Category: Creativity

5 Books That Will Help You Live Better in 2017

5 Books That Will Help You Live Better in 2017

Here are five books that have had an impact on how I live, prioritize, and manage my time this year. Read these to be more productive and creative in 2017.

When it comes to self-improvement and productivity, I prefer audiobooks–which turn chores like laundry and dishes into education hour. With that in mind, I’ve provided the Audible links, along with links to the paperback and ebook editions. If you don’t have an Audible account, you get two free books when you sign up (warning:Audible is somewhat addictive).


THE ONE THING: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Learn how to cut through the noise and do what matters. I only read this book in December, but I wish I’d read it months ago. If you’re spreading yourself too thin, achieving less by trying to do too many things, this book is for you.

The primary message is to figure out the one thing that matters to you in each area of your life and make it happen by spending the lion’s share of your time on that one thing. My husband has been telling me for years, “Quit the other stuff. Just write. Writing is your thing. It’s also how you make a living.” And he’s correct, as usual. Why did it take a book by a stranger to finally convince me to make it jettison the time-wasters in favor of the work that matters?


Listen to THE ONE THING on Audible


I picked this up because I loved Duhigg’s previous book, THE POWER OF HABIT. In Smarter, Faster, Better, Duhigg jumps on the productivity bandwagon; but the interesting stories of high achievers, combined with eight concepts you can put into action in your own life, make this productivity tome soar above the rest. As a self-employed author and small press publisher, I skimmed some of the stories of corporate success to focus on the techniques individuals have used to improve their performance.

GET THE AUDIOBOOK of Smarter Faster Better


The Year Without a Purchase

How tied are you to your things? How much time do you lose shopping? How many times a day do you click an email leading you to an online sale? In addition to being financially harmful, our culture of endless shopping is a colossal waste of time–time we could be spending with our families or achieving our goals. The Year Without a Purchase serves as a reminder that we already have most of what we need. Of course, the paradox of the book is that you have to buy it to read it, which goes specifically against the tenets of the book. But you can at least minimize the feeling of consumption by reading the ebook instead of bringing the physical book into your home.

Read The Year Without a Purchase

MONTAINGE, by Stefan Zweig

This biography Montaigne is a beautiful reminder of why intellectual thought, freedom of expression, and self-examination matter. A highly readable biography of one of the world’s most influential thinkers and writers, particularly apropos for our time.

Read Montaigne, by Stefan Zweig


Most of us will never be choreographers. That’s part of what makes this treatise on creativity by renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp so fascinating. Whether you’re a writer, artist, musician, dancer, or someone who has yet to discover your creative outlet, Tharp provides exercises and inspiration to help you to live a creative life. Tharp offers advice on clearing mental and physical clutter, getting out of a creative rut, getting your ideas down on paper (and in a box), and more.

Read The Creative Habit

Listen to The Creative Habit on Audible

Famous Writers Who Failed First (Why Curiosity Matters More Than Grades)

Famous Writers Who Failed First (Why Curiosity Matters More Than Grades)

If you were the kind of kid who made less than stellar grades in some subjects because you became obsessed with exploring something off the syllabus, you may have been destined to be a writer. There is a noble tradition, in fact, of writers and academic failure.

The list of celebrated novelists is filled with people who did poorly in school. Roald Dahl was told by an English teacher that he would never amount to anything. F. Scott Fitzgerald never finished at Princeton. Paste Magazine’s list of famous writers who never went to college, includes Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouak, William Faulkner, and Augusten Burroughs. Many of them barely graduated from high school.

A passion for writing, a devotion to reading, and intense curiosity can transform dull students into great writers. I’m not saying that grades are completely irrelevant. However, when schools and parents become obsessed with assessment, kids lose out on valuable opportunities to learn and to develop their own unique talents. As a parent, I want my son to do his best. That said, I value curiosity far more than a letter on a report card, because children who are capable of developing passionate interests and following through on the things that inspire them are likely to be more successful and happier than those who simply follow orders and do well on tests.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do… Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~Mark Twain

Take the 10 Days of Beautiful Failure Challenge, and let your curiosity guide you.

Key to Creativity: Process, not Product

Key to Creativity: Process, not Product

I’ve been hearing a lot about Wired to Create, the new book by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and science writer Carolyn Gregoire. Those who “derive enjoyment from the act of creating and feel in control of their creative process tend to show greater creativity than those who are focused exclusively on the outcome of their work,” the authors write.

As a writer, I found this particularly illuminating. For many years, I wrote primarily for the joy of writing and the hope of one day publishing. Somewhere in the last seven or eight years, my writing became more tied to the end product, which is a natural result, I think of being on contract, but also a result of thinking about the reader. As a novelist, I believe it is my duty to think about the reader, but I also like the idea of going back to that place of joy, the flow that arises during “the act of creating.”



Unsound: How Musicians and Creators Survive in the Age of Free

Unsound: How Musicians and Creators Survive in the Age of Free

I was excited to see the trailer for the new documentary, Unsound: How Musicians and Creators Survive in the Age of Free. This is an important movie by San Francisco based music producer Count.

From the website:

“Unsound” reveals the dramatic collapse of the music industry and the unintended consequences the internet revolution is having on creators of all kinds. Featuring noteworthy musicians, filmmakers, journalists, and beyond, “Unsound” explores the struggle for creators trying to survive in the ‘age of free’.

How to End a Story

How to End a Story

The EndStories are like relationships: the beginning is always so much fun, and the ending is fraught with turmoil.

When I sit down to start a story, the first sentence just sort of comes to me. The second sentence too. If I’m lucky, the third swiftly follows. The inimitable short story writer Kate Braverman once told a group of enraptured graduate students (they happened to be my students, and she was wowing them with her general exuberance and wonderful strangeness) that she channels her characters. A bit like spirits, some linguistically gifted version of the returning dead. They speak throughher and onto the page, as if she isn’t even there.

I, unfortunately, channel nothing. It is all rough work after sentence three. By the time I’m in the middle of the story, I’m feeling more than a little uncomfortable. Where am I going? Where have I been? Have I gotten lost in the labyrinth? Probably, yes.

Somehow, I find my way through. The characters do things. They meet with hardship and grief, or maybe they just meet some swanky fellow in a bar or a Laundromat. They get into trouble, maybe out of it. Probably not. I find myself feeling that they have done all they can do. Not much more can be said. The action has fallen. We have all had our dénouement (which, by the way, is a French term meaning untying, from Middle French desnouement, from desnouer – to untie – from Old French desnoer, from des- de- + noer meaning to tie, from Latin nodare, from nodus knot.) And here we are in the labyrinth again, attempting to untie the knot, unwind the rope, escape the not-so-fun funhouse.

It’s time to write our way out.

One wants to resolve things, after all.One feels a deeply human need toconclude. After the falling action, there is often something more. Something unexpected. And here we come to what I have been meaning to say all along: a good ending is layered. The reader thinks she has discovered everything she can possibly discover about a story, but then: another image appears, another paragraph hums along, another question begs to be answered. One is left with the feeling of having walked out of the dark theatre into the light, only to realize there was something else playing after the credits, some secret part of the film, some final moment. You can hear it through the door, vaguely, but you can’t get back in. You’re not sure what you’ve missed, but you’re certain that you’ve missed something, that the reel kept on playing, the story kept on going, after your departure. You were only an observer, a brief malingerer, there but not there. The lives within the story carry on.

Michelle Richmond is the author of four books of fiction, including the New York Times bestseller The Year of FogShe is the creator of the Guided Workbooks for Writers series. 

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