Tags: optimism

Some Yoga/Writing Principles

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: January 20, 2015
Categories: Challenges, Inspiration
Comments: No Comments

The new year is a time to take stock and a time to try to do things differently than we have before. When life gives us a lesson, we can respond as we always do –and then life will give us that same lesson over and over again. But what if life gives us a lesson and instead of responding the same way we always do, we respond differently? Perhaps life will be done giving us that lesson and we can move on to something else.

Take a rejection letter, or a harsh critique, or a writing project gone south for some reason out of our control. What if, instead of responding with our same old anger, frustration, and depression we respond with genuine gratitude.

I have found this is EXTREMELY hard to do. Though I can’t do it fully yet, I have discovered some principals that help me head in that direction. These are yogic principles that I try to adapt to my writing life. They are drawn from Rolf Gates’ Meditations from the Mat. I hope you find them helpful, inspiring, or at least intriguing:

“We already have everything we need.”

“The surest way to get what you want is to let go of wanting.”

“What is required is a radical, absolute, living trust in the universe.”

“Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary.”

“Pride and ambition will get you hurt; humility will get you well.”

“There is wisdom within us that is more powerful than our despair.”

“Make a commitment to focus on the nature of our efforts and not the nature the result.”

It’s at least worth a try!


YA Goes to the Oscars

by Michelle McCann
Published on: May 7, 2012
Comments: 2 Comments

While watching the Oscars a few months back, I noticed something strange: a large number of nominations were for movies based on children’s books, particularly young adult novels. I counted and it was a whopping 21 nominations this year: 1 for Tin Tin, 3 for Harry Potter, 6 for War Horse, and 11 for Hugo.

And then there is the staggering success of The Hunger Games movie. Best-ever opening weekend. Already surpassed grosses for all the Twilight movies combined. I went to my very first midnight opening and was amazed to see hundreds of grown people standing in line for 5 hours. For a movie. On a school night!

What is going on? Why are these movies suddenly so popular, with adults as well as kids? I think it is the same reasons YA novels are so popular right now, with adults as well as kids:

Today’s YA novels are incredibly well-written AND incredibly fun to read.

Soon after the Oscars I came across a great piece in the New York Times that eloquently expressed my feelings about why YA is sweeping the nation (and the Oscars). Lev Grossman, book critic for Time Magazine, wrote an op ed that’s title says it all: “Nothing’s Wrong with Strong Plot and Characters.” In the article he admits to being in a YA-only book group (another trend I’m noticing these days) and lays out some ways that today’s YA novels are different from adult literary fiction:

  1. YA novels tend toward strong voices and clear, clean prose. Adult literary fiction, by contrast, can be more focused on style: dense, descriptive prose, full of carefully observed detail, which calls attention to its own genius rather than urging the reader forward.
  2. YA novels focus on storytelling. Much of adult literary fiction, on the other hand, explores ways to break down storytelling, fragment it and make it non-linear. This kind of reading demands a lot of work from the reader.
  3. YA novels are rarely boring. They are written to grab your attention and hold it.

These are the same reasons I believe so many people, young and old, are flocking to see YA movies these days. The stories are great. The characters are great. The themes are meaningful. And they are not boring to watch.

Grossman ends his piece with a sentiment that pretty much sums up why I love reading YA so much (and by extension, going to YA movies as well):

“I’m not as young as I once was. At my age, I don’t have time to be bored.”

And for those of you who, like me, love seeing your favorite YA books up on the big screen, you are in luck. The floodgates are open and just about every YA hit I can think of is “in production.” Here’s a short list of what I found on IMDB:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Sept. 2012 (starring Logan Lerman from Percy Jackson, and Emma Watson from Harry Potter)

Uglies, Nov. 2012

Incarceron, 2013 (starring Taylor Lautner from Twilight)

The Giver, 2013 (starring Jeff Bridges)

Ender’s Game, 2013 (starring Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Abigail Breslin)

Forest of Hands and Teeth, 2013

Maze Runner, 2013

Divergent, 2015

The Fault in Our Stars (TBA)

Optimists of the World…Make Room for Everyone Else!

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: August 12, 2011
Categories: Challenges, Other Topics
Comments: No Comments

Dr. Seligman, I owe you an apology. I thought you were one of those positive thinking guys. Instead, you have your Ph.D., Penn professorship, professional colleagues and profuse research all in the science of optimism. You’re not into people merely repeating “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better,” whether it’s true or not. Rather, you desire to help people change habits of thought that will concretely improve their health, happiness, relationships, work… and even WRITING! For this, I thank you.

At a pivotal meeting in late 2008, the Scrivas discussed personal obstacles to writing. As I remember, these fell into two broad categories that likely all creative types can recognize: 1) life—demanding jobs, young families, lack of time; and 2) doubts about ourselves and our work—showing up in questions such as, “Am I good enough?” “Do I have anything to say?” “Does my work matter?”

Here’s the rub. What we believe affects what we do—or don’t. Aptitude and motivation are not enough, Seligman says. Optimism is also required. “A composer can have all the talent of a Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize. Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure. I believe that optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.”

People can have general or localized pessimistic tendencies. The good news is that optimism can be learned. As Seligman puts it, it’s not what happens to us (“Adversity”), but how we explain it to ourselves (“Belief”) that matters, affecting how we feel and what we do or don’t do (“Consequences”). Here’s an example. The A is the same in both instances. The differing B is what determines the C, action or lack of it.

Adversity: I feel stuck, I can’t write.
Belief: I’m a terrible person. I can’t ever do anything.
Consequences: Why bother at all? I give up.

Adversity: I feel stuck, I can’t write.
Belief: My goals are unrealistic. I need to come up with more realistic goals.
Consequences: OK, there’s something I can do. Let me revise my goals.

This is merely an amuse gueule to whet your appetite for the multi-course meal of Seligman’s book Learned Optimism. You’ll want to read his full ABCDEs, and learn about permanent, pervasive, and personal explanations (pessimistic), and their optimistic opposites.

For myself, having Learned Optimism, I’m moving on to Authentic Happiness. Yes, that is finally within reach! It’s another Seligman title, now waiting for me on the hold shelf of my library.

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