Community Through Writing

This is an essay by Joseph Dante.

Writing can often turn into one of the loneliest activities I know. Unlike reading, you don’t feel like a part of an ongoing cultural conversation. Most of the time, you are in a bubble. The romantic days of the rebellious writers and their turbulent lifestyles are over. The gracious benefactors, the squabbles and betrayals between artists and their mercurial temperaments. Today, there is very little tragedy and celebrity. Pure and simple, writing is work and meditation: it is a quiet process of sitting down and thinking. There is nothing romantic or tragic about it, and people want to know little of it. It’s about organizing, erasing, and revising. It’s about going back and doing that all over again on another day, with another new project. And maybe, if you’re lucky and stick it out, exciting things happen.

But it can get especially lonely if you live in a very suburban town in Florida like I do, where there are very few places to engage in conversations with other writers or people who actually want to hear what you’ve been doing, who aren’t just humoring you or trying to be polite. Here, there is only one independent bookstore. Most other larger bookstore chains have gone out of business entirely. It is endless pavement and highways, with very few cultural hubs, apart from the local library and a few art galleries sequestered far away from the main roads.

When I was in school, I had a great support system. There were teachers who encouraged my writing, pushed me to try and publish, and urged me to continue with it once I graduated. There were creative writing classes I could take and a literary journal I could start. There was a book club. In college, there were fiction workshops, where everyone helped to critique each other and learn together. There were professors who were also published writers. There were speakers who would come in and talk about their writing process. I was always surrounded by people who wrote and read.

Once all that ended, I felt lost and confused. I couldn’t tell if what I was writing was good or not. I questioned myself a lot. I still had a few writer-friends I could count on, but it wasn’t the same. It didn’t feel like it was enough. And when it was, I felt more like an intrusion or an imposition.

Fortunately, I’ve managed to find other ways to have some sense of community. Since I come from a place with few other options, the internet was a good place to start searching. Today, various platforms of social media have allowed us to connect with each other in ways that we never saw before. Chances are, you probably found this piece of writing through one of these outlets. Everything has become very easy and instant and ubiquitous.

Just in case you’ve had a similar problem, here are some suggestions I’d like to pass on:

NaNoWriMo: The website for National Writing Month, which happens every November. Writers gather in order to complete a novel within a month’s time. I’ve never tried it, but know several people who have. People tend to have really good rapport with each other and sometimes have local meet-ups in order to check in on everyone’s progress. A good place to push yourself and get motivated.

MeetUps: If you search the writing sections, you can find workshops, where people bring a piece of writing and critique it. There are also a lot of book clubs if you’re interested in that too (sometimes with themes or specific genres). You can search for other activities and interests as well, and it seems to be a great way of meeting new people.

Luna Park Review: One way I’ve also made friends with writers is by following several online literary journals. If this is your kind of thing, Luna Park is a good place to keep you in the loop.

Duotrope: If you’re an aspiring writer that’s looking to publish in a journal, this database is invaluable. You can search for all kinds of places: by name, by category, by story length. If you get an account, you can also keep track of your pieces and which have been accepted or rejected.

Fictionaut: A place to post your writing and receive feedback on it. There seems to be a very good sense of camaraderie here too. I know several writers who have used it.

Red Lemonade: Something of an experimental hybrid: a publishing brand and a writing community all rolled into one. You can read all the books they publish online for free. If you want, you can also order copies of their books. Zazen, one of the best books I read this year and can’t stop talking about, is on this site. People are able to comment and contribute to your writing and the direction its taking.

Tumblr: A microblogging site with a fairly large literary community. There are people writing book reviews, reblogging their favorite quotes and poems, and even contributing their own writing. Sometimes silly, sometimes intelligent, often personal.

Twitter: I was extremely reluctant to get an account at first, but there is no denying that there are a lot of writers on Twitter, which includes everything to genre writers to the more literary big names (Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood). I’ve also been introduced to some fantastic upcoming writers as a result. A lot of them are very friendly and more than appreciative that you’re supporting their efforts. It’s also sometimes good for finding new people with similar interests, since Twitter will make suggestions to you based on the people you tend to follow.

Pen pals: Outside of online communities, another good way to keep up with people and share things is through letters. Ever since school finished years ago, I’ve missed all the time spent passing notes back and forth between friends. I’ve always tried to keep some kind of correspondence like this going, regardless. It seems like a method of communication so long forgotten. It seems almost mythical. With everything else so instantaneous, it feels like waiting to open a gift from someone who knows just what to get you every Christmas.

Through several of these outlets, I’ve not only managed to find a decent group of fellow writers to bounce ideas off of, but have also formed very enduring bonds with kindred spirits. It’s a good feeling.

What is your favorite literary hangout? How have you tried to make writing feel a bit less lonely?

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Joseph Dante is a writer from South Florida. His work has been featured in Paste, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. He has a blog where he talks about writing, books, and the internet, and is currently a reader for Hobart. You can follow him on Twitter @storyforburning.

Photo: Some rights reserved by juliejordanscott.

Nobel Prize for Literature Winners and Why You Should Read Them

This is an essay by Chris Ciolli.

There are a lot of prizes out there for writers. But few (barring the Pulitzer) are as prestigious or as lucrative (the 2012 prize was for over 1 million USD) as the Nobel Prize for Literature.

How the prize works

Nobel peace prize winners receive a shiny medal adorned with the image of a young man sitting under a laurel tree, listening to (and scribbling down) the warblings of the Muse, at a prize ceremony on December 10th in Stockholm, Sweden with a Diploma and a document confirming the prize amount. Writers are nominated for the prize by members of the Swedish Academy and similar institutions, university and college literature and linguistics professors, past Nobel Prize winners in literature and presidents of societies of authors that are representative of the literature in a given country.

No writer is allowed to nominate him or herself, in case you were wondering, but making friends with a past winner could help (they can make nominations), and besides, who doesn’t want to discuss magical realism with Gabriel Garcia Marquez or talk about writing her first novel, The Bluest Eye while teaching at Howard University and raising two sons with Toni Morrison?

A little history

Since the award was first given in 1901, one hundred Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 109 writers (some years the prize is shared); there could be even more winners, but on seven occasions no prize was awarded—perhaps the committee had a hard time getting a majority vote, or mankind just didn’t show signs of any idealism those years?

The only reason the Nobel Prizes even exist is because Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, became unbelievably wealthy, and left the majority of his large fortune to a trust (instead of family members or friends) to fund a series of prizes, for producing outstanding work in an “ideal” direction in a variety of disciplines from literature to medicine. Some experts theorize Nobel wanted to make up for the “evil” he brought into the world in the form of dynamite and be remembered in a more positive way.

The 2012 award, announced on October 11, goes to Mo Yan, considered a pioneer for his use of magical realism and traditional folklore in his novels about country life in China.

Why read the winners?

You may be thinking, why read the winners…they’ve received sufficient reward (dollars and cents with lots of zeros). But for a writer, there is no greater reward than having your words read, understood and appreciated. Besides, even though some of the winners have been fairly controversial, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad book written by any writer that has had the good fortune to be a Nobel Literature Laureate. But when there are more than 109 poets, playwrights and authors that have won the award, all of them with more than a few great works on paper the question becomes who and what to read first?

Five of my favorites by Nobel Literature Laureates

1.The Good Earth by Pearl Buck (Winner 1938) – This is a book I picked out from my grandmother’s things after her death for sentimental reasons. It was falling apart at the seams and I wasn’t even sure I would read it, since I intended to save it as a keepsake. But once I started reading it I couldn’t stop. Buck’s evocative descriptions of family life in a small Chinese village had me racing through the book, even as I had to keep the pages together with a rubber band between readings.

2. The Stone Raft by José Saramago (Winner 1998) – Much in the manner of Kurt Vonnegut, Portuguese writer Saramago was always able to take a wild premise, run with it, and drag his reader along with him. This is definitely the case with The Stone Raft a novel in which the Iberian Peninsula has literally broken ties with Europe and floats freely around the Atlantic Ocean as Saramago’s main characters try to go on with the business of living.

3. The Tower by William Butler Years (Winner 1923)-Okay, so this book of poetry was written after Yeats won the award. It doesn’t matter, because it’s still one of his best books of poetry and includes many of his best known poems such as Sailing to Byzantine and Among School Children. Yeats is a master of disciplined rhymed verse.  Even you think you don’t enjoy poetry in structured verse, give him a try, chances are you (like myself, not so long ago), will be surprised.

4. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Winner 1983) – A disturbing and thought-provoking read, this is one of the books from my required reading list that has stuck with me on my travels. Every time I see a pig’s head in an open market I think about the British boys marooned on a deserted island, especially poor Piggy. This is an exciting, fast-paced read that proves to readers everywhere that literary allegories aren’t just for academics.

5.Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka (Winner 1986) – I don’t read a lot of plays. As a general rule, I prefer fiction. That said, this particular play is worth reading, because it is so different from the plays most of us (okay, me) were forced to read in high school or university. Based on real-life events that took place in 1946 in an ancient African city, Oyo, the play masterfully tells a tale of colonialism and its failure to recognize native cultures as important or worthwhile, in this case the story of the  Yoruba people in Nigeria versus British Colonial authorities.

Have you read any Nobel Literature Laureates? Do you have any favorites?

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Chris Ciolli: A writer and translator by trade, Chris Ciolli spends her spare minutes reading, traveling and playing with art supplies. Okay, so sometimes she sleeps, eats and slurps coffee, too. Learn more about her at ChrisCiolli.com, read about her travels at Midwesternerabroad.com, or follow her on twitter @ChrisCiolli.

How to Write a Book in Seven Days

This is an essay by Cody Wheeler.

You probably read that title and immediately called BS, but then wanted to know how you could do it too, right?

Don’t feel bad. Considering books have traditionally taken months, or sometimes even years to write, it’s a little bit hard to grasp that a book now be born in seven days.

Believe it.

With the wonders of self-publishing on platforms like Amazon’d KDP, the barriers to entry in the book publishing world are being bulldozed by the day.

Of course you still have to have some writing talent and be willing to see the big picture of what you’re going to write about to be able to write a full-length book, but that once gigantic and costly barrier of having to hire an agent to get a book published simply no longer exists.

That book idea you have can be published next month, and here’s how to write it in seven days with a little help from a world renowned self-help psychologist, Dr. Maxwell Maltz.

And if you still have any reservations, it might help to know that a variations of this technique is used by a couple of people you probably already know, Dan Kennedy (president of the Psycho Cybernetics foundation), and Seth Godin (possibly the most productive writer on the planet).

Note the following technique is geared towards non-fiction books, however you can certainly follow a similar process for fiction-based material.

How to Write Your Book in Seven Days

Step 1 – Commit to Your Idea

If you’re a true writer, you’ve probably kicked around several ideas of books you’d like to write. Well now’s the time to choose one. For this technique to work, you have to fully commit to one of those ideas, and commit to not get caught up in anything else for the next week of your life.

Yes, you can go to work, and even spend time with your family, but recognize that you are going to need a few hours a day to work on your book without distraction. Hopefully you can manage that.

If at this point you’re telling yourself you’ll never be able to do that, then you have a choice to make. You can either give up now, or you can give it a solid try and see what happens. The risk vs. reward scenario here is well in your favor my friend. Even if you miss your seven day target, you’ll still have written a good chunk of a book that you can still finish, right?

You don’t have to fully commit to a title at this point, but you do have to know what your book is going to be about. Most likely the title will come to you while you’re writing. For now, just accept that your idea is about to come to fruition, and commit to a blaze of writing glory over the next seven days.

Step 2 – Brainstorm and Outline

You’ve chosen your book subject matter, and the words are probably already starting to come together in your head. What I want you to do now is brainstorm your content, and outline the flow of your book.

Grab a piece of paper, a whiteboard, of whatever medium of writing you choose. Take about 30-45 minutes and throw down your chapter titles and subtitles that you would like to get across to your reader. What you’re doing here is starting to put together the pieces of your book so you know exactly what you’ll be writing before you write it.

This will not only increase your productivity while you’re writing by giving you a solid structure to work from, but it is vital to this full technique working well for other deeper reasons as well. You’ll see why in a minute.

Once you’ve got all of your ideas down, take a bit of a breather, let your mind go to work on your ideas, and then come back (on that same day) with a fresh mind.

Now I want you take your ideas, and put them into a logical flow that will make sense to your readers. Actually choose Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and all of the subsections of each chapter. Go ahead and get them laid out in a solid flow so you’ll have them ready to go when you begin writing.

When you feel like you’ve got a solid flowing outline that you can put in print your task is finished for Day 1. Resist the urge to begin writing at this point. I’m going to give you a technique that is going to make that a lot easier on you.

Step 3 – Sleep on It (Super Important)

This is where the magic happens.

You’ve now got a full outline of the book you want to write, and you’re going to let your subconscious do the writing for you using a technique Dr. Maltz shares in his book Psycho Cybernetics.

Chapter 6 of this book is titled, “Relax and Let Your Success Mechanism Work For You.” It’s all about something Maltz calls, the “Automatic Success Mechanism” that we each have inside us as part of our biological make-up as human beings.

Dr. Maltz’s research discovered that we are all wired to succeed. We just need to relax and equip our minds to be able to do it, and this is exactly what you’re going to do in this step. You’re going to let you subconscious go to work on the first few chapters of your book while you sleep.

On night 1 of your book writing journey, grab the outline you made and take it to sleep with you.

Study it for a few minutes, paying close attention to the first few sections you laid out for yourself that you’d like to get done tomorrow. Be aggressive with yourself. Aim to get a lot done. You’ve only got 6 days of actual writing left.

For each section you’d like to get done tomorrow, think about the content for a few minutes. Don’t think too hard. Just relax and talk through a little bit of the content in your chapters and subheadings in your mind. This will plant the ideas into your subconscious and you’ll actually begin writing while you sleep.

Most people say will say BS here and will give up without even giving it a shot, but I promise you if you try it, this really does work. You just have to trust it and try.

Seriously, what do you have to lose?

Step 4 – Start Writing

It’s now Day 2. If you followed Step 3, you’ll notice that you probably woke up with a whole bunch of new ideas in your head about what you want to write today. You’ve probably been making notes all day long about this content, and you’re extremely eager to get started. You should have no trouble writing those first few chapters now. Pretty cool, huh?

If you weren’t inspired over night, don’t worry. When you sit down to write you’ll notice it comes easy, and even if it doesn’t just get the process started and try again the following night. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest you know. You’ll have a much better shot at succeeding if you focus on keeping things moving.

This is where you have to be careful to block your time wisely. To have around a 100 page book, which is plenty to teach your readers a skill or tell a short story, and a solid amount for a short book, you need to write about 25,000 words. If you already know what you’re going to write and you’re a quick thinker, you can usually write about 1500 words in an hour.

Assuming you don’t make too many revisions along the way, that puts you at around 16 hours for your 25,000 words, which means over your six days you’re going to have to write around 3 hours a day. Of course feel free to write more or less depending on your flavor, but I feel like that’s a good milestone for most people.

This is where productivity principles are going to come into play in a big way. To be successful with this, you need to block your time wisely. You need to be as productive as possible when you write, so try to isolate yourself and minimize interruptions if possible. Also try to resist the urge to go back and make edits. The last thing you want to do is re-work everything you’ve already written.

Take a couple of short breaks during your writing sprees and make sure your mind is always fresh as well.

Once you’ve hit 4,000-4,500 words or so for the first day, call it quits and repeat the outline review process on the next chunk of your book as you go to sleep. It’s very important you do this each and every night. This is what is going to prepare you to write very effectively the next day.

Note: At this point I want you to check yourself. As much as I want you to write a book in 7 days, I don’t want you to produce low quality content to do so. Writing 4,000 words a day isn’t something just anyone can do. You have to be a pretty dedicated and focused writer to do so. If, after reflecting on your work, you feel like you were really rushed and didn’t write well, then you may want to consider cutting your daily writing in half in order to produce a higher quality product. There’s no shame in writing a book in 14 days either, or even 21.

I really want you to push yourself to write quickly and always work on improving your output, but I’ll leave this judgment call up to you.

Step 5 – Keep Writing

Writing for 6 days straight is a mentally taxing thing to do. A lot of people will get the urge to take a break and come back to it in a day. I urge you not to do this. One day is likely to turn into two. Two is likely to turn into four. Four is likely to turn into a week, and so on.

If you absolutely must take a break, be very disciplined with yourself and make sure you get back to writing. Remember your motivation for writing your book in the first place. This is what is going to keep you going.

Using the Psycho Cybernetics technique I shared with you earlier each night before you go to bed, as well as solid productivity principles, continue to knock out about 4,000-4,500 words each day, and by the time day 7 comes around, you’ll be finished! Now you just need to proofread for mistakes and you’re ready to go!

Note: It’s very important that you review the content you want to write the night before you write it. This is what allows your subconscious to go to work on the material while you sleep. If you neglect to do this, you’re going to have a much more difficult time with your writing.

Step 6 – Proofread for Mistakes

Other than adding in your resources, your table of contents, and any other content like a preface, the main content of your book is finished at this point.

Now you just need to proofread it. It’s going to be hard to proofread your entire book on Day 7 after you’ve been writing, so I recommend you allocate a day for this as well as doing any other sort of additional preparation you need to do before you send it to the proverbial printers.

Yes, technically that’s Day 8, but I never said how to plan, write, and proofread a book in 7 days, now did I?

Point being, the main work is done at this point, so now you have to focus on making sure you didn’t make any glaring spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors, and you’re good to go. Just try to resist the urge to rewrite the content of your book as you’re proofreading. That’s a recipe for a huge delay.

Once you’re finished proofreading, there’s one final step.

Step 7 – Just Ship It

Even after proofreading, many people want to go back and make hundreds of tiny little edits, add chapters, add content, and so on. It’s great that you want to keep improving and make a quality meaty product for your readers, but this cycle of development is only going to keep you spinning around in circles reading through your book over and over.

You have to recognize your ROI here. Most likely, you’re not getting a high return on your time when you’re nitpicking about the use of descriptive adjectives and cleaning up prepositions at the ends of your sentences.

At this point, even if your book is only about 98% of what you want it to be, you have to be ready and willing to pull the trigger. That final 2% could end up taking you months to perfect. The most productive people in the world, like Dan Kennedy and Seth Godin, have the ability to recognize when something is good enough, and at that point they ship it.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Not everyone is going to love your stuff, but odds are if you’re talented enough to write a 25,000 word book, you’re probably a pretty smart cookie. Be willing to share that knowledge with the world. Be willing to do something awesome.

On top of that, the great thing about the electronic publishing world today is that you can update your book at any time with a few step process that takes no longer than 10 minutes. Even if you have a print version, your future prints can be updated very easily. That should put your mind at ease.

So have the guts to release your Version 1, and be done with it. You can always come back and add content later.

Your Call to Action

So there you have it. You now have a system, backed by the psychology of one of the most recognized psychologists in the world, and used by some of the most prolific writers of our time. This system will allow you to write a book in seven days, and to do a high quality job while you’re at it. Take that knowledge and do something awesome with it. The publishing world is yours for the taking.

Remember, even if you have reservations and concerns, you have nothing to lose by giving this a shot. Even if you can’t hit that coveted seven day mark, you can most certainly hit the 21 day mark, and that’s not too shabby either.

cody wheeler academy successCody Wheeler is a Personal Improvement blogger at Academy Success. He focuses on teaching his community how to be more effective through improving their mindset, productivity, health and fitness, and personal finance skills. You can grab his Productivity Success Secrets Action Guide here today.

Celebrating the National Day on Writing All Year Long: What, When and Why to Write

writing about writing

This is an essay by Chris Ciolli.

Text messages, emails, facebook status updates, blog posts, not to mention more traditional types of writing like grocery lists, journal entries, novels, poems and hand-scrawled letters sent via snail mail—writing in some form is a part of most Americans’ daily lives, not just those Americans that would embrace the label of “writer.”

This Saturday, October 20th, 2012 will be the fourth National Day on Writing. Sponsored by NCTE or the National Council of Teachers of English (who else?), the main purpose of the event is to call our attention to the important role of writing (of all kinds) in our day-to-day lives and encourage us to write and enjoy the writing of others. But the existence of such an event raises a few questions: What do we write about? When can we find time to write? and last but not least, why bother writing at all?

What to Write About

English teachers and other experts are always fussing about writing what you know. Don’t confuse this warning with being limited to writing about what you personally have experienced. There are a lot of ways to “know” a subject—reading is great for this—and empathy works wonders for writing about all matter of things. Perhaps instead of worrying about writing about what you know, write about what you’re interested in, about what you feel passion for. Your enthusiasm for the subject matter will make your writing shine, and keep you interested enough to follow through, especially if you plan to write something long, like a novel.

As far as what genre to write in, my general suggestion to my fellow writers and myself is to write what you like to read. If you adore mysteries, chances are you’ve read enough of them to know how to structure a story in such a way to surprise mystery fans. By the same token, if you spend your spare time devouring poetry, it’s much more likely that you’ll think about the power of an image and what words will best capture the feeling it inspires.

Whatever you decide to write about, keep an open mind. Don’t limit yourself to one subject matter or one genre because it’s what you’ve always written or because it’s what first made you successful. Whatever your opinion is of prolific best-selling authors like Nora Roberts and James Patterson, many of them have had serious success in a variety of genres and I wouldn’t be surprised if part of what keeps them writing so constantly is being able to switch things up once in a while.

When to Write and Making Writing A Habit

Write when you feel like it. That’s it, I said it. You should definitely put words on paper when you feel inspired, take a moment and enjoy the call of the muse.

But be aware, that if you really want to do this writing thing, and pay it the respect it deserves as an art and a noble pursuit, you’ll have to write when you feel like it…and when you don’t. Making writing for writing’s sake a habit is difficult for most of us. Of course we text, we email, we tweet, but writing for the sheer joy of it…. that’s a tough one.

Studies show it takes at least two months to form a habit. So that means if you want to write on a regular basis you’ll need to keep up a scheduled routine for 8 weeks or more. The key to making the habit stick is making a reasonable commitment. Choose a time, a medium and place that are comfortable for you, and be realistic in your estimation of the amount of time you can commit to your writing “habit” (I have trouble with this part, myself).  Then all that’s left is to stick with it, until you write daily, at x time, on autopilot.

Just remember, everyone has off-days. If you miss a day, get up the next day and write as if you were there yesterday too, but in chair, typing away.

Why Write?

The most important question for writers and would-be writers is always “why write?” Why bother, when there are so many amazing words already out there, waiting to be read, and the general public reads less and less? Why write when the pay is miserable, and only your mom subscribes to your blog posts, anyway?

Write to remember and redefine who you are. Write because your thoughts and ideas are worth working out on paper. Write because you need someone to talk to, and paper listens with a patient ear. Write because you want to create something new and your own, or write, because you need to, to keep sane.

Write because you have something to say, and believe it or not, someone out there will need or want to hear it. While it may be true that everything worth saying has been said, that doesn’t mean that it’s been said the same way that you would say it, or that it’s been well understood or appreciated by every reader. Every writer has something different to offer and all writing serves a purpose: even if no one but the writer ever reads his words, the writer is communicating an important message to himself.

Written something lately? Share it with the world. Since this year’s Day on Writing is on Saturday, NCTE is suggesting writers share their words via Twitter on Friday October 19, using the hashtags #WhatIWrite and #dayonwriting.

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Chris Ciolli: A writer and translator by trade, Chris Ciolli spends her spare minutes reading, traveling and playing with art supplies. Okay, so sometimes she sleeps, eats and slurps coffee, too. Learn more about her at ChrisCiolli.com, read about her travels at Midwesternerabroad.com, or follow her on twitter @ChrisCiolli.

Photo: Some rights reserved by jjpacres.

Misunderstanding Clytemnestra: Portrait of a Woman’s Revenge

This is an essay by Amarie Fox.

Imposed on each human being from the moment of their birth is a responsibility. It asks that everyone assemble an identity, but within the restraints of one’s sexual identity and the moral code of society. When one follows their designated path, order and harmony reign. Quite oppositely and expectedly, if the path is abandoned, chaos reigns. With literature, what is perhaps most interesting– or even what makes a character complex and appealing – is when expectations are shattered. When we are confronted with a character that is neither totally masculine or feminine, but breaks all archetypes and is something else entirely, we’re often left not knowing quite how to respond. As a reader, I love to be challenged or to see a scenario from another angle I would otherwise never consider. Sure, sometimes, it is easy to get wrapped up in our heads and stay close to our established opinions. As a dedicated reader, though, I have found that reading is the remedy to this problem of a limited mindset. Reading shakes us out of our complacency. Solely because itasks something of us. It is not a leisurely, passive activity as much as it is hard work.

For the past few weeks or so, Brandon has been discussing various subject matters and themes in Classical Mythology. Along with him, I share an appreciation for Greek and Roman texts. If I was to browse my shelf, I would have to say that they not only challenged my thinking the most, but are still fresh and very relevant to our 21st century lives. That is not to say that upon first reading Homer or Plato I was what you would call thrilled. Again, it was a lot of hard work (hard work that came with a lot of headaches, I should say.)

I cannot continue without mentioning that as a woman, the hardest part for me was setting my modern perspective aside and reading the dramas, epics, and philosophies for what they were, rather than what I wanted them to be. If we were all to go around and approach books with a certain perspective or only seek out sects and groupings within literature, we would be sorely disappointed and reading what we already knew. We’d never learn a single thing about the rest of the world. In fact, we’re be stuck with a limited amount of material to enjoy.

That being said, it is maybe surprisingly enough within the Greek literary tradition – specifically in Aeschylus’ drama Agamemnonand Homer’s Odyssey – where one woman challenges what it is to even be a woman. She is one of the most convincing portrayals of a woman in early literature that I can think of. Her spine is not a splinter, but a towering metal rod. Clytemnestra many things, but mostly she is a wounded and wronged mother who crosses the moral boundary, just as easily as a man, for one reason: to obtain personal justice.

Blood Revenge: Justice as Revenge

Something that is often overlooked in Classical literature and needs to be addressed, especially in any reading of The Odyssey, is the concept of blood revenge. It should not be confused with the biblical idea of an eye for an eye mentality, for The Bible delves into great detail and specifies that not every punishment is a death sentence

However, before democracy was invented (by the ancient Greeks, at that!) they followed the idea that if someone killed your family member it was in your right to kill them. People acted with compulsion and desire, only because no other tool for justice existed. The problem here is slightly obvious: the chain of killing does not cease, it is endless. Aeschylus, in his larger work The Oresteia, deals with and solves the problem of blood revenge, through a mythological account of historical democracy.

Unfamiliarity with this idea often causes people to see Clytemnestra as a “bad woman,” which is unfortunate, since she is only following a proper societal law.

“That woman – she maneuvers like a man”

One of the most interesting descriptions of Clytemnestra comes from the opening lines of Agamemnon, when a watchman cries out, “So she commands, full of her high hopes. / That woman – she maneuvers like a man.”

Now, she may not be equal to any man in Greek society, but her intentions and hard heart are equal to that of a man’s. She is in this way man-like. With this in mind, her taking Aigisthos as a lover was not to toil away her time and boredom, but a clearheaded decision to share her sentiments of hate with an equally vengeful counterpart. He was a tool to craft a plan. For Aigisthos was more than willing, seeing as he had his own motive for partaking in the murder: to even the scales for his brother’s murders by Agamemnon’s father, Atreus. With this, she shares in her retaliation, so as to not endure it alone. Two against one is more sound and solid. With two scheming, the plan was more likely to succeed. It was carefully planned, and calculated: proof of her sharp mind. Although Aigisthos may have lusted after her for his own, she took the situation, what she was dealt, and cleverly molded it in the palms of her hands.

All the scheming and brooding was rooted deep in another motivation for Clytemnestra, though: to seek some sort of justice for her own daughter’s death.

Following the code of blood revenge, her husband’s death is the only fitting choice for repayment. It is only briefly mentioned in Greek myth, but Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, at Aulis, before he leaves to fight the Trojan war.

The thought of a wife killing her husband may be undeniably ghastly, but when the motivations are clearly presented, another issue arises. Clytemnestra was a grieving mother, deserted by her husband, the murderer of their daughter. To her, the idea of murder becomes reasonable, because revenge is justice. What is more, the queen does not act out in an emotional tantrum, but calculates every move, arranges every small detail. The murder, as she calls it, has to be “a masterpiece of Justice”. Even the sword, the weapon,  was no accident. As she announces, upon revealing his body, Agamemnon used the sword to kill Iphigenia and so by the sword he, in turn, is killed.

Abolishing Gender Schemas

Clytemnestra with a clear reading is no different from anyone else in The Odyssey or Agamemnon. Her actions can be perceived as harsh, but that is in the perception of a modern reader. Really, she was a woman who wanted justice that would never be dealt otherwise.

Perhaps, it is more shocking in its entirety, though, for she is a woman. Gender schemas do not categorize women as brutal or harsh.

And the case lies in just that. Clytemnestra was not a molded woman or an outline colored in. She was multi-faceted like a diamond, playing each hand in a calculating manner. Although, she was a wife, a woman with a husband, she was a mother first. That love overpowered and outshined all else, something she knew no other man could possibly understand.

What do you think? Can you think of any other interesting or convincing portrayals of characters that challenge a code or identity?

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Amarie Fox is a writer and like everyone else on the internet has a blog (Sorrow & Lust). She receives digital mail at amariefox.letterbox@gmail.com.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Cea.

Surrounded by Books: Your Personal Library

This is an essay by Steff Metal.

“The library didn’t only contain magical books, the ones which are chained to the shelves and are very dangerous. It also contained perfectly ordinary books, printed on commonplace paper in mundane ink. It would be a mistake to think that they weren’t also dangerous just because reading them didn’t make fireworks go off in the sky. Reading them sometimes did the more dangerous trick of making fireworks go off in the privacy of the reader’s brain.” –Terry Pratchett. Soul Music.

A personal library is always a paradox – it is both a window into the depths of the collector’s psyche, and an impersonal statement of knowledge, a storage vault of tomes that have, at one time or another, been available for anyone.

The earliest libraries in existence could be visited as far back as 1200BC. They were both of a private and a municipal nature – a palace library, temple library and private libraries have been found in Ugarit in Syria, and a curator at a library in the Han Dynasty was believed to have invented the first library classification system. Libraries were not only collections of knowledge, but were political statements on a country’s (or individuals) wealth and intellect.

Private libraries rose in popularity in Ancient Greece, where the richer sought to outdo each other in the accumulation of knowledge, and the value of a book was determined by the “trustworthiness” of it’s copier. Aristotle had a large private collection, and the geographer commented that Aristotle “was the first to have put together a collection of books and to have taught the kings in Egypt how to arrange a library.”

But it was during the Renaissance, where aristocrats were looking to the Greek and Roman artistic and literary traditions for inspiration that the personal library flourished. Every noble across the continent was busy snapping up books to hoard in their private collections.

Nowadays, personal libraries exist for many reasons. Some people are simply voracious readers, and amass such a horde of books over the years that they require a room and a system to store them. Others still view a library as a mark of prestige and intellect. Still others see themselves as curators, and collect books not necessarily for the words within them but for their value as important historical or literary texts.

“The Librarian was, of course, very much in favor of reading in general, but readers in particular got on his nerves. There was something, well, sacrilegious about the way they kept taking books off the shelves and wearing out the words by reading them. He liked people who loved and respected books, and the best way to do that, in the Librarian’s opinion, was to leave them on the shelves where Nature intended them to be.” –Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

I fall into the category of “voracious reader”, as does my husband, so when we began to plan our ambitious home design – a building inspired by medieval castle architecture –  we knew we would have to include a personal library.

Organizing Your Personal Library

“Libraries are as the shrines where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed.” –Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

For the past few months, I’ve been researching methods to design and manage a personal library. Having read about many different personal libraries, and talking to a few bibliophiles, we feel we’ve come up with an excellent plan of attack.

When researching our library, we come across this same advice, again and again:

Plan to expand. We all know ebooks and digital devices are here to stay, but the printed book is never going to go out of style, even if it does become the domain for eccentric old collectors, much like vinyl is for audiophiles today. But since most of us ARE bibliophilic eccentrics, we’re never going to stop buying books, no matter how much we love our ereaders.

This is important to keep in mind when planning your personal library. Don’t plan a space based on storing the books you own – plan a space that you expand into over the years. I look at our buying habits now and project forward – this gives you an (somewhat shocking) idea of how many books you may acquire over your lifetime, and they all need their own piece of library real estate.

“Libraries are not made; they grow.” –Augustine Birrell (1850-1933) “Book Buying” Obiter Dicta

Create a Catalogue. If you’ve more books in your home than errant socks, you may need a cataloguing system to keep them all in order. With six bulging ceiling-height bookcases, we do not have a catalogue, and it’s a great annoyance, because we cannot track who we’ve leant books to, what books we have on certain subjects, and whether we own the complete set of a certain author.

It pays to devote some time to researching different cataloguing systems before you jump in, as each system has benefits and drawbacks, depending on how you use your library. As my horrified husband discovered when we merged our music collections and he learned that I catalogue according to the second letter of the artist’s name (so Metallica is under E, Iron Maiden under R, etc), everyone has a different sense of order.

Ideal Book-breeding conditions. Libraries seem to be greenhouses for books – you walk in one day and everything has sprouted and grown! Like a greenhouse, it’s important to look after your books, so they give you the best fruit every season.

Looking after your books is simple. Don’t eat or drink in your library, try to keep animals away, don’t fold down the pages or bend the spine when you read, and make sure your books are shelved properly. Your books should be stacked vertically, spines out – don’t stack books or pile one set on top of the last – this can damage the spines when you pull books out.

Your library should be free of moisture, heat, and direct sunlight, as all these things can damage your books. Too much heat causes pages to dry and crumble (especially with older books), while damp causes mould and mildew to form. Direct sunlight can fade ink and reduce beautiful covers and typography to an unreadable grey.

I like to use dust-covers when my books are on the shelves, and take them off when I read – that way, the dust cover stays pristine and I don’t have to wrangle it while reading.

Perfect Surroundings. I believe that a library should not only be a place to store books, but also a room within which to enjoy them. With that in mind, a library has two other essential elements – comfortable chairs for reading, and adequate lighting to suit the tastes of the reader.

Being that I have a rare genetic condition that means I’m extremely light sensitive, my library needs to be dark and devoid of windows. But we’ll be investing in some fantastical standing lamps with adjustable light levels for those in my family who can’t read in the dark.

The Joy of a Personal Library

“The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one’s devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.” –Norman Cousins (1915- ) Cited in ALA Bulletin, Oct. 1954, p.475

Why would anyone want to go to the effort of creating a room to house their books, cataloging them, shelving them, and keeping them safe? Surely it would be cheaper, simpler and less hassle to go to the public library?

For a bibliophile, the joy of a personal library isn’t just in the reading; it’s in the very presence of books. Some people feel as if the physical books themselves carry a kind of magic, an essence of the knowledge and adventure lurking within. They find a great comfort in their collection – perhaps because looking at shelves of books you’ve read or plan to read gives a sense of tangible accomplishment, or perhaps, as I think, the presence of books and the ideas they contain are sunlight for the soul.

Do you, or have you thought of owning a personal library? How do you organize it? What role do you think personal libraries play in spreading the joy of reading?

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Steff Metal is a copywriter, blogger and illustrator living in New Zealand. She and her husband are currently building a replica medieval castle in the New Zealand countryside, complete with towers, a secret passage, and a library. Learn more about Steff’s copywriting services on Grymm & Epic, and follow her adventures on her blog.

Photo: Some rights reserved by cuellar.

Why Read?

This is an essay by Anjali Amit.

We read to know that we are not alone. –C.S. Lewis

Why read? There are so many other ways to get information and entertainment. Truth to tell, there are so many avenues clamoring for our attention that we will be well put to ask: “Why read?”

Let us begin by acknowledging that we do read, a lot. Most of the information posted on the web is in the form of words and sentences to be read. Videos and slideshows are a recent phenomenon, and comprise a very small percentage of the internet content. Driving directions, repair manuals, recipe books — all make us pore over the written word.

Why then, after all this reading, do we need to read more? Because of the very fundamental difference in the nature of the two. One form of reading is finding information we need to conduct the activities of daily life — information gathering. The other form of reading is wool gathering — hoping, dreaming, imagining. It is this other reading, for pleasure, that we are analyzing here.

Reading is Relaxation

Picture yourself with a little spare time. You see a book lying around. Before you know it you are deep in an adventure in the Amazon jungles, or winging your way through the outer planets. This is an activity that takes you out of your daily routine.You continue reading because you want to, not because you have to.

Reading is fun

We read according to our interests. The scientifically-inclined will pick up a book by Arthur C. Clarke, maybe, or Ray Bradbury or any of the many writers of this genre. If you are a legal-eagle you would go to John Grisham’s books. If you like mysteries that also teach esoteric facts then Michael Crichton is your man. There is a book for every taste.

Reading is Socializing

Did you think reading is an isolating activity? Think of all the times you have shared your experience of an interesting read with friends and sometimes strangers too. The times when there is an awkward silence in the conversation, and book discussion helps restore the flow. Reading helps you to connect with your fellow men. Book clubs are the ultimate socializing experience.

Reading is Creativity

Like Max of the book Where the Wild Things Are, you create a life in the mind. Max is sent to his bedroom without any supper. The bedroom famously changes into a forest. The walls fall away and the wild things roam free. A book sets your imagination free to roam where it will and create what it wants.

Reading is Freedom

While it sets your imagination free a book also allows you to be your true self. A book does not care for social niceties. Geek or goofball, a book opens its pages to all.

So, why not read?

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Anjali Amit does not subscribe to the ‘eat to live or live to eat’ debate. She reads to live. Occasionally she writes stories for children, and has been known to create a crossword or two.

Photo: Some rights reserved by erin m.

Five Must Reads for Banned Books Week

This is an essay by Chris Ciolli.

About Banned Books and Banned Books Week

Too often in recent history, individuals, schools and community groups have battled against books, many of them classic works by celebrated authors. Many masterpieces have been banned, censored or otherwise restricted for explicit sex scenes (Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita) and obscene vocabulary (Harper Lee’sTo Kill a Mockingbird). Still others have been deemed inappropriate because of religious content (John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath) or politically incorrect language (Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn).  And while would-be book banners are usually well-intentioned, hoping to protect innocent and underage minds from the uglier aspects of these writings, it is my firm belief that there is no place for institutionalized or government-mandated book-banning, or censorship in a society that values the freedom of expression guaranteed to American citizens in the first amendment.

So it’s unsurprising that I’m a staunch supporter of Banned Book Week.

Sponsored by the American Library Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, among others, Banned Books Week is a yearly event that aims to draw our attention to the dangers of censorship and celebrates our ongoing fight to defend the right of books of every type and subject matter to exist and be read, no matter how unpopular the ideas they contain may be.

A Call to Action

Protect and promote banned classics by (what else?) reading them. Here are five suggestions from ALA’s list of Banned Classics.

  1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – Perhaps Steinbeck’s most celebrated work (and a Pulitzer Prize winner to boot), The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joads, a family of Oklahoma tenant farmers, and their cross-country trek to California in search of survival during the Great Depression. While the work is fraught with controversial religious references and sprinkled with strong language throughout, it’s well worth a reading as a realistic and well-written portrayal of life during the Dust Bowl.
  1. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut – Long considered Vonnegut’s best and most influential work, Slaughterhouse-5 is about World War II, sort of. Taken prisoner by the Germans, protagonist Billy Pilgrim is a poor excuse for a soldier. While imprisoned in Slaughterhouse number 5 in Dresden, Billy becomes “unstuck” in time and experiences his future and past. At one point, he even travels to an alien world where he is exhibited in a zoo with a movie star. Like most of Vonnegut’s writing, Slaughterhouse-5 is delightfully bizarre and includes an appearance by recurring character, Kilgore Trout.
  1. The Awakening by Kate Chopin – In spare, elegant prose, The Awakening tells the story of Edna Pontellier, a wife and mother of two falling in love with a man who is not her husband, as well as her struggle to reconcile her views on femininity and family life with the prevailing attitudes of the society she lived in. Considered a landmark work of early feminism, and a precursor to writings by celebrated southern writers like Flannery O’Connor and Tennessee Williams, the novel was controversial and strongly criticized upon its publication in 1899 and Kate Chopin never wrote another.
  1. Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf – Counted among Woolf’s most accessible works, Orlando is the gender-bending story of a young man who decides not to grow old. One day he wakes up after a days-long nap in Turkey to the happy surprise that he’s become a woman, and then lives his life flitting between traditional gender roles, dressing alternately as a man and a woman, depending on circumstance, living an exciting, and centuries-long life.
  1. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie – In The Satanic Verses, Salmon Rushdie embeds religiously charged episodes of magical realism into the story of Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, Indian actors and expatriates that get trapped in a hijacked plane flying from India to Britain. Some of references to the life of Muhammad and Muslim culture in the dream sequences were so controversial among some Muslim communities that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran at the time, issued a fatwa calling on all faithful Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers.

Of course, maybe you’ve already read the ALA’s list of banned books in its entirety. Or perhaps one of your all-time favorite books is on the list. Or it could be that you just like the sound of your own voice. Why not participate in the ALA’s Virtual Read-Out for Banned Books Week (September 30 through October 6, 2012) by uploading a short video of yourself, reading a few lines from your favorite prohibited tome?

A Quote and a Final Reflection:

“I don’t want to be shut out from the truth. If they ban books, they might as well lock us away from the world.”—Rory Edwards, 12, Washington Post, Getting It Down at Writing Camp

It may sound melodramatic, but I wholeheartedly agree with the above quote from Rory Edwards. Books allow us to do, see and live so many different things and places that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Banning and censoring books limits our experiences and possibilities in ways that are hard to measure until it’s too late to retrieve what we’ve lost in trying to make all writings “appropriate” and “comfortable” for all publics. Discomfort while reading is almost always a good sign. Most often it means you’re learning about something beyond your prior knowledge or assumptions, and progressing as a human being.

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Chris Ciolli: A writer and translator by trade, Chris Ciolli spends her spare minutes reading, traveling and playing with art supplies. Okay, so sometimes she sleeps, eats and slurps coffee, too. Learn more about her at ChrisCiolli.com, read about her travels at Midwesternerabroad.com, or follow her on twitter @ChrisCiolli.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Monrovia Public Library – Monrovia, California.

The Great Error of the Romantic View of Creativity and Mental Illness

This is an essay by Aaron Pederson.

“…For thousands of years, people have made the observation that there’s certain kinds of extreme depressive states that seem more likely to produce philosophers, people in the arts, unusually brilliant scientists.”

—Kay Jamison Redfield

I used to idealize the “crazy” side of artists. I’d look at the sorrow of musicians and rappers and writers and think that their pain must be the source of their creativity. For me, Eminem was a big example of how misery aids creativity. His latest solo album, Recovery, was about his struggle recovering from depression.

So I thought as a writer, it’d be wise to keep some kind of suffering in my life. This would heighten my senses, fuel my imagination and give me something to write about. It’d make me a better artist. Boy, was I being stupid—and this realization came after reading a few books on the subject of creativity and mental illness.

A particular eye-opening book was Daniel Nettle’s Strong Imagination: Madness, Creativity and Human Nature. Nettle’s conclusion was that if you yearn to embark on a creative career, you shouldn’t adopt the foolish view that “you’re more creative when you’re depressed or mentally ill.” That view is truly wrong and by the end of this article I hope to convince you—with the help of Nettle’s firm grasp on the subject—why it’s wrong.

According to Nettle, there’s a central confusion that crumbles the foundation of this romantic belief, this idea that mental illness fuels creative thinking. The confusion lies between the notions of “neurosis” and “neuroticism,” or “psychosis” and “psychoticism.”

The Great Error  

“Neurosis” is defined as the actual symptoms of a person’s storm-tossed soul. Depression, social withdrawal, anxiety, unbridled anger—these are symptoms of neurosis.

“Neuroticism,” on the other hand, is defined as the personality trait that merely predisposes a person to neurosis. You and me can be happy, healthy and functional people even though we have shaky genes. Genes that, given an unfortunate environment or heartrending life circumstance, can hurl us into, say, severe depression.

(The same distinction is made between psychosis and psychoticism.)

Nettle believes that neither “psychosis” nor “neurosis” itself is useful to creativity. Being clinically depressed, being unbearably anxious, hearing voices in our heads or having grand delusion play in our minds is rather debilitating to our productivity. Nobody creates anything fruitful in the heat of a mental breakdown.

Robert Lowell, an American poet who suffered severe manic-depression, once said: “It isn’t danger, it’s not an accomplishment. I don’t think it is a visitation of the angels, but a weakening of the blood.”

What Really Aids Creative Thinking 

With that said, the underlying genotype that allows for psychosis or neurosis is what aids creative thinking, i.e. having “psychoticism” or “neuroticism” trickling through our bloodline.

At this point you may be wondering why? Why might the “genotype” be advantageous and not the actual “illness?”

The answer is quite simple. A person with, say, neuroticism sprouting in their family tree may be naturally more sensitive, more perceptive, more intuitive and more introspective than a person with more stable genes. And if that person keeps healthy (physically and mentally), maintains good relationships and practices positive thinking, he or she can channel that depth, that unique understanding into creative activities without any inhibitions.

But the deeply depressed, for example, face too many inhibitions for their work to be productive. They’re simply too listless, too troubled to create anything significant.

Now, for the rare cases of people who do make great art in the midst of a dark storm, Nettle believes that they’re simply exceptional people with rare intelligence, determination, self-discipline, resilience and even a ray of optimism burning brightly beneath the rainclouds.

And even though it’s these positive qualities that are responsible for their success—and not their sickness—we tend to fall into the trap of romanticising mental illness. We emphasize the positives and overlook the negatives. We forget that these rare individuals were resourceful and productive not because of their illness, but in spite of it. And we forget that aside from their achievements they still suffer tremendously.

Kay Jamison, an American psychologist who had suffered from Bipolar Disorder, explains: “Byron and Van Gogh wanted to be treated. Byron traveled with doctors, Van Gogh admitted himself, finally, to a hospital. They were in agony, in pain and in suffering.”

The sad fact is, had Van Gogh and Byron been treated successfully, they probably would have been even more productive. Or had they lived today where treatment was more effective and available, they still would’ve remained deeply creative. With drugs, with treatment, their suffering would have diminished, not their imagination.

So we’ve learned that the actual symptoms of mental illness are not beneficial to creativity, but rather it’s the underlying gene. But how can we adopt the advantageous aspects of this special gene, of “psychoticism” or “neuroticism”, without taking on the negatives, i.e. the madness?

How to Enhance Our Creativity and Discard Our Madness

The personality traits of “psychoticism” and “neuroticism” give rise to two things: enhanced creativity and mental illness. The key, then, is to eat the seed and spit out the shell, to enrich our creative faculties and discard any potentialities towards madness.

We can do this by understanding why a person with “psychoticism” or “neuroticism” running in their family has a creative edge. We’ve already discussed that it can make us more sensitive, perceptive, intuitive and introspective—but it’d be hard to enrich these traits since they’re largely inherited. Thankfully, there’s another artistic advantage in these personality dimensions that we can manipulate and develop—high mood.

People with an inclination towards mental illness seem better able to put themselves in good moods, in high spirits. Doing so gives them motivation to endure the gruelling process of completing a creative project.

As Nettle advises, we can self-generate this “high mood” by making good choices, surrounding ourselves with suitable friends, putting ourselves in gratifying situations, being sociable, exercising regularly, being optimistic and realistic about life and making courageous decisions that move us in positive directions. We can remove the stressors in our lives before they leach into our skin and dampen our positivity. We can live the life we want to live, a life that makes us happy.

If we do this, we’ll notice the benefits of a cheery mood—we’ll be more creative, bold, productive, motivated and focused. We’ll be a few notches under a manic-depressive’s “manic state,” and that’s exactly where a creative person wants to be.

To summarize: It’s not mental anguish (neurosis) itself that makes a person more creative, but the personality trait that makes them likely to experience anguish (neuroticism). It’s not psychosis itself that makes a person more creative—who could be productive in such a collapse?—but their sensitive, reflective character that hovers along the fringes of madness. Artists can have their cake and eat it too—we can rid ourselves of suffering without disposing our creative powers. How liberating!

Now it has become clear to me. Although Eminem’s depression may have inspired the material for his album, it’s obvious he was trying to escape and outgrow his troubles. He wasn’t welcoming his suffering—he was working through it, viciously trying to shed it. And you and me should do likewise.

As Daniel Nettle puts it, “People with a vulnerability to psychosis should not embrace their predestined trip; rather they should grab hold of every tool they can to protect themselves, including, most importantly, living a healthy life, just as fiercely as those burdened with a predisposition to cancer.”

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Aaron Pederson is a copywriter and freelance writer by trade and, in his spare time, he writes about creativity. He believes that creative people must be diligent and disciplined in their work, because if they aren’t channelling their creative energy productively their personal life can get messy. He has self-published a book called Lessons for Creative People, a short book on creative recovery. He blogs often at http://creativeethos.net about the creative spirit, and the many lessons we can learn from living he creative life. You can follow him on twitter @Creative_Ethos.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Nasir Nasrallah.