Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Maria Popova

A Blog for All Seasons


Brain Pickings

Click This Image for Some Fine Blogging…

This will be the 16th post I’ve done about Maria Popova—and, I should point out that if you take that link, you’ll see this post at the top of the other fifteen—I “Tag” my posts and they get gathered-up in the Top Tags area—down a bit in the left side-bar

You may want to spend some time checking out the Top Tags since there are over 1,200 posts on this blog and, in all honesty, today is not my best day to write a post

Just dealing with more than a bit of physical and psychological and emotional stress—I quit smoking about a month ago—I’ve been unkind (to say the least) to my Best Friend—I’m hoping her compassion will continue to protect her from the insanities of someone being devastated by withdrawal symptoms

So, before I have to just lie down and swirl in the juices of my muddled mind, let me tell you why you should check out Maria’s blog, Brain Pickings.

One reason is who Maria is:

“I’m a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large. I’ve previously written for Wired UK, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, among others, and am an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.”

Another reason is why she writes her blog:

Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.”

More on her mission and what creativity means:

“The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and all the fragments populating our minds — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas.”

So, take a listen to Maria (while I go lie down…) and she just might convince you she has much to say that you need to hear

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Writing and Self-Forgiveness


From a rather long life of making mistakes, gaffes, miscalculations, and oversights, I know the critical value of forgiving myself.

Ann Patchett

Image of Ann Patchett courtesy of Wikimedia Commons & Rodrigo Fernández

Yet, this must be done with deep sincerity or one ends up just accumulating excuses for continuing to run rough-shod over Life

Continually saying, “I’m sorry” (offered to others or ourselves) when it’s not deeply felt can accumulate tremendous internal guilt and grief.

In just a minute, I’ll give you Ann Patchett‘s comments about the self-forgiveness of writers; but, I must build up to it

Ms Patchett is a novelist and independent bookstore owner.

Her latest work, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriageis a memoir that gives keys into the world of Ann’s writer’s mind.

I found out about the book from Maria Popova’s article, The Workhorse and the Butterfly: Ann Patchett on Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art.

I’ll share a few excerpts from Maria’s article (quotes from Ann) that I feel lead up to a writer forgiving themselves:

“…what I love about both novels and dogs is that they are so beautifully oblivious to economic concerns. We serve them, and in return they thrive.”

Some very interesting comments about the roles of fiction and nonfiction follow, until:

“We should be able to tap into the constant narrative flow our minds provide, the roaring river of words filling up our heads, and direct it out into a neat stream of organized thought so that other people can read it….But it’s right about there, right about when we sit down to write that story, that things fall apart.”

“This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life.”

“When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it.”

“Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words.”

“I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling I killed it along the way. I did, however, learn how to weather the death, and I learned how to forgive myself for it.”

Now

All those quotes from Ann are my way of teasing you into reading Maria’s article, which might lead you to reading Ann’s book

And, before I share the ultimate quote about self-forgiveness for writers, I want you to consider that, even if you’re not a writer, your life is your own Work of Art—we are constantly writing the book of our own life

So

The following quote is for Everyone:

“Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.

[…]

“I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”

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Getting Lost on The Path . . .


Ever felt lost?

Getting Lost on The Path

Image Courtesy of Martyn E. Jones ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/mejones

Ever had a great plan—trustworthy as a compass—and ended up in some untraceable wilderness?

Being a writer, I can sympathize with lost souls; since, even those who don’t pursue writing can stumble through meaningless plots, meet surprising characters, and wonder when the pointless chapter is going to end…

And, how many of us have become lost on our paths but discovered we’d actually found a new aspect of our Selves?

It could be assumed that getting lost is some magical way to enter lands that promise productive growth…

My Best Friend recently sent me a quote from the Persian poet Rumi:

“Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to. Don’t try to see through the distances. That’s not for human beings. Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.”

And, I was also led to a post on Maria Popova‘s blog—A Field Guide to Getting Lost: Rebecca Solnit on How We Find Ourselves.

An excerpt:

“…this act of orienting ourselves — to the moment, to the world, to our own selves — is perhaps the most elusive art of all, and our attempts to master it often leave us fumbling, frustrated, discombobulated. And yet therein lies our greatest capacity for growth and self-transcendence.”

Maria quoting Rebecca Solnit:

“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go….The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration — how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?”

And, a quote that many writers can embrace:

“To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away.”

Just one more excerpt of Rebecca’s thoughts:

“There’s another art of being at home in the unknown, so that being in its midst isn’t cause for panic or suffering, of being at home with being lost.

[…]

“Lost [is] mostly a state of mind, and this applies as much to all the metaphysical and metaphorical states of being lost as to blundering around in the backcountry.

“The question then is how to get lost”

So, whether you’re a Reader, Writer, Publisher, or Other Being, when was the last time you were Truly Lost?
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Just Bleed On The Page . . .


That title up there is a very writerly way to describe how to write. Variations on it have been attributed to assorted writers and you can track its citations Here

So, what does it mean, non-literally, to bleed on the page?

Pour out your heart?

Give your earnest best?

Write gruesome crime novels?

In the past post, Productivity vs Satisfaction ~ or ~ Success vs Peace of Mind, I referred readers to some of Annie Dillard‘s writerly wisdom—gonna do it again today.

You may have noticed I’ve used material from Maria Popova’s blog here a number of times.

Today, I’ll direct you to her post, Annie Dillard on Writing, where Maria says: “What does it really mean to write? Why do writers labor at it, and why are readers so mesmerized by it?”

Ms. Popova shares some quotes from Dillard’s, The Writing Life, and I’ll bring a few of them here to encourage you to go read the full article.

Let’s see if Annie talks about bleeding on the page:

“When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year. You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads. At the end of the path, you find a box canyon. You hammer out reports, dispatch bulletins. The writing has changed, in your hands, and in a twinkling, from an expression of your notions to an epistemological tool. The new place interests you because it is not clear. You attend. In your humility, you lay down the words carefully, watching all the angles. Now the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back.”

I especially like the “surgeon’s probe”

“When you are stuck in a book; when you are well into writing it, and know what comes next, and yet cannot go on; when every morning for a week or a month you enter its room and turn your back on it; then the trouble is either of two things. Either the structure has forked, so the narrative, or the logic, has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle — or you are approaching a fatal mistake. What you had planned will not do. If you pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse, and you do not know about it yet, quite.”

Being stuck while writing may bring on a few drops of blood

“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”

This is beyond mere bleeding, more like pouring your soul on the page

One last quote, for those overly involved with genre fiction:

“Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love?”

If you’re a writer, what does bleeding on the page mean to you?

If you’re a reader, do you want your writer’s blood on your page………?

Care to share in the Comments?
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Blogs by Writers ~ Who Really Knows How To Do One?


I’ve spent many hours writing posts here about all the “advice” for writers the Internet is spewing out.

Part of me feels I’ve wasted a huge amount of time discovering the rotten underbelly of “Authorial Experts”.

Still, reading all the “advice” has let me, at least, warn others about where not to go

Just the other day, in a post called, Happy Birthday to Brain Pickings !, I introduced a video with these words:

“Since many writers attempt to subsidize their fiction writing by monetizing their blogs, I chose a video of Maria talking about alternatives to the ad-supported model.”

That’s Maria Popova and she really does know how to blog.

Then, there’s a man I’ve featured here many times, Joel Friedlander. { click his name in the Top Tags widget in the left side-bar }

Joel does something on his blog that inspires confidence—a seven-part Publishing Timeline—his personal journey through the Book World.

I feel it’s important to reveal a bit of Joel’s history here—give you a sense that this man has been around the block, many times, and knows what he’s talking about. So, here are some excerpts from that journey:

“My father, Royal Friedlander, had apprenticed as a compositor—when printing forms were made from metal objects—in the 1930s. I grew up around printing, and can remember my father sitting at the dinner table in our little kitchen, the creases of his hands still black at the bottom from black ink. He had big tubs of pumice-based soap in the bathroom, but no matter how hard he scrubbed, he said, he had ‘printer’s ink in his veins.’”

“As I learned more about the history of printing and the fine presses of the past, I also researched the modern rebirth of the book arts, starting in the late nineteenth century with William Morris’ Kelmscott Press and later, the Doves press. Along with a friend I started trying to render a modern version of Nicholas Jenson’s fifteenth-century original, considered by many to be the most beautiful roman face in the history of printing.”

“I had quit my day job to concentrate on publishing, which drained our reserves far faster than they ought to have been. And I had published what my heart told me were books that needed to be published—not what the market told me it wanted. Rather than increase our profitability, each book put us farther in the hole. Without a real sense of what the market wanted, or how to reach the people who would buy our books, our company was pretty much doomed from the start.”

“I decided I needed a new company structure, and started Marin Bookworks….Gradually I put a team of professionals together as my contacts expanded….There was rarely a month that went by at Marin Bookworks where there wasn’t at least one self-published book in the mix….Publishing continues to go through a somewhat chaotic revolution of technology and distribution. New technologies are emerging on a weekly basis that have the potential to radically change a business that hasn’t changed that much in 500 years.”

Joel recently published the blog post, 5 Steps to Author Blogging Success,

And, for those of you who don’t normally take all the links I put in my posts, I’ll list those steps here ( each with a link to more information on Joel’s blog :-)

Find your readers

Author Blogging 101: Where Are the Readers?

Create compelling content

7 Formats for Winning Blog Posts

Foster engagement

Writers’ Blogs: 5 Essentials for Engaging Your Readers

Network with other bloggers

Author Blogging 101: 11 Sources of Organic Traffic

Profit from your blog

Direct Marketing, Scottsdale Arizona, and Why a $10 Ebook Can Change Your Life

If you visit any of those links, I’d love it if you left a Comment about your thoughts and feelings

Also, if you know about a writer’s blog that gets it right, let us know about it in the Comments.
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