Tag Archives: book

Juggling Books

How many books can you juggle?

Let’s be clear, I don’t necessarily mean juggling in the literal sense, as in circus performer. Besides, that could be very dangerous especially if one is juggling hard cover books, or worse yet, dictionaries (… please do not try this at home!)

I mean juggling in terms of how many books can you have on the go at one time.

In the years before retirement, my head was already retaining so many intricate details from work – especially those annoying “strong passwords” that we had to change every few months. It would have been unthinkable to try to follow more than one story at a time.

I would just keep one book (considered “light reading”) on the nightstand and would plug away at it, a few pages at a time. It usually took three or four weeks to get through it, but that was all the time and headspace I could afford.

I look back and think that I probably should have turned off the TV and read more during my evenings, given how it always made me feel more centred and relaxed. But the reality is that after a full day of reading, writing or editing business materials, my eyes were tired and the poster children for moisturizing eye drops. Continue reading

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My Guilt Trips over Books

The guilt… oh, the overwhelming guilt I feel when I place a book on the back burner and don’t get back to it for weeks or months at a time. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I feel awful.

I think it would be safe to say that I have always been an avid reader. In high school, when a novel was assigned to us for a book report, a presentation or a test, I would usually devour the book cover to cover on the Sunday, to ensure the information remained closely in my subconscious for the coming week.

It wasn’t that I was procrastinating, but with my brain processing so much new material from all of my classes, it was the most efficient way for me to ensure I was prepared to answer questions about the story.

The pace at which I learned to read (and to retain) became a wonderful life skill not only for my personal reading pleasure but also for my career, where I often needed to process great amounts of information to generate reports, recommendations, solutions or combinations of all three.

If I had to express a preference, I like to read at a more casual, relaxed pace, where I can truly savour every word, especially when the author’s masterpiece is a tour-de-force in brilliant writing. Savouring a book on a rainy or snowy Sunday, in my favourite chair, sipping a wonderful cup of tea, with the cat snoring next to me is paradise on earth. Still, there are times when regardless of how quickly or how slowly I may start a book, the words just don’t seem to sink in. Why is that?

Over the years, I became aware of the difference between a “light read” and a “heavy read” and how that affects the appropriate timing for introducing a book in one’s life.

During stressful times at work, heavy reads just would not sink in. In most cases, a light read was all that my brain could handle. Still, there were some abundantly stressful times when light reads were a challenge too, as you could likely see glimmers of “no vacancy” signs in my eyes. Continue reading

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Books or eReaders? It Depends.

I may be a little late to the party, but recently, I have been wanting to join in on the discussion among book lovers about whether they preferred books or eReaders (electronic reading devices and apps).

Since their appearance on the market a little more than a decade ago, eReaders have steadily gained in popularity, thus creating a discussion among avid readers that would have been considered science fiction in the decades prior.

It warms the cockles of my heart to see the passion with which individuals explain perfectly valid reasons for their preferred option. I also find the deep loyalty with which they express their preference to be charming, magical and absolutely convincing as I can relate to every word.

Where both camps meet in the middle is in their articulation of love of the written word and for reading in general, which is a joy in itself.

The reason I am only jumping into the conversation now is because of my recent realization that my own preference has changed a couple of times, depending on other factors.

Back when I was commuting daily by bus, I had loads of time on my hands. When I wasn’t listening to music and watching the scenery go by, reading was something that helped me to pass the time as well as to decompress from a heavy work day.

However, there were limitations to what I could bring with me. A heavy hardcover book was out of the question. With a messenger bag already pretty full with healthy food choices and a few necessities in case of emergency, adding a heavy book could have easily had me walking with a distinct tilt and risking additional visits to the chiropractor. Continue reading

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Which Book to Read Next?

Over the last couple of years, I have been making time to enjoy one of life’s sweet yet simple pleasures: I have reconnected with my love for books.

Where I used to reserve books for bedtime reading, I have since rejigged my schedule to allow time in the morning to slowly sip my coffee, to listen to some relaxing music, to read for a bit and to gently ease into my day.

After decades of going from 0 to 60, hitting the ground running as soon as my feet swung out of bed and hit the floor, this new routine has become a welcome and preferred approach to start the day off right.

It offers me the time to slowly wake up, to breathe and to reconnect with my positive energy. It seems to gently nudge the brainwaves into action rather than a speedy immersion into worrying about what the day ahead holds.

In making reading part of my morning routine, rather than taking six months to finish a book, I have been averaging one book per month, although I have impressed myself by finishing some in a matter of days when I just couldn’t put them down.

In the last couple of years, I have filled my mind, my heart and my soul with fascinating biographies, I have read some classics that I missed, I have explored some books on personal growth and new ways of thinking, and I have devoured books that will help me grow as a writer and as an artist. Continue reading

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50 Reasons to Love a Good Book

1. A good book can pick you up when you’re feeling down.
2. A good book can help you relax when you’re feeling wound up.
3. A good book can help you get to sleep, on a sleepless night.
4. A good book can be the perfect diversion when you experience racing thoughts.
5. A good book can help you feel centred and in the moment.
6. A good book can make you laugh, make you cry, everything in between, and all of the above.
7. A good book can be the perfect companion on a rainy or snowy day when you don’t want to go out.
8. A good book can draw out strong emotions.
9. A good book can teach you something you didn’t know.
10. A good book can keep you on the edge of your seat.
11. A good book can make you laugh.
12. A good book can be a guilty pleasure.
13. A good book can be hard to put down.
14. A good book can be so compelling, you can’t wait to pick it up again.
15. A good book can be so compelling, you’re sad when it ends. Continue reading

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The First Time My Own Writing Gave Me Palpitations

Regular readers will recall that I put the blog on autopilot in early summer, finalizing several blog posts at once, to offer me some free time to spread my wings and try some other creative writing projects.

It didn’t take long for me to sink my teeth into fiction. I guess ideas had been simmering long enough that putting words to paper came quite easily.

For one story in particular, I already knew my main characters and the main source of tension between them. I started committing those to paper.

What started with a few ideas soon became an outline. Then I rounded up the index cards I filled out over the last weeks related to this story and started typing ideas into their respective places.

What I loved was that I could keep the story up on my computer screen, walk away to put a load of laundry in the machine, come back and add a few sentences, entertain the cat a bit, come back and add a few more sentences, do the dishes, add another couple of ideas. Momentum was building and I was already enjoying the creative writing process.

I’d be lying if I said this particular story was a complete work of fiction. There are a few threads to the story that are inspired from my own life, but only a few people will know which is which.

Well into the process of engineering the flow of tension and conflict, I wrote a first draft of a heated conversation between two characters. For this dialogue, I tapped into something deep in my soul, loosely based on something I experienced personally.

In no way does the conflict in the story line resemble anything I’ve ever experienced, but whether someone is angry about life, people or circumstances, anger is anger. It’s universal and can motivate some very impassioned reactions in any of us.

As I was deeply into the writing zone, almost on autopilot myself, the words and associated emotions poured out of me. The exchange between the two characters flowed seamlessly.

The interaction seemed so natural. In some ways, I was not only creating a moment, I was living in it. The strength of conviction and motivation behind the dialogue was unlike anything I had written before.

When I finished typing out the conversation that concluded with one character storming out of a fictional room, the creative bubble around me faded as I returned to reality. In that moment, I noticed that my heart was racing, my breathing was fast and shallow and I felt beads of sweat on my forehead.

I was having palpitations! … over something I just wrote! Who knew that was even possible?

Instantly, this experience became one of those moments as a writer that I will never forget. At this point I didn’t care whether this piece made it to print or not. The fact that I was able to dig that deeply as if I was in the room with the two characters was a huge rush. The fact that it was able to elicit such a strong response felt like a huge emotional welcome into the creative writing world.

I was overjoyed! I was thrilled! I was euphoric!

If this is what it means to be a writer, then I want a lifetime membership! An experience like this makes it all worth it.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, your likes and shares are most appreciated.
If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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A Kinder, More Gentle Journey

A collection of lit tea lights, arranged in the shape of a heartWhenever I am on a flight, I find it interesting that when the flight attendants are delivering the pre-flight instructions, they always suggest to “take care of your own oxygen mask first, before assisting others”. As an analogy on life, I think it is a great one. I don’t think anyone will disagree that you need to look after your own interests first, but I think as a society we are losing sight of our friends’ oxygen masks!

One of the TV personalities I genuinely enjoy and admire is Tim Gunn, the mentor for the designers on “Project Runway”. I have always thought that he had a solid balance of gentlemanly cool, kindness, tact and diplomacy (while still being able to tell it like it is), qualities that I am continuously working to refine. I am almost finished reading Mr. Gunn’s book “Gunn’s Golden Rules – Life’s Little Lessons for Making it Work” and am even more captivated by his perspective on life because it truly resonates with me.

In his book, he provides tips and hints for “making it work” (his catch phrase on Project Runway) in all disciplines of life. Where he really struck a chord with me is his questioning of where good manners, kindness and respect have seemingly gone out of fashion.

I don’t think my parents and family spent a ridiculous amount of time in my childhood drilling the importance of “please”, “thank you” and respecting my elders. Things like shaking the hand of a grown-up always made me feel like a grown-up when I was being indoctrinated into such gentlemanly rituals, and I gobbled up all such learning opportunities they provided on my quest to becoming a young gentleman.

I do remember that before we went out, there was always a short “briefing” about how I should behave in this setting, which I think went a long way in establishing parameters and ways to behave, where and when appropriate. Sometimes they were followed up afterwards with a few footnotes of positive reinforcement or pointing out where I could do better next time. Knowing from such a young age that such distinctions existed made it a given in adult life and – I would like to think – show the respect we have for our peers in social settings.

I am not suggesting we all need to stand around in tuxedos, sipping tea, speaking in “Downton Abbey” dialects, but rather that day-to-day social graces like holding a door open, waiting one’s turn, waiting until people get off an elevator or public transit before storming in, should not be the abnormality. I don’t know of anyone who dislikes or disapproves of basic good manners, so why is it such a discouraging exception?

I find it interesting when random acts of kindness make the headlines. Shouldn’t a kind and gentle society be engaging in these all the time to such an extent that it shouldn’t make the news.  I am certain that there are a combination of factors and perceptions that suggest why that is, maybe it is a perception of a sign of weakness rather than alpha dominance in a dog-eat-dog world, perhaps it is just forgetfulness with no follow-up coaching on common sense, or perhaps have good manners really gone out of fashion?

In any case, I don’t think it is too steep of a price to pay respect to a total stranger by offering a smile, a nod and a “Good morning” when the occasion presents itself, or to say politely and gently “Excuse me” when someone runs into me with a grocery cart, in the hopes that it generates a reminder to people that they weren’t in fact raised in a barn. It may sound a bit of a Pollyanna perspective on things but I’d like to think that the positive energy of respect, honour, grace and generosity of spirit is contagious. If good manners really did go out of style, I would like to think that the tide could turn and they could come back in style… as most fashions eventually do!

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, your likes and shares are most appreciated.
If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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