Coffee and Oranges: Sunday Links for Readers and Writers

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair…

Sunday Morning,” by Wallace Stevens

David Foster Wallace’s Advice to College Graduates

If you read or watch nothing else in this week’s list of links, devote ten minutes to this 2005 speech given by David Foster Wallace to Kenyon College graduates:

Sunny Orange

Carl Sagan’s Undergrad Reading List: 40 Essential Texts for a Well-Rounded Thinker

From Open Culture: “There are some heady scientific texts here, to be sure. But also some great works from the Western philosophical and literary tradition. We’re talking Plato’s Republic, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, The Bible, Gide’s The Immoralist, and Huxley’s Young Archimedes. It’s just the kind of texts you’d expect a true humanist like Sagan — let alone a UChicago grad — to be fully immersed in.” Read More

Brain, Interrupted

From the New York Times: “Clifford Nass, a Stanford sociologist who conducted some of the first tests on multitasking, has said that those who can’t resist the lure of doing two things at once are ‘suckers for irrelevancy.’ There is some evidence that we’re not just suckers for that new text message, or addicted to it; it’s actually robbing us of brain power, too. Tweet about this at your own risk.” Read More

CuppaDaily Rituals of the World’s Most Creative People

From Fast Company: “You can’t just work constantly on something that requires a high degree of focus and creative energy, whether it’s writing or composing or painting. No one can do it nonstop for hours on end. Taking a nap and drinking coffee were typical. Igor Stravinsky would do a headstand. Thomas Wolfe had the weird fondling-himself habit. Walking seems the most common, especially among composers. Composers all seemed to take a long walk every day.”  Read More

Wooden ChairGeorge Saunders: My Desktop

From The Guardian: “I’m not easily distracted, as a rule. Especially where writing is concerned. But I have noticed, over the last few years, the very real (what feels like) neurological effect of the computer and the iPhone and texting and so on – it feels like I’ve re-programmed myself to become discontent with whatever I’m doing faster. So I’m trying to work against this by checking emails less often, etc etc. It’s a little scary, actually, to observe oneself getting more and more skittish, attention-wise.  Read More

Sunday Links for Writers, April 29

Need some motivation or a new perspective? Be sure to bookmark and read this week’s recommended links for writers.

1. From Joanna Penn at The Creative Pen, an article and video interview, “You Are a Writer. Act Like One. With Jeff Goins

“Jeff has a great Writer’s Manifesto and he also has a new ebook out soon ‘You are a writer. Start acting like one.’ He personally fights this battle every day and when he loses, nothing is shared with the world. Forget for a moment what everyone else thinks. Forget about publishing or sales, and just focus on writing for the love of it. The outcome doesn’t determine the process. Focus on the craft and anything that comes later is icing on the cake.” Read More

2. From Michael Hyatt, a podcast on “Is Work-Life Balance Really Possible?” (it’s worth it to get through all of the speaking engagement announcements at the beginning):

“In this podcast episode, I talk about work-life balance and whether or not it is really possible. In fact, I question the balance metaphor itself and pose an alternative that better describes what our focus should be.” Read and Listen

3. From Tony Schwartz, a Harvard Business Review article on how “Stress Is Not Your Enemy“:

“Most of us instinctively run from discomfort, but struggle equally to value rest and renewal. We operate instead in a gray zone, rarely fully engaged and rarely deeply relaxed.” Read More

This and That and the Other Thing

packing boxesMy original timetable for unpacking and sorting through stacks of virtual moving boxes after switching to a self-hosted blog has morphed from a few days to a few weeks, with unexpected benefits. As I find myself in no hurry to decide on a final design or organization, I also have the time to think more deeply about where blogging fits into my writing life at the moment, and the best way to balance social media writing with other writing. At the moment I am leaning toward a once-a-week posting schedule here, but who knows what May will bring?

Meanwhile, here are a few tidbits to enjoy and share:

  • Jessica Zappia, a friend and an amazing woman, serves up lessons in being fearless and a lasagna recipe from Milwaukee’s own Ristorante Bartolotta in her guest post today at Writing Up an Appetite.
  • Katherine Wikoff, another friend (and another amazing woman), has a brand new blog with an intriguing first post about why she thinks in terms of “up a chimney down.” You won’t want to miss it!
  • My recent Psychology Today Creative Synthesis blog post on “High School Years: College Prep or Life Prep?” (an adapted excerpt from A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Teens) has had some of the most traffic of any of my PT posts to date. The topic is so very important in the increasingly competitive world of college applications.
  • Finally, I am very happy to be co-chair of the conference committee that is bringing SENG’s (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) 2012 Conference—Shining Light on Giftedness: Empowering Families and Communities—to my own city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Check out our many programs, keynote speakers, children’s and teens’ opportunities, and continuing education options. Register by May 1st to take advantage of early bird pricing and have a chance to win one of several SENGinar packages. I hope to see some of you in July!

On the Creativity of Childhood and the Magic of Technology

A couple of really good links to share to start your week:

1. Childhood and Creativity

In my Creative Thinking class today, we are discussing the creative personality (starting with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of creative complexity), and a perfect companion is Maria Konnikova’s recent Scientific American piece, “The Big Lesson of a Little Prince: (Re)capture the Creativity of Childhood“:

“Imagining yourself a child, it seems, can quite literally make your mind more flexible, more original, more open to creative input and more capable of generating creative output—a nice complement to past findings that laughter and positive mood have much the same effect...” Read More

2. Encyclopedias, iPads, and Arthur C. Clarke

I really enjoyed Bill Chance’s post “All the Information in the World,” in which he looks with candor and complexity at the recent announcement the Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer publisher print editions. My parents bought a World Book Encyclopedia set in 1969. It still sits on my father’s bookshelf, and my 20-year-old son, a history and political science buff, greatly enjoys reading about the world from a 40+ year perspective. We bought him his own World Book set when he was seven. At the same time, I am in continual awe of the magic of our modern world. Is this all good or bad? The answer is yes.

“If you went back in time to, say 1969, and said, ‘Hey, for half the cost of that shelf full of heavy books, I’m going to give you a little book or pad, about the size of a magazine, that you can take anywhere with you and when you touch it, the content you are looking for will appear on it, more or less instantly. It will be in full color, with sound and full-motion television, when appropriate. You’ll have to throw the old, paper ones away, though. To keep it updated you’ll have to pay two dollars a month. Oh, and if you need a break you can play Angry Birds on it too.’

It makes me think of Arthur C Clarke’s third law- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. A fully loaded iPad would have looked like magic in 1969…” Read More

How will you imagine yourself a child today?

What form of technology feels like magic to you?

Sunday Links: Fiction, Photosynth App, and Burnout

1. The Social and Emotional Value of Fiction

Having just returned from a family vacation that had built-in time for reading the novel Ender’s Shadow (on the heels of having re-read Ender’s Game, which I wrote about here) and starting The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers, I appreciated yesterday’s New York Times opinion piece, “Your Brain on Fiction“:

“[I] individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television. (Dr. Mar has conjectured that because children often watch TV alone, but go to the movies with their parents, they may experience more “parent-children conversations about mental states” when it comes to films.)

Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, ‘is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.'” Read More

Of course, many of us do not need neuroscience research to confirm the value of reading fiction, but for those who insist on such evidence, the article may be a novel eye-opener.

2. Free Panorama Photo App

Also while on vacation, I was able to try out a free panorama photo app, Photosynth, which I strongly recommend. I haven’t yet used its full capabilities, but you can see a simple example of Monet’s Water Lilies (Museum of Modern Art) by clicking here.

3. Two-part Article on “Multiple Talents, Multiple Passions, Burnout”

Finally, I recommend that everyone read part one and part two of Douglas Eby’s latest article, “Multiple Talents, Multiple Passions, Burnout”:

“The burned-out house is a pithy metaphor for our condition when we are suffering burnout.

It’s a ‘system breakdown’ I have experienced a number of times over the past couple of years, when putting “too much” time and energy, emotional and intellectual, into writing for this column, The Creative Mind, plus creating posts and doing technical web-master maintenance on a dozen or so of my other sites, plus affiliate marketing of products and programs I think will be helpful to other creative people, etc etc.

There is no end to it. And as interesting and fulfilling as all that may be, there are times when ‘only a few more hours’ of work becomes too much, and I end up kind of comatose the next day.”

Young Man in a Gray Sweater (Jacques Lipchitz)
Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886-1957), Museum of Modern Art