Each year I find myself reading multiple books at once. I can’t seem to pick one and settle down with it. Several call my name at once.
Out of the stacks beside my chair or bed, I have favorites when most have been read. In 2014, nothing changed.
My favorites of 2014 are listed below in no particular order:
In the last issue of my newsletter, I included a post on achieving balance between your writing life and the crush of holiday festivities and responsibilities. But what about other times? Don’t writers need balance in their lives during the rest of the year?
The answer is YES! The larger question, however, may lie deep in the “how to” part of the balancing equation.
Much like the gymnast in this image achieving balance is no easy task. For the gymnast, it means hours of training, concentration on each move, and maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle. This adds up to total commitment on her part.
To stay healthy in body and mind, our gymnast likely still has a life outside gymnastics. So her commitment is to balance both in the gym and away from it.
Here are a few ways that we as writers can create balance in our lives like our focused gymnast friend:
Begin now reviewing your accomplishments in 2014. Follow that up with establishing your goals for 2015.
Once you have your goals established, fill in an editorial calendar with blog posts, podcasts, guest posts and interviews, and whatever applies to your writing.
As part of your editorial calendar, be sure to leave some time open for social networking, i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. This time should also include reading and commenting on blog posts by those you follow regularly.
Now it’s important to insert time for working out, going to the gym, taking a walk with the dog, yoga, whatever you use to relax and get your mind and body in a state of contemplation for writing.
Don’t forget to plug in some time for your family or friends. This is all important for you as much as it is for them. You can’t be a writing hermit forever, although those days when you can it feels really good, doesn’t it?
I can hear what you’re saying: “She has no idea what I have to do every day.” “When am I going to get the grocery shopping done?” “What about the laundry and taking the kids to after school activities?” And more!
I know what you’re saying. I used to work full-time and more, am a mother and wife, participated in volunteer activities, and ran the ever popular athletic bus route. And I know the sense of pressure the every day demands of life can bring to your already packed schedule.
Nothing I suggest here is written in stone. These are just that … suggestions. Massage them, manipulate them, keep what you can use, and toss the rest. Add your own ideas. What I have offered is how I manage my time and calendaring.
For example, as I’ll be sharing in a post coming up in a few days, I set a goal for myself that by the end of December 2014 (only a few days away), I would have finished my memoir manuscript. I cannot mark that off my goals or to do list as completed. Why?
In December 2013, my husband injured his back and was completely disabled until surgery in March 2014. At the same time, I was suffering from a respiratory issue, and life around home got miserably behind.
I had to clear my calendar, push things out, forget about deadlines and guest posts, etc. I had only one focus and that was taking care of my husband, myself and our home.
Adjustments can and often are made to anything we set up. Do not think that any calendar, goal list, or deadline is always firm.
There’s an exchange in my memoir Any Road Will Take You There between my father and me as we sit at my kitchen table late one night. My young child, my first, and their mother are in bed. The two of us are alone drinking bottles of beer and talking about my new role, fatherhood. It’s a key scene in the book. Still, no one else but the two of us could have remembered that conversation.
I wrote about that moment after my father had died. So, I had to recall a decade old dialogue the best I could and rely on only my shaky memory. I didn’t expect to recall our exact conversation, of course, and honestly didn’t need to, but I was determined to write about that night in the truest, most authentic way. I wanted to capture the essence of that evening. Of course I had only my own recollections. But is that fair? Doesn’t Dad have a say here? And how could he have a say now?
There is no other way to a write a personal story than to tell it like it is. But what if you can’t run the details by someone, check the facts? First of all, you are not writing journalism, but you do want to recreate the spirit of the truth. Be honest with your story, honest with what you remember, and even if others have passed on and you can’t verify, try to step away to consider other perspectives. I truly believe the reader will know when you are not being honest with yourself, and ultimately will sense when you are not being honest or mindful of how another may have remembered that moment, incident, or conversation.
And what about the living?
In my first memoir, Accidental Lessons, there are several scenes with my ex-wife. First, I must tell you, the two of us are good friends. It is far from the stereotypical friction laden relationship of former spouses. Despite this, my publisher insisted on signed releases from everyone mentioned in the book. When I presented the release to my former wife, this is what she said: I’ll agree with one condition. When it’s made into a movie, Susan Sarandon plays me.
Just for the record, no movie deal yet and nothing in writing from Susan.
In general, I believed everything I wrote about my ex-wife was quite flattering. It wasn’t that I necessarily set out to write all great things about her, it’s just that what was needed for the narrative, her part of it, did not need to be about the times of our lives that were entangled in disagreement. So, when she read the manuscript, she had little problem with any of it. Was it true? Yes. I needed to reveal only what was needed.
But what do you do when someone you write about is absolutely appalled by what you plan to publish or is outright angry about your words? Maybe their version of the same incident is much different in their eyes, and this creates serious tension, risking the relationship with that individual.
If possible, let all those who are main subjects in the story read your manuscript. Prepare them for what you have written; let them know it may not be easy to read and that you are writing about difficult matters. Then, allow them to tell you exactly what they think, to point out errors, minor or major, and permit them to suggest changes. And if possible, ask them to write down their version of the scene or incident in question. Our truths are completely our own. They are no one else’s, and you must be true to your story. But permitting input from others can help you understand their truth, and some version of their story might actually be very good material to add to a redraft. It could, and many times will make your story better.
In the end, the narrative is your responsibility and you alone should decide whether or not to include others’ suggestions, thoughts, or versions. In the end, no matter what, the story you have written is yours. Keep it yours.
Get to Know David Berner:
David W. Berner–the award winning author of Accidental Lessons and Any Road Will Take You There–was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he began his work as a broadcast journalist and writer. He moved to Chicago to work as a radio reporter and news anchor for CBS Radio and later pursue a career as a writer and educator. His book Accidental Lessons is about his year teaching in one of the Chicago area’s most troubled school districts. The book won the Golden Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature and has been called a “beautiful, elegantly written book” by award-winning author Thomas E. Kennedy, and “a terrific memoir” by Rick Kogan (Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio). Any Road Will Take You There is the author’s story of a 5000-mile road trip with his sons and the revelations of fatherhood. The memoir has been called “heartwarming and heartbreaking” and “a five-star wonderful read.”
Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and SonsAny Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons is a heartwarming and heartbreaking story told with humor and grace, revealing the generational struggles and triumphs of being a dad, and the beautiful but imperfect ties that connect all of us.
Recipient of a Book of the Year Award from the Chicago Writers Association, Any Road Will Take You There is honest, unflinching, and tender.
In the tradition of the Great American Memoir, a middle-age father takes the reader on a five-thousand-mile road trip–the one he always wished he’d taken as a young man. Recently divorced and uncertain of the future, he rereads the iconic road story–Jack Kerouac’s On the Road–and along with his two sons and his best friend, heads for the highway to rekindle his spirit.
However, a family secret turns the cross-country journey into an unexpected examination of his role as a father, and compels him to look to the past and the fathers who came before him to find contentment and clarity, and celebrate the struggles and triumphs of being a dad.
Paperback: 242 Pages Genre: Memoir Publisher: Dream of Things (September 17, 2014) ASIN: B00NVBMDZ0 / ISBN-10: 0988439093 / ISBN-13: 978-0988439092
Some of the links contained in this blog are affiliate links. This means that I may receive a commission if you click on the link above and choose to buy from the affiliate. It doesn’t cost you any extra, but I receive a small part of the sales, which funds go to support this blog. I only recommend high quality products and services that I know and/or trust, whether an affiliate relationship is in place or not.
The prairie landscape invites contemplation and reflection, quietly urging us to look within for universal truths. As Hickman points out: only an inner wisdom can help us connect a world of incessant surface activity with a deeper awareness. But no matter where you live, the ideas here will help you discover your place within–returning to it time and time again. We need frequent, meaningful reminders that we are much more than current events, sensational headlines, drama, controversy and conflict, and interminable, often distracting, news bulletins.
On a spiritual level, we are the open space of the prairies, the artistic stretch of silvery blues overhead–in many ways, we are even the curious dance of time.
Our spirits, our hearts, point to a timeless wisdom. Always Returning is an insightful and essential guide.
When D.A. Hickman published Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie in 1999,she likely did not expect another edition or similar book.
However, as Hickman writes on Goodreads, much had happened when she returned to South Dakota and the prairie in 2008. This return to roots, to culture and lifestyle on the prairie, evidently sparked a hunger to not only revisit her own inner wisdom but to invite and carry her readers along with her.
With this 15th Anniversary Edition, a new title, and a new preface, I decided to join Hickman and never looked back after the first page.
My copy of Hickman’s Always Returning had just arrived when a trip to the ER with my husband was necessary. I hadn’t started the book then and snatched it up as we went out the door. As I waited to learn what was wrong with my dear husband, I began reading. I cannot explain the sense of peace and comfort that washed over me. The writing style is lyrical and provides a seemingly endless look at the prairie, a place no doubt representative to even us city girls when we think of a simpler life.
The view of the prairie is for any reader–city dweller, in the Dakotas, Georgia, New York, New England, or Colorado. Perhaps in a foreign land, military installations, senior or retired living facilities. Or maybe you still live at home with your folks. Perhaps you are among our country’s homeless or unemployed and someone has handed you a copy. Hickman’s book is for all of you.
Wisdom, however, isn’t a surficial phenomenon it must be discovered within–always on a deeper and deeper level. (Preface)
The writer makes it clear that your prairie is found deep within your being by means of becoming deeply aware of our surroundings and all that is ours to behold and experience.
The more pages I turned the more pages I wanted to explore. What I most enjoyed is Hickman’s contrasting of the slower nature of the prairie with our tumultuous culture of social media, get it done faster, be everywhere pace in the 21st century.
… [P]rairie wisdom is about learning to look, really look, at life in a way that spotlights the inconsequential, peers under and below the shiny, glittery surface of things, delves into the dusty corners and invisible crevices in an effort to understand the truth of the matter, indeed, the heart of the matter. (At page 15)
Not once does Hickman imply that the prairie is preferable over any other place; she simply points to its differences. And in so doing, she highlights the inner wisdom and beauty of finding our place and within it our wisdom.
In the chapter titled “Borrow It, Don’t Buy It,” Hickman brings us to a crucial need in all our lives–mutual respect within community. Today we are a have it all, have it now society. Buy, buy, buy is shouted from every media source in the land. Hickman suggests a refocusing on a new direction toward the time once again when “less is more.”
Either way, borrowing, because it seems convenient, friendly, and fun, or borrowing out of necessity, can keep our need for material possessions in perspective. Regardless of where you reside, of where you have come to know the wisdom of place, develop close friendships that allow for a healthy give-and-take. The mutual respect, the warm feelings of cooperation that develop, will ensure a happier tomorrow for us all. (At page 187)
As I turned the last page, I experienced a mix of emotions–well-being, sadness, hope, and yes, my own place of wisdom. Always Returning is a book I will always keep close by to return to again and again.
Always Returning is truly a book providing a map to the heart, a map GoogleMaps, Bing Maps, and Mapquest cannot offer. Hickman shows us where to plant our hearts and nurture them so their growth extends beyond us on to others. If there is hope for peace on this earth, that hope may just be found in prairie wisdom.
This is a book for the enjoyment of readers of all ages (young adult and up), of all faiths and spiritualities, of all lifestyles, of all cultures. I highly recommend it as a gift book whose recipient will be blessed over and over again.
I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to give a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.
Today I’m pleased to give D.A. Hickman’s book, Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place, a stellar work, a 5-star rating.
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
Meet D.A. (Daisy) Hickman:
I’m an author, a poet, and the 2010 founder of SunnyRoomStudio, a sunny, creative space for kindred spirits. If you visit my online writing studio, you’ll discover intriguing posts from my Studio Guests and my author blog, as well. Just go to SunnyRoomStudio.com. I’m also a spiritual thinker who believes in the journey itself. When we explore new terrain with each life experience, the adventure is profound.
From the cover of Always Returning: “Insights we call wisdom must be learned repeatedly: each time, at a deeper, more profound, level.” Some book details … the 15th Anniversary Edition of “Heart Resides” (William Morrow) was published as ALWAYS RETURNING: The Wisdom of Place in 2014. The second edition includes a new preface and other relevant updates, but by and large, the material in this book is increasingly relevant. I greatly enjoyed writing Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie. I have always been a student of society. There is so much to be learned by simply being aware of our surroundings, our lifestyles, and our assumptions.
The wisdom in my book originated on the American prairie, specifically when I stepped back to look at the place and its people at the turn of the century from a sociological and spiritual perspective. Indeed, an organic and lasting wisdom has evolved over the ages in a place known for hardship, but great beauty, as well.
Some of the links contained in this blog are affiliate links. This means that I may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase from the affiliate. I only recommend products and services that I know or trust to be of high quality, whether an affiliate relationship is in place or not.