Categories
Health

Read Come As You Are

Read Come as You Are

Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never exist—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few years have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all.

The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal.

Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm.

Cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines tells us that the most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Once you understand these factors, and how to influence them, you can create for yourself better sex and more profound pleasure than you ever thought possible.

Learned lots of interesting things, especially in the first section. I didn’t love the examples of real people. The last chapter has a clear connection to her next book Burnout, here emphasizing completing the cycle of emotions rather than stress.

Categories
Getting Shit Done Writing

Read The 12 Week Year for Writers

Read The 12 Week Year for Writers

In this book we show writers how to use the 12 Week Year system to help them increase their productivity dramatically. The 12WY for Writers system, based on the principles of the 12 Week Year and honed over many years of helping students learn to write more effectively, is a strategic operating system for writers. The system helps writers answer the most fundamental and big picture questions: What is my vision for the future? What are my writing goals? What are the best strategies and tactics to achieve those goals? How can I manage my writing process to ensure that I stay focused, productive, and on track?

While the examples primarily draw from academia, the structure is also applicable to fiction writing. This book won’t help you figure out the steps of your writing project, but does seem very helpful for *accomplishing* the steps. I have some quibbles about his emphasis on grit, but agree with his overall philosophy of time >> writing and planning >> better, easier, faster writing.

I am excited to try out this approach in conjunction with Sarra Cannon’s Plan Your Writing Schedule workshop on YouTube, which starts by going through your calendar and identifying all the days you *can’t* write so you know exactly how many days are even available to you.

Categories
Activism Personal Growth Political Commentary

Read Rest is Resistance

Read Rest Is Resistance

Far too many of us have claimed productivity as the cornerstone of success. Brainwashed by capitalism, we subject our bodies and minds to work at an unrealistic, damaging, and machine‑level pace of work –– feeding into the same engine that enslaved millions into brutal labor for its virtuous benefit. Our worth does not reside in how much we produce, especially for a system that exploits and dehumanizes us. Rest, in its simplest form, becomes an act of resistance and a reclaiming of power because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy.

From the founder and creator of The Nap Ministry, Rest Is Resistance is a battle cry, a guidebook, a map for a movement, and a field guide for the weary and hopeful. It is rooted in spiritual energy and centered in Black liberation, womanism, somatics, and Afrofuturism. With captivating storytelling and practical advice, all delivered in Hersey’s lyrical voice and informed by her deep experience in theology, activism, and performance art, Rest Is Resistance is a call to action and manifesto for those who are sleep deprived, searching for justice, and longing to be liberated from the oppressive grip of Grind Culture.

As someone who’s experienced burnout and still struggles with letting go of perfectionism and productivity, I was on board with a lot of this.

It’s interesting to think of rest as inherently valuable, not valuable by virtue of letting us feel rested — as an activity in itself, unnecessary to be justified by the outcome we produce from it. I fall into this thinking trap sometimes, of framing my breaks in terms of making me more effective and productive rather than part of life and a right to which I’m entitled.

Much of the book is repetitive — but that is intentional, as she frames herself the Nap Minister and approaches the book as a secular (theoretically) sermon, drawing on oral culture’s use of repetition to drive points home emotionally.

Her approach is rooted in religious beliefs and the text is supposedly secular, but steeped in spiritual language that can be a lot to wade through if you aren’t spiritual. She is dismissive of anyone who is not spiritual, claiming that capitalism and grind culture have separated us from our innate spirituality 🙄 We cannot rest because we are not spiritual. Thanks for the judgment lady. I almost quit at 75% because I don’t feel the need to be insulted but ultimately pushed through.

Unfortunately, she relied on spirituality as her justification for why humans deserve rest: because they are divine and their existence is a miracle 🙄 This feels like an oversight and missed opportunity to dig into this more. Relying on unexplained claims that depend on specific spiritual beliefs is not very convincing. Her explanation of the Dream Space also needed more, in my opinion.

She also claims it is necessary to “detox” from technology completely to be able to rest. I understand her stance on social media being an expression of Grind Culture, but I feel demanding a complete removal of technology is dismissive of those for whom technology is a connector of community — disabled people, anyone living in an area where they are out of place ideologically, anyone who does not have the opportunity to form local in-person community.

Categories
Mental Health Self Care Society The Internet

Read Notes on a Nervous Planet

Read Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

The societies we live in are increasingly making our minds ill, making it feel as though the way we live is engineered to make us unhappy. When Matt Haig developed panic disorder, anxiety, and depression as an adult, it took him a long time to work out the ways the external world could impact his mental health in both positive and negative ways. Notes on a Nervous Planet collects his observations, taking a look at how the various social, commercial and technological “advancements” that have created the world we now live in can actually hinder our happiness. Haig examines everything from broader phenomena like inequality, social media, and the news; to things closer to our daily lives, like how we sleep, how we exercise, and even the distinction we draw between our minds and our bodies.

Very casual writing style, like a collection of blog posts (even listicles 😂). I don’t have as much trouble as he does with phone use, but can relate to the overall overwhelming information intake of the internet and the constant marketing pressures. Enjoyed reading through this slowly. Complementary to Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks.

Categories
Writing

Read The Last Draft

Read The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision

his wise and friendly guide shows writers how to turn first-draft manuscripts into the novels of their dreams. A critic, longtime teacher, and award-winning novelist, Sandra Scofield illustrates how to reread a work of fiction with a view of its subject and vision, and how to take it apart and put it back together again, stronger and deeper. Scofield builds her explanations around helpful concepts like narrative structure, character agency, and core scenes, using models from classic and contemporary writers. The detailed, step-by-step plan laid out in The Last Draft offers invaluable advice to both novice and experienced writers alike. In Scofield, they will find a seasoned, encouraging mentor to steer them through this emotional and intellectual journey.

Skimmed a lot. Broken into sections, several of which were not pertinent or helpful to me. I gleaned the most from the second section, on actually making revisions. Parts three and four, about finishing and polishing the book, were embarrassingly short. It would have worked better to format this as a workbook rather than a fully prose work with some bulleted lists. I did take quite a number of notes.

She recommends keeping a revision log, with entries after each work session logging what changes you made, how you feel about it, and questions you currently have.

Categories
Writing

Read The Emotional Craft of Fiction

Read The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emoti…

Veteran literary agent and expert fiction instructor Donald Maass shows you how to use story to provoke a visceral and emotional experience in readers. Topics covered include: emotional modes of writing beyond showing versus telling your story’s emotional world moral stakes connecting the inner and outer journeys plot as emotional opportunities invoking higher emotions, symbols, and emotional language cascading change story as emotional mirror positive spirit and magnanimous writing the hidden current that makes stories move Readers can simply read a novel…or they can experience it. The Emotional Craft of Fiction shows you how to make that happen.

The prompts were thought-provoking for me, even if some worked better than others.

The excerpts he selected as examples weren’t super helpful and I skipped a lot of them. It would have been more useful to diagram or annotate a scene so we knew what we should be noticing as we read. Some didn’t show much emotion to my eye 🤷‍♀️

Some things will be more challenging to apply to romance, with a double POV. It would have been helpful to consider multi-protagonist stories.

Notes and Quotes

Emphasis mine.

“Fiction writers are asking the wrong question. Showing and telling are fine as far as they go, but the emotional experience of readers has little to do with that. The most useful question is not how can I get across what characters are going through? The better question is how can I get readers to go on emotional journeys of their own?”

“You are not the author of what readers feel, just the provocateur of those feelings.”

When a plot resolves, readers are satisfied, but what they remember of a novel is what they felt while reading it.

Categories
Art and Design Comics Mental Health

Read Camouflage

Read Camouflage

Autism in women and girls is still not widely understood, and is often misrepresented or even overlooked. This graphic novel offers an engaging and accessible insight into the lives and minds of autistic women, using real-life case studies.

The charming illustrations lead readers on a visual journey of how women on the spectrum experience everyday life, from metaphors and masking in social situations, to friendships and relationships and the role of special interests.

Fun, sensitive and informative, this is a fantastic resource for anyone who wishes to understand how gender affects autism, and how to create safer supportive and more accessible environments for women on the spectrum.

Like the color palette with teals and pinks. The cover illustration is especially nice. I liked the use of textures though text didn’t read well over halftones.

Very slender volume with simple explanations, suitable for teens and pre-teens. Mostly info I knew already. I did like how they broke down the main elements of the autistic experience for women:

  1. “You’re not autistic”
  2. Pretending to be normal
  3. Growing from passive to assertive
  4. Special interest based identity

Categories
Personal Growth Relationships

Read Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come

Read Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come

An introvert spends a year trying to live like an extrovert with hilarious results and advice for readers along the way.

This was entertaining — more memoir than serious non-fiction. Biggest takeaway was to put yourself out there and be vulnerable.

Encapsulated in this quote: “That’s the truth of the world… Nobody waves — but everybody waves back.” – Nick Epley, a researcher she talked to

Being charismatic:

  • Hold eye contact while shaking hands
  • Ask a genuine open ended question
  • Ask how they feel about it
  • Validate their feelings

Events for networking:

  • Go to events that actually sound fun
  • Stay at least an hour
  • Arrive on time
  • Talk to 3 people
  • Try to really connect with 1

“Some women don’t need so much help with public speaking as with the self-doubt and self-loathing that hold them back from getting involved in it.” – Viv Groskop, How to Own the Room

Categories
Writing

Read Refuse to Be Done

Read Refuse to Be Done

They say writing is rewriting. So why does the second part get such short shrift? Refuse To Be Done will guide you through every step of the novel writing process, from getting started on those first pages to the last tips for making your final draft even tighter and stronger.

From lauded writer and teacher Matt Bell, Refuse to Be Done is encouraging and intensely practical, focusing always on specific rewriting tasks, techniques, and activities for every stage of the process. You won’t find bromides here about the “the writing Muse.” Instead, Bell breaks down the writing process in three sections. In the first, Bell shares a bounty of tactics, all meant to push you through the initial conception and get words on the page. The second focuses on reworking the narrative through outlining, modeling, and rewriting. The third and final section offers a layered approach to polishing through a checklist of operations, breaking the daunting project of final revisions into many small, achievable tasks.

First draft portion is aimed at pantsers and exploratory writers, but still has some suggestions for keeping writing interesting that could be useful to plotters too.

Second and third draft sections were more useful, though a fair amount involves sentence level revision when I suspect that many writers (like me) find that easier than large scale structural revisions.

Categories
Learning

Reading well

Bookmarked The myth of the myth of the well read person by Dwarkesh Patel (The Lunar Society)

But to understand something is not to know random minutiae about it – to understand is to know how the parts compose the whole, to notice patterns and discern their causes, and to be able to make predictions on the basis of these insights. In that sense, understanding is precisely what the weighty small print books fail to provide and what books advancing or attacking an explanatory theory are supplying.

A more non-fiction focused version of “read a lot“.

His suggestion for reading:

Instead of reading mid-wit pop-sci books which just offer vague metaphors or irrelevant anecdotes, read books that are either pure fun (fantasy, sci-fi, manga, etc), or actual hardcore science (textbooks and review papers.

And take steps to cement your learning:

Do things which force you to absorb the main ideas from books, like writing reviews or organizing discussions. And if that doesn’t work, it is still better to learn what little you can…

I like the approach of aiming for big picture understanding rather than trying to learn one new subject deeply. (Though I also like the idea of T-shaped knowledge: broad, with one deep specialization.

See also: Slava Akhmechet’s reading in clusters approach

I agree that we don’t always get as much out of books as we could, but don’t think blaming the reader’s intelligence is fair:

If intelligence is the ability to understand complex ideas, to notice patterns and make inferences, and to build connections between new information and existing knowledge, then it’s no surprise that dull people don’t get that much out of reading a lot.

Not learning much from reading seems more rooted in not being taught how to make connections, think big picture, and draw lessons from a text. Learning to do this is a skill, not an innate talent based on your intelligence. It also requires a starting base of knowledge because you need context to truly understand things and see connections at a grand scale, which many people are lacking.

(Though I will admit there are some things I read that I can tell are going completely over my head 😥 It’s like hitting a mental wall of understanding I know I need to climb 😂)