Interweb Finds: Killer confidence, the music of trees & more

avocado

A monster avocado from the tree outside our window.

What was your favorite thing you did this week?

Mine was that I followed my own advice from my blog post earlier this week and removed myself from the computer. After meeting two of my good friends from school for an early brunch at KTCHN DTLA yesterday (so good), I realized it was absolutely gorgeous outside and that it would be sinful not to take advantage of the weather. So I changed into a pretty dress, and John and I went for a long walk along Sunset Boulevard, window shopping along the way. By the time we got home, my feet were pretty sore and I didn’t even mind. It was just what I needed.

Here are my latest favorite interweb finds:

I wrote a guest post for the lovely and talented Latrina at Of Trees and Hues about moving to California and thriving while taking big leaps.

More advice on writing an ebook that sells.

The Scar Project by photographer David Jay is one of the most moving projects I’ve come across in a long time. These (NSFW) photos depict young women who have battled breast cancer and bravely bare their scars to the camera. There’s such a range of emotions in each of these women’s faces, and I was brought to tears more than once.

Geeky and genius. A recreation of the Jurassic Park computer system.

If trees could sing, what would they sound like? This awesome video shows how tree rings were interpreted as musical notes and then played on a record player.

Whether you’re struggling with your self-image, feeling a little helpless or just having a rough week, Claire’s free guide to killer confidence is a thoughtful, helpful and loving resource to get back on track.

I love this idea: micro cottages for the homeless.

That’s all for today! What are you looking forward to in the next week? Me—spring break is right around the corner.

Where to look for inspiration

When I’m at a loss for something to write about, there’s usually a very simple explanation.

It usually means I’ve been stuck in a routine for too long, hunched over a computer for too long, overworked, under-exercised and/or lacking in sleep. (Conversely, being bored can have that effect too, though since grad school took over my life, I haven’t had that problem once.)

Despite my best efforts to fill out some semblance of an editorial calendar every month, I sometimes come up short on blogging ideas—or, the ideas I jotted down before no longer interest me. Luckily, it doesn’t last too long, because I know where to look for inspiration.

where to look for inspiration

Whether you’re a blogger or not, if you sometimes suffer from a lack of inspiration, these ideas will spark your creativity:

Go through your old photos. I’m always browsing through my photos to find something to go along with a blog post, but sometimes I go through my library before writing to see if I get any new ideas. Plus, it’s always fun to reminisce on a special day or trip. (Does anyone print out photos anymore? That’s something I’d like to start doing again.)

Find quotes by your favorite authors/artists/musicians. When a quote really resonates with you, it inspires an inner dialogue, either reaffirming something you believe in a more eloquent way or challenging you to think about something differently. Write down your thoughts and don’t edit yourself.

Talk to people who are much younger or much older than you are. Nothing like a kid’s innocent honesty or a grandparent’s wise insight to completely change your perspective, right? Whether it’s an eight-year-old or an 80-year-old, there’s always something to learn from them. (That obviously goes for different races, religions and gender identities, as well.) Expand your social circle and expand your horizons.

Make a list. A bucket list. A reverse bucket list. Places you’d like to visit. Things you’re really good at. People you admire. Books you really should read. People you should really call.

Play tourist in your own city. Think you’ve seen everything there is to see? Challenge yourself to find something new. If you drive everywhere you go, commit to an afternoon of walking around—even if it’s just in one area of a spread-out town—and you’ll likely notice things you’ve never noticed before.

Get off the Internet. File this under “advice to self.”  You can only aimlessly click through the black hole that is The Web for so long before you absorb exactly nothing you’ve read, and let’s face it—you’re checking Facebook more often than is healthy or normal. Pry your claw-shaped hands off the keyboard, close the laptop and stretch your limbs in the big, open space known as “outside.”

 Have you found yourself in an inspiration rut lately? How do you pull yourself out of it?

wittycassiehere on Twitter

It’s been quiet

quiet

You know that feeling you get when nothing’s wrong per se, but something’s not quite right, either? Like when you try on your old favorite pair of pants and they still fit fine, but they’re just not your style anymore?

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. About my blogging mentality, in particular. Witty Title Here is my home on the Internet. It’s a respite, a labor of love, a curated version of my identity (as blogs tend to be) and so much more. There’s a lot here of which I’m incredibly proud. But to be honest, I’ve struggled with something I can’t quite put my finger on.

Which is why in 2014, I plan on changing things up—just a little bit—to rejuvenate my enthusiasm and hopefully get you excited, too. I haven’t quite yet figured out the details, but the big picture is becoming clearer. And I think it’s gonna be a good change.

Here’s what I do know.

I want WTH to be more helpful. I want it to be a place where you can find interesting people doing awesome things on the Internet. I want it to be less about me and more about you. Because you, dear reader/listener/lurker/friend, are why I’m here, writing and sharing, week after week.

Am I taking myself out of it—becoming less personal? Definitely not. It’s my voice, my story, my perspective I’ve shared all along, and that will never go away. In a sea of millions of blogs, personality, I’ve learned, is very important. But as a writer, I’d like to grow beyond talking about me, me, me. This is not an autobiography. Because really, aside from moving across the country, my life isn’t nearly interesting enough for all that. But the people I meet and the place I live? They’re fascinating.

Here’s what I’d like to know.

I’d like to know more about you. What you’re working on. Who or what you’d like to share with the world. The things that piss you off and the things that get you excited. (So we can commiserate about and celebrate them respectively.) I think we could get some fantastic discussions going on in this space.

What does all of this mean?

It means that I’m feeling pumped about my blog again. That I’ll be trying out some new things—and will be eager to hear your feedback. That I’ll hopefully stick to a more regular posting schedule. (I have every intention to do so but reserve the right to cut back when I’m feeling the heat at school. My education does, after all, take priority.) And when I find out you’re doing something awesome that should be shared with the world, I’ll shine the spotlight on you.

My sincere hope is that WTH  becomes a more valuable place for you.

Sound good? I can’t wait. Stay tuned, friends.

Taking art to heart: words of wisdom from a rock goddess

Patti Smith

via NPR.org

A few months ago, John and I went to see Patti Smith perform live downtown. I was a new fan having just read her National Book Award winning memoir Just Kids, and John, though not incredibly familiar with her music, was curious about my new girl crush. That night, we both left the venue energized, inspired, and starstruck. That Patti Smith? She is a badass, and one hell of a performer. And if you’ve read her book, you undoubtedly know she is full of wisdom.

So when I saw this video the other day of even more inspiring words from Patti, I took them to heart:

Patti Smith: Advice to the young from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

A writer or any artist can’t expect to be embraced by the people… you just keep doing your work because you have to, because it’s your calling. But it’s beautiful to be embraced… Some people have said to me, well, don’t you think that kind of success spoils one as an artist… and I say, you know, fuck you! One does their work for the people, and the more people you can touch, the more wonderful it is. You don’t do your work and say, “I want only the cool people to read it.’

And you know? That was really refreshing to hear.

Of course I’m writing primarily for myself—that’s numero uno. Of course not everyone will like it—that’s a given. Of course most people will never even read it. Is this reason enough to quit writing and feign passion for investment banking? Hell fucking no. (No offense to all you investment bankers out there, but I just shivered, and it wasn’t the good kind.)

In fact, rather than serving as cause to give up and wimper in the corner, being a relative unknown is just the opposite: I am liberated by the fact that anyone and no one at all could be reading my work at any given moment. This, for me, is the ultimate freedom.

As a blogger…

I can write a post to make you laugh.

I can write a post to make you cry.

I can write a post that attempts and fails to do either of these things.

I can write a post to make you think. (I can also write a post to make you think, WTF?)

I can write in a boat or with a goat, and the world, overall, would not notice, nor give many shits one way or the other.

But it’s worth it to know that even the tiniest fraction of a percent of the world’s population does. And because writing nothing serves no purpose for personal growth—mine or anyone else’s—I will continue to write. Never in an attempt to alienate anyone. Never in an attempt to please everyone. (Certainly not just the cool people.) If anything, I’ll be writing just to please Patti Smith, who understands that even if the majority of the world is never savvy to your creation, it’s worth every ounce of sweat and worry if it comes from a place of sincerity and touches even just one person. If you’re consistent, persistent, passionate, and genuine, chances are you’ll reach way more than just one person. Which, when you think about it, is incredible.

The “Lucky” Ones – An interview with The Innocents novelist Francesca Segal

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of my next interviewee’s book in the mail. Embarrassingly, it sat unread at the top of my book pile longer than I intended. When I finally picked it up, I was only sorry I hadn’t read it sooner. And now that I’ve had the pleasure of reading her book, I can finally introduce you to author Francesca Segal.

Francesca Segal

Photo by Nick Seaton

Growing up, London-born author Francesca Segal spent much of her time between the UK and America. First establishing herself as a journalist, she contributed to publications like Vogue, the Guardian, and Newsweek. Her debut novel, The Innocents, was released last year and received praise from the ObserverPublishers Weekly, and People magazine to name a few.

As is often the case with writers, Francesca’s love for words came at an early age. Crediting her father Erich Segal, author and screenwriter of the bestseller-turned-box-office-hit Love Story, Francesca recalls practicing mock interviews as young as age four. The bug has stayed with her since.

The Innocents is a stunning novel about commitment, betrayal, and family ties. With her exquisite prose and witty storytelling, Francesca elegantly captures the complex inner workings of a loving yet dysfunctional family. It’s a captivating story and, hopefully, the first of many for Francesca.

Welcome, Francesca!

Every published author, it seems, gets well-intentioned but maddening comments from others such as, “Oh, how fun! I wish I had time to write a book.” Does it drive you crazy? What do you say to those people?

It used to bother me far more before I was published, because I felt intimidated by all of them. But now I just understand it’s how people are. I’m married to a scientist and he gets exactly the same thing – when he talks about his work, everyone asks where he’s “studying”. No one can understand that being a scientist is a job, not an extended degree. And no one really thinks writing is either.

What these people don’t seem to realize is that this kind of undertaking is about shifting priorities and making sacrifices. What did you have to sacrifice to write your novel?

I turned down a lot of work; I turned down a lot of social engagements, and I lived like a hermit for a very long time – blissfully – but quite isolated. And of course you have to finish a first novel before you can sell it, so you’re doing a huge amount on trust. It’s hard to quantify, but it is an enormous undertaking.

Many people assume fiction writing is heavily inspired by the author’s life. Is that at all true for you?

It’s true that people assume that, but my novel is very much fiction and not remotely inspired by my own life, or my own family. The tapestry beneath the story – the community I’ve described, is one that I know very well, and that social climate is drawn from real life. But that’s it. No real people.

The Innocents

Does the current state of the publishing industry create pressure for you to be successful? Have you had a lot of support?

I’ve had wonderful support from my publishers everywhere, and so I have nothing to compare it to. But yes, I think now that everyone can see sales figures at a keystroke, there is less opportunity for a slow trajectory to success. Authors are expected to get further, faster.

How do you deal with negative reviews?

Lie face-down on the sofa in fit of abject misery and self-pity, rant about it to my husband, then pull my socks up and get on with it. I’ve been very lucky, in general, I think. But you can’t listen to every voice.

What was it like finally seeing your book on shelves? Did it live up to your expectations?

It was heartstopping. It’s all I’ve dreamed of for so long, it was almost impossible to process.

How much of the time spent on your novel was dedicated to revision? And are you ever truly done, or do you just have to make the decision to let things be as they are?

About half and half, I think. No, I believe the maxim that books are never finished, merely abandoned. At some point you feel you are doing more harm than good with your revisions, and then you stop.

Francesca Segal

Photo by Tom Craig

“Writer’s block” is a much debated-over topic. What’s your take on it?

I sometimes think labelling it akin to pathologising it. I would try and just call it a hard week/month at work, which we all have sometimes, and know that it will pass. “Writers’ block” sounds terminal.

Besides your own, of course, what are some of your favorite books?

I love Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie; Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels; I adore Jane Gardam, AS Byatt, Jennifer Egan, AM Homes, Naomi Alderman, Hilary Mantel – I could keep going, and those are just the contemporary novelists.

For you, what is the greatest reward for writing and exposing your work to others?

It’s wonderful to hear that a work has touched readers, and hearing their reactions is amazing after crafting something alone for so long. Everyone finds something different in your work, and it’s a privilege to talk about it. But being able to do the work is the greatest reward – that how this book has done means I can go away and write another book.

Do you have any advice for aspiring or struggling novelists?

It’s not very original but reading is the key to everything – you must be a passionate reader in order to write. Everything you need to know about beautiful prose, about crafting a character, about pacing a plot, can all be found in the Canon.

 

Thanks so much for sharing your insight, Francesca. I’m always fascinated  by the writer’s process. Were you equally as fascinated with Francesca’s interview? Let her know in the comments!

Do you think you or someone you know would be a good fit for The “Lucky” Ones series? I’m on the hunt! Check out past interviews, then shoot me an email at wittycassiehere [at] gmail [dot] com.