Category Archives: Thinking Too Hard

Is there a difference between morbid & inspirational?

I love books. I love reading them, writing about them, talking about them, thinking about them, smelling them, looking at them on shelves and in piles and stuffed into bags. I want to write them, and send them out into the world to inspire a new generation of reading, writing, talking, thinking, smelling, and looking. Most days I think about how to make this passion into a living. I find time to do at least one of these things, usually in the inbetween areas of my life: on the train, before bed, while waiting for a meeting to begin. Then I come across quotes like this and wonder if I’m just not trying hard enough:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

— Steve Jobs, at a Stanford University commencement ceremony in 2005

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Good morning, Sun.

Well, that title is a fantasy if ever I had one. I awoke at 6:15 today as per my usual and peeked out the window hoping for a blanket of snow as was predicted for these parts. (I’m not a masochist; I was just hoping for a snow-justified work-from-home day!) Alas, there was a light dusting on the lone car outside my window. I decided to work from home anyway, sans snow; reason #62 my job is pretty cool.

Instead of climbing back into my comfy bed, I did what I’ve been meaning to do for so long: I got ready, went to 1369 coffeehouse, and I wrote. Granted, what I was writing is a story that was supposed to be sent out to my writing group yesterday, but my successes won’t be overshadowed by deadlines.

At pretty much every reading I’ve been to or writing class I’ve taken, the number one bit of advice seems to be to write everyday. To find your place and your space and your time, guard it and create something everyday. This has been something I’ve been struggling with so much lately, finding not only my space, but the desire to shut down other areas of my life in order to make that time and place.

Where do you struggle in your writing life? I suppose it isn’t fair to just assume that all heavy readers are also writers, but alas, it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. How do you make that time? How do you discipline yourself and explain to others who may not understand?

– M

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Slippery slopes: The Great Huck Finn Debacle

By Melanie Yarbrough

Censorship is back in the limelight. I’m not talking about WikiLeaks or any of its backlash, but one that’s been discussed in the literary world for half a century. (You know it’s political when Colbert’s covering it.)

I was talking to a friend as I wrote this, and I told her I was struggling with it. It feels too big, I said. There are so many things I want to talk about. She said I was over thinking it.

But am I? Many people, including those at NewSouth Books publishers, have their personal and idyllic reasons for either changing the 219 instances of “nigger” to “slave,” and the rest of us have our personal or idyllic reasons for not. When I first heard about the whole thing, my immediate response was, “No, absolutely not.” But it isn’t that simple, is it?
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Why Google and Amazon Don’t Change a Thing

By Shane Solar-Doherty

In the early 90s, Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores were popping up everywhere. I was young, so I don’t really know what it was like to see that happening. But there must have been a lot of people who said to their friends at dinner parties and such, There’s no way you’ll ever catch me step foot in one of those stores. And they stayed loyal to the owner of the bookstore down the street who had character and a unique business model. Occasionally they would travel away from home and, for lack of other options, they’d go into a chain store and perhaps purchase a book to read on the flight back home, promising over and over to themselves that for every book purchased at a chain store, they’d purchase ten at their local indie. And they would follow through on that. Not a mile away from where they lived there would be a Barnes & Noble or a Borders, where the selection was bigger and the prices a little cheaper, but they would not stray. It became second nature, and they passed it on.

Readers like the ones I’m describing understand this one simple concept: no matter where you buy the book from, the content within the book will not change; your purchase, however, will have an impact on the business that you’re buying it from and the people who run the business.

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Your City is not Your City or is it?

By Shane Solar-Doherty

I spent Thanksgiving weekend immersed in all things New York City. During my commute from Boston to New York, I read Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart’s novel set in a not-so-distant-future NYC, where technological savvy and physical attraction win you love and appreciation, and where book smarts and cultural knowledge only earn you disrespectful remarks and the stink eye. I was so wrapped up in the story that, although there were several references throughout the novel indicating landmarks and streets that I know very well, I could only think of Manhattan and it’s surrounding boroughs in the extreme terms that Shteyngart described — the towering poles on busy sidewalks where people went to inquire about their credit scores, the checkpoints where characters went through humiliating routines to get from one place to another, the people who walked around gazing into data streams and images being projected in font of them from little gadgets hanging from their necks.

To bring things back into perspective, I gathered my family into the living room the night before the big feast to watch Manhattan, Woody Allen’s flick in which he’s seeking love in all the wrong people. I needed to come back to reality (is that what Woody Allen’s films are based in?) and see NYC as it was and is. It was helpful. Things looked normal. And Meryl Streep was beautiful, which really helped too. And the next morning the parade was on, and a towering 62-foot-tall Spongebob float made it seem all was right in the world again. So I was doing fine.

But then I was back on a bus from NYC to Boston on Saturday and finishing up SSTLS, and NYC was once again some kind of creature that I vaguely knew and simultaneously wished I didn’t. You know what I mean?

It got me to thinking about writers’ impressions of their hometowns and cities. There’s a lot of ways to envision one’s community and surroundings. I liked how both Shteyngart and Allen were able to tell these incredible narratives that were set in the same city, yet, in each story, the people who populated that city and the way in which the city was portrayed were completely different in almost every sense. And I’m trying to think of other narratives that paint the same city in opposite terms. Is there an example like this for Boston? Paris? Des Moines?

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