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My New Job, or, What It Feels Like to Have Dyslexia

My New Job, or, What It Feels Like to Have Dyslexia

At the beginning of September, my fiancé and and I drove from Seattle to Minneapolis. We arrived at our new apartment late in the afternoon on Saturday, September 5th. Less than 48 hours later, before our furniture had even arrived, we both went to work:  Paul at the University of Minnesota, and me at my new job of tutoring and counseling college students with dyslexia.

On my first day, I was expecting to do paperwork and have some sort of orientation to the program, but instead, twenty minutes after arriving, I found myself helping a student with his Calculus homework… GULP. I hadn’t done Calculus in over a decade, so I babbled crazily at the poor guy while frantically searching through some dusty, old files in the back of my brain. I felt stupid and self-concious, but somehow I managed to help him with most of his assignment.

By the end of the week, I was pretty much running the show at work. And by that, I mean I was actually running the show. Both the director of the program and the other tutor were out sick, leaving me in charge of the room full of college kids. I talked to a student about test-taking tactics, helped make some flash cards about quadratic equations, and tried to counsel a student on how to best organize his essay on e-cigarettes for Freshman Comp.

View of the Mississippi from our new downtown Minneapolis apartment.

View of the Mississippi from our new downtown Minneapolis apartment.

This isn’t the first time I’ve worked with students with dyslexia and other learning disorders, so I know that their disabilities can make classes and assignments difficult and frustrating, and that this program is likely what will help them get through college. But as a writer and a life-long book-lover, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand what it’s like to be dyslexic. For people with language-processing disorders, reading isn’t easy or fun; it’s a constant struggle.

Most people think of dyslexia as “that thing where you reverse your letters,” but dyslexia is actually a general term for any difficulty with words when reading, spelling, and writing — despite having average to above average intelligence and ability. It’s a neurological disorder with several subtypes, and dyslexia can manifest itself in different ways and with varying severity.

Dyslexic readers spend more time and effort decoding language.  They have trouble with directionality (left, right, up, down), symbols, and breaking words down into phonemes. They often have trouble comprehending what they’ve read because all of their mental energy goes into deciphering each word. Furthermore, I’ve had dyslexic kids tell me that the words “move around on the page,” and once a few years ago I caught a student reading her paper upside down. I flipped it around, and she continued reading like it was all the same to her. Because it was. Just imagine for a moment if you thought reading upside down was the same as reading right-side up.

And maybe you can imagine it, because it’s estimated that 10 to 15% of the population struggles with some form of dyslexia. If you can’t imagine it, like me, here is a little peek into the world of a dyslexic. Try reading the following passage (a translation can be found at the end of this post):

We pegin our qrib eq a faziliar blace, a poqy like yours enq zine.
Iq conqains a hunqraq qrillion calls qheq work qogaqhys py qasign.
Enq wiqhin each one of qhese zany calls, each one qheq hes QNA,
Qhe QNA coqe is axecqly qhe saze, a zess-broquceq rasuze.
So qhe coqe in each call is iqanqical, a razarkaple puq veliq claiz.
Qhis zeans qheq qhe calls are nearly alike, puq noq axecqly qhe saze.
Qake, for insqence, qhe calls of qhe inqasqines; qheq qhey’re viqal is cysqainly blain.
Now qhink apouq qhe way you woulq qhink if qhose calls wyse qhe calls in your prain.

If you didn’t give up, you’ll find that you CAN read it — or get the gist anyway — but it takes effort and time, and it’s easy to get frustrated and mentally exhausted. That’s probably what it’s like for the college students I’m working with now. A lot of these kids also struggle with their self-esteem and motivation. They’re not stupid, but too often in their school careers they’ve felt stupid and self-conscious and overwhelmed.

Luckily, we live in an age of audiobooks and podcasts and assistive technology. One of my students found Plato’s Republic read outloud on youtube and is (somewhat) happily listening to it and taking notes for class. Other students use a program called Kurzweil; you scan in a set of book pages and wait a million years for it to process, and then the program can read the text outloud (although a lot of the students dislike it because of Kurzweil’s “robotic” voice.) So Dyslexia is not something that can be “cured,” but there are ways to live with it.

Still, it makes me a little sad that some of my students may never know the joy I feel when I snuggle up  with a good novel. Podcasts and audiobooks are great, but to me, there’s nothing quite like the experience of reading. It’s ironic that that I happily spend so much time reading and writing, and yet I work with a population who tends to avoid and/or dislike those very activities.

The other day, I told my students that I’m a writer and my plan is to write in the mornings then work with them in the afternoons. “When I get my book published, I expect you all to buy it,” I joked.

“Oh, we will,” they promised.

I hope they’ll read it, too, but I know I’ll never quite understand what it feels like for them when they sit down with a new book.

When I worked at another school for dyslexic students, I had to get a pie thrown in my face.  I forget why, exactly.  I think it had something to do with prom.

When I worked at another school for dyslexic students, I had to get a pie thrown in my face. I forget why, exactly. I think it had something to do with prom.

To learn more about dyslexia, check out these links:

Typography book explores what it feels like to have dyslexia.

What is dyslexia?

FAQs about dyslexia

 

Translation of passage above:

We begin our trip at a familiar place, a body like yours and mine.
It contains a hundred trillion cells that work together by design.
And within each one of these many cells, each one that has DNA,
The DNA code is exactly the same, a mass-produced resume.
So the code in each cell is identical, a remarkable but valid claim.
This means that the cells are nearly alike, but not exactly the same.
Take, for instance, the cells of the intestines; that they’re vital is certainly plain.
Now think about the way you would think if those cells were the cells in your brain.

Winners of the “I Like My Books Like I Like My Men” Contest

Winners of the “I Like My Books Like I Like My Men” Contest

Recently, I held a contest in which contestants chose an opening line about books or writing and filled in the blanks.  Examples I gave were  I like my books like I like my men – they keep me up all night.  Or, Writing is like a unicorn vomiting rainbows — magical, but messy as hell. Read more about the contest here.

Imagine that this unicorn is vomiting...

Imagine that this unicorn is vomiting…

AND NOW FOR THE WINNERS….

FIRST PLACE:  Jessie Benenson

I like my books like I like my men– banned in all fifty states. 

 

SECOND PLACE:  Allyson Ayers

I like my books like I like my nachos – I never want them to end.

Writing is like exercising – motivation to start is the hardest part.

(Be sure to check out Allyson’s hilarious Tumblr page!)

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:  

I like my books like I like my men – thought-provoking, funny, and good in bed! :)Leigha Sochurek

Writing is like trying to watch a Youtube video on a bad internet connection. When it works, it’s great, but you spend ages staring at a screen with nothing happening at all.Daniel Wallace

(Be sure to check out Daniel’s fun and informative blog!)

 

Here I am in 2005 wearing this green sweater I've had since high school.

Congratulations, Everyone!

Jessie and Allyson both received prize-packs of reading material, stickers, and other fun items.  (Jessie got some Puss ‘n Boots temporary tattoos… aren’t you sorry you didn’t enter?)  Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest, and who knows, maybe I’ll have another one some day!

Getting Rid of Old Things, or, Tossing the Shark

Getting Rid of Old Things, or, Tossing the Shark

When I was a kid, my parents tried to make money in the real estate market. They would buy a fixer-upper in what my father hoped was an up-and-coming neighborhood, and we would live in half of it while they did renovations. Many of my childhood memories involve paint spackle and trips to Moore’s Hardware. My brother and I loved playing in the bathroom section of Moore’s: sitting on all the toilets and opening the shower stall doors.

Of course, as soon as the house was all shiny and new-looking, my parents would sell it or rent it out, and we’d move into the next old charmer. This is why, from the ages of infant to nine-year-olds, I moved a total of seven times.

I suppose I've always loved toilets...

I suppose I’ve always loved toilets…

As an adult, I’m not into the whole DIY renovation stuff, but I do continue to move at an alarming rate. And now it’s not just from one house to another, a few blocks away, this time it’s from one side of the country to the next. Ten years ago, I graduated college in Virginia and moved to New Orleans.  Six years later, I moved to DC, then to Massachusetts, then back to Virginia, then to Seattle, and now my fiancé and I have just moved to Minneapolis. We arrived here on Saturday.

Moving is annoying, but in a way, I appreciate the opportunity that packing gives me. It gives me the chance to go through my things and wonder: do I ever use this? Do I like this anymore? Is it worth taking up space in the cube for this?

It’s amazing the things that I hold on to. While cleaning out a kitchen drawer a few weeks ago, I found a blue plastic shark that had come as a stirrer in a drink I’d had at Lucy’s Surfer Bar in New Orleans, circa 2009. Somehow that shark had come along with me to all of my various abodes, and why? So I could be reminded of that one particular drink? Or because I thought I might use the plastic shark to stir another drink in the future ? I threw the little guy into the recycling.

One day (hopefully soon), I will stay somewhere for at least five years, and I will love being settled down, but staying in one place means I’ll start accumulating stuff. Without constant moves to help me prune, I’ll need to take it upon myself to, every now and again, go through my things and reassess. What do I really need? What do I really want?

On our cross-country trip we stopped at Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota.

On our cross-country trip we stopped at Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Three days before we left for Minnesota, I got offered an amazing part-time job in Minneapolis. The very next day, my future employer emailed me and said that they would like to make the position into a full-time one if I was interested.

I hesitated. Full-time would mean benefits and a better salary. And the job did seem like something I’d be good at: tutoring and counseling college kids with dyslexia. But what about having time for writing? Two years ago I quit my full-time teaching position because I decided writing was more important to me than money and security. Did I still feel that way?

Yes, I decided. I do still feel that way.  Writing is my career, for better or for worse. I wrote back and said sorry, I can only commit to part-time. They were disappointed but still glad to have me part-time… I start work today!

Like going through our material belongings, every now again we have to go through the things we hold onto in our minds and hearts: grudges we’re keeping, beliefs we have, goals we’ve set. We have to ask ourselves: do I still believe that? Do I still want that? Is this still the direction I should be going in?

We have to let go of the thoughts or beliefs we don’t need anymore. We can throw that plastic shark away and feel good about it. And sometimes we need to remind ourselves about what is really important. About what needs to be packed in bubble wrap and taken with us no matter where we move to next.

View of the Mississippi from our new apartment in Minneapolis.

View of the Mississippi from our new apartment in Minneapolis.

My Writing Process Blog Tour

My Writing Process Blog Tour

This week, I am touring the good ol’ U.S. of A. (right now my fiance’ and I are probably driving somewhere in South Dakota), and so it seems fitting that I was asked to do a “blog tour.” I was asked by the kind and clever Dinty W. Moore (read his blog tour here), and not only was I honored that he thought of me, I simply cannot say no to Dinty:

Can’t say no to Dinty W. Moore. photo credit.

Dinty W. Moore is the author of books such as The Accidental Buddhist and The Mindful Reader, as well as about a million brilliant essays that you can read in places like The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Normal School, and Crazyhorse. He edits Brevity Magazine and teaches in the Ohio University’s BA, MA, and PhD in Creative Writing program, of which he is the director.

Impressed yet? Well, he also grows his own heirloom tomatoes and is quite an amazing photographer:

Here's a great picture Dinty took of me and my MFA classmates when we were in Mexico.

Here’s a great picture Dinty secretly took of me and my MFA classmates when we were in Mexico in 2008.

But enough about Dinty. I will now answer some questions about my own writing.

1) What are you working on?

While waiting with bated breath to see what will become of my YA book, THE CHILDREN OF HAMELIN (currently agented by Alex Christofi), I am working on another fairy-tale inspired YA book, as well as an adult book that is very loosely-based on an American folk tale and is set in modern-day New Orleans.

 

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t think of myself as a genre writer. I write both YA and adult books. I like writing realistic fiction as well as dabbling with the supernatural and fairy tales.

As far as my YA goes, I tend to push the boundaries with mature content. I recently workshopped a realistic YA novel called BODIES in which the protagonist shaves “down there” and freaks out about razor burn and ingrown hairs. Many writers wouldn’t go there, but I’m always very interested in the standards of beauty in our culture, and how it affects both young girls and older women.

 

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write about things that fascinate me or make me feel impassioned.  I write about things that make the world seem beautiful, creepy, magical, mysterious, or disturbing — or all of these things at once.

I recently read about Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian Countess in the 1500’s who killed hundreds of virgin girls and bathed in their blood because she thought it would help keep her young and beautiful. Immediately I wanted to write about her, not just because her story is awesomely creepy, but also because it shows how great the desire is for youth and beauty. I am far from being immune to this desire, even though I know it can be destructive, and so this theme often shows up in my writing.

4) How does your writing process work?

Writing has gotten to be like a job that I go to every day and put in my time. I like to write creatively for two hours or so each mornings, although if it’s rainy and gloomy, I can write for most of the day. When I’m looking for ideas for something new, I go on a lot of walks. I try to read for inspiration. I try not to get nervous about writer’s block, but I usually do.

When I’m working on a novel, I read what I wrote the day before. Then I write a little more. For me, it’s better to write only a few well-crafted pages and call it a day than to force myself to vomit out twenty-five pages of crappiness. A few pages a day will still get the book written, and then there’s less rewriting to be done. I try to stop writing while I’m still feeling a little excited, and I make notes about what will happen next, so that I (hopefully) look forward to sitting down to work the next day.

I struggle a lot with plot, so that’s one thing that tends to slow me down. I make a lot of hand-written charts and notes, and sometimes I use books like John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story to help me think through plot points.

Another photo by Dinty W. Moore. Taken in Florence, Italy in 2010, and published by Junk: A Literary Fix.

And now for the “tour” part.  These fine writers will be posting their writing process blog tour posts next week, so travel on over to see what they’re writing and why:

Tawni Waters is a writer, actor, college teacher, and all-around magical person with a giant heart. Her first novel, Beauty of the Broken, will be released by Simon/Pulse in Fall 2014. Her first poetry book, Siren Song, will be released by Burlesque Press in Winter 2014. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her children and a menagerie of wayward animals. In her spare time, she travels extensively, usually with the purpose of following rock bands, but sometimes to teach writing classes. Since she doesn’t have a personal blog, she will be posting her writing process blog tour on The Burlesque Press Variety Show, where she regularly publishes poems and essays.

Daniel Wallace is a bright and witty Brit in the process of getting his PhD in English and Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee. (Because getting an MFA just wasn’t enough for this guy.) His first novel is represented by Inkwell Management, and he has won several scholarships and contests. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, Tampa Review, Fiction Writers Review, HTML Giant, and Air Schooner, and his blog, The Incompetent Writer, takes an instructive look at literature and the writing life.

Attorney and aspiring novelist Lisa Gouldy is close to my heart because, like me, she decided to quit her full-time job to focus (at least for now) on making writing her career. She moved to Seattle not too long ago, where she now does volunteer legal work and is writing a YA sci-fi/fantasy novel. She recently attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference and has some great posts on her blog, Planning for Sun, about how to pitch your novel to agents.

Eva, Tawni, and friends, while traveling in Mexico.

Eva, Tawni, and friends, while traveling in Mexico.

Another Cross-Country Move

Another Cross-Country Move

*Check out what Dinty W. Moore has to say about his writing process, and me!* 

Last summer Paul and I moved from the DC area to Seattle, Washington.  This summer, we are moving again.  From Seattle to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Once again, we packed all of our belongings into a cube and, as you read this, we have (hopefully!) already begun to make the long, long drive across this very long country.

We plan to stop for a hike and swim in Couer d’Alene, Idaho then head to St. Ignatius, Montana, where Paul’s family friends live on an Indian Reservation.  Maybe we’ll stop in Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, and we definitely plan to see Mt. Rushmore and Buffalo Gap Grassland in South Dakota.  And I have to admit that I’m looking forward to eating Subway sandwiches and McDonald’s soft serve and having a chance to get caught up on all my favorite podcasts.

When we made the cross-country drive last year, I was under the impression that I would still be able to keep to my tutoring and blogging schedule, and maybe even have time to write some math curriculum.  Instead, every night, I fell into bed like a ton of bricks. I had no idea how exhausted I would be.

So I’m taking it easy with this post.  You can read about some of my adventures from last year’s big move and enjoy a few pictures….

A Fight at Frontier Village (about a fight Paul and I had in Jamestown, North Dakota)

Where’s My Volcano?  Or, Why Moving is Scary and Fun

Somewhere in Wisconsin...

Somewhere in Wisconsin…

Paul in the badlands of North Dakota.

Paul in the badlands of North Dakota.

Rocky Mountains, elevation 10,000 feet

Rocky Mountains, elevation 10,000 feet

The Columbia River Gorge in eastern Washington state

The Columbia River Gorge in eastern Washington state

Should You Name-Drop Bands in Your Fiction?

Should You Name-Drop Bands in Your Fiction?

(Ironically, today Burlesque Press posted my poem in which I quote Nirvana lyrics.) 

I’ve been on a Francesca Lia Block bender ever since I read The Rumpus’s recent interview with her.

First I reread her 1989 classic, Weetzie Bat, a book I absolutely gushed over at twenty-three. Ten years later, I still love the fast-paced fairy tale of misfits in L.A., but it didn’t entrance me quite the way it did before. It was like re-watching a movie you loved as a kid:  it holds a place in your heart, but now you see its flaws.

Next I read Violet & Claire, a YA book from 2000, which was fun and cute and clever but bordered on overly-sentimental towards the end. And then I found myself somewhat annoyed with The Elementals, Block’s adult novel from 2012, which still seemed like YA to me.  I haven’t given up on Block by any means, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve outgrown her.

FLB:  Francesca Lia Block, queen of lyrical, fairy-tale YA.  photo credit

FLB: Francesca Lia Block, queen of lyrical, fairy-tale-inspired YA. photo credit

But this post is not a review FLB. She has dozens more books that I haven’t read, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on her body of work. I do admire her and think she holds an important place in literary history because she was writing edgy and lyrical Young Adult fiction before the YA genre was really a “thing.” But that’s not what this post is about either. Instead, I want to use her novels as examples in order to pose a question: should you use real band names and song lyrics in your novels?

Let’s take Violet & Claire as an example. Main character Violet has a fling with the hot lead singer of super cool rock band. Instead of making Violet have a fling with a specific star who would both date the novel and alienate readers who don’t find that musician particularly hot or his band particularly cool, Block creates a fictional band and a fictional rock star:  Flint Cassidy, lead singer of Spent Pleasure. Readers can imagine the hottest star and the coolest band — whatever that might mean to them.

In Violet & Claire, Block uses both fictional and real band names in her prose.

So it’s strange that, after making up a fictional band, Block then proceeds to name-drop real ones. Violet and Claire listen to PJ Harvey and Tori Amos, which helps to characterize them, I suppose: angsty, artsy, alterna-teen girls…but I knew that without the music  references, and I worry that both PJ Harvey and Tori Amos are a little out of date, even for the year the book was published. Still, I was willing to forgive the quoting of Tori Amos songs… I, too, was once a teenager who wrote my favorite lyrics all over my notebooks and jeans and best friend’s bedroom walls… maybe mentioning bands and songs is good thing for the YA genre?

Tori Amos, queen of the angsty teen girls of the 90’s

It wasn’t until I started reading The Elementals that I couldn’t handle Block’s band name-dropping anymore. I wanted to shout, “OK, FLB, enough with the Tori Amos already!” Ariel, the overly-naive narrator of The Elementals is constantly listening to and quoting from Tori Amos songs, and since I don’t particularly care for Tori Amos, it made me even more annoyed with Ariel than I already was.

Ariel’s favorite band, however, is a fictional one: Halloween Hotel. Why, I wonder, did FLB give Ariel a fictional favorite band, but then mention Smashing Pumpkins and Tori Amos and other bands that peaked in the mid-90’s and (in my opinion) tend to make this current novel seem dated?

I don’t know. But I have some theories.

I think writers name-drop real bands in their fiction for a couple of reasons:

1. Short-hand character description. If a character listens to the Sex Pistols, or Vivaldi, or Justin Bieber, we instantly form some opinions about who they are as a person. This could be good or bad, I suppose, but you do run the risk of stereotyping.

2. To seem cool and/or current. Some of the goodreads reviews accuse FLB of this. A reader named Leah said:

Block seemed to shout at the reader, “I know what’s cool! Hipster boys and Tori Amos! I’m still relevant!” I love Tori as much as the next alternative girl who grew up in the 90s and early 00s, but I don’t need her songs constantly referenced in an apparent attempt to seem contemporary. It will cause the book to become outdated quickly.

3. Because they themselves love the band, and, like teenagers who wants to write lyrics all over their notebooks, they can’t help but want to include their favorite bands in their own fiction. I have a feeling that THIS is what’s going on with FLB. I bet she is a big Tori Amos fan herself.

4. Because it adds to the story or helps illuminate a character in an important way. So I’m not saying you shouldn’t mention bands — it could be a good thing.

Rock on, man.

Rock on, man.

 

The bottom line is, you have to be very careful with mentioning bands in your fiction.  Not only might it date your work, but people tend to be very opinionated about music, and you can’t expect readers to share your opinions about what constitutes good or bad or cool music. Band name dropping in your fiction can also come off a little bit like it does in real life:  like you’re trying to sound cool and impress people.

On the other hand, I personally know writers who use bands, songs, and lyrics in their fiction, and it works for them. Stephanie Kuehnert, who I recently interviewed, named her first novel (I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone) after a Sleater-Kinney song, and the opening quote of the book is from a Social Distortion song. Mentioning real music helps set the scene and explain the characters in this realistic-fiction novel.

Lish McBride, who I interviewed a few months ago, also uses music in her fiction. In Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (a play on Elton John’s “Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dancer” — a witticism that took me nearly two years to get) and Necromancing the Stone, McBride names each chapter after a song title that also has to do with what happens in the chapter: Another One Bites the Dust; Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting; Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car. I think it’s pretty clever and fun, but I grew up in the same era as Lish, and I know these songs; I wonder if her younger readers get the joke. On the other hand, if teen readers don’t get the references, it’s not a big deal because they’re only chapter titles.

In the end, my question is this:

When should you use real band names in your fiction, when should you make up fictional ones, and when should you abstain from specifics at all (for example, writing something like, “she listened to punk rock bands from the 80’s”)?

Opinions?

If I were going to name-drop a band in my fiction, it might be the Rockcats, pictured here.

If I were going to name-drop a band in my fiction, it might be the Rockcats, pictured here.

Dirk and Duck played guitar, My Secret Agent Lover Man bass, Valentine and Raphael drums.  Weetzie and CHerokee and Witch Baby and Ping sang.  They performed “Ragg Mopp,” “Louie-Louie,” “Wild Thing,” and their own songs like “Lanky Lizard,” “Rubber Chicken Strut,” “Irie-Irie,” “Witchy Baby,” and “Love Warrior.”   – From Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

Selfies, Swifties, and a Spiritual Writing Exercise

Selfies, Swifties, and a Spiritual Writing Exercise

I’m getting ready to move from Seattle to Minneapolis, and hence this weekend was been about organizing and packing and discovering things in random places that I had I forgotten I owned (like some Puss ‘n Boots temporary tattoos), and then trying to decide if I should throw these things away, or take them to a new location where I will most likely forget again that they exist.  (And am I really going to use the Puss ‘n Boots temporary tattoos one day?)

During one such bout of organization, I came across several old notebooks filled with thoughts I had scribbled down and promptly forgotten about. Reading these sorts of things is always fascinating. It’s my handwriting, so I must have written it, and yet I find myself thinking, “did I really write this?”  It almost seems like it came from someone else, and I start to ponder the mysteries of my own identity.

Anyway, in one notebook I had written a bunch of Tom Swifties using my own name:

“My antiperspirant really works,” Eva said drily.
“Would you like me to press that shirt?” Eva asked ironically.
“Did you eat that entire block of cheddar cheese?” Eva asked sharply.
“Let’s get some ground beef and make burgers,” Eva chuckled.

I’ll spare you the rest of them, but let’s just say, I probably have enough for a coffee table book of Eva Swifties.

*  *  *

Speaking of useless books, were you aware that Kim Kardashian is publishing a book comprised entirely of selfies? Unfortunately it’s true. Art book publisher Rizzoli will publish Selfish, a sleek book of 352 photos Kim took of herself and/or her own butt.

Sort of makes you depressed about the current state of book publishing, doesn’t it? Sort of makes you wonder if people’s egos should be allowed to get so inflated.

Kim Kardashian's selfie book.  Read about it here.

Kim Kardashian’s selfie book. Read about it here.

Speaking of egos, recently my finance’ and I were reading about the ego in Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions. Hinduism says there are four paths to actualizing human potential, but all of them involve a distancing of the self from the ego. Because, Hinduism says, this body of ours (even one with a fabulous, famous butt) will one day be gone, and this mind of ours (even one that writes clever Tom Swifties) will one day be gone, and the only way to find enlightenment is to move beyond the confines of our own, small selves and embrace what is large and eternal– call it God if you want.

Hinduism gives several practical approaches for how to practice distancing oneself from the ego. One exercise that Paul and I especially liked was to start thinking of yourself in the third person, not only during meditation but during daily life.

Instead of “I am walking down the street,” she thinks, “There goes Sybil walking down Fifth Avenue,” and tries to reinforce the assertion by visualizing herself from a distance.”… Thinking of oneself in the third person does two things simultaneously. It drives a wedge between one’s self-identification and one’s surface self, and at the same time forces this self-identification to deeper level until, at last, through a knowledge identical with being, one becomes in full what one always was at heart. – From The World’s Religions

Pretty cool, huh?

Also a lot easier said than done.

Still, Paul and I have been talking about how we should try to sometimes think of ourselves in the third person. And then I had an idea: I should write about myself in the third person!

I’m not doing it now, obviously, but I think this could be a fun and informative writing exercise…

Drawing by Eva!

Drawing by Eva!

SPIRITUAL WRITING EXERCISE (Inspired by Hinduism; Created by Eva):  

Imagine yourself from a distance and describe what you look like, how you move, the things you do.  Listen carefully to what you say to others, and examine the thoughts that move through your mind. Write about yourself as if you are a character, not yourself.

I suppose writing a story about oneself could be seen as egotistical, but I think it could be a good exercise, both in writing and in spiritual life.

Sometimes I find that writing in itself is a way for me to distance myself from myself (if that makes sense) and explore what is larger and more eternal. Sometimes, when I read old stories I have written, I am surprised to think that they were written by me at all.

I wonder if, years from now, when Kim Kardashian is packing up to move to the nursing home, and she finds her Selfish book in an old box of things she’d forgotten existed, she will be surprised that she is that sexy girl in those photos. She will be distanced at last from that part of herself.  By this time, her body will be old and failing, her famous ass sagging, and she will realize that she is not her body, or even her mind, but something else that lasts forever, even longer than a coffee table book of her own face.

Eva Langston

I am guilty of taking selfies sometimes, too.  But I’ve never taken one of my own butt!

“I need inspiration for my writing,” Eva mused.

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