Link love: What I'm reading | Jan. 8, 2017

With it being the first week of the year, I've scrolled through so many "Here's why you should _______ in 2017" articles, I don't know WHAT I'm supposed to spend my year doing (but it's not like I've ever been much for people telling me what to do, anyway). 

As somebody whose job it is to literally read articles all day long (how did I end up with this job?!) I consume a lot of content on a daily basis, and even more junk ends up under my saved articles on Facebook. 

Here's what's been catching my eye and turnin' those wheels this week.

What I'm reading

How I Used Meditation To Turn My Life Around | Motto 
I've read this article before, but they pushed it out on social media again this week, and I'm super grateful they did. I'll be the first to admit that I've tried meditation a billion times and oh boy, am I bad at it. I have what the Buddhists call "monkey mind" which basically just means I can't turn the thing off. But this article changed the way I think about my monkey mind. At one point, the author writes, "I realized that meditation wasn’t about trying to control my mind; it was a time to just allow whatever was going on in my mind to just be." And that's something I'd like to have more of in my life: Instead of trying to push negative thoughts out of my mind, I'd like to learn how to accept them, to acknowledge that they exist, to hold them briefly and then let them float down the river far, far away from me. (Related link: I've also been thinking a lot about this New York Times article about conquering negative thinking. Same idea!) 

Where Everybody Knows Your Name | Texas Monthly
One important thing to know about me: I prefer a dingy dive to a bougie cocktail bar any damn day of the week. I've been known to ask friends to take me to the most poorly lit, run-down bar they can think of. You know the kind I'm talking about: Mismatched furniture, they may not even take credit cards (and their jukebox sure doesn't — oh yeah, and they have a jukebox) and a few regulars who will talk your ear off the second you open your mouth. Maybe it's my small-town Texas roots that make me love places like this — they remind me of home — or maybe I'm just not a $14 cocktail type of girl, but this list of the best dives in Texas made me want to hit the road and visit them all. Oh, and my favorite bar in Austin is on the list: Deep Eddy Cabaret. They've got the best jukebox in town.

A Stanford University psychologist's elegant three-step method for creating new habits | Quartz
"They" say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I think that's BS, because it can take one day to break that habit you worked so hard on for nearly a month, and then you'll have nothing to show for it. The program this Stanford researcher developed only takes five days, which is way more my speed (#commitmentphobe), and the thought process behind it is appealing: Train your brain to succeed at small adjustments, which in turn gives you confidence for the big adjustments, and voila! You have a habit.

Inside the Life of John Prine, the Mark Twain of American songwriting | Rolling Stone
Another thing to know about me: In another life, a long long time ago, I wanted to write features like this one for Rolling Stone. So when one crops up on my Twitter timeline about one of my favorite songwriters of all time, you know I'm gonna drop everything to read that bad boy. John Prine makes me think about my dad for so many reasons, but mainly because I'll never forget the way my dad giggled when he first played "In Spite Of Ourselves" for me in his truck, and the way we both laughed through the song's lyrics about drinking beer and and putting ketchup on scrambled eggs. Prine is witty and he finds joy in the little things, which also reminds me of my dad. I was smiling the entire time I read this.

The 1 Book You Must Read to Become a Better Writer in 2017 | Inc
While we're talking about my dad, let me tell you the one thing he's told me more than anything else in my life: "You should write a book." Like it's just that simple. No problem! Let me just write a book. I've had stories floating around in my head for most of my life: My stories, other people's stories, stories I made up out of thin air, daydreams. I figure it's about time I finally start trying to figure out what I would even write about, which is part of the reason I'm even writing this right now. So, this one's for you, Dad. I've now resorted to reading books about writing just so I can figure out how (and what) the hell to write in the first place.

One more thing

Back in 2012, writer and wonderful human Neil Gaiman gave a commencement speech at Philadelphia's University of the Arts. Before he wrote so many wonderful stories, he was a journalist. He says he became a journalist "because journalists are allowed to ask questions, and to simply go and find out how the world works" which I identify with on a spiritual level.

For a long time, I thought I couldn't be a journalist and be creative. I thought journalists simply reported straightforward facts. There was no artistry there. I had to choose one or the other. I was wrong for so many reasons, and this speech was one of the things that helped me realize that. 

For Christmas, my dad got me a book version of Gaiman's speech, beautifully designed. I found myself flipping through it yesterday, stopping at the "make good art" part, as I often do.

I also used to think that I could only "make art" when I was in the throes of depression. When I had been dumped, or snubbed by a friend or family member, that was when I felt like writing. Not when I was feeling good. When I was happy, I often shook my fist at the sky, wondering why I couldn't string any good words together. Turns out, a lot of the things I used to think are wrong.

So I'll leave you with this, courtesy of my man Neil:

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art. I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art. Make it on the good days too.