How Writing is Like Exercise

Recently, I made a commitment to start exercising daily. As most of you who read my blog know, I have also promised to write on a more consistent basis. As I moan and groan about my lack of energy in both of these enterprises, I am reminded of a chapter from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones where she compares writing to physical exercise. Motivation can be difficult to find at first. Once you get going, both can become part of a daily routine.

Here are five pieces of advice to inspire you in both writing and in exercise.

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1. Self-motivation is key

When it comes down to it, we call the shots for ourselves. In order for writing or exercise to be successful, we have to be self-motivated. There will always be that voice in your head that says “Hey it’s been a long day, just write tomorrow” or “You’re tired, don’t bother with the gym tonight.” Self-sabotage has always gotten the better of me. No more! Find quotes that inspire you. Write yourself motivational notes. Remember that tired is often a state of mind.

2. Start slow

I have met a lot of people who approach huge goals with lots of energy, only to burn out within the first month. In fact, I’m one of those people! While there’s nothing wrong with having long-term goals, sometimes it’s best to break the journey down into smaller steps. Wasn’t there a famous quote about Rome and taking your time? You know the one. Maybe your exercise goal is to eventually lose 30 pounds. Perhaps you want to complete the great American novel. There’s no shame in starting slow. My plan for this month is to write two short stories. I also plan on committing to 15 minutes of exercise a day. The point is make the goals doable for you and build off of them.

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3. Schedule time

People that know me have learned that I can be quite the scatter-brain. I’m not putting myself down, it’s just that I’ve come to realize that I’m a disorganized mess. When it comes to my job or just getting anything done in general, I function much better when I have scheduled time. Take this little blog of mine for instance. Typically, I schedule two posts each week, one review and one general post. This has helped me to keep the blog updated on a consistent basis. In order to be more successful at exercise and writing, I will have to do the same. They say once you’ve done something for three weeks, it becomes routine (not sure who “they” are but I remember hearing that somewhere). So get out those planners and plan dammit!

4. If you want to do it, then it’s important

Another obstacle to success is the guilt we feel. You are ready to go work on yourself, when all of a sudden you remember something important that you forgot to do. Don’t avoid responsibilities, but also remember that your personal goals are important. A friend once said “It all gets done in time.” If being a writer is something you want to do, then it’s no silly. If training so you can run a marathon is your fitness goal, this is not ridiculous. Do it!

5. Take pride in the small victories

The first time you went running, you probably didn’t make it very far. The second time maybe a little further. Next thing you know, you’ve run a full mile. As I said earlier, baby steps are important. Writing and exercise are alike because you have to start small and build towards those bigger goals. When you get one page written, take pride in that. Maybe just getting 500 words done was your starting goal. Don’t judge what you have written right away. Just feel good that you did it. This is exactly the same with exercising, just be happy that you managed to survive for two minutes on that treadmill before falling down. You were able to do 10 jumping jacks today, when before all you could do was half that number. There’s no shame in being pleased with yourself. Even if you only made it one step on the right path, that path is not going anywhere.

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I hope this post provides a little motivation today. Whether it’s writing or exercise (or both), you can accomplish anything. Just don’t rush it. You got this!


Books at the Movies

This past weekend I went with my best friend to see Annihilation. Directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman, this sci-film film is based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. I’ve been curious about the book for some time, but decided this would be one of those cases where I saw the movie first. The story is about a place cut off by a mysterious biological hazard and the group of female scientists sent out to investigate it. Overall, I really enjoyed it as it has some very disturbing scenes along with a few twists.

My bestie informed me later that the movie’s ending is very different from the book, which is actually a trilogy. Sometimes people avoid seeing the movie before reading the book for fear that the screen adaptation cannot possibly live up to the original work. In the case of Annihilation, it made me want to read the books even more. So I thought it might be fun to explore some of my best (and worst) experiences with films adapted from popular books.




The Dark Tower

This one was not quite as spectacular of a King adaptation, but I still found a lot to like in this little movie. The trick to enjoying this one is to just not think about the books and treat the movie as its own entity. I particularly loved Idris Elba as Roland, and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t totally hate the performance by Matthew McConaughey. It was a nice little piece of sci-fi that could never capture the grandeur of the books. Read my full review here.

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Murder on the Orient Express

I must confess that I went and saw this one without having read the book. In this case, I think that’s a good thing. Wow, what an amazing corker of an ending to finish off a great film with an unbelievable cast! I’ve only read one novel by Agatha Christie, and I wonder if I had read this one if the ending would have held as much impact. My plan is to read the book later this year to see if I can spot clues along the way. I highly recommend this film!

The Hunger Games

I’ve read the trilogy, but at this point have only seen the first movie. Yes, I’ve heard the rest are quite high in awesomeness. For Hunger Games, I feel I enjoyed the book and film equally. Don’t worry Jennifer Lawrence. I will watch the other ones soon.

Abandoning Books

As I struggled to come up with a topic for this week, life as always provided the answer. Yesterday, my best friend and I were discussing the right time to abandon a book. Right now, we are both struggling with books we want to quit. So when is the right time to abandon a book? I found an interesting article over at Book Riot regarding this issue. While some would say that stopping after the first 50 or 100 pages is a good idea, perhaps that isn’t a fair assessment of a book’s value. After all, the one I’m currently reading is well over a thousand pages! I liked the author’s argument after struggling with a long book that about one-third seems fair to give up if the sparks just aren’t happening.

Do you ever feel the urge?

Then there’s the fact that our tastes change with age. Now that I’m a sophisticated man in my forties, I definitely enjoy books now that I wouldn’t have liked in my younger days. Some are definitely worthy of a second chance.

Here are some books that I’ve abandoned over the years.

The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan

I have a feeling that I would totally love this epic fantasy series that spans many years as well as many pages. Sadly, I made it less than a quarter of the way due to being frightened away by its sheer length. This year, the first book has made it on my list for the 2018 TBR Pile Challenge. Here’s hoping I can tackle it the second time around.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyoder Doystoevsky

Last year, this was my original choice for a Russian classic. I was totally pumped to tackle one of the most celebrated novels of all time. Doystoevsky is certainly a master at creating believable characters and dialogue. His pages are so rich with characterization that I was about 100 pages in when I got sick of nothing significant happening. I ended up reading a shorter work, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Although I loved my second choice, I hope to someday return to the saga of the family Karamazov.

Something Happened by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 was easily one of my favorite novels in college. I loved it so much, I wrote an awesome paper about it. Heller had become a hero to me. Years later, I read Something Happened. I take back my praise of Heller. This novel was like a long trip to the dentist to have multiple root canals done. The narrator was completely unlikeable, and I quickly tired of his bitching. Maybe I missed the point by not sticking to it, but I have no plans to ever return to this one.

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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

My first experience with David Mitchell ended with me abandoning this book about halfway. It didn’t have anything to do with the writing; my head just wasn’t in the right place to appreciate it. I attempted it again the following year, and now I rate Cloud Atlas as one of my top ten favorite books of all time. What a difference a second chance can make! For me, Cloud Atlas revolutionized fiction. I’ve been a huge David Mitchell fan ever since and highly recommend both his first novel Ghostwritten as well as his horror novel Slade House. I’m looking forward to reading The Bone Clocks later this year.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Anyone who has read my blog for awhile knows that I’m a massive lover of all things Murakami. Since reading The Windup-Bird Chronicle, I’ve devoured so many of his works. Particularly, I recommend his massive novel 1Q84 and his short story collection The Elephant Vanishes.

Then came Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, where I only made it halfway. It was horrendous! It was like seeing all of Murakami’s at his worst. Granted, this is one of his earliest works but come on. I hated all the technology talk. The narrator was so bland (as many of Murakami’s narrators are) that I just got annoyed by him. Then, there’s the love interest who the narrator wants to sleep with and constantly talks about her being “fat-sexy.” Done.

The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks

Since my bestie gave me the idea for this particular blog, I thought I would end it with one of his favorite authors. Ever since he introduced me to the worlds of Terry Brooks, I’ve been in love. The Sword of Shannara nearly holds the record for the fantasy novel I’ve read the most (it falls just behind Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon). As great as the first three books are, there are sooooooo many more. Then there’s the train wreck of the TV series based on one of the books. One day, I hope to say that I’ve read the entire series. I fear that day is far away.

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Stop giving me that disappointed look Allanon!

What books have you abandoned? Would you consider tackling them again? I would love to know your thoughts!

Strange Love

Last week, I shared some of my favorite modern love stories. For this week, I thought I would go in a completely different direction. Let’s face it, love makes us do dumb things. I mean really dumb head-shaking things. But did you know that some of the most insane acts in the name of love have occurred in books?

So allow me to share some of the most insane ways to declare those three little words. Perhaps flowers and chocolates aren’t getting the job done. In that case, try some of these less conventional methods. Hey, they all won the girl in the end!

Insult her mercilessly-Pride and Prejudice

Although he is one of the biggest heart throbs in classic literature, Darcy’s first impression on Elizabeth did not go so well. Here’s what she overhears him say to his best friend Mr. Bingley:

“She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

Damn Darcy! You came to play! Back then, that would be the equivalent of telling a girl “hey you’re ugly get out of my face.” Guess there’s something to be said about taking the asshole approach.

“Just give me a reason!”

Perfect that creepy stare-Twilight

If the “I don’t care for you” card isn’t working, you can always try the opposite approach. Edward Cullen was comfortable enough with himself to basically stalk and stare his way into Bella’s affections. I’ve watched most of these movies. Seriously, those damn films would be 15 minutes each if they cut out all the staring scenes.

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Edward Cullen laughs at your futile restraining orders!

Hide your first wife in the attic-Jane Eyre

Edward Rochester was madly in love with Jane, but he had one little problem. He neglected to let her know that he was already married, and that his first wife was quite insane. Rochester decided to take the simple approach-just lock the first wife up in the attic and hope wife number two never finds out. His elegant solution would not be successful. Things work out in the end, and Rochester does have some karma bite him on the butt. For another interesting take on Edward Rochester and his first wife, read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

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“One more word, and I’m locking you up there too!”

….or just go insane-Wuthering Heights

Has there truly been a more insane character than Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights? I actually feel for this one as he had a pretty rough go of it. Plus despite his madness, you have to admire the man’s passion. He definitely had style.

I think the couple of Heathcliff and Catherine is intriguing because of their mutual obsession with each other. They really are male and female versions of each other. When Heathcliff loses Catherine, he really goes off the rails, punishing everyone in his path.

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“Edward Cullen has nothing on my ability to stare down.”

Fuel a blood feud then off yourself-Romeo and Juliet

Young love. This is one of the few Shakespeare plays that I could actually quote verbatim back in the day (thanks to the Leonardo DiCaprio film). It’s too bad things couldn’t have been resolved. Maybe if they had therapists back then, the families could have resolved their differences. I guess it wouldn’t be a classic though had everything worked out in the end.

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Make her the town pariah-The Scarlet Letter

After getting Hester Prynne knocked up, Arthur Dimmesdale finds he doesn’t have the courage to take a stand and admit his actions. The unconfessed guilt comes to haunt him in some major ways. Hester Prynne is definitely one of the strongest women I’ve encountered in literature. If you weren’t forced to read it in high school, you should do so now.

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Take her captive-The Phantom of the Opera

This one should work no matter how hideous you look. Just lock her up, profess your love, and tell her that if she doesn’t marry you, you’re going to blow everyone up. The best part is that while you are doing it, you get to wear a cool mask!

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Well I hope this post brought a few smiles if nothing else. I will be reviewing the love story Every Day this weekend. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Have you read any of these books? What other insane romances would you include on this list. I’d love to know your thoughts!


This Modern Love

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and you know what that means. It’s time to go support commercialism by purchasing flowers, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, and other love-related items. It’s also time for me to dedicate a post to the day of romance. Honestly, is there a better way to support love than with a book? I decided to focus on modern works rather than the classics this year. Rather than watch Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy once again do the dance of love or see Heathcliff demonstrate the role of tortured lover, let’s look at some of my favorite contemporary love stories from the past three years. For the ones I’ve read since starting this blog, you may click on the titles for the full reviews.


Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

One of the author’s earlier works, the narrator Toru remembers while listening to the famous Beatles song the romance he had with the mentally unstable Naoko who committed suicide as a teenager. I never said these were all happy books! This haunting tale is beautifully told in a style that is in a league all its own. Norwegian Wood is also a great place to start if you’ve never read any Murakami as it is a straightforward story free from all the magical realism and bizarre happenings that have become his trademarks.

sad norwegian wood GIFWritten on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

Speaking of unconventional love stories, you have to read this one by the extraordinary Jeanette Winterson. The narrator recounts falling in love with Louise, a woman who is married and later finds out she has cancer (alright just realized a theme here). The most unique aspect of this novel is that we never learn the gender of the narrator. Would your perception of this romance change depending on if the narrator is a man or a woman? Read it for yourself and be the judge. It is easy to lose yourself in Winterson’s prose. She definitely has style. While Written on the Body appears as your typical romance novel, Winterson’s playfulness with the text helps make this a very original work. The novel is extremely philosophical in parts, intense in others, with generous amounts of humor laced throughout. There were moments that had me laughing out loud while crying in others.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson

This graphic novel is about Christianity-obsessed Craig and Raina, a free spirit he meets at church camp. Not only is this the story of first love, but also about healing from trauma and finding your place in the world. It’s beautifully written with wonderful illustrations.

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Although not your conventional love story (are any of these), I loved the romance that developed between the main character and a girl he meets while in the hospital. After trying to commit suicide, Craig is sent to stay in a psychiatric ward where he meets several “dysfunctional” characters including Noelle, a free-spirited girl whom he develops feelings. This is a powerful story about mental illness and being able to truly be yourself. At some point, I will probably check out the movie.


The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Interestingly, my first experience with Ishiguro is also the most famous of his works. The Remains of the Day is the story of Stevens, an English butler in the service of a wealthy American who prides himself on his dedication and work ethic. Steven looks back on his life under his previous employer Lord Darlington and remembers his relationship with the housekeeper, Miss Kenton. Despite stressful situations occurring both in the world and within himself, Stevens holds a strong sense of calm dignity which actually interferes with other aspects of his life such as having interpersonal relationships. Written in the calm and detached style typical of Ishiguro, the scene where Stevens has his “break” and confesses his heart is masterfully written. This is a role that could only be achieved by the great Sir Anthony Hopkins. The Remains of the Day is a great introductory novel to the works of Ishiguro.

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The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

This novel is about a lost love across several decades. This is a beautifully written story where Krauss manages to balance heavy emotions with a calm and lightness you don’t find with many modern authors. I also liked the surprises as the characters don’t find what they are looking for in the ways they expect. This novel also should win an award for one the greatest love quotes I’ve ever found in modern literature. I dare you not to cry.

“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”

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Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

This contemporary version of The Taming of the Shrew is part of the Hogarth range of modernized Shakespeare adaptations. The “shrew” in Tyler’s version is being coerced by her father to marry his assistant who has been threatened with deportation. For the most part, I enjoyed this little tale that approached the character of Kate with a lot of emotion and humor. I love Hogarth Shakespeare! I’ve read two in the series so far, and they prove why the lessons of the Bard are timeless.


Those are my picks for modernized tales of the heart. If anyone would like to add their selections, please comment below. Later this month, I will be reviewing another unconventional love story, Every Day by David Levithan. Until then, Happy Valentine’s Day!

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“I was always hungry for love. Just once, I wanted to know what it was like to get my fill of it — to be fed so much love I couldn’t take any more. Just once. ” Norwegian Wood


What books would you recommend during February? Do you have a favorite modern love story? I’d love to know your thoughts!