Author: Ian

What Time of Day Do You Work Best?

So this week’s topic might seem obvious, but it’s also so important that I can’t possibly let this blog go any longer without talking about it.  That’s because I’ve found that sorting creative time into the right place on your schedule can make all the difference between fist-clenching frustration and sweet sweet productivity.

Here’s a few things to consider when thinking about your ideal creative work schedule:
Continue reading »

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis (1950)

Do children’s classics still hold up when read by adults?  I never read the Narnia books when I was younger, but I did read The Screwtape Letters a few years ago and liked its sinister plot and epistolary storytelling.  Similarly, this book’s heavy Christian undertones fall just short of eye-rolling at times, though the themes of temptation, redemption, and righteousness enhance the plot so effectively that without them the book would have been forgotten as just another kid’s adventure.  A final plus is that the fantasy world feels real enough to immerse readers but not enough to overwhelm them.

Rating

Simple Debt-Paying Advice for Creative People

The other day I was talking to some friends about finances (yeah, these are the kinds of conversations you start having after age 25…) and one of my friends whose debt was spread out over a lot of different loans started talking about his strategy:

FRIEND: So basically I’ve got these two student loans and I usually pay an extra hundred bucks on one of ‘em and an extra fifty on the other, and then I’m also trying to pay off my car so sometimes I pay some extra there, Continue reading »

Sputnik Sweetheart, by Haruki Murakami (2001)

An aloof college student falls in love with his best friend, a wannabe writer beatnik—the only catch is that she’s also in love with a businesswoman seventeen years older than her.  Sumire’s an outgoing, speaks-her-mind girl in classic Murakami fashion (she reminded me of Midori in Norwegian Wood) who gives life to much of the novel, which Murakami tells in short spurts between section breaks.  While a lot of Murakami’s subject matter feels familiar, the story’s compactness keeps it moving, with the ending evoking an uncertain stillness that makes the whole novel seem more whole.

Rating

Flighty Lyrical Literary Novel, by Anonymous (2013)

Believe me when I say that great lyrical writing can be some of the most stirring writing there is—I loved Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, for instance. This novel, though, felt like a poor man’s version, with a heavy emphasis on style and very little in the way of a plot (which was inspired by historical events in Europe a hundred or so years ago, and may have been part of the problem). The passages that flowed well didn’t go anywhere, and the ones that didn’t felt pretentious and masturbatory—with far too many of them.

Rating

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket: An Interview with Poet James Crews

I met James Crews at the University of Nebraska where he worked as a mentor for my first-year teaching class while finishing his poetry PhD.  We kept in touch, and when we both found ourselves in the northeast I drove out to southern Vermont to the farmhouse he shares with his partner in Shaftsbury (which, coincidentally, is just up the road from Bennington College, where I did my undergrad). Continue reading »

Shakespeare Wrote For Money, by Nick Hornby (2008)

I love Nick Hornby’s Stuff I’ve Been Reading column (which he’s written on and off for The Believer since the 2000s, and perhaps will again when the magazine finally makes its return??) because he talks about books like a real person, avoids pretentious review-speak, and jokes about how Americans don’t understand British football.  Though this review collection’s in the same vein as his others, I missed the more stylized jacket flaps and the book excerpts that came with the first two collections, which made finding new books for my own towering To-Read stack that much easier.

Rating

Don’t Obsess About Your Work Being “Legitimate”

I have a friend who’s working on a novel in her spare time.  It’s an ongoing project that she devotes an hour to every so often in the evening or on a weekend, and she has a lot of fun working on it when she can.

Sometimes the two of us discuss writing and she talks about her novel in a passionate, excited way that makes me excited too.  Other times she’ll talk about problems Continue reading »

Four Major Plays, Volume II, by Henrik Ibsen (1881-1896)

Prior to this I’d only read Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler, and while these four plays are less significant, they built off of the other Ibsen I’d read while covering more thematic ground.  Ibsen was a progressive decades ahead of his time, and today these plays seem more relevant than ever, covering environmental protection, the place of women in society, the dangers of populism, parents wielding control over children, and choosing money over love.  I enjoyed the denser John Gabriel Borkman much less due to its heavy exposition, but maybe also because I haven’t gotten old yet.

Rating

Ghosts 

An Enemy of the People  

The Lady From the Sea  

John Gabriel Borkman  

Guest Post – The Bullet Journal Saved My Lifestyle

Jack Hill is hands-down one of the most productive people I’ve ever met and a Day Job veteran who’s worked a bigger variety of jobs than even I have. The two of us spent a lot of time in grad school trying to make sense of how the writing life worked in the 21st century.  Check out his website or follow him on Twitter @xjackhill. Continue reading »

Fight Scenes, by Greg Bottoms (2008)

Fight Scenes is about growing up in the 1980s with your friend whose dad keeps naked pictures of women he’s slept with under his bed; it’s about dealing with bullies and looking at porn with girls you like and sitting in front of the 7-Eleven and smoking pot in the woods and fending off crazy racists at the local Popeye’s.  Bottoms shows us these moments in a series of vignettes that all say more than they seem to at first glance, so that the book shows us both his ridiculous middle-school adventures and how fucked up life can be.

Rating

Where I Got It

A 2016 Christmas gift from the same friend who got me Rose of No Man’s Land, which is also pretty rad.