Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

magic lessons podcast elizabeth gilbert

Thank you so much for the thoughtful comments on my recent post. It’s good to know I’m not alone. And now, for something completely different…

Since I came late to the smartphone game (and never owned an iPod), I also came late to the world of podcasts.

I’m still a novice – I don’t listen as much as Anne, who shared her favorites recently, or Elise – who hosts her own podcast and also wrote about her favorites. If I’m riding the subway, I’d rather be reading (an actual paper book).

But I have a few podcasts I love – one reliable standby and several newer discoveries – and I thought I’d share them with you.

Books on the Nightstand

The first podcast I ever fell in love with – and still my favorite – is Books on the Nightstand, co-hosted by Ann Kingman (a Twitter pal I’ve met in person once or twice) and Michael Kindness. Ann and Michael both work for Random House, and they started this weekly podcast to talk about their favorite new books. I started listening a couple of years ago, and now I never miss an episode.

Nearly 350 episodes (!) in, BOTNS has regular features about new books and audiobooks, a monthly segment highlighting older books (called Don’t You Forget About Me), an annual Summer Book Bingo game, and much more. I love the glimpses into the inner workings of the book industry, the “themed” episodes such as 500 Pages Plus, and the warm, generous, often funny conversation between Ann and Michael. Their tastes don’t always match mine, but I love hearing them talk about books and book-related issues.

Magic Lessons

Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, that Elizabeth Gilbert) recently launched a podcast called Magic Lessons, in advance of the release of her new book, Big Magic (out this fall). I haven’t read the book yet, but I am loving Liz’s conversations on creative work, bravery, motivation and – yes – magic with people who are struggling to build a creative life.

So far, she’s alternated between talking to people who are dealing with frustration or feeling “blocked” in their creativity, and talking to people like Cheryl Strayed and Rob Bell, who may have helpful insights to share. Liz’s voice is so warm and friendly, and I love what she has to say about creative work. This is a new podcast, so I’m excited for what’s to come.

Book Riot: All the Books

How could I not love a podcast with this title? Liberty Hardy and Rebecca Joines Schinsky, known as “The Well-Readheads,” are both part of the (smart, sarcastic, book-obsessed) team at Book Riot, and they chat once a week about brand-new books they can’t wait for people to read. This podcast launched in May and I’m slowly making my way through the backlog of episodes. Not surprisingly, my TBR list gets longer every time I listen.

Liberty and Rebecca both read widely (of course), and they talk about (and/or gush about) books on this podcast that I might not hear about otherwise. Also, they are good friends (like Ann and Michael above), and it’s so much fun to listen to their exchanges.

Elise Gets Crafty

I’ve been reading Elise Blaha Cripe’s blog for a while now, and I’ve listened to quite a few episodes of her podcast. Some of them are aimed at small business owners (which I am not), but nearly every episode also touches on some combination of blogging, motivation, inspiration and balancing creative projects with your daily life. Super fun and accessible.

Do you have a favorite podcast, or a handful of them? Please share in the comments!


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poetry books

No poet ever wrote a poem to dishonor life, to compromise high ideals, to scorn religious views, to demean hope or gratitude, to argue against tenderness, to place rancor before love, or to praise littleness of soul. Not one. Not ever.

On the contrary, poets have, in freedom and in prison, in health and in misery, with listeners and without listeners, spent their lives examining and glorifying life, meditation, thoughtfulness, devoutness, and human love. They have done this wildly, serenely, rhetorically, lyrically, without hope of answer or reward. They have done this grudgingly, willingly, patiently, and in the steams of impatience.

They have done it for all and any of the gods of life, and the record of their so doing belongs to each one of us.

Including you.

—Mary Oliver, Rules for the Dance

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Fall Manifesto

fall rhythm starbucks pumpkin autumn

  • Pick apples, and then bake them into delicious desserts
  • Drink cranberry tea and chai
  • Send red leaves to friends
  • Bake pumpkin bread
  • Wear stripes
  • Breathe in the cool, crisp air
  • Make soup
  • Dig into some classic books (fall feels like the perfect time for classics)
  • Find a seasonal rhythm (see above)
  • Write and write and write

What’s on your list for fall?

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boston common cherry blossoms

Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.

Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.

The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.

When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.

From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.

—Billy Collins

(Sometimes I take this poem literally – I do everything else before sitting down to write. And sometimes I shake my head and smile at Collins’ tongue-in-cheek humor, grab a pen and start scribbling even though there is dust on the dining-room floor and dishes in the sink.)

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We all have them, don’t we? The phrases we carry in our hearts, like the rosaries or stones or other talismans some people carry in their pockets, to be pulled out or simply touched, over and over, during difficult times. Here are a few of mine – and I’d love to hear yours.

1. “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” —Julian of Norwich
2. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” —Mary Oliver
3. “Come forth, and bring with you a heart / That watches and receives.” —Wordsworth – from that poem I memorized recently
4. “I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts. But I base my life on this belief.” —Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
5. “You should sing, then, as wayfarers do – sing, but continue your journey. […] Sing then, but keep going.” —St. Augustine

What words do you carry in your heart?

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I’ve been spending a little time in Deep Valley, Minnesota. Feeling a little harried and craving some comfort (and a fun summer story), I picked up Carney’s House Party to read on the T one morning, and of course it wasn’t long before I was immersed in the high school adventures of my beloved Betsy Ray and her merry Crowd. I’ve been carrying the books around with me, spending my lunch breaks reading about school dances and the Essay Contest, Merry Widow hats and summers on Murmuring Lake, and the group of boys and girls who are so jolly and fun that I want them for my own friends.

(Image via New York Magazine)

These books never fail to delight me with their descriptions of gorgeous party dresses, delicious Sunday night lunches at the Ray house, vivid details of the seasons changing in Deep Valley, and the highly entertaining adventures of Betsy, Tacy, Tib and their posse of friends. Singing around the piano, ice skating on the pond, shopping for Christmas ornaments and drinking coffee at Heinz’s – what fun! But I also love the books for Betsy’s occasional moments of quiet reflection – particularly the ones when she realizes she’s neglected her writing and determines to rededicate herself to it.

I’ve struggled lately to find both inspiration and discipline for my writing, and it’s always heartening to read that Betsy struggled with the same problems, and always overcame them in the end. I love picturing her curled up next to Uncle Keith’s trunk, the print of a long-legged bird on the wall beside her, or floating on a rowboat at Murmuring Lake, scribbling away at a poem or a story with her freshly sharpened pencils.

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“I intend to get up extra early tomorrow morning, for I’ve ever so much to do,” said Anne virtuously. “For one thing, I’m going to shift the feathers from my old bedtick to the new one. I ought to have done it long ago but I’ve just kept putting it off…it’s such a detestable task. It’s a very bad habit to put off disagreeable things, and I never mean to again, or else I can’t comfortably tell my pupils not to do it. That would be inconsistent. Then I want to make a cake for Mr. Harrison and finish my paper on gardens for the A.V.I.S., and write Stella, and wash and starch my muslin dress, and make Dora’s new apron.”

“You won’t get half done,” said Marilla pessimistically. ‘I never yet planned to do a lot of things but something happened to prevent me.’

Anne of Avonlea, L.M. Montgomery

For once, Marilla’s gloomy prediction comes true – as her readers know, Anne’s planned productive day turned out quite differently than she imagined (though it was certainly memorable).

In the middle of my constant to-do lists at work and at home (which never do seem to get done), it comforts me to know my red-headed heroine didn’t have it all together, either.

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