Books about Writer’s Block

I’m reading this book about writer’s block right now called Unstuck by Jane Anne Staw. It’s good but it really annoys me in writing books when the author starts getting into these long, detailed narratives about their formative years. Like anyone really cares about that. It’s not going to help anyone get to writing better and more often. It’s just boring filler.

There’s no way that reading about an author’s college admissions essay is going to help me overcome the blocks to my own writing. That’s the only real reason I’m reading. If I wanted to know about the author’s life, I’d just go buy their biography. It takes so long to get to the point that the book ends up putting me to sleep.

I bought the book after starting this chapter in it called Thinking Small (Chapter 5). I tend to not do that. I think I must have some huge, life changing event happening in order to make my life worth writing about. Even though I know there are thousands of little things out there that can be interesting if explored through creatively writing and focusing on them. That’s my issue.

I feel like my life has nothing spectacular in it worth writing about, and a good writing book points out all those topics that could easily be overlooked or that you might not ever consider. This book is too concerned with getting into all the reasons why you might be having writer’s block, and not much about how to get past it. Though I’m still in the beginning so who knows, maybe it gets better.

I’m also working through Write for your Life by Lawrence Block, based on his series of writing seminars. This book is very good, interesting, and has me writing, so I’m enjoying it much more. When you get into it, you need to stop a few times to do a writing exercise when he’s done describing it, and it’s very motivational. When I’m done I will write a lengthier review to give you a better idea of the book.


June 3, 2013. Tags: , , , , . writing. Leave a comment.

Blessings and Miracles

I’m currently rereading The way to love; the last meditations of Anthony De Mello and it’s because of the following passage. This paragraph turned my day around and made it bright again:

“Third, spend some time observing the things and people around you. Look, but really look, as if for the first time, at the face of a friend, a leaf, a tree, a bird in flight, the behavior and mannerisms of the people around you. Really see them and hopefully you will see them afresh as they are in themselves without the dulling, stupefying effect of your ideas and habits.”

When I first read this book, this passage is what stayed with me, haunted me. And reminded to always see the world and everyone with fresh eyes, as if for the first time. Of course, reading the book as a whole, slowly, is much better.

I’ve always been aware and grateful for all the blessings in my life, and now even more I can see how abundant and beautiful life is, with all the things it holds for me to still discover.

There’s no feeling like forming a new friendship with someone and getting their take on the world, or doing something different to break your routine, or reading an amazing book, or listening to music you’ve never heard before and getting a glimpse of the singer’s view of the world, or reading a friend’s writing and discovering a whole other side of them you never knew, or creating a piece of art or writing that is all your own, or having that experience of someone opening up to you and trusting you.

All those little things can feel like miracles, if you stop to take note of them. The world becomes a very different place when you change your perspective. I still have my bad days and sad days, but I know that there’s another way to feel, and I don’t get stuck in one state of mind.I know it passes and I can get out of it and feel better again.

May 27, 2013. Tags: , , . writing. 1 comment.

Review of Inferno by Dan Brown

Some things in this review may be considered spoilers..

Over the rainy weekend, instead of going out, I stayed in and read through Dan Brown’s Inferno in about 2 and a half days. It was a fast-paced, entertaining read and I enjoyed the story much more than the story of his last novel, The Lost Symbol. The plot left me with some questions at the end, but the action was engrossing and entertaining.

Once again, there were a lot of descriptions of artworks, famous historical locales in Venice, Italy and Istanbul, and many chase scenes moving the story forward. The artistic and historical references may not be interesting to all, but I found them to be fascinating because I very much enjoy art history and literature.

The story is essentially a mystery that pulls you in immediately. Robert Langdon and Sienna Brooks (a doctor) are in a race to find a dangerous chemical weapon hidden by an evil scientist who is obsessed with the dangers of overpopulation on earth.

People have hidden agendas, as in previous Dan Brown novels, and not everyone is who they claim to be. Along the way, they encounter the head of the WHO (World Health Organization) and a man name the provost, the head of a secret organization helping the villain in his efforts.

The premise is an intriguing one, and can be a bit scary when the world of the future is compared to hell as depicted in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the first part of The Divine Comedy, in which Dante describes all the levels of hell (as he imagines it) as he descends to the lowest level. He eventually writes about getting to purgatory and then heaven. But hell is the novel’s central theme.

The short chapters make you want to keep reading to get answers and see it all unfold. Some things seemed a bit contrived, like a chase scene through a museum where Robert Langdon just happens to know secret passageways not known to the general public. He had learned about these secret doors/hidden rooms during a ‘secret passageway’ tour he took at another point in time, which I found awfully convenient for his escape from authorities chasing after him.

The thrill of this book is that it’s constantly raising questions. Brown gives you just a hint of information (a small clue to the big mystery) that makes you want to keep reading to see what happens. This method is very effective and show a lot of skill. The novel is very finely tuned. But will leave you with some questions of your own.

For example, why did Dr. Sienna Brooks need to be described as beautiful and attractive, if the only part of her personality that would come into play was her intellect? This is not a romance novel where we need to root for a beautiful heroine and happily ever after.

And this question was really bugging me: why did the evil scientist mastermind (threatening to unleash a plague on the world) wear a plague mask in his ominous video? (When you get to the end and realize what his virus actually does, you will understand this question). Maybe it was just to seem more menacing?

It was not to hide his identity since he removes it at the end of the video. It didn’t make any sense. Maybe I need to reread some parts to see if I missed anything. I could not put the book down and maybe when I was sleepily reading at 2:30am, some of these things were made more clear in the text.

It’s very easy to imagine this story playing out on the screen as a major film. And I would want to see it in live action like The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, if only to see if the way I imagined it is the way the author intended. And the scenery/art/locations described in the book are just begging for a theatrical depiction.

Dan Brown supposedly said there were talks to make this book into a movie, and hopefully the treatment of it is better than Angels and Demons, where the movie left out the central point to all the action.


May 20, 2013. Tags: , . books. Leave a comment.

Feel Better Now

Tonight I remembered why I haven’t been feeling my best lately, and it’s because I haven’t been doing the following things enough over the past few days:

1. being grateful for all that I have
2. cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes followed by a hot shower
3. meditation
4. listening to music
5. being aware of my thoughts
6. getting enough sleep

So today I did some catching up. After running a few errands and having dinner, I exercised and meditated. I plan to attend a small writing group tomorrow that I have never been to before. The weather is supposed to be very nice so I’m looking forward to that. When you work from home, it can be easy to forget that there is a great big world out there full of interesting people and places to go to observe people.

I’m already getting into the new book by Dan Brown called Inferno which I bought last night, immediately after reading the sample I downloaded. I’ll write up a review once I finish it which will probably be very soon! Dan Brown novels are hard to put down and very intriguing, so I’m sure this one will be the same.

It’s a shame that really good moods pass by just like bad moods do. The trick is to watch your mind and its tendencies, and to do what your body tells you to do. If it’s feeling restless, then exercise in some way. Go for a walk, a hike, a bike ride, a run. Something to get the blood circulating and the heart rate up. If your body is exhausted, then sleep. No need to complicate things. Feed your body if it feels hungry.

If your feeling bored, give your mind some stimulation with a good book or a break from your routine. If your mind is overwhelmed and stressed, then slow yourself down, take some deep breaths and listen to your thoughts in a detached way. Or just focus on the feeling of a deep breath. Center yourself and just allow yourself to be.

I remember watching a documentary about a fashion designer (I forget who it was now). He said something very wise. He said “If you don’t take care of your mind, your body will react. If you don’t take care of your body, your mind will react.” And it’s the absolute truth. They should be taken care of equally in order for a person to feel balanced, whole, and well.

May 16, 2013. Tags: , , , , . writing. Leave a comment.

A Loaded Question

(Entry below was handwritten on 4/30/2013, except for the last 2 paragraphs which I added today)

I decided to continue writing at the library, so I’m here on the second floor (in the art and music room) because it’s usually the quietest. And today it’s especially quiet. It’s only me here and one elderly man on a computer. It’s just right for writing.

The librarian asked me as I was sitting down, “Do you need help?” I thought, wow, what a loaded question that is for me at this point in my life. Yes, I need help in every single aspect of my life. I need career help, love help, life purpose help, spiritual help, self-image and confidence help. But I just said “No, thank you” and sat down to spread out my journal and my copy of A Writer’s Book of Days.

I just had the thought that I’d love to be back at the Glossbrenner’s spare cottage in Bucks County, Pennsylvania to compose today’s writings. I’d love to be sitting at that wooden desk in their spare bedroom, working by myself in the silence, like I never got to do while there last year for my birthday.

I’d love to be in Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner’s shoes one day. Together they have written over 60 books and when I spoke to Emily, she said their books are like their children since they never had any. One of their books is the most entertaining I have read in a while, About the Author. I found it in the bookshelf of the cottage they rented to us during that time last summer.

The blurb on the front of About the Author reads: The passionate reader’s guide to the authors you love, including things you never knew, juicy bits you’ll want to know, and hundreds of ideas for what to read next.

May 10, 2013. Tags: , , . writing. Leave a comment.

My Writing Space

Someday I will have something better, but for now this will have to do.
It was a lovely day because I called in sick, in order to spend the day writing.





May 1, 2013. Tags: , , , , . writing. Leave a comment.

Magical Realism at its Best

Aura by Carlos Fuentes

Book description from Amazon:

Felipe Montero is employed in the house of an aged widow to edit her deceased husband’s memoirs. There Felipe meets her beautiful green-eyed niece, Aura. His passion for Aura and his gradual discovery of the true relationship between the young woman and her aunt propel the story to its extraordinary conclusion.

(Review below was wrote this on March 23, 2001 while I was in college)

The novel Aura by Carlos Fuentes is the best book I have read in all four of my college years. I am an English major and I have read many different authors, but this book is my absolute favorite. It is written unexpectedly in second person, putting the reader right into the shoes of the main character. I read this book about two semesters ago and I still remember its imagery vividly.

If you hate to read books, you will still love this novel, or at least be completely engrossed until the end. Its full of striking scenes and imaginative storytelling that will keep you turning pages until the whole thing is read. As soon as I was done, I re-read the book and then lent it to both my parents to read. My copy was printed in Spanish, with the English translation on the opposite page. My parents couldn’t put it down and were immediately hooked and drawn into the story.

You cannot help but be impacted not only by the way the story is told in second person, but also by the palpable environment it creates inside the old woman’s home. It becomes another dimension, separate from the outside world, in which time, space and reality have no meaning. The lines between sleeping and waking are blurred. The reader feels constantly in suspense.

It is a dark, ultimately sad and haunting story, but very satisfying in a strange way. It is excellent and unlike any book you have ever read or will read. It’s an inspiration to writers and book lovers alike. There are a lot of hidden messages that are up to the reader to sort out. The story is filled with passionate restraint and emotional depth.


April 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , . books, writing. Leave a comment.

On the Road to Nowhere

This is a review I wrote in college after reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

The characters in On the Road feel they must travel across America having numerous adventures in order to prove to themselves that they are alive. In the midst of confusion, chaos and merriment, Sal and Dean believe they will be enlightened about the meaning of life. Because life is ordinarily so sad, Sal follows Dean everywhere so that he can make the most of it.

Sal wants to know how it feels to have complete and utter freedom. Sal admires people who are excited about life, enthusiastic about everything. Dean is this type of person. Sal knows Dean could get him to enjoy the endless opportunities and mysteries of experiences on the road. Sal likes Dean’s constant mad state of mind and Sal wanted to have it himself. Sal wants life in the extremes of love, joy, fun, and ecstasy. He feels this is the only way to live.

The spirit and pace of the book is fast and exciting. The reader can’t help but get caught up in the roundabout lives of the characters. This sort of lifestyle however, places no value on true friendship, responsibility, maturity or growth.

Dean’s life is all about fun. Kerouac sustains this meaning throughout the book by his descriptions of the muddled events and their consequences, the confusion, jazz music, drugs, drinking, parties and women.

The characters move constantly from one place to another without thinking or really caring about who they’ve left behind. Sal keeps getting the ‘bug’ to go back on the road. In the process, he destroys Dean’s domestic life with his wife, Camille, and their child.

At parties, Sal and all his friends drink heavily and throw women around like playthings. They don’t like it when their women interfere with their escapades. They just want women to be quiet, silly, and beautiful. Life for Sal and his friends seems to always be in a state of frenzy. At one point, Dean becomes mad and delirious. He talks nonstop and becomes fidgety and strange.

My own view of life does not correspond with the views in this book. The views I find reasonable and agree with are those of the characters, Carlo Marx and Galatea. They both call Dean on his irresponsible actions and rootless, meaningless existence. Carlo questions their actions angrily and warns them that this way of life could lead to early death. Dean is much more than a free spirit, he’s a wife-beater and drug abuser.

Galatea also chastises him in a great speech. She says, “You have absolutely no regard for anybody but yourself and your damned kicks. All you think about is what’s hanging between your legs and how much money or fun you can get out of people and then you just throw them aside. It never occurs to you that life is serious and there are people trying to make something decent out of it instead of just goofing all the time.” I agree, vehemently, with this reaction to Dean. This passage sums up my opinion of the entire story.

There is a time for fun, but there is also a time to be serious and responsible. Getting the most out of life is an admirable goal, but not if it means taking advantage of people and abandoning children. Sal and Dean could have had fun together without going to such extremes.

The life they led was dangerous, meaningless and absurd.  They could have had fun, drunk in moderation, lead normal lives and maintained healthy relationships with women. I feel that Dean and Sal, despite all of their adventures, still had much to learn about life.

April 4, 2013. Tags: , , . books, writing. 2 comments.

Outlaw on a Poem Walk

I recently started re-reading Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words, by Susan Wooldridge

Whether or not you write poetry, this book will inspire you to jot down your own insights and impressions of life. Its content and exercises are stirring, and you can’t help but see life differently. After only reading about 20 pages, I filled about ten pages in my journal. I can’t believe how well this author helps poets reach back into their experiences, emotions and deepest selves.

There are short, interesting, entertaining narratives about the author’s life in each chapter. The poetry exercises are listed informally at the end of every other chapter or so, in a section titled “Practice.” They are all fun and seem limitless for breathing life into your poetry or helping create more poems.

Wooldridge writes so passionately, you get the sense that she breathes and lives poetry. She seemed to have a lot of fun writing this book. Every poet can learn something here. It makes you alert and aware of everyday surroundings and their unexpected beauty.

Wooldridge is well versed in the study of poetry and its presence in both simple and complicated things. Her writing is refreshing, as well as reflective. I am not finished reading all of it yet, but I had to recommend this book because it can awaken any reader’s outlook and perspective on their craft.

(Title of this post is the title of Chapter 1 in the book)

April 2, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . writing. 2 comments.

Dreams and Reality

(Entry below was written on March 06, 2006)

I had a dream last night that I was supposed to fly out to Portland, Oregon for some reason, around 5pm. I had my luggage with me at the airport, nervous that I was going to fly alone for the first time in my life. There was a group of people also going on the same flight who looked like students, they were young. They were sitting around at the airport at this long table, eating. It looked almost like a cafeteria. I was nervous and anxious about flying and didn’t want to go.

I kept packing extra things in my bag that I had forgotten. I was nervous about time and making it back in time to catch the flight. I kept remembering things I forgot to pack and I knew I was going to be late. I went back to where the other students had been eating and they were gone.

I kept checking the time obsessively, minute by minute. I got back home and started packing again when I realized I didn’t pack pajamas. I gave up at that point feeling disorganized and dumb for having missed my flight. I felt confusion throughout the dream. I was telling someone how I was scared of flying, and had no one to hold on to during take off and landing.

That must be symbolic for something, feeling that I’m running out of time to go somewhere important? Feeling inept and overwhelmed and left behind? Those were the major themes there.

Today was nice. Work was busy and the day went by fast, and I got to wear this pretty new, long, green beaded necklace I bought over the weekend. I went shopping for some badly needed new clothes for work, and it’s funny how new clothes make you feel better. Like a new person almost. It makes it a bit easier to get out of bed in the morning, knowing that you’ll be putting together a new look.

And I wrote another poem today, though it might need just a little bit of revising. It’s interesting to see how my style of poetry writing has changed as I’ve gotten older. I try to break out of my usual patterns in poetry, but that’s just the way I hear the poem spelling itself out in my head.

I did it yet again, I bought another book while having just started that one I mentioned called On a clear day you can see yourself. I was at the bookstore and remembered that I had wanted to buy another volume of the journals of Anais Nin, and I found volume 6 which she wrote from 1955-1966. I had been eyeing that volume for a while and since I finally had extra money, I was able to get it today. It was only $6 but I’m cheap like that.

I read just the first entry and was immediately engrossed. The other volume I read, Volume 4, absorbed me so completely that I had to read more of her diaries. She really has a way with descriptive passages, and weaving her thoughts together. It’s compelling. Now I can’t decide which book to read.

“I wage a constant war against reality”
-Anais Nin

March 22, 2013. Tags: , , . books, writing. Leave a comment.

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