According to my outlook, books can fix anything… So obviously my burnout journey – I dare to call this shit like that although nobody has diagnosed it – is book-based. I needed boosts of confidence. I needed affirmations that I was a valid person although my chosen profession has turned not to be the right one for me. I needed a permission to do new things. And I needed a confirmation that it is not too late.
It’s not only books, of course. My family, C, and friends have done their best to be there with me. And since last July I’m also in formal therapy. And, for good and for bad, I’ve been highly functional throughout. But I needed my lady-friends from books too. So here is my shortlist, yes, all written by women and, yes, all widely published and translated bestsellers. And none are fiction. I’m still making my peace with fiction…
Cameron, Julia. 1992 (2002). The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.
New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher / Putnam.
OK, this one is hard-core woo-woo. I squirmed a lot at the ‘spirituality’ language, ‘God’ and ‘prayers’. But she delivers all the affirmations I wanted and offers tools to accept them as intimate truths. And I’ve always enjoyed journaling and writing as healing, that’s what I’d already done through all my previous turmoils, so her Morning Pages and written exercises are just the thing for me. It is comforting and soothing, and effective. After all, “creativity is like crabgrass – it springs back with the simplest bit of care…”
Gilbert, Elizabeth. 2015. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Rīga: Zvaigzne ABC.
If you want an easier read (a medium-length air travel is all you need for this one and not 12 weeks), Liz Gilbert is there for you. Coming 25+ years after Julia Cameron, Liz says basically the same: creativity is an abundance economy, just showing up makes all the difference, and that all that truly matters is what all that means to you. That is, the bold ‘creative living’ she recommends can and should be expressed throughout your life, not expecting to necessarily get a Nobel for it). True to her usual style of scattered random anthropologies and history bits throughout, the book is entertaining and might serve as a gateway drug for more self help airplane books from the likes of Brené Brown and Gretchen Rubin…. Beware, book lovers! Reading about doing is not the same as doing.
Pinkola Estés, Clarissa. 2001. Women Who Run With the Wolves.
Sounds True audio or any book-form edition.
A fun detail: despite being familiar with her work since more than 10 years ago, only last year I learned that Women Who Run With the Wolves was an audiobook before it was a readable book. The printed versions are much thicker than the 2.5h audio original, but being able to listen to her voice is priceless. Her poetry is delicious and her sense of humor (especially commenting on Women Who Run With the Wolves fame) – intact, but for that you have to go to Theatre of the Imagination.
As with everything in this adult life, not 100% of her fairy tale selection and interpretations make sense, and some seem out of place. That is fine. Take what you need. This is the type of work that you can (should?) reread once every 10 years or so. Just to observe how your perception and take-aways change. Oh, and the poetry! I stole this from Homemaking: Women Writers and the Politics and Poetics of Home. 1996. Edited by Catherine Wiley and Fiona R. Barnes as Clarissa’s web has been listing a poetry book as forthcoming for years now:
Kondo, Marie. 2010 (2014) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Kondo, Marie. 2017. Spark Joy.
Surprise, surprise! What an unexpected turn: me suggesting KonMari and then some tidying. But bear with me. Here you can find my mini-reviews of all three books and you could read any other book that propels you into action through your possessions (The Art of Discarding or The Joy of Less, or any other of the kind will do). My favorite comprison is with IT devices: if you run for too long without restarting, your systems clog up and slow you down, and you might think that the device is flawed. That’s why your every call with an IT person will start with ‘Have you tried turning it off and then turning it on again?’ This is exactly what KonMari™ does. It is an opportunity to revise and edit your present (hence also future) *and* the narrative of your past.
The power of past editing is my most recent tidying revelation. I have to admit – here comes a dirty secret, beware – that I still have digital photo clutter. My current photo archive is 120GB and I’ve just started tidying it. My obsession, even with the analogue soap box before the digital one, has been documentation, the conviction that there is ‘truth’ to be kept. And then my artsy expressions and allure of street art… that’s a lot of meaningless photos 15 years later.
So I’m slowly tidying up my digital photo past (I already did that with the analogues a couple of years ago) and it is incredibly liberating. Once I let go of the compulsion to keep something for its ‘historical value’ despite it being embarrassing, ugly, meaningless and applied the *spark joy* criterion, I enjoy it so much. There is the symbolical value of retaining only what I want with me going forward, and the pleasure of deleting hundreds of archives and liberating dozens of gigabytes.
Possessions are your road trip companions, a book of KonMari™ style can help you take action to retain only the ones that are kind and helpful.
Which books have helped you at some points in your life? Which authors have given you those a-ha phrases that you have later calligraphed, embroidered, tattooed, etc to retain? Which books do you return to periodically for inspiration and solace?