currently reading

What Now? by Ann Patchett

I bought this one after hearing the commencement address that inspired it. It’s a very quick read. I read it this morning in about an hour. It’s about the life of a writer and just general thoughts on how to think about what comes next. It’s interesting that it does not broach the topic of deciding what’s next at all. Dealing with, however, is probably much more practical.

How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One by Stanley Fish

I bought this book to help me design curriculum. No, really. I thought it might break down sentences in a way that I hadn’t thought about yet. And that is the ultimate struggle in teaching writing. So many teachers want to dive into paragraph structure and forming an argument and writing essays. The honest truth is that poor sentences destroy all of that anyways. It’s funny because I was recently told that 10th grade is way too old to re-teach sentence structure, but I always say that I had my writing stripped down to basic sentence structure as a Sophomore in college. So, it’s never too late. Apart from the curriculum inspiration, it’s a fascinating book. If you like writing at all, it’s definitely worthwhile.

Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

I’m about two chapters in and have already realized that this is totally going to mess with my head. In a good way. The timing is perfect, too. I absolutely loved the discussion about the difference between the brain and the mind. And of course, this warrior Socrates reminds me of someone…


staring: on writing

A friend and I have been listening to commencement speeches and sending them back and forth. The recent habit was inspired by a speech we listened to together. It was awful.

(The truth is, though, that there are some really great speeches out there. John Legend’s at the University of Pennsylvania from a few years back is probably my all time favorite. From it comes one of my favorite things to think about: the collision of sound and silence.)

A couple of days ago, I found Ann Patchett’s commencement address given at Sarah Lawrence in 2006. I loved this for this moment in my life because she talks about the journey of a writer.

What I found (funniest) most interesting was the concept of staring and how much time a writer spends staring.

Yesterday, I went to wash my car. I use one of those places where you put the quarters in the machine and wash it on your own with this little spray hose thing. Next to this place is an alley. And across from the alley was an apartment building. It was not very well-kept and on the door nearest to me was spray painted APT 3. It wasn’t well done. And I imagined that one day someone just got sick of knocks on the door asking for Apartment 1 and grabbed a spray can and wrote with loud, big, sloppy words. So there, it says.

On the steps sat a man. Hair every which way. Long beard. Smoking. A Jesus-looking figure, if you will. Minus the cigarette. So, as I dried the car, I stared at him. And from that staring came this entire story. An estranged daughter. An all-too-helpful son-in-law. A lifetime of struggles.

And then my mind went to something my father said to me last week. Your imagination is a little out of control.

It is.

When I sat down last night to get my chapters in on Lucha, I realized that my transition from the previous activity (in this case the Dodgers & yoga) requires staring. At nothing. Stare. Stare. Stare. Then, the words comes. Easily, really. And they don’t stop.

There’s really a lot to be said for staring.