Journey to Your Writer’s Heart: A Book Flight

Journey to Your Writer’s Heart: A Book Flight

From my MFA residencies and decades of SCBWI conferences, the largest takeaway has always been to write from my heart. Like most wisdom, this advice is simple but not easy. Sometimes, my subconscious battles me when I try to dip into a story that holds rich meaning for me. Other times, I think I’m writing from my heart, but I discover that I’ve been playing a game of smoke and mirrors. I’ve skirted around my heart, but I haven’t deeply connected.

The journey to find our artist’s heart is not a one-time ordeal. It’s a life journey, one that is traveled in multiple parts. The three titles I’ve chosen for this flight have served as companions to me on that journey, urging me on toward courage, and lighting my way in the dark. I highly recommend each individually. I also encourage you: consider reading the three as a flight, allowing their ideas and insights to illuminate one another.

Journey to Your Writer’s Heart: A Book Flight

 

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech

 The fun in a book flight is not only each book on its own, but the way the books spark against one another, creating unexpected insights and urging your thinking “farther up and further in,” as C.S. Lewis might say.

Like many books, The Wanderer is a Hero’s Journey, which is part of what I love about it. Beyond that, I love how this coming-of-age story taps into the role memories play in our lives. It’s a lens that encourages me to look at my own life and the meaning I give to my own memories. When read back-to-back in this flight, the book becomes an even more illuminating metaphor, a map that guides me toward my writer’s heart. Learn more here.

The Hero is You by Kendra Levin

Longtime readers of the Writerly Play blog know that Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey has been a key lens to help me see my writing and also my writerly development. In The Hero is You, Levin looks at Campbell’s work in a different, but complementary way. She considers eight archetypes in the Hero’s Journey, and how these personas inform our work and lives.

It will likely not surprise you that I love this book. I love the big ideas explored, the questions asked, and the playful activities that invite my imagination to play. For me, play is the best way to head into the dark and face my fears. Surrounded by story, I tap into courage and momentum. This book will take you on a journey that will transform your writing and life. Learn more here.

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Of the three titles in this flight, The Writer’s Life is the most dense. That said, it’s packed with insight that informs the writing craft and life. Once again, the subject is the Hero’s Journey. Vogler’s initial goal with the book was to “create a writer’s guide” to the Hero’s Journey. Along the way, he found the Hero’s Journey to be “nothing less than a handbook for life, a complete instruction manual into the art of being human.”

In this flight, the book provides a wider-angle view of what the Hero’s Journey is, how it works, and why it’s such a powerful tool in helping us craft our stories and our lives. Learn more here.

Cheers!

If you pick up the books in this flight, I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know what questions they bring to mind for you. And please share your ideas for other titles that ought to be part of this flight. I’m always on the hunt for an excellent read, particularly about the Hero’s Journey. Tag me on Twitter or Instagram, and let’s chat. Happy reading!

Writerly Play Activity Collection: Finding Your Artist’s Heart

Writerly Play Activity Collection: Finding Your Artist’s Heart

How do you create meaningful work?

Putting our hearts on the page sounds simple, but it is one of the most difficult tasks artists face. In order to make powerful work, we must brave vulnerability and ask ourselves tough questions.

After a lifetime of improv, I’ve learned the best way into tricky emotional spaces often involves playing a game. Where I might craftily evade a pointed question, or truly believe I don’t know the answer, a playful approach can surprise the truth right out of me. Now, before you worry that I’m asking you to hop onto a stage under bright lights, let me assure you that game, in this case, is a loosely defined word. To awake your intuition, all a game requires is a clear goal and a bit of a challenge.

The art of finding our artist’s heart is one of the cornerstone skills developed in the Writerly Play Attic.

The Writerly Play Attic, like the other Writerly Play rooms, is designed to help creatives separate their thinking into distinct steps. By knowing the purpose of a thinking task, we can utilize activities toward stronger results.

Here is a collection of Writerly Play activities, designed to help you find your artist’s heart.

Choose the activity that best fits your creativity style. Not sure what your style is? Take the quick quiz and find out.

ACTIVITIES

Freewrite Your Heart

FOR INVENTORS

Move your hand across the page speedily to bypass your critic and discover your heart.

Try This

Zoom In On the Heart

FOR ARCHITECTS

Answer three key questions to focus your attention on the core of this project, and its importance to you.

Try This

Frame Your Heart in Three

FOR SPECIAL AGENTS

Choose three adjectives that focus your attention on the core of this project, and its importance to you.

Try This

Share Your Heart with a Loved One

FOR COLLABORATORS

Choose a confidant and write a letter about your project. What is most important to you about creating this artwork?

Try This

Grit, Empathy, and Vision: What I’m Learning about Creative Writing

Grit, Empathy, and Vision: What I’m Learning about Creative Writing

I woke up in the middle of the night before our most recent Inklings Book launch with these three words bouncing around my mind – grit, empathy, and vision. Sometimes the answer to a question I’ve been wrestling shows up this way. The question? Why is creative writing important, in a world filled with opportunities and responsibilities? The answer:

Creative writing is one of the best ways I know to build grit, empathy, and vision.

 

Creative writing builds grit in a number of ways. First, and possibly foremost, as Brene Brown eloquently states: “There is nothing more vulnerable than creativity. . . It’s not about winning, it’s not about losing, it’s about showing up and being seen.” She has a number of other important things to say about creativity, some of which you can read on her Facebook page.

For now, let’s stick with creativity requiring us to show up and be seen. Is there anything that requires more resilience than putting our thoughts – and our hearts – into the world, regardless of the response? In addition, if we want to write well, we must work and rework each passage, weighing not only what we mean to say, but also how our words communicate with our intended reader. Add to that the fact that sitting down to write regularly, especially when there’s no deadline or true consequences should we choose to skip a session, and we can easily see the sum results.

 

Regular creative writing builds grit through requiring us to face our fears, developing our patience and stamina, and pushing us to stick with a challenge in spite of how we feel.

 

Entering a character’s thoughts, asking why they act as they act, delving into their backstory to pinpoint where mistaken beliefs come from, and tapping into their thoughts and emotions is always an act of empathy. This kind of questioning and reflecting is at the core of writing any story. Writers can’t help but transfer the fine-tuned skill to their own lives, asking “Why do I do what I do?” and also to friends, family, and other relationships, “Why do THEY do what they do?”

 

Writing creatively is a way to actively practice empathy with ourselves, and with those around us.

 

And vision? For me, vision is the ability to see a future possibility, and then, to create a plan to make that possibility real. How can we build our ability to set and achieve goals? The crux issue is our confidence – do we believe we can achieve the goal we set for ourselves? Brooke Castillo talks about the concept of “believing hard,” and if you haven’t heard her discuss this powerful thinking tool, by all means check out that podcast link. While it would be lovely if we could use sheer will power to create confidence, the truth is that building confidence is a process. We must prove to ourselves that we are trustworthy. And if we’ve broken our word to ourselves in the past, we have to work doubly hard to convince our inner skeptic.

With vision, as with grit and empathy, creative writing is a deceptively simple, but powerful tool. As writers, we have full ownership over the creative process. We don’t need fancy equipment, a huge budget, or a crew of people to write a book, as we might need in other art forms. Writers have ownership over setting their expectations and meeting them. In other words, creative writing is the perfect place to prove to yourself that you can keep your own word. Over time, confidence grows. Your success multiplies, and you gain the ability to set even bigger writing (or any other) kind of goal.

 Writing creatively gives us a landscape in which to build our confidence around goal-setting, and thus, can convince us to believe in our own vision.

 

 Here’s what has surprised me as I’ve started to talk about grit, empathy, and vision with my clients. The connection between these core skills and creative writing is a surprise. The reason I woke up in the middle of the night with those words rattling around my brain is because I’d never thought to express the importance of creative writing in this way. And if I hadn’t thought to do so, as someone who spends all day every day thinking about creative writing–my own and that of my clients, why should I expect others to make the connection?

Make no mistake. When you take time to write creatively, you are not wasting time. Publication may be your ultimate goal, and if public or financial success comes for your project, fantastic! However, I’d say that your investment in your own heart, in YOU, is the true value of those hours spent typing or scribbling away. When you wonder whether it’s worth the trade-off to spend a Saturday morning writing, publication someday may feel like a flimsy result. But how about more grit, empathy and vision today? For me, the clarity of knowing what I’m really doing when I’m writing changes the game. My sincere hope is that this language, these three simple words, will do the same for you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how creative writing builds your grit, empathy, and vision. Share your insights, and tag me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I can’t wait to hear all that you have to say.

What I Learned from Madeleine – A Book Flight

What I Learned from Madeleine – A Book Flight

Speak with me for more than twenty minutes, and you’ll likely hear me quote Madeleine L’Engle. Sometimes you find that author, thinker, or artist that challenges and inspires you in all the right ways. For me, that person is Madeleine.

I’ve chosen four titles for this flight: a collection of quotes from Madeleine’s many speeches and books, a memoir, a work of literary fiction for adults, and a Newbery Honor book for youth readers. While I’ll be delighted if this collection sends you straight to the library to pick up a L’Engle title, I hope it also inspires you to read a flight of books by one of your author-mentors. Examining an artist’s work over a range of genres offers a rich thinking experience, and provides insight into that ever-elusive question: What makes up a writer’s voice?  As always, I wish you inspiration and joy as you savor your reading exploration.

What I Learned from Madeleine: A Book Flight

Herself by Madeleine L’Engle

“In real play, which is real concentration, the child is not only outside time, he is outside himself… A child playing a game, building a sand castle, painting a picture, is completely in what he is doing… So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating.”

Herself is my go-to book for words of wisdom about writing craft, and a writer’s life. Madeleine L’Engle said many times that she doesn’t teach writers to write. However, as Carole Chase writes in her introduction to the book, “As thousands of individuals who have say in her writing workshops and read her books over the past five decades will tell you, Madeleine may not teach people how to write but she certainly inspires them to unearth the writer within.” Whenever I need to dig deeper, stretch my courage, or be reminded why I write, I return to this book. Learn more here.

 

Two Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle

“What I must learn is to love with all of me, giving all of me, and yet remain whole in myself. Any other kind of love is too demanding of the other; it takes, rather than gives. To love so completely that you lose yourself in another person is not good. You are giving a weight, not the sense of lightness and light that loving someone should give.” 

As an artist, it can be easy to focus so much on a creation that I forget the most beautiful creation I’m making … my creative life. Two-Part Invention reminds me that our responsibility–and privilege–as artists is to live life meaningfully and with intention. While this book always makes me cry, it also brings me great joy. I read it regularly, because each time, it helps me become a better wife, friend, mentor, and writer.  Learn more here.

 

Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle

 “We human beings grow through our failures, not our virtues.” 

While I loved reading this book the first time through as a reader, I have returned to it multiple times as a writer. It’s a masterclass in crafting complex relationships on the page through dialogue, backstory, and action. As with everything else Madeleine L’Engle wrote, this book strikes a resonant chord with me, waking me up to a more fully present way of moving through each day. With each scene, she reminds me of how valuable each moment of our lives are. Live as an artist, live with intention, live with laughter and joy. Learn more here.

 

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

“If I’m confused, or upset, or angry, if I can go out and look at the stars I’ll almost always get back a sense of proportion. It’s not that they make me feel insignificant; it’s the very opposite; they make me feel that everything matters, be it ever so small, and that there’s meaning to life even when it seems most meaningless.” 

Madeleine L’Engle often spoke and wrote about her characters as though they weren’t made of imagination, ink, and paper, but as though they’d arrived in her life as living, breathing people. Her characters are complicated, creative, and dealing with life’s highs and lows. I love how L’Engle blends light with darkness, joy with pain, making each more distinct in her work. In this, as in all of her other books, I find myself feeling life more deeply when I view it through the lens of her words. Learn more here.

 

Share Your Favorites, Too!

If you pick up the books in this flight – whether for the first or (like me) the thirtieth time – I’d love to hear what thoughts they spark for you. If you have a favorite author who writes across genres, and who inspires you, please don’t hesitate to introduce me and the entire Writerly Play community! Tag me on Twitter or Instagram, and let’s chat. Happy reading!

Writerly Play Activity Collection: How To Find Your Dream Mentor

Writerly Play Activity Collection: How To Find Your Dream Mentor

Do you have unexplored creative potential?

A mentor can help you identify and explore new territory.

When people ask me about the value of grad school, I always say that working with mentors saved me years of trial and error. In-person mentors are invaluable, and if you have the opportunity to work with one, I say go for it!

There is also much to gain from mentoring with master artists and thinkers who may not be accessable without a time machine or millions of dollars. Books, podcasts, videos, online courses … in this information age, we have a vast landscape to explore. So vast, that sometimes it’s overwhelming. That’s why I put together a collection of activities for thinkers of all varieties, all focused on choosing the best expert mentor for YOU.

Mentoring with master artists and thinkers is one of the core skills developed in the Writerly Play Library.

The Writerly Play Library, like the other Writerly Play rooms, is designed to help creatives separate their thinking into distinct steps. By knowing the purpose of a thinking task, we can make any activity more productive and achieve stronger results.

Here is a collection of Writerly Play activities designed to help you choose your dream mentor.

Choose the activity that best fits your creativity style. Not sure what your style is? Take the quick quiz and find out.

Activities

Profile Three Experts

FOR ARCHITECTS

Use insight from three experts to lead you to the perfect-fit mentor.

Try This

Choose One Expert

FOR SPECIAL AGENTS

Focus on one expert in this strategic learning exercise.

Try This

Create a Learner's Book Club

FOR COLLABORATORS

Explore what’s important to you in your idea by digging deep with a friend.

Try This

Assemble a Think Tank of Mentors

FOR INVENTORS

Identify one-of-a-kind insights by connecting wisdom from an eclectic group of experts.

Try This

The 2018 Writerly Play Gift Guide for Writers

The 2018 Writerly Play Gift Guide for Writers

Gifts get a bad rap sometimes. We lament the hurry-scurry feel of the holiday season, and in order to settle our hearts and minds, decide gifts are off-limits. Perhaps because gifts are my love language, or because I’ve both seen and felt the heart-swelling joy of a perfectly chosen (or created) present, I’m putting my foot down. I’m taking a stand in defense of gifts.

A gift can tell a loved one that you see their heart. A gift can inspire fresh curiosity, support emerging creativity, and remind a person of who she is – and who she has the potential to be. A gift can be a point of connection, a reminder of a shared memory, an invitation to play.

Gifts don’t have to be giant to be meaningful. Here’s a list of 25 small Writerly Play inspired gifts sure to encourage the creative person in your life.

The Writerly Play Attic

Inspire your favorite creative to reflect, dig deep, and find where their heart is showing up in their work.

1. The Hero is You by Kendra Levin

Every creative process is a hero’s journey. This thought-provoking book is a wealth of creative coaching disguised as a simple paperback, and serves as Yoda to any creative ready to take their work and courage to the next level.

2. Personalized Journal

A thoughtful quote chosen by you will be a burst of positive energy every time your creative friend takes out the journal to reflect.

3. Colorful Fountain Pen Set

Elevate the journaling process, and add a little eighteenth century (ish) flair, with a fun set of fountain pens in a rainbow of colors.

4. Present Not Perfect by Aimee Chase

Subtitled “A Journal for Slowing Down, Letting Go, and Loving Who You Are,” this beautifully illustrated journal is filled with engaging questions and prompts, and feels like a breath of fresh air in the midst of a busy day.

5. Every Day is Epic by Mary Kate McDevitt

End your day with this invitation to playful reflection from the ever-whimsical Workman Press. Every colorful page offers a slightly different format for thinking over the day, determining its highs and lows, and pinpointing insights to carry forward to tomorrow.

The Writerly Play Studio

Encourage whimsy in every creative work session with these colorful, playful tools.

6. Sketchbook Dares by Laura Lee Gulledge

Dare greatly with this guided sketchbook. Laura Lee Gulledge’s art is rich with metaphor and yet easily accessible. Artists of every medium will enjoy this collection of creative challenges which will push their thinking in new directions.

7. Niji Roll

No one can resist the magic of unrolling this toolkit and revealing a rainbow of colored pens and pencils. It’s an instant call to adventure for your inner artist.

8. Pentel Felt Tip Markers

Wondering what ought to fill your Niji Roll? Try these high-quality, vivid pens that last for many months of creativity.

9. Rory’s Story Cubes

I often wonder how to stimulate the kind of thinking I might do in an acting class when the group offers a person, place and problem. Here’s an excellent solution! Warm up your drafting muscles by rolling the dice and then telling a story to fit what you roll.

10. Apples to Apples

While this card set is usually a party game for seeing how well you know your friends, it can also be played solo. Creatives can take on a character and play with that person’s preferences in mind. Whether they’re exploring a main character, a villain, or an ideal customer, your creative friend will come away with tons of new insight.

The Writerly Play Workshop

Add a sense of optimism to the critical thinking and revision process.

11. The Emotion Thesaurus by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman

When it’s time to revise, it always feels cozy to stack a few friendly reference books on your desk for SOS moments. This one is an excellent guide for any kind of storytelling artist, full of inspiration for those days when all your characters want to do is roll their eyes and sigh.

12. Index Cards

Yes, I promise! A three-pack of index cards will put a smile on any creative person’s face. Revision is a puzzle, but with a fresh deck of cards for plotting, planning, and strategic thinking, your friend will have all the tools needed to face down any creative tangle. Want to give a problem-solving kit? Add black sharpies and a collection of post-its. Wha-la!

13. The Art of Game Design (A Deck of Lenses)

 While these questions were designed with game creators in mind, so many of the angles they present are perfect for storytellers of all genres. This deck is a fantastic revision companion, offering over a hundred lenses with which to see and reconsider creative work. 

14. How to Tell a Story by Daniel Nayeri

A game AND a book, this hands-on experience is fantastic for warming up  revision muscles. The game, as designed, guides the players to think about motivation, dialogue, character, plot and theme. However, this book goes far beyond being a game for young writers. Creatives can adapt many of the games included, and apply the same kinds of critical thinking to their own projects. 

15. Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto

 A book of stories about words? Better still, like the other Workshop tools, this book isn’t only amusing … it’s a hearty tool that will help creatives find the just-right word and refine their work.

The Writerly Play Library

All creatives need mentors. Whether they’re people we meet with in person, or experts we meet through their work, we deepen our work when we stand on the shoulders of giants.

16. Little Women Book Scarf

One can’t help but feel writerly while snuggled in this literary scarf.

17. Scripturient Necklace

For writers, finding the perfect word is a moment of pure joy. This necklace celebrates the art of the exquisitely chosen word, and describes that feeling of flow that writers can’t help but crave. 

18. What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

How do we visualize what we read? This book is a fascinating lens through which storytellers can take a look at their work from a completely different angle.

19. Read Harder (A Reading Log from Book Riot)

When we’re looking for a literary mentor or two, it’s a great idea to wander outside of our comfort zone. This reading log stretches readers to be adventurous, and also to take time to reflect on what they read.

20. Book Darts

These book darts not only mark your page, but the exact line where you left off. Better still, this adorable tin is from Anne Bogel of What Should I Read Next podcast fame. If your creative friend hasn’t yet discovered this beloved literary podcast, your gift will be a double-whammy: book darts AND a new favorite weekly listen.

The Writerly Play Cafe

Creative works are meant to be shared, but that reality doesn’t make sharing any less daring. These final five gifts acknowledge courage and encourage collaboration.

21. Butterbeer Tea

Aside from YUM, this tea will chase away any muggle doldrums and is sure to spark creative conversations.

22. What Would You Do Table Topics

Would You Rather is one of my favorite storytelling games. This deck of cards will spark thousands of What-If conversations, and help creatives warm up for a collaboration session, or even find that next not-to-be-ignored idea.

23. Courage Starts with Showing Up Poster

 Simple words, but true. Brene Brown’s words will look beautiful in a frame hanging over a desk, and will be a helpful reminder that showing up in the arena is worthwhile.

24. Courage, dear heart Mug

 A set of two of these mugs will remind your friend and their critique partner that feedback requires vulnerability on both sides.

25. Feedback Printables

Yes, these printables are free, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. Download the set, print a few copies, and tuck them in a colorful folder. Your friend will be delighted with their new set of tools for giving and receiving feedback at the beginning, middle and end of the creative process.

OR, give the gift of creative momentum!

It’s no fun to feel as though you’re rowing while dragging a thousand pound anchor behind you as you develop a novel. Writerly Play Lab: Design a Novel is a course that sparks both joy and depth in your creative process.

Writerly Play Activity Collection: Questions Can Give You More Creative Answers

Writerly Play Activity Collection: Questions Can Give You More Creative Answers

Why ask better questions?

Better questions can give you more creative answers.

It’s easy to rush straight past a question and snatch the first answer we can find. Questions create tension. What will we discover? Will we have to make a choice? If so, will we make the right one? Answers provide relief. However, when we ask the wrong questions, we end up with the wrong answers. Asking better questions is an art, and one of the primary tools artists can use to improve their craft.

The art of asking questions is one of the cornerstone skills developed in the Writerly Play Attic.

The Writerly Play Attic, like the other Writerly Play rooms, is designed to help creatives separate their thinking into distinct steps. By knowing the purpose of a thinking task, we can utilize activities toward stronger results.

Here is a collection of Writerly Play activities, designed to help you craft strong questions.

Remember: better questions can give you more creative answers. Choose the activity that best fits your creativity style. Not sure what your style is? Take the quick quiz and find out.

ACTIVITIES

Question Starters

FOR ARCHITECTS

Explore your connection with your idea with a series of question starters.

Try This

What If ... ? Game

FOR INVENTORS

Use this classic question to explore the possibilities in your idea.

Try This

Importance Interview

FOR COLLABORATORS

Explore what’s important to you in your idea by digging deep with a friend.

Try This

The Question Bullseye

FOR SPECIAL AGENTS

Clarify your project by exploring what’s central in the idea for you.

Try This

How To Start A Book Club This Fall

Have you been thinking about how to start a book club? Book clubs are an excellent way to have meaningful conversations with friends. No matter your age, you can start a club with fellow readers, and the fall is a perfect time to start! Whether you will be the club’s facilitator, or just the ringleader for friends, here are some tidbits I’ve learned while participating in and facilitating book groups.

How to Start a Book Club:

1. Keep the group small. Six to eight is plenty and allows everyone the chance to speak and be heard.

2. Agree on a structure for each meeting. In the clubs I facilitate, I email a list of questions ahead of time. The questions give our conversation structure and make it so readers who like time to reflect have the time they need. We start with a general book review from each reader, and then discuss the questions. In many of my groups, each reader brings one extra fun question. To wrap up our meetings, we each give the book a star rating (from 1-5), and choose our next book.

3. Use discussion guides as a resource. Most books have discussion guides online that will provide a starting place for your questions. If you’re looking for discussion guides for From Sadie’s Sketchbook, those are here.

4. Use the Scholastic Book Wizard. If you’re looking for a book that will fit a certain level of reader, or just want more information on a book, you might find this tool particularly helpful. The Scholastic Book Wizard helps identify reading level and interest level for most books. A couple other tools I love are Commonsense Media, the Our Story app from We Need Diverse Books, and the What Should I Read Next? podcast. 

5. Ask for book recommendations in advance. I like to ask for recommendations from group members by email, but you could also have a jar for readers to drop ideas into. It’s nice to have looked into the books a bit before putting them up for a group vote. The other option is to have members “pitch” a book to the club, explaining why they think it’s a good match for the group.

6. Tap into authors as resources. Most authors are happy to answer questions from the group via email or even by Skype. It never hurts to ask!

7. Keep things fresh and varied. It’s easy for a group to fall into a genre pattern or for meetings to start to become stale. Mix it up by asking the group to set the questions one time, choosing a very different kind of book, or gathering suggestions for fresh approaches from the group.

Book Recommendations?

What books have made for excellent discussion for your book clubs? Tag me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let me know the titles and why you loved them as book club picks.

Asking Better Questions – A Book Flight

Asking Better Questions – A Book Flight

In my creative development, I’ve circled back to the practice of asking questions a number of times: as an actor, a director, a writer, a teacher. No matter the hat I’m wearing, the quality of my questions fundamentally improves the quality of my work.

I’ve chosen four titles for this flight: a nonfiction guide for teachers, an illustrated work of nonfiction, a young adult novel, and a picture book. As ever, you’ll likely find that the titles listed here spark reading ideas of your own. Feel free to mix and match, swapping titles in and out. Above all, I wish you inspiration and joy as you savor the exploration.

How To Ask Better Questions: A Book Flight

Asking Better Questions by Norah Morgan and Juliana Saxton

I couldn’t put a book flight together on the topic of questions without including this title. Beyond being completely on the nose, it’s one of my favorite books. I had the privilege of hearing Juliana Saxton speak about this book at a theatre conference. What struck me immediately was the complexity of questions. Many of us go through life tossing questions around without giving them a second thought, but it turns out that questions significantly impact the quality of our thinking, our experiences, and our creative work. If taking care with the questions I ask myself and others can change the quality of my life, I, for one, don’t want to be cavalier about them.

This slim volume packs a punch on each page, inviting us to consider the power of our words, and how those words guide us toward outcomes. Whether you use this book to boost your skills as a discussion facilitator for others, or to improve the quality of discussion inside your own mind, it is sure to be a transformative read. Learn more here.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Where Asking Better Questions asks us to think in concrete ways about our questions, Sophie’s World provides an abstract lens. While reading this novel, my questions bubble up unbidden. Rather than thinking about them, I simmer in them. When I take my morning run, they perch on my shoulders and invite me to pay closer attention.

I love the juxtaposition of Sophie’s World and Asking Better Questions, because together, they provide me with a mixture of practical tools and creative ones, providing me with structure alongside the freedom to play. Learn more here.

The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth

I don’t always include a picture book in my book flights. However, after the two dense books above, I wanted to offer a book with breathing room, too. While the art of questions is, of course, about thinking deeply, it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, often simple questions can be the most transformative of all. Learn more here.

The Illustrated Guide to Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi

Illustrated by Alexandro Giraldo

One hasn’t fully considered the art of asking questions without also considering logic. This fun-to-read, illustrated guide is one of my favorite thinking tools. I find myself laughing at my fuzzy thinking, probing for true logic, and uncovering fresh clarity. I love how the playful visual style invites my less critical self out to play. That’s important when diving into logic. Approached with too much gravity, I think I’d beat myself up rather than play my way to new insights. This book is a gem.  Learn more here.

If you pick up the books in this flight, I’d love to hear what you think. Let me know what questions they bring to mind for you. And please share your ideas for other titles that ought to be part of this flight. I’m always on the hunt for an excellent read. Tag me on Twitter or Instagram, and let’s chat. Happy reading!

Why I’m Not Allowed to Say “I Don’t Know” Anymore

Why I’m Not Allowed to Say “I Don’t Know” Anymore

For a while now, my husband and I have responded, “You do know,” whenever one of us sighs with confusion and says, “I don’t know.” It’s a pact we made after catching ourselves using this excuse far too often.

I’ve become better about this habit, but I still have a long way to go.

Recently, I discovered Brooke Castillo’s Life Coach School podcast. (Thank you, Amy Porterfield!) Brooke serves up tough love and pierce-through-the-heart insights on her weekly show. I’m delighted for a thousand reasons that I found her. Right now, I’m mulling over her thoughts on confusion.

Brooke points out that confusion is a luxury. At first, that idea sounds ridiculous. No one wants to be confused. When I think about it though, I find myself nodding. Yep. She’s right. I say “I don’t know,” or some form of “I’m thinking about it,” instead of making tough decisions. I don’t want to make the wrong choice. I don’t want to feel the pain of being wrong.

So, I opt for the pain of snail’s-pace progress. I have so many excuses. The world (and technology) is changing so fast. I’m a writer, not a marketer. I’m a mentor, not a fundraiser. I’m too busy earning a living to make time for my creative work. I don’t know where to focus. I don’t know how to… (fill in the blank). I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

I’ve been looking for a mentor for a while now. I still think mentorship will help me grow. However, I see that my reason for wanting a mentor MUST shift. I can’t wait for a mentor to wave a magic wand and blow the fog away. Why? Because the problem isn’t the fog. The fog isn’t going away. Creative work requires us to walk directly into uncharted territory.

The problem is my fear, and specifically, my fear over being wrong. What if I send you an email and it bugs you? What if I spend months on a book that no one wants to read? What if I write a scene or a character and my blind spots become apparent? What if I hurt you? What if that hurt causes you to lash out and shame me for what I never intended to say or do?

The truth is, I could spend five years being “confused.” Finally, I’d make my decision, put something out into the world, and still face any of those horrible possibilities. I’m an artist. I’m here to spread love by creating the work of my heart. Creativity sparks creativity. That means when I do my thing, I help you do yours. That’s who I want to be in the world.

But, being honest here … I’m afraid. I’ve been trying to have the best of both worlds–safety AND creativity. It hasn’t been working.

Brooke talks about how facing our fears can make us feel like we’re going to die. Fight or flight wasn’t supposed to be about writing books or hosting webinars. Still, our survival instinct kicks in all the same.  Being an artist isn’t for the faint of heart. 

I’m not allowed to say “I don’t know,” anymore, at least not about decisions about what step to take next. I’ll face up to that fog and call it what it is. Not confusion. Fear. It’s terrifying to try something, knowing that it may be a grand disaster. But what if it isn’t? And won’t I learn so much more from trying and failing than I would from hovering on the sidelines?

The way to overcome fear is through action. Even tiny action makes a difference. So, if like me, you’re facing fear that’s posing as confusion, maybe you’ll want to try what I’m trying. Choose one clear step. How can you call that confusion by its true name? For me, it was writing this post. Next up: drafting the online course I’ve been tiptoeing around for months. What is the one clear action for you? Take it, and then tell me so I can cheer you on. Tag me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Let’s overcome fear together. You in?