Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, by Steven Pressfield

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Like last 2017, this year is dedicated to writing (and one of these years, hopefully, something will actually come of it). I'd heard this book mentioned several times by artists of various sorts so I thought it as good a place as any to help start off the year. 

It wasn't amazing, but it didn't disappoint - I'd give it a solid B, perhaps a B+. 

Here are some of highlights:

It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy . . . so, streamline your message. Focus it and pare it down to its simplest, clearest, easiest-to-understand form . . . because The reader denotes his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer must give him something worthy of his gift to you (pg 5).

If there was nothing else in the book, this is a hook I can hang my hat on: people are busy - or, as Derrick Jenson says, they could be having sex, so my writing better be worth their time. It better be better than having sex. 

“Let my countrymen discover, by their suffering without me fighting as their champion, how by far the greatest of them I am” (pg 23) – quoting Agamemnon, the Anti-hero.

The solution is embedded in the problem. If your job is to find the solution, the first step is to define the problem (pg 32).

Every piece of work operates from a thesis statement: Walter White in Breaking Bad says, “Change. Chemistry is the study of change. Elements combine and change into compounds. That’s all of life, right? Solution, dissolution. Growth. Decay. Transformation. It’s fascinating really.” This is Vince Gilligan’s statement of the theme (pg 35).

The two quotes above are gold and can/should be applied to anything, even teaching. A classroom, a novel, a movie, a TV show, even raising children or running a church should be guided be a central, clearly defined and easily applied, thesis statement. 

Because when life gets hard, when the ship rocks, or when no one knows what to do, it is the guiding and unfaltering force. So it better be a good one.

A real writer (or artist or entrepreneur) has something to give. She has lived enough and suffered enough and thought deeply enough about her experience to be able to process it into something that is of value to others, even if only as entertainment.

It's okay to seek success, as long as the purpose is greater than ourselves; if it is to serve the greater community. It's all about our motives

How to Create a {Classroom}: ask the questions (modified):

1.     What’s the theme?

2.     What’s the climax?

3.     Who’s the hero?

4.     The Villain?

5.     What are the stakes?

6.     What’s the purpose?

The American dream – you can be anything you want to be if you’re willing to work for it . . . and the American nightmare – what if we try and fail? (pg 90).

Your job as a writer is to give your hero the deepest, darkest, most hellacious All is Lost Moment possible – and then find a way out for her (pg 104) because The All is Lost Moment is followed almost immediately by a breakthrough insight or epiphany, an awakening for the hero, an “Aha!” moment (pg 105).

Write your nonfiction book as if it were a novel . . . give it an Act One, an Act Two, and Act Three. Make it cohere around a theme (pg 123).

The hardest and maybe the best way to establish authority is through the quality and integrity of the voice itself (pg 165).

The War of Art Structure:

Hook – “resistance,” the invisible negative force of self-sabotage that all writers (and creative people in all fields) face.

Build – mounts to a high point at which the problem has been defined and the answer spelled out. Leading to the question, “What does it all mean?”

Payoff – they paid off the Hook and the Build by reinforcing the reader’s own rising self-confidence that she not only identified the enemy and now knew hot to fight it, but had been turned on to the unseen, unbidden, but powerfully fortifying forces that would ineluctably come to her aid once she committed to her calling and took up the challenge (pg 169,170).

There is an evil force that is constantly defeating us as artists and bringing to naught all of our dreams. Let’s name that force, accept it as our enemy, and figure out how to overcome it.

Here’s how you know {you’ve got something worth pursuing} – you’re scared to death of it (pg 186).

Resources:

-       The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne

-       The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

-       The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp

-       Quiet, by Susan Cain

-       Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill

Perhaps the greatest takeaway was the idea that even a nonfiction book (or classroom) should be structured and designed just like a fiction novel - central theme, hero and villain, three part structure. I love that. 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :   NY Times Best Books of 2017  :   Reading Log 2017  Reading Log 2018

We Need to Talk, by Celeste Headlee

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As in many other cases, this book is probably best read as a short pamphlet or heard in 18 minutes or less TedTalk. It just gets repetitive, preachy, and a bit shallow as it tries to fill the non-fiction quota of pages.

“The ease of having ‘friends’ online might make people more likely to just tune out when they don’t feel like responding to others’ ‘problems.’ (pg 23)

It’s not about what someone can do for you, it’s who the two of you become in each other’s presence (pg 25)

Make a list of things people do in conversation that bother me. Do they repeat themselves? Ramble on? Interrupt? Then, ask if you do those things often or just once in a while (pg 45)

Story of Xernona and Craig – She didn’t set out to change his mind, rather change his heart, because, “you’ve got to change a man’s heart before you can change his behavior” (pg 62).

Halo and horns effect – the tendency to lump people into groups

“When we enter a conversation, all of our preconceived notions – most of which have no basis in reality – will affect its outcome. No matter how right and true your opinion feels, you consider that it may be a stereotype and not fact” (pg 68).

“ . . . assume that everyone is trying to bring about some kind of positive result in their lives (pg 69).

“It really didn’t matter if I agreed . . . or not. What mattered is” the acknowledging of pain and allowing for the opportunity to speak about it (pg 79).

Conversation Narcissim: The desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking, and to turn the focus of the exchange to  yourself (pg 105).

“In time of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to liste with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers” (pg 165).

Resources:

1.     Wired for Culture, by Mark Pagel

2.     Reclaiming Conversation, by Sherry Turkle

3.     My students don’t know how to have a conversation, 2014 Atlantic

4.     The Norton book of Frienships, by Ronald Sharp

5.     The power of Apology, by Beverly Engel

6.     Think like a freak, by Steven Levitt

Look Into: Loving Kindness Meditation