy. So, yeah, I agree.

One more thing before I let you go. Will Smith mentions several times that all he wanted was to build a financially and emotionally stable home for his family. Family was important. But I don’t see that in his actions. If that’s all he wanted, he could have done one or two big movies and then walked away with the cash, bought a nice house, invested the rest and lived a life in peace with his wife and children. He clearly wanted more and was able to get it and that’s awesome.

If I could read a follow up to this memoir, I’d love to read ones from Jada, his first wife Sheree, and his children. I’d like to see what they saw and experienced.

I loved this book so much. I’m so glad it came into my path the way it did. Wow.

To Be Known And Understood

I finished I. Asimov – A Memoir this morning in tears. I didn’t realize that he wrote this in the last couple of years before his death. I felt like I gained a friend while I read chapter after chapter. I saw him, I knew him well, we connected, and then he was gone. His wife edited the manuscript, added an epilogue, and had it published after he had passed on. The words his wife used to start her epilogue were what finally broke me up.

“One of the deepest desires of a human being is to be known and understood.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

Each and every one of us has this desire and manifests it in our own special way. Through art, service, business, science, religion, or simply though living a life, we all seek to be known and understood.

I believe that is exactly why the internet, through blogs and social media, is so alluring to us. It expands the ability to express ourselves and be seen.

But are we ever understood?

I’m not sure.

If I don’t thoroughly understand myself, how can I be understood by others?

Every book or article I read brings new information. Every journal entry or mediation session sheds new light. Every blog post I write and share organizes my thoughts and gets me closer to what I’m really trying to say.

Do we seek to know and understand others?

I’m not sure we do.

I know that I do see people. I see what my family and friends are posting on their social media accounts. I read what others post on their blogs. But do I really engage with them? Do I try to understand why they are sharing, what they really want to say? Honestly? No.

I don’t think we have that capability on such a large scale as the internet.

To know and understand takes intimate and intentional contact. And we simply don’t have the capacity, the energy, or the time it would take to support that contact with more than a few people.

Instead of focusing on our immediate surroundings and the few people we are in contact with on a regular basis, we spread our attention all over the world and we lose something important. Connection with the people we really should be loving.

As much as we think we know and understand the people we see through their art forms, the people we interact with online, we don’t really. We know what they show us.

But that’s not a bad thing.

My personal philosophy is that there are different levels of understanding, as there are different levels of love and relationship. We simply need to be aware of them and react to them accordingly.

Like I said, I felt like I got to know Asimov and we became good friends while I read about his life through his eyes. And then he died, and I felt so sad, like maybe I should do something to mourn the loss of a friend.

That’s crazy talk. Awareness of what emotion was triggered, what I was relating to, reminded me of the level of understanding and connection I was at and brought me back to reality. It’s the same with social media friends, bloggers, tv personalities, and artists. Yes, I interacted with what they shared with the world, what they wanted to be know for, but I wonder… if I met them, hung out with them, were a part of their lives somehow, would they be the same person I know them as?

I often wonder what people think of me; those that stumble across what I’ve written, old co-workers or acquaintances that see what I’ve shared to my social media accounts. What I’ve found fascinating over the years is the few honest, aware, or reflective friends and family members that will tell me what they think they see in me. And as I get older and more reflective myself, I tend to listen to those accounts more openly instead of vehemently insisting that they “apparently don’t really know anything about me.”

That instinct to be known and understood is why I created this blog. Social media photos, quotes, and selfies just weren’t cutting it for me. I wanted to use more words, think more about what I was trying to say, open up just a little bit more. For some reason, blogging to strangers is much easier for me than talking with people that know me.

Even if you’re not a fan of Asimov’s work, or a science fiction fan in general, I think you might enjoy reading I. Asimov – A Memoir. He was a brilliant and fascinating person, honest and open hearted, and very funny. His memoir sheds light on another kind of human being, a life well lived, a thread in the tapestry of humanity.

The Secret of the Universe

“I believe that scientific knowledge has fractal properties; that no matter how much we learn, whatever is left, however small it may seem, is just as infinitely complex as the whole was to start with. That, I think, is the secret of the Universe.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

I read that and I paused to take it in, then read it again. I’ve mentioned something similar before, that when we look out into space there seems to be more and more to see. The same happens when we look inside, breaking everything down into smaller and smaller parts.

Years ago, I was organizing weekly group activities for our homeschool group out here in the desert. We had cooking, art, and a book club. I led a drama club that ended in a performance for friends and family. I never thought I’d be using those skills again, but I loved it.

The craziest activity I led was a math group. I wouldn’t call it a class, more like an exploration of math ideas for younger kids. Yes, if you know me, you’re thinking, “Math, Michelle? You? Seriously?” Sounds crazy but it’s true.

I grew up believing I wasn’t much of a math person, but when I first started homeschooling, I heard a representative from RightStart Math speak at a conference and was floored. Hearing her explanation of basic math (seriously), it all suddenly made sense. I wasn’t bad at math. I hadn’t been taught well when I was first exploring and then made to feel like a failure over the years of schooling and gave up.

We used a simplified and voluntary version of their system with our sons. Today, they are both brilliant at math and are both in college as engineering majors. Either the system worked, or they inherited math genes from their dad. I say both.

That’s why I wanted to lead a math exploration group for the local homeschool kids. I wanted to present the fun and exciting aspects of math that are all around us, without getting them bogged down with numbers, formulas, and tests. It was a fun-filled couple of weeks for me!

The first hour I led was on fractals. I searched out examples, went down rabbit holes, followed mysterious trails all week. When it came time for the class, I simply gathered up what I had found and showed it to the kids. We watched a video, read some of a book, and made our own gigantic fractal with paper, pens, and a boat load of creativity.

The lesson was exactly what Asimov described. When we zoom in, we find more and more details. When we zoom out, we see the bigger and bigger picture. How far does it go? Is there an ultimate picture that only some supernatural being outside of our universe can see? That is the secret of the Universe. The science is never settled.

And it’s not simply science, but a metaphysical thing as well. The more we look into ourselves, the more we find. The more we look out, the more connected everything seems to be.

What part is it, that when we break everything down into pieces, is essentially me? And where is the line between us? What makes us different, yet the same?

A Few Asimov Quotes for Today

Just yesterday I mentioned that, while this book is immeasurably enjoyable, I didn’t think I. Asimov was very quotable. And then today I find three quotes in one hour’s reading. Such is life. Several passages over the last few days have made me smile, laugh out loud, or relate to him, but I hadn’t found anything that really stood out strong enough to invite more of my own thoughts.

Today they came flooding in and I had to whittle them down to the few most remarkable. It may be the book, or it may be my mood and focus that has changed, but I’ll take it either way.

I generally don’t partake in the “books are better than tv or movies” argument. I believe they all have their place, their own strong points and drawbacks. It’s all a matter of taste, need, and personality anyway. I love some books, and I love the movies or series based on them. Sometimes I love the movie and hate the book. Sometimes I’m in the mood to watch. Sometimes I want quiet to read. One thing I know is that I can’t read and knit at the same time, so I’m happy tv exists.

I thought this was funny though, and typical Asimov. Filling in for a speaker at a conference in 1972, he brought this up:

“In my talk, I took up the subject of tv cassettes and pointed out how bulky and inconvenient the equipment was but insisted (quite correctly) that it would be rapidly simplified. I then speculated how far it would be simplified – made small and portable, self-contained, with no energy source, and with controls that could start and stop it or move it back and forth with little more than a mental effort, and so on. And, behold, I pointed out, this was a book.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

Cassettes! Remember those? You can’t take those in the car, plane, or train. Camping? Probably not. But a book? Yes! One book can be hours of entertainment. Bring a classic and you’ll be reading for weeks.

Today, we have our phones with internet access, so things are different. I can have just about any visual entertainment I want at the touch of a finger, as long as I have a little power to charge it and a wifi connection. AND I could also use my e-reader to have any book I like downloaded to read even if I don’t have a connection. Pretty darn nice.

I still prefer a physical book though and typically bring the one I’m reading, along with my journal, wherever I go. If I’ll be spending the night, I’ll bring a back up book just in case!

“I keep anticipating derailments with who knows what dreadful consequences. My fears also reflect a hyperactive imagination. Dreadful consequences are forever presenting themselves to my eyes in solid and realistic three-dimensional form, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

When I read this, I scribbled, “yeah, me too” in the margin. This has always happened to me, and sometimes the vision is so real, I physically react to it. Just recently, I was sitting at a train crossing in the middle of the desert, my youngest son at the wheel. We were commenting on the train and the delay. We were on the last leg of a very long journey and ready to be home.

As I lazily gazed in the direction the train was going, the whole scene played out in front of me. A horrific sound from behind me, I turn my head and see the freight cars buckling and tumbling towards us. My son frantically trying to put the truck in gear and back away from the burning wreckage as it tears through the cars ahead of us.

I jerked to attention, gasping out loud. My son turns to look at me, “You ok?” I’d turned white, my heart racing. An active imagination can be a real psycho to live with.

Here’s my question though. Why does an active imagination always lean toward fear and horror? Why can’t I actively imagine the train coming to a stop directly in front of us, and a handsome game show host stepping down to award us a million dollars?

“I have indeed lectured to all my nearest and dearest on the necessity of doing what you have agreed to do with good grace and a smile. The trouble is that I am one of that common breed of human being who finds it very easy to strew noble little homilies for and wide but considerably less easy to follow those homilies himself.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

This is why I love reading him. He feels so human that I can’t help but connect with him. He’s brilliant, imaginative, and a great man, but he knows his flaws.

I’m guilty of this very thing. It’s advice we could all take to heart. If you don’t think you can do something someone wants you to do with grace, then simply say no to the request. And, for those asking, please take that no for an answer. If you don’t, and I end up acquiescing, you’ll probably get the attitude from me.

I recently had an episode like this over my husband’s company Christmas party. Come hell or high water, we must attend every year. His employer insists on it. To be totally honest though, HE has to go every year, but in my mind that means I have to go as well. And I have gone. I say that I want to go to support him. It would be mean to make him go alone. And besides, we usually have a good time.

But every year, when the invite comes out, I spend the next several weeks grumbling about it. It’s a pain to go. I have to spend money on clothes I don’t want, leave the desert, socialize with people I don’t know.

I know that Asimov understands this complaint perfectly.

This year my husband insisted, after a rather involved argument, that I not go with him. He’d rather go alone, get it over with, and return that same night than deal with me and my bad attitude. Yeah, that hurt, but I earned it. I stayed home and I think I learned something.

Next year, I’ll do my best to be nicer about going. There are reasons I do enjoy it. It’s a night out together, we usually have a great dinner, free booze, and we spend the night in a hotel. It’s almost always scheduled for the week of my birthday, so I like to pretend it’s a party just for me…even though if were my party it would be at a place that I can wear jeans and tennis shoes. Then again…maybe next year that’s exactly what I’ll wear!

I realized this morning that Asimov died in 1992 and this book was published in 1994. I’m curious to know how it ends and I’m sure to find out in the next few days as I’m about 120 pages away. I’ll also be looking up how he died, and who published this book after his death.

The Result of Various Changes

“Everything we do, obviously, is the result of various changes in the conditions about us over which we rarely have control.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

Two things went through my head when I read this, “No…not obviously. I don’t think so, maybe not at all.” And then, “Well…sure, I suppose you’re right.” I can hear the rebuttals because I have them myself. I’ve taken great pride in the results of my excellent choices and their wonderful results. This is MY work. You cannot take that away from me.

But is it, really? Your choices? Sure, those are yours. But the circumstances that put you in the position to make those choices? Probably not.

I didn’t choose the family that raised me.

I didn’t choose who I went to school with, who I worked with, when I found the man that I decided to marry.

I didn’t choose the children that were born to me or their temperaments.

And it goes so much farther than that: where and when you were born, economics and politics that occurred when you were making choices, the weather! Everything everywhere around us buffets us around while we live, none of which we have any control over.

Like a game of poker, we all simply do the best we can with the cards we are dealt. I don’t think it’s a defeatist attitude. I think it’s realistic. If we acknowledge that we aren’t in control of the world around us, but only our own reactions to it, life can be a bit easier to take.

We cannot judge other people’s outcomes by our own. They are not us. And we can’t judge ourselves by what other people achieve for the same reason.

The reason I love reading Asimov, especially his non-fiction, is because he’s so smart and so curious. He questions everything, especially his own thinking. He is also blatant about his criticism but humble in that he knows his circumstances, his area of expertise, are unlike anyone else’s. He is honest.

Speaking of the results of various changes, here we are at the end of February. I didn’t achieve the goal I set for myself at the end of last month, but I did stay the course I was on at least. I kept up with writing and posting daily and that is something to be celebrated. Two whole months is a personal record and nothing to sniff at, especially since February was slightly busier than January.

March is looking like the it will speed up a bit more, so I think I’ll hold off on creating any new habits until April. “Hold the course!” looks like it will be enough of a challenge. Besides, you never know what will happen. I may find some surprises.

I. Asimov: New Read

I. Asimov: A Memoir was an impulse buy! I think I was searching Amazon for something else and saw the memoir recommended…wait…I remember! I had bought Will Smith’s autobiography the day before and when I opened my browser, Amazon was kind enough to recommend Asimov’s. Since I’m a huge fan of that man as well, and I’m totally in the mood for more memoir, I clicked BUY NOW and walked away.

I. Asimov

A couple days later, there it was in my mailbox. That’s the glory of buying one book at a time on Amazon, they usually fit in my mailbox and I don’t have to drive to the post office and pick it up. This time, I was allowed to experience that beautiful feeling when I open the box and there it is, in a bag, all scrunched up with my mail from the last few days!

As soon as I got back in the car, I threw all the junk mail and bills to the passenger seat and held my precious in my lap. It was heavy but small. I pulled open the bag just to get a moment with it before I drove off to the grocery store. It’s a fat one! I took a picture of it immediately and sent it a friend I knew would appreciate my joy.

I’m not sure how he does it, but he’s so proud of himself and you’d think he’d come off as an ass, but he doesn’t. After every chapter, I only wish I could have hung out and had a cup of coffee with the guy.

Here are a few quotes from my reading this morning. Yeah…I can’t put it down. Damn these responsibilities getting in the way of my reading!

“At last I met people who burned with the same fire I did; who loved science fiction as I did; who wanted to write science fiction as I did; who had the same kind of erratic brilliance as I did.
I did not have to recognize a soul mate consciously. I felt it at once without the necessity of intellectualizing it.”

This one reminded me of my dad describing how much he loved his theatre people in high school. Meeting people that share your passion for something, or (in my case) at least share your enthusiasm for life in general…there’s nothing like it. I think it’s what the Founding Father’s meant by “the pursuit of happiness,” but that could also mean all the books you ever want.

“Writing was exciting because I never planned ahead. I made up my stories as I went along and it was a great deal like reading a book I hadn’t written.

When asked for advice by beginners, I always stress that. Know your ending, I say, or the river of your story may finally sink into the desert sands and never reach the sea.”

This! I read this in A Roving Mind last year and it confirmed, once again, that I was doing nothing wrong. 99% of my posts, fiction and non-fiction are cleaned up first drafts. Even in high school and college, once I wrote it down, it was done, other than cleaning up errors and fixing a few things. That doesn’t mean they are all winners, perfect right out of the box. It just means that it’s exactly what I wanted to say.

I’ve always been overly honest. I’m not one to hide behind my words. I say what I mean, I mean what I say. And it all comes tumbling out of my head and onto the page, the same way I speak. It’s me. The more I do it, the better, more organized, it gets. So…you, my dear reader, get the brunt of it thanks to the glory of the internet.

“It always seems to me that it’s not hard to be nice to people in small ways, and surely that must make them more willing to be nice in small ways in return.”

How’s that for an idea to start your day with? If you’re wondering what you can do to make a difference in the world, try a small kindness. Give a couple bucks to that guy. Smile and say thank you, make eye contact with the cashier. Compliment your waiter on how well he’s doing, even if he’s not THAT great. Those small things ripple outward like waves that create bigger waves. Weave some bright threads into the tapestry of our lives. Be nice today. Make someone smile, laugh, or feel a little bit better about themselves.

I’ve read quite a few Asimov books in my life, but I’ve only posted about him a few times recently. Check out A Roving Mind and The Gods Themselves.

Inspired…Is Something I am Not

How funny is that? I went looking for a prompt to write from, looking for a boost this afternoon, and the first one I come across is from Writer’s Write’s February 2022 Prompts, “Inspired.” That’s exactly how I’m NOT feeling today.

Something that DOES inspire me!

My goal of posting every day must not be thwarted and tomorrow I need to leave early for a breakfast date. I won’t have time to read and wake up, write, and post before showering and heading out the door at 7am. I could tell myself I’ll make it work, but I know from experience that I’ll rush and then walk away.

That, my dear reader, would end a 36-day posting streak. I can’t let that happen.

So what can I do but write something today and have it ready to post in the morning after breakfast?

It’s almost 3pm and this time of day is not usually my most creative or focused. It’s when my husband gets off work, I finish up some things around the house, dishes, paperwork, maybe read more. We make dinner and then watch a tv show or two before bed. Sitting down to write at 3pm is like sitting down to write after a long day at a job.

But I have to think of something. I have an idea I’m batting around in my head about life being a lot like a trip to Disneyland. I have a page of notes, analogies, and a bit of an outline. I’m inspired about that but I don’t want to put it out there too soon, all unfinished and messy. I’ll save it for later. You’ll like it, I promise.

I’m feeling rather lazy today. I did get my short to-do list done, so I decided to sit and read another hour in Dean and Me by Jerry Lewis. I feel bad having to say this, but I’m not feeling all that inspired there. Books about or by movie stars rarely get me going. Performers, actors especially, have always got on my nerves.

In high school, university, and at work, my work, my art, always was the background to these egomaniacs. I get it. I know. What’s there to light? What’s there to mic? Who would stand on that stage? If no one throws themselves out there for people to look at, I would have been out of work. Someone needs to sing and dance. But seriously, they’re all crazy and being around them makes me nervous.

Reading about actors and their lives, I’m always wondering, “What kind of degenerate…?” It’s the same with this. Jerry Lewis just thinks he’s the shit and he probably was. Not everyone can do what they do. They are magic. But still…yikes.

Today, several times, he alluded to all the women they were running around with. All of them were married and had children with someone else. All of them are rarely home to care for those wives and children. And all he can say is, “I don’t remember exactly how we got back to the hotel, having been at the chicks’ respective apartments, drinking champagne, and doing all the things two guys on the town do…Married or not, you do them – certainly at that age you do.”

Actually, they don’t, Jerry. At least not the respectable ones don’t. Or do they? I’ve heard from many of my male friends that chasing women is just a game. They don’t mean anything by it. It’s just natural. I have a hard time believing that. But then, I’m not male, so what do I know.

All I know is that the men in my life don’t act like that, or at least they don’t let me see them acting like that.

Then I wonder, what about the women? The two actress’ he was talking about were also married with children. They knew what they were doing “out on the town.” I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. It’s not my personality to take sexual relationships lightly. I’m no prude, not by a long shot. And I’m certainly not innocent. But at least I’m honest. To each his own, I suppose.

I’ll keep reading, even though Jerry isn’t making a fan out of me. I’m already a third of the way through the book, not because it’s all that inspiring to read, but because I got so SUPER lazy today and decided to spend most of the on the couch with a book.

Dean and Me by Jerry Lewis

“Asatru,” that book I started reading yesterday, was a quick read. It only took me a little over two hours to read, so when I finished it at 5am this morning, I needed something else quick. I can’t start my day THAT early!

I got another cup of coffee and looked over my TBR shelf. “Dean & Me: A Love Story” by Jerry Lewis and James Kaplan has been looking back at me for a few days now, so I decided to heed the call.

dean and me

Believe it or not, I’m not a Jerry Lewis fan. The guy…I don’t know. I just never thought he was that funny. Slap stick isn’t my thing and the whole Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis thing was way before my time. All I remember about Dean Martin is the cool singing persona. I have a vague notion about some kind of break up between them, but nothing solid. So why did I pick up the book in the first place?

When I wrote about reading The Best American Short Stories – 2014 back in September last year, I mentioned browsing a used book store and picking up several new books and some ice cream. Like I’ve said before, the shelves I gravitate toward in used bookstores are the classics, histories, and memoirs. I don’t have to know anything about someone to read their autobiography or memoir. Everyone’s life has a story to tell, or a lesson to learn. Besides, I find them encouraging when I try writing my own life stories.

The cold returned this morning. California desert cold, nothing compared to you snow bound folks, but still…35 degrees and 30mph winds aren’t fun, even when the sky is clear and the ground is dry. As the sun came up and the air did not warm, I decide to snuggle down and keep reading with another cup of coffee this morning.

After about one hundred pages, I decided I really needed to eat some breakfast. That’s when I set my phone up and watched videos of these two characters for over an hour. It wasn’t time wasted. It was research! They really were funny back then.

Oh, For Writing Habits Sake!

Ugg! This post was so hard to start! I really don’t have much to say about the book, so why bother with a follow up post? For writing habits sake? That’s the worst reason to post ever!

But here I am anyway: a creature of habit. Once I develop the habit of doing something, I feel compelled to do it, even when I don’t want to. I guess that’s what a habit is but sheesh. You’d think I’d be able to put something down and walk away.

(looks at the cookies, the coffee, the knitting, the books, the daily laundry, the yoga)

There are good habits and bad habits, right? Both of which are hard to let go.

Lately, I’m not sure if writing here is a good habit or a bad one. I’m not sure if I should put more effort into writing and posting daily, or let it go completely. I don’t seem to be one that can do things one or two days a week.

The question I’m asking myself this week (and in the past) is, “Is what I’m writing and posting worth putting out into the world?” At the moment, I believe the answer is no, but I continue anyway out of habit and wonder what will become of it and where it will take me.

Probably nowhere.

I debated all day yesterday whether to write this. And today, while sitting here reading it over and adding a few things, I pondered whether I should post it. I’m not a happy/joy mood. Why add to the negative online?

Because it’s honest and true. So there. I’m not always sunshine and lollypops.

On to my final thoughts about Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster!

About halfway through, I started wondering if the story was going to go anywhere. It did and I got some decent laughs, so it wasn’t a waste of time. I enjoy her style and some of what she says, especially about blogging, resonated with me. I was encouraged reading it because her journey to writing the book feels like something I can do, something I long to do.

Why don’t I get out there and get my book published?! It’s every bit as good as this one, even if it is half the number of pages. I could fix that if I had to.

Because I’m chicken.

And her blog had plenty of readers. Mine? Not so much.

I’ve got to find a way to do this. I know I’ll regret not trying but…so scary. People might have negative things to say about my words. Unlike Jen, I’m not sure I can handle that.


I’ll keep trying though. I need better writing habits. And habits are something I’m good a picking up!

Go back my post “Bitter is the New Black: New Read” to see where I started with this book.

Bitter is the New Black: New Read

“Bitter is the New Black” by Jen Lancaster is another little gem that I picked up on an adventure that I mentioned in my post about “The Best American Short Stories – 2014.”

bitter is the new black

It’s not a hard and fast rule, more like a guideline, but I try not to pick up books at random as much as possible. There’s just so many books out there. I can’t possibly read them ALL, so I have to have some sort of process when making selections, even from a used bookstore that charges one or two bucks a piece.

My process starts with skipping the fiction section completely. Like fancy processed food at the grocery store, these things are created to catch your eye and make you want them, and they rarely live up to the hype. I’m not a non-fiction snob…ok maybe a little…but good fiction is subjective. You really can’t judge a book by its cover. Your favorite is not going to be mine. Tastes are just too different. So, for fiction, I have to be much more selective. It must come from my list, recommended by someone that I trust, for reasons other than marketing ploys.

PS There are exceptions. “Guidelines, not rules!” I have been sucked into great marketing and been happy for the experience. “Hunger Games” was one of those. Years ago, my sons and I walked into Barnes & Noble with its display of all three novels in piles around the entranceway. My youngest, at the time about 11 years old, insisted on getting it and a mother cannot deny her child a cookie or a book.

While he was reading it, he began describing scenes and I was intrigued. I started reading it, then my other son, then my stepdaughter, AND my husband. A year later the movie came out. …sigh… It was magic.

Where were we? Oh yes, Bitter!

My first stop in a used bookstore is Memoir. I pick up anything by someone I know or who looks like they have an interesting story to tell. Personal points of view are what I’m looking for! It’s my life’s work, my north star (thinking about a post focused on that recent epiphany). “Bitter is the new Black” stood out because, from the cover and subtitle, the story and author seemed completely opposite of myself. And it looked like fun.

From the back cover, “This is the story of how a haughty former sorority girl went from having a household income of almost a quarter-million dollars to being evicted form a ghetto apartment…”

I looked up Jen Lancaster when I started reading the book this morning. Sometimes I feel weird, always coming to the party late, but that’s ok. It’s just part of who I am, always a few years behind the times. If I like this, it looks like there are plenty of others to follow. Her latest book, “Welcome to the United States of Anxiety” came out in 2020, and (once again judging by the cover and description) looks like something I’d be interested in reading.

“Bitter is the New Black” will probably be one of those books that I read in a couple of days, don’t make a lot of notes in, and then summarize my feelings about in a couple paragraphs when I’m done. That’s not a negative, just an observation and prediction. I’m thirty pages in and enjoying it immensely.

Read more at “Oh, For Writing Habits Sake!”

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