Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My view on the new book, ‘Why We Read, What We Read’ by John Heath and Lisa Adams.

Ok. I don’t like to be negative especially here in my Art and Words blog. I want to offer insights, a light in what can be a dark world and hope.

When I read the title and promo email, I hoped I would be reading…a book about how current events from 9/11 to Katrina to the Iraq war influence our relaxation reading choices. Instead I received a book that can be described as Best Seller Bashing.

They go on and on describing plots, characters and story lines of many popular fiction books as too simple, too sexy, too violent, too black, too white, too much hugging, or too many lawyers. The bashing of Dan Brown alone gets tedious. For example, referring to the hit, The Da Vinci Code, they say, “It’s speedy, simple and full of secrets. It’s not only about sex and religion but sex in religion.” And that its success has to do not with plot, characters or literary qualities but its highly controversial content.

You’ll realize that these authors criticize best-sellers for their ‘platforms’ defined as ‘built-in audiences’, while building their own ‘platform’.

Their platform can be described this way - divide up and criticize the best-sellers categories: Health and Wealth, Good and Evil, Romance, Politics, Religion and Self-Help. Use all the popular book titles to create ‘buzz’. Add a mixture of clever phrasing and rephrasing, snobby literary references and snide comments to keep those words coming.

They tantalize you in the intro with a self-help bit promising that they have an idea that will create more good books. Yet, they even admit that their “solution is so conventional and unlikely to find fruition it’s probably not worth more than a paragraph. But we never met a paragraph we couldn’t turn into several pages, and so we do.” Make that an entire 273 page book.

Ok, so want to know their solution that according to the authors quote above, it was going to be conventional? Here it is: Don’t buy the books and they won’t become best sellers.


Sorry, I had to laugh, don’t you? They can bash Dan Brown as much as they want, I still loved “Angels & Demons” and “The Da Vinci Code” as much as the re-occurring characters and controversial themes in Shakespeare and Austin.

The only things I agree with the authors on is don’t buy this book so it won’t become a best seller.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are you addicted to distraction?
Do you love the rush of busyness?
Hello, my name is Susan. I have a distraction and adrenaline addictions.
(Element series: Earth)

A few weeks ago, I received the usual newsletter from creativity coach and author, Eric Maisel in which he discussed his new work on Creativity Recovery focusing on new types of addictions that undermine creativity. He pointed out that both "distraction addictions and the adrenaline addictions are existential cheap thrills."

I stand up and say...yes, they are. They keep you thinking you're accomplishing something while at the same time, draining away your creative energy and sucking away your soul.

Ever gotten hooked by drama? It doesn't matter if it's the daytime or nighttime kind, your own personal events, your kids, your neighbors, your coworkers, it is all too easy to get caught up in the adrenaline high that comes with complaining or problem solving someone else's problems. It keeps you real 'busy' doesn't it? And there's the rush in rushing around. Yes, it's an adrenaline high and it's addictive. Why? Because it keeps fear at bay or so we think.

According to Eric Maisel, "If we are even minimally anxious, resistant, discouraged, uncertain or unmotivated and therefore eager to find some way to avoid getting on with our writing, how strong the pull is to distract ourselves with a beckoning, right-at-hand Internet possibility.
How much easier it is to get a rush by hopping on your motorcycle and racing down the road than by canalizing your energy, channeling your being into your creative work, and waiting for the rush of good adrenal feeling that may not come until late this afternoon—or next week—or not at all. The pull to avoid our work can prove so strong that it is fair to call our flight compulsive and to characterize our behavior in real and not metaphoric terms as an addiction."

I agree. It is all too easy to jump on the Internet and...check your blog, check my blog, check out the latest news, weather, fashion, movie, book or even to 'justify' your distraction by calling it research that lasts for hours. I know. I've been there. I've done it.

Time for a change. Now the first shall come last and the last shall come first. Starting today, I will check email, internet news, weather and blogs in the afternoon when my creative brain is usually tired. And I will stop myself from rushing around trying to get all these small things done like they are the end of the world. Instead, I'll do one at a time, around my creative time not 'before' it. And when I feel the pull to problem solve someone else's problems or complain, I'll take a deep breath and say instead, "I am completely stopping."

Friday, August 03, 2007

Great Read...Words that inspire my art.

I loved this book, "The Wood Wife" by Terri Windling. It's an intriguing story with a compelling mix of mystery, poetry, and a lot of wonderful visual imagery. There are mythical spirit characters as well as down to earth humans set in the beautiful American Southwest. Each chapter starts with a poetry quote of the fictional poet character from the book, as well as quotes from other 'real' poets. One of the other main characters in the story is a painter and her art is described in such detail that I can 'see' the canvas as I read. I loved every page.

The author credits her visual inspiration from well-known British painter, Brian Froud. I can see her inspiration from author, Charles deLint as well. I have enjoyed everyone of deLint's novels over the years, reading and re-reading them. I enjoyed reading Windling's novel so much, I look forward to re-reading it as well. In the Author's Note at the end of the book, she describes how her novel started out as a series of short stories and 'shape-shifted' into its current form.

As I have created a whole series of pieces based on the concept of shape-shifting, I guess this novel was a natural for me. This book helped me see once again how important words are to my art.