12 Reasons To Read Julie Israel. You’re Welcome.

A delicious dozen reasons to read yours truly


30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 22: Why should someone read your work?

To experience something I painstakingly unearthed from the sands of my mind like a buried civilization one fragment at a time and then translated into a cohesive sum for your verbal pleasure, entertainment, and intimate window into human experience? *Takes breath*

There’s also my list of fictional reasons, which is less realistic, but more fun.

12 Reasons Why You Should Read Julie Israel

  1.  Studies show that reading Julie Israel in the morning helps increase metabolism.
  2. Those that read Julie Israel are happier and laugh more than those that don’t.
  3. Reading Julie Israel has been shown to significantly improve IQ and SAT verbal scores.
  4. Julie Israel promotes universal understanding and world peace.
  5. Reading Julie Israel helps reduce crime and world hunger.
  6. Every time you read Julie Israel a unicorn is born.
  7. Reading Julie Israel can make snow fall on a school day.
  8. Those that read Julie Israel on a regular basis are 50% more likely to develop super human powers such as wit, ambidexterity, and the ability to reach something in the back of the fridge without taking anything out to get to it.
  9. Julie Israel repels vampires (especially those pesky glittery ones).
  10. Reading Julie Israel is a natural cure for allergies, migraines, flu, insomnia, chicken pox, restless leg syndrome, gamer’s thumb, and doughnut overdose.
  11. Julie Israel will help save the economy and prevent global warming.
  12. Julie Israel is a known aphrodisiac.

Oh, and all the cool kids are doing it.

Writing Challenge, Day 7: the Myth of the Muse

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 7: Do you find that inspiration to write happens organically, or do you sometimes feel that you need to seek it out?

I feel that we must court experience: ideas sparked and new connections made are the organic results of exposure to new people, places, and things. Sure, a significant part of writing—and often what makes it the bewildering, enchanting, mind-bending journey that it is—is the ability to draw from one’s imagination. But what feeds imagination?

I have yet to read Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine (you’ll note it’s on my to-read list), however I did see Lehrer appear on The Colbert Report and speak about it. In his book-promoting appearance Lehrer explained that (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here) nothing in this world is original; what we assume are ideas invented out of thin air are really just new connections between old ideas. He even when so far as to call the Muse a myth.

If Lehrer is right, then what better way to foster new connections and generate ideas than to flood your subconscious with images, words, concepts, sensations, experiences, etc.? Courting experience is like adding colors to your mixing palette; the more materials in the arsenal, the better your subconscious can forge connections and lead to “organic” inspiration. In other words:

 Chance favors the prepared mind.”

—Louis Pasteur

Chance in this case, of course, being the Muse.

Lehrer said something else about creative generation, too. Something that every writer should know: daydreaming is good. “Although most people assume that to solve a problem what you must do is focus, focus, focus—chug a cup of coffee and chain yourself to your desk, stare at your computer screen—that’s exactly backwards. When you need a moment of insight you need to find a way to get relaxed.” (Yes, alright, I went back and watched the segment of Colbert Report in which he appeared. That’s a direct quote.)

A few months back I read Ogilvy on Advertising and was surprised to see that David Ogilvy, one of the fathers of modern advertising, recommended basically the exact same thing for copywriters and admen: to overcome a creative block, get away from your work. Go for a walk; take a shower; fold laundry, potter about the garden, do the shopping. Drink a beer. It is when we give time and space to our subconscious, allow it to wander and play, that our imagination churns out the best material. Ogilvy himself once dreamed of a wooden cart filled with baked goods drawn by a white horse; that horse-drawn cart became the brand image for Pepperidge Farms.

The one thing that’s important to remember, of course, is that you have to put in the work before you can daydream and expect to get results. If you really want to be inspired, experience the world around you! Go with an open mind, ready senses, and always be curious.

Writing Challenge, Day 2: Turtle

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 2: What is your biggest writing weakness, and what do you think you need to change to work on it?

My biggest weakness when it comes to writing is first draft perfectionism. I spend so much time trying to make the initial run coherent, flowing, and detailed that at the end of the day I’m lucky if I’ve hammered out an entire page! In theory this approach should be easy to change: all one must do is accept that the first draft of anything will be flawed, and write recklessly on in spite of that. In practice it takes deadlines. Word count goals, and deadlines. Those are the only things that seem to push me past turtle speed!

Turtle, turtle!

At the same time, I also wonder whether there might be some merit in my natural slow method. My drama professor once said that there are two kinds of writers: the meticulous and the reckless. The reckless are “word vomiters,” she said; first they get it all out and then they clean it all up. For them the hard work is in the revision. The meticulous, on the other hand, revise as they go. It takes a long time to finish anything, but by the time the first draft is out it will be near completion and need very little fine-tuning. Does a word vomiter spend as much time cleaning up their words as I do coughing up mine?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. When in doubt I like to remember the following:

“It’s easier to edit crap than air.”

30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 1: The Knife

Hey Wordaholics,

Today I am starting The 30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge put out by Writer’s Relief. They promise hard questions. I promise cool answers. Check back to the Read Room for more, and feel free to chime in!

Also, because it’s the first day of a new month and my life has been lagging in the in-between and otherwise stagnant for too long, I am setting some other 30 Day goals for myself to get things moving:

  1. Run every other day (engage the body, engage the mind).
  2. Spend at least one hour each day researching and planning future / next move options. (I am currently considering: graduate school. Classes & part-time work. Travel. Teaching abroad. A writing course abroad. Working on a vineyard for 6 months to a year, ideally in France. I have a lot to figure out and it’s time to stop letting it intimidate me.)
  3. Freewrite for half an hour each day.

On to the question, then.

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 1: What do you consider your greatest strength as a writer?

For me every sentence is a struggle. I am forever trying to catch the light of dusk in the lace curtain and on the ivory keys, how the pianist’s pearl earrings danced when she turned her neck, and the way the little girl in the tutu and ballet slippers pressed her red lips together to taste strawberry paint.

What I’ve become good at, after years of over-writing here and missing the mark there, is stepping back from the canvas, looking at it objectively, and then—without wincing—turning on my delicate, sugar-spun details and slashing them when they do not belong. I have learned the mercenary art of taking a knife to my pages.

The Knife: incidentally, a very good band. Check it.