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The Ten Most Influential Books In My Writing

Thomas emailed and said: Maybe you could write a post listing the books that have expanded your creative mind as a writer.  Thank you. What a GREAT idea.

These are the books that set my heart on fire for writing.

 1)The Invitation” By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I love her deep honesty.  Her vulnerability.  How she talks about where and how she hurts, and how she deals with it.  I owe her my deep desire to write truth, just like her… with total honesty, even if it is embarrassing.

I learned how to BLEED, and what that meant, when I read Oriah

She goes deep into her personal life, what she is feeling, where she fails, where she triumphs, where she hurts, and on and on. I could not believe someone could write such personal stories with so much vulnerability

I first read this book in 2006.

Her name is not her real name, It was given to her. I don’t know nor do I care how or why. But I like the two last names… Do you see a similarity already As in I am “Azula Altucher”.  I like that. I know it is a pain to have two last names, call me eccentric. I love it, and it does not hurt anyone.

The Invitation Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Oriah was not famous up until the mid 2000’s…

She was just a deeply spiritual social worker.

Then one day during workshop the  facilitator asked her to write by filling in the blank the following

It doesn’t interest me _________ I want to know __________

A great writing exercise by the way….

Out of it came an incredible poem that I am sure you read (is at the bottom of this email in full in case you want to savor it)

The poem was “emailed around” and next thing she knew she had a book deal.

This is how it starts:

It doesn’t interest me

what you do for a living.

I want to know

what you ache for

and if you dare to dream

of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me

how old you are.

I want to know

if you will risk

looking like a fool

for love

for your dream

for the adventure of being alive.

Oriah made me focus on what she wanted to know, which happened to be exactly what I, also, wanted to know.

She wrote many books after The Invitation.

 

2) Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estees

Again, a double last name…

Clarissa floored me with her prose… How she describes things, how she makes my  blood flow and my heart race and get goospans and laugh and cry as I read her book.

Many women, I have come to realize, USE the book to justify not wanting to see clearly…

It takes a little bit of “sobriety” to be able to read the book and notice what we do that sabotages ourselves.

I also love how she mixes Spanish and English in her writing!

It was a poem by her which inspired one I wrote recently, that got me totally spell-bound into being a super fan of her work…

Women Who Run With The Wolves - Clarissa Pinkola Estees

How To Silence a Woman, that is the poem, and it starts with a rant (in the Audio Book The Creative Fire)

If you want to silence a woman, she says, tell her:

  • You are not read yet,
  • You are not good enough,
  • Who do you think you are?
  • It has been done before
  • Tell her you’ll help her, but then don’t
  • Tell her you’ll respect her, but then don’t….

Every woman would benefit from reading it…And every man as well, I love men, I know it would help men too…

This is how it starts:

When someone says:

“We’re saying the same thing.”

Say: “We’re not saying the same thing.”

When someone says:

“Don’t question, just have faith.”

Say: “I am questioning and I have supreme faith in what I think.”

When someone says:

“Don’t defy my authority.”

Say: “There is a higher authority I am following.”

When someone says:

“Your ideas are seductive.”

Say: No my ideas are not seductive, they are substantial.”

When someone says:

“Your ideas are dangerous.”

Say: “Yes, yes my ideas are dangerous, and why are you so afraid?”

When someone says:

“It’s immature.”

Say: “All life begins small and must be allowed to grow.”

When someone says:

“It’s not well thought out.”

Say: “It is well thought out.”

When someone says:

“You’re over-reacting.”

 Say: “You are under reacting.”

When someone says:

“You’re being emotional.”

Say: “Of course I have well placed emotions and by the way what happened to yours?”

When someone says:

“You’re not making any sense.”

Say: “I am making sense.”

When someone says:

“I can’t understand you when you are crying.”

Say: “Make no mistake I can weep and be fierce at the same time.”

When someone says:

“I can’t understand you when you are being so angry.”

Say: “You couldn’t hear me when I was being nice and kind either.”

 [See the  bottom of this email for the full poem]

3) Choose Yourself, by James Altucher

James is my husband and the poet of my generation….

I once asked him how do I know if I’m ready to be a public speaker. He said:

When does the rainbow turn orange into red?

How did I get married to this guy?  How did I get so lucky?

choose_yourself_ebookcover_bestseller

Other quotes that floored me:

It’s in the valley of failure that we sow our seeds of success

Life is cold. People stay warm through the intimacy of a story.

Life is a series of failures punctuated by brief successes

James pretty much taught me the discipline of writing, and to always take off the first and last paragraph, which works like charm.

Every time I read Choose Yourself (now a mega best-seller) I can’t put it down.

4) Jesus’s Son, by Dennis Johnson

Of course this was James’s recommendation. But I confess I did not fall in love with this book right away like he did.  No.

That is NOT how it worked for me.  I didn’t get the book. I didn’t understand it.

You know why? Because life rushes us. And I never had enough “time” and “peace of mind” to actually read it.

It took for us to go on retreat, when we were writing together “The Power Of No”, so that I could slow down enough to actually be able to read slowly and appreciate Jesus’ Son.

I had NEVER read anything like that…

Check out how he describes a SUNSET

“It was still daytime, but the sun had no more power than an ornament or a sponge. In this light the truck’s hood, which had been bright orange, had turned a deep blue.”

Jesus Son Denis Johnson

Have you EVER heard someone describe a sunset by how the color of a truck  changes? Can you see it in your mind? Cause I did… And down the rabbit whole I went…

5) On Writing, by Stephen King

All his details are gold: Use few words. Kill your darlings. Be direct.

Check out this quote from the book… his no b/s approach:

“… The passive voice irks the shit out of me. I accept them but I don’t embrace them….My first kiss will always be recalled by me as how my romance with Shayna was begun.  Oh, man -Who farted, right? A simpler way to express this idea-sweeter and more forceful, as well-might be this: My romance with Shayna began with our first kill. I’ll never forget it.

Or…

“The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said

“Put down the gun, Utterson! Jekyll grated.”

“Never stop kissing me! Shayna gasped.”

“You damned tease! Bill jerked out.

Don’t do these things. Please oh please.”

on writing king

6) Cuentos De La Selva, Horacio Quiroga

It was required reading in elementary school and I am SO GRATEFUL it was.

If you speak Spanish forget Borges, and rush to Quiroga, you are welcome.

cuentos-de-la-selva-horacio-quiroga-

 

7) Ham on Rye, by Charles Buckouwski

I love the “dirty-real approach in him”.  I find him to be a drunk yogi… surrendered to life through alcohol… Poignant in every sentence.  Totally real.  Naked. Floors me.

Ham on Rye

8) Zen And The Art Of Writing by Ray Bradbury

This one had me RUN to the computer… I would read one story and literally run to write… THAT level of inspiration

Zen And The Art Of Writing

 

9) The Surrender Experiment, By Michael Singer

This one is helping me understand that I don’t need to rush, or be such a perfectionist, just focus 100% of my attention whenever the inspiration to write comes to me.

There is no forcing, life unfolds… And I can be open to it.

 

The Surrender Experiment, highly recommended

The Surrender Experiment, highly recommended

10) The Creative Fire, Clarissa Pinkola Estees

Yes I am closing with Clarissa again, because, this is the book that explains exactly what to do when we feel drained, or not creative…

She NAILS the cycles of creativity and can inspire a rock to write or paint or dance… She is a master story teller

By the way it is NOT a book, it is an audio book, and a treat…

The Creative Fire Clarissa Pinkola Estees

 

11) The Choose Yourself Stories, By James Altucher

One More, because James’s best writing is in this book, and it is a well kept secret.

choose yourself stories

 


 

And now for the promised poems

Oriah’s The Invitation

By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me

what you do for a living.

I want to know

what you ache for

and if you dare to dream

of meeting your heart’s longing.

 

It doesn’t interest me

how old you are.

I want to know

if you will risk

looking like a fool

for love

for your dream

for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me

what planets are

squaring your moon…

I want to know

if you have touched

the centre of your own sorrow

if you have been opened

by life’s betrayals

or have become shrivelled and closed

from fear of further pain.

I want to know

if you can sit with pain

mine or your own

without moving to hide it

or fade it

or fix it.

I want to know

if you can be with joy

mine or your own

if you can dance with wildness

and let the ecstasy fill you

to the tips of your fingers and toes

without cautioning us

to be careful

to be realistic

to remember the limitations

of being human.

It doesn’t interest me

if the story you are telling me

is true.

I want to know if you can

disappoint another

to be true to yourself.

If you can bear

the accusation of betrayal

and not betray your own soul.

If you can be faithless

and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty

even when it is not pretty

every day.

And if you can source your own life

from its presence.

I want to know

if you can live with failure

yours and mine

and still stand at the edge of the lake

and shout to the silver of the full moon,

“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me

to know where you live

or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up

after the night of grief and despair

weary and bruised to the bone

and do what needs to be done

to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me

who you know

or how you came to be here.

I want to know if you will stand

in the centre of the fire

with me

and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me

where or what or with whom

you have studied.

I want to know

what sustains you

from the inside

when all else falls away.

I want to know

if you can be alone

with yourself

and if you truly like

the company you keep

in the empty moments.

Clarissa’s How To Silence A Woman

By Clarissa Pinkola-Estes’

 

When someone says:

“We’re saying the same thing.”

Say: “We’re not saying the same thing.”

 

When someone says:

“Don’t question, just have faith.”

Say: “I am questioning and I have supreme faith in what I think.”

 

When someone says:

“Don’t defy my authority.”

Say: “There is a higher authority I am following.”

 

When someone says:

“Your ideas are seductive.”

Say: No my ideas are not seductive, they are substantial.”

 

When someone says:

“Your ideas are dangerous.”

Say: “Yes, yes my ideas are dangerous, and why are you so afraid?”

 

When someone says:

“It’s immature.”

Say: “All life begins small and must be allowed to grow.”

 

When someone says:

“It’s not well thought out.”

Say: “It is well thought out.”

 

When someone says:

“You’re over-reacting.”

Say: “You are under reacting.”

 

When someone says:

“You’re being emotional.”

Say: “Of course I have well placed emotions and by the way what happened to yours?”

 

When someone says:

“You’re not making any sense.”

Say: “I am making sense.”

 

When someone says:

“I can’t understand you when you are crying.”

Say: “Make no mistake I can weep and be fierce at the same time.”

 

When someone says:

“I can’t understand you when you are being so angry.”

Say: “You couldn’t hear me when I was being nice and kind either.”

 

When someone says:

“You’re missing the point.”

Say:   “I’m not missing the point but you seem to be missing the point.”

 

When someone says:

“You’re breaking the rules.”

Say: “Yes. I am breaking the rules.”

 

When someone says:

“That’s not practical.”

Say: “It’s practically a done deal.”

 

When someone says:

“No one will do it, believe you or follow it.”

Say: “I will do it, I will believe it, and in time, many will follow it.”

 

When someone says:

“No one wants to listen to that.”

Say: “I know you have a hard time listening to that.”

 

When someone says:

“It’s a closed system and you can’t change it.”

Say: “Okay, I am going to knock twice and if the is no answer, I am going to blow the door off.”

 

When someone says:

“They’ll ignore you.”

Say: “They won’t ignore me and the 100s and 1000s of people who stand with me.”

 

When someone says:

“It’s already been done.”

Say: “It’s not been done well enough.”

 

When someone says:

“It’s not time.”

Say: “It’s way past time.”

 

When someone says:

“It’s not the right day, not the right month, or not the right year.”

Say: “The right year was last year, the right month was last month and the right day was yesterday. And what is going to happen because they are running behind schedule.”

 

When someone says:

“Who do you think you are?”

Tell them and don’t hold back!

 

When someone says:

“I put up with it and you will have to put up with it too.

Say: “NO NO NO NO”

 

When someone says:

“I’ve suffered a long time and you will have to suffer too.”

Say: “NO NO NO NO”

 

When someone says:

“You are an incorrigible, defiant, hard to get along with, unreasonable woman.”

Say: “YES YES YES YES, and I have worse news for you yet. We are all teaching our daughters and our mothers and our sisters. We are teaching our sons and our fathers and our brothers, to be JUST LIKE US.”

 

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