Every January first I sit down with my journal and I write down five personal and five business-related goals, then consciously forget about them until the following January when I finally quantify the progress I’ve made. Then I make new goals. Sometimes I’ve not met the previous ones to my standard, so I repeat them, acknowledging it’s a process and not a failure. Some goals I’ve repeated several years in a row.
As I get older I realize that for inspiration to find me, I must always be learning. The perfect Liz cocktail therefore includes: A specific amount of solitude (mental stillness or quietness alone with my own thoughts), time set aside for writing and writing alone, and a steady flow of books. Reading great stories helps me to learn style and flow, story construction, new words, and most importantly, new and different ideas. Reading brings me back to my real and true self, writing aids me in showing it.
At times, reviving my creative self has felt like waking up from a sleepy but satisfying hibernation, hungry to come out of my den for new ideas. Other times it feels like a violent reviving of my soul, shocking myself back from unconsciousness and a kind of temporary creative death.
As a strategy to read and create more, which ultimately makes me connect with my true and happy self on a regular basis, I implemented some strategies in 2019.
1) Read 30 minutes every morning before work when you’re having your coffee.
2) Try to also read on your days off instead of watching TV, or being on your phone.
3) Aim for completing one book per week.
4) Write one blog post per week for one year to see how it goes. It can be any length.
5) Set aside about five hours per week to write. Divvy it up however you want. Write about whatever you choose.
6) Try to freelance at least one article.
7) Start a book club.
Reviewing this list overwhelms me with gratitude for the progress I’ve made getting to (re)know my creative self this year. I mostly stick with goals one, two, and five on a regular basis, with some room for improvement of course. I only missed a couple of blog posts this year, but published one almost every single week. I freelanced several articles, and did in fact start that book club, and we’ve met twice so far. As far as the books go- I read 21. I plan on reading a couple more before the year is through, but I wanted to share my list with you for two reasons. One: So you can get new book ideas! And two: So you know that I didn’t even make it half way to my goal. But I don’t at all consider it a failure- I still read about fifteen more books this year than last, and I have no doubt that I’ll read even more in 2020.
Liz’s 2019 Book List
These are simply listed in the order I read them, with asterisks next to the five I most highly recommend at this time, based on how interesting they were, how much I learned from them this year, and their ability to influence my research and work. I read very little fiction, therefore I feel that the couple novels on the list deserve an imaginary and automatic asterisk for being amazing.
1) Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk
2) American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land, Monica Hesse
3) The Stranger Beside Me, Ann Rule
4) Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, Laura Jane Grace
5) Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, Pam Houston
6) Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, David Goggins
*7) Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer
8) Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered, Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff
*9) Deep Work, Cal Newport
10) Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport
11) I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara
*12) How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence, Michael Pollan
13) Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, Sheryl Sandberg
14) The Testaments, Margaret Atwood
*15) Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, Sarah Smarsh
16) Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking it All with the Greatest Chef in the World, Jeff Gordinier
17) The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem, Stacy Schiff
18) The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life, Shawn Achor
*19) Into The Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro, Rachel Slade
20) Shit the Moon Said: A Story of Sex, Drugs, and Ayahuasca, Gerard Powell
21) Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert
Next on the List / Will Read Before 2020:
22) The Gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker