Sunday Smatterings

Hello, chickens, happy Mother's Day! Hope y'all had a good week.

As you may have heard, Catherine and I headed to New York to start writing Brit #5 (it's called THE BLOOD CABAL—how cool is that?). We ate lots of great food, had the best visit with our fabulous publisher, Gallery Books, complete with champagne and cupcakes (honestly, book people are the best). We had a grand ol' time getting into Nicholas and Mike's next adventure, and I can't wait to dive headfirst into fleshing this beauty out. I also managed lunches with my Mira folk, too. LIE TO ME World domination plans continue.

And thanks for all of your well wishes—I'm feeling a bit better after being under the weather all week, though I still sound like Lauren Bacall. Oh well, there are worse things...


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:


People Are Adding “And Then The Murders Began” To Famous Book Openings, And It’s Impossible Not To Laugh. This is sheer brilliance.
 

When You're Obsessive. A short ode from The Passive Guy.
 

Digital Detox: Is It Right for You? Y'all know about my annual social media fast around Lent. Sometimes a detox resets your perspective and revamps the way you work. For me, this is nothing short of magical.
 

Smartphones Are the New Cigarettes. Because we all suffer from second-hand tech. We really do.
 

Two Million Stars on the Move. Space is pretty freaking cool.
 

Quiz! Can You Guess the Classic Book by These Extremely Vague Descriptions? Because we all need a Buzzfeed quiz to make us question our intelligence.
 

12 Unforgettable Forests in Literature. Because who doesn't want to escape into the woods sometimes?
 

Libraries We Wouldn't Mind Getting Locked Into. For those who would rather escape into a place with air-conditioning and a bathroom.
 

Some of the Most Amusing—and Mortifying—Messages People Have Sent to the WRONG Number. 😂😂😂


And closer to home:


A WORD ON WORDS With Helen Ellis. I'm not sure if I've ever laughed more in an interview! Helen Ellis is a powerhouse, y'all, and it's time she become a household name. In our delightful chat, Helen and I talk about living as a Southerner in "the Ultimate North," whether the New York or South is a more sinister place, when it's okay not to be nice, and why Maybelline lipstick may be the world's most frightening fashion accessory. 
 

What I'm Into (May 2017). These are 5 things I'm seriously grooving on this month.
 

Daily Tao ☯ 5.8.17. Don't forget—I'm blogging (nearly) every day! Follow my New York adventures with Catherine, starting with May 8. 


***Bonus Section: BIG NEWS!***

Bargains! There's a new page on JTEllison.com called Bargains (an original name, I know!), where all sorts of fun goodies will live: free and discounted books, contests of all stripes, etc. We'll let you know when new things pop up on the Bargains page, but check back sometimes to see the loot you can get on a discount.


That's it from me! Happy Mother's Day to all, especially you who are furbaby mommies like me, enjoy some spring sunshine, take an extra long walk or two, and we'll talk again soon.

xo,
J.T.

Sea Changes, Part One

Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.
 

-Shakespeare, The Tempest

 

Leave it to Shakespeare to come up with a perfect idiom for internal alteration. 

I am undergoing a metamorphosis of my own these days. My change is not wrought by the sea, per se, but it is of my own microcosm. 

It’s no secret I am a fan of minimalism. This bleeds into my life in interesting, and mostly productive, ways. Inbox Zero, for example. When there are more than 20 emails in my inbox, I start getting a strange, itchy feeling between my shoulder blades, which won’t go away until I’ve cleared out my inbox. Amy always teases me that my procrastination results in productive things, like blogs (ahem) and business attended to.

So what is this sea change of which I speak?

I’ve stopped taking my iPad to bed.

My normal evening/morning involves reading before I go to sleep, then waking up, immediately grabbing my iPad, and reading the news. Inevitably, this means I’m doing email at 11 p.m., and at 8 a.m. And playing on Facebook and Twitter. I have a designed format I follow, site to site to site, news to social media to email (which, if I’m feeling rebellious, I flip, and go from email to Twitter to the news…) but it means I am always plugged in. Always.

I read this piece last week, and it really affected my thinking about how I’m using my devices — or, how they’re using me. Lent is coming soon, and with it, my annual social media sabbatical. The six weeks I spend off the socials is always a psychological boon to me, simply because I allow myself to focus my energies elsewhere without guilt. 

I’ve always been rather proud of the fact that my phone stays plugged in on the kitchen counter by the door when I come home. I don’t carry it around the house with me. If someone calls, they’ll leave a message. If a text comes in, I’ll deal with it when I get to it. 

And then I realized I’m a complete and total hypocrite, because my iPad is simply taking the phone’s place. I have an unhealthy habit of having my iPad attached to me at all times. I’ve started leaving it in the kitchen during my work day so I’m not tempted to look for things, check email, and the like. That’s helped. My January felt more peaceful and settled, absolutely.

But I realized the moment the workday ends, I’m just trading one screen for another. When my laptop goes off, my iPad comes out. And stays in my hand the whole evening, until I literally fall asleep with it in my hands.

So over the weekend, I left it downstairs. I read on my Kindle. That worked just fine. What I love about the Kindle is the ability to fix fonts to my liking, turn down the backlight, and read in the dark, so I don’t disturb hubby with the bedside lamp. 

I wasn’t able to access the news, my email, Facebook, etc. And when I woke up… I got up. The cats weren’t happy, but my day suddenly felt longer. I combined the news reading with breakfast. And I was writing by 10, instead of noon.

I’m several days in to this new habit, and it feels more and more comfortable every day. We’ll see if the cats agree, they aren’t happy they don’t have the warm cuddles in the morning. 

I realized immediately this should equal more words per day, one of my biggest goals for 2017. And that’s good news for EVERYONE!

5.5.16 - On The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection

On the Relentless Pursuit of Perfection


From the time I was able to hold a pencil and write, perfection was my friend, and mistake my enemy.  

It was a paralyzing combination.  

I wanted to be an artist, but when faced with a blank sheet of paper, I was terrified. Not with fear that I couldn’t draw, couldn’t create. I knew I could. No, my fear was I would ruin the pristine paper with a line out of place, and I’d have to throw it away.

I would have ruined the paper with a mistake.
 

When I realized writing was a simpler thing for me than drawing, I had the same issue. If I misspelled a word, or miswrote a word, that was it. The paper was ruined, and I had to start over.

Nothing but perfection was (*ahem* is) acceptable. 

This holds true for most everything I do, all these years later.  Now I understand that this urge for perfection is a manifestation of OCD, and I find ways to push past the early paralyzing moments when faced with blank pages. For new novels, I have a formula for starting. This includes building a book journal, building a file, naming the book, putting together epigraphs… little things that mean the pages aren’t entirely blank.

But that’s easy to do when you’re in a computer screen. When you’re doing it by hand, it’s a whole different story.

All these years later, I’m still always terrified that I’m going to make a mistake on that first page and have to rip it out and start over. Trust me, there are a number of notebooks in my house with a first page missing.

I’ve been examining these urges lately, because I came across something interesting. It’s a story about how dependent we’ve become on the Cloud, and how we’re losing a lot of our history because everything is typed on computers.

Thinking about this, I had a realization. This is directly related to how we’re so carefully curating our lives for one another. If you think about it, we are always striving for perfection in our written work, so much so that we’ve become dependent on spellcheck and grammar checks, and nothing that makes it to public consumption hasn’t been edited to death.

What are we losing by working electronically? What bits of genius, or specialness, are we losing when we can so easily delete and write something fresh? 
 

Not only are we curating our lives for one another, we’re curating our thoughts… for ourselves.

Whether your desire to have a clean, perfect document is pathological or simply a result of the way you want to present yourself to the world, we are eliminating some of our finest work when we edit ourselves online, on the computer screen, in our writing programs.

Think of what we’re losing? That original thought, that original impetus, the original words, edited into coherent [[thoughts]]… *

*I JUST did it. I saw the words “thoughts”, and even though it’s correct, I immediately backward deleted to come up with something else, something unique that isn’t a repetitive word. It’s instinct; I do it without thinking. Which makes me wonder: How much do I delete throughout a day? I don’t keep track of how many words I type in a day, I keep track of the end product. At the end of the day, I have X number of words.

What if I didn’t delete and rewrite? What if I was forced to write by hand, in a notebook, and had a record of all those words I decided weren’t right, weren’t correct, were misspelled?

I’ve always wanted to write a book by hand. I do a lot of handwritten work already, from journals to note taking to planning and processing ideas. Could I stand to write a whole story by hand? Could I stand the XXed out words, the arrows drawn to realign paragraphs, the hundreds of mistakes I make in a day of writing? Moreover, how many words am I REALLY writing in a day? I’d bet I write two to three times as much as is recorded at the end of the day, trying out sentences, trying ideas, words, themes. I immediately delete when something isn’t working.

What if I stopped doing that?
 

We’re talking a monstrous sea change for me. For us all. Paper isn’t the precious commodity it used to be. Ink and pens are easy to work with. I don’t know that I could give up my laptop—the ideas seem to go through my brain directly into my fingers onto the page, without stops or bypasses, and I don’t feel that flow when I’m writing by hand.

But it’s doable. It’s totally doable.

And I would have a record—a real record, a true record—of the words. It wouldn’t be perfect, and all that markup would probably give me hives, but it’s something worth thinking about. At the very least, I’m going to try and be more intentional about how I self-edit.

In the next few weeks, look for a few more posts with the theme of perfection stifling our art. It’s something I really want to explore.
 

So….

What say you? Are we losing our culture to autocorrect and spell check and the keyboard?  Do you write by hand or by keyboard?