Eight Books to Read If You’re in a Creative Slump

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Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

Struggling with a creative block can feel like being stuck in quicksand—every effort to escape seems to pull you deeper into frustration. You stare at the blank page or screen, willing for an idea to spark, but nothing clicks. Before you resign yourself to despair, let these seven remarkable books be your lifeline. Each one offers a unique perspective on overcoming creative hurdles, from grappling with perfectionism to finding inspiration in unexpected places. Dive into these stories of struggle and triumph, and rediscover the magic of creativity in the most unexpected ways.

The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero

Levrero’s diary kept during his Guggenheim fellowship, chronicles his struggle to write a novel. It captures the essence of a creative block with dry humor and honesty. His distractions and failures reveal that creative work often involves attempting the impossible and finding meaning, even in failure.

Sale
The Luminous Novel
  • Levrero, Mario (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 431 Pages – 08/03/2021 (Publication Date) – And Other Stories (Publisher)

Scratched by Elizabeth Tallent

Tallent’s memoir explores her 20-year struggle with perfectionism after early literary success. Through her dense, introspective prose, she examines how perfectionism stifles creativity, ultimately learning to embrace imperfection and reality over-idealized art.

Sale
Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism
  • Hardcover Book
  • Tallent, Elizabeth (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages – 02/25/2020 (Publication Date) – Harper (Publisher)

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Chabon’s novel follows Grady Tripp, a writing professor stuck in a never-ending manuscript. Amidst personal chaos, Tripp’s creative struggle highlights how we create our own obstacles. The book offers solace and humor for anyone feeling creatively isolated.

Sale
Wonder Boys: A Novel
  • Chabon, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages – 04/29/2008 (Publication Date) – Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Johnson’s book shifts focus from individual creativity to environments that foster innovation. Exploring how ideas develop through serendipity and collaboration encourages cultivating variety and openness in one’s creative process.

Sale
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
  • Johnson, Steven (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 344 Pages – 10/04/2011 (Publication Date) – Riverhead Books (Publisher)

So Many Olympic Exertions by Anelise Chen

Chen’s novel blends fiction and nonfiction. It follows Athena’s struggle with her dissertation amidst personal tragedy. The book critiques society’s obsession with achievement through sports metaphors and offers a reevaluation for those stuck in their projects.

Sale
So Many Olympic Exertions
  • Chen, Anelise (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 232 Pages – 06/27/2017 (Publication Date) – Kaya Press (Publisher)

What It Is by Lynda Barry

Barry’s unique work combines a graphic memoir, a meditation on creativity, and an activity book. Her collages and exercises emphasize play and relinquishing control to revive creativity, arguing that embracing the unknown can overcome creative blocks.

Sale
What It Is
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Barry, Lynda (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 209 Pages – 05/13/2008 (Publication Date) – Drawn and Quarterly (Publisher)

Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer

Dyer’s account of his failed attempt to write about D.H. Lawrence is filled with humorous distractions. His book demonstrates that the obligations of creative work are not as rigid as they seem, offering a liberating perspective on tackling creative blocks.

Sale
Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence
  • Dyer, Geoff (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages – 11/10/2009 (Publication Date) – Picador (Publisher)

The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1

This collection features interviews with great writers discussing their creative processes and struggles. The practical advice and diverse voices provide reassurance and inspiration, emphasizing that there are many ways to create art and encouraging readers to be true to themselves.

Sale
The Paris Review Interviews, I: 16 Celebrated Interviews (The Paris Review Interviews, 1)
  • The Paris Review (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 528 Pages – 10/17/2006 (Publication Date) – Picador (Publisher)

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

"Sunrise" An epic view of Torres del Paine. In the early morning, when conditions are just right, the first sunlight beautifully highlights parts of the mountains.
“Sunrise” An epic view of Torres del Paine. In the early morning, when conditions are just right, the first sunlight beautifully highlights parts of the mountains.

Greetings Starfighters,

Yesterday, I had the chance to present at the Murray State University Summit and show off some of the amazing work our students completed this past semester. You can find my slide deck and the resources I shared with those fine folks right here.

And now, on with the show!

Quote of the Day

"The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired." (Harlan Ellison, Stalking the Nightmare)

“The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired.” (Harlan Ellison, Stalking the Nightmare)

Musical Interlude

The world is a little brighter in the past few weeks, as Common has blessed us with some new music and an upcoming album release in July. Here’s his latest collaboration with Pete Rock:

Long Read of the Day

Engineers carefully lowered the Cyclops 2 model into the testing tank nose-first, like a bomb being loaded into a silo, and then screwed on the tank’s 3,600-pound lid. Then they began pumping in water, increasing the pressure to mimic a submersible’s dive. If you’re hanging out at sea level, the weight of the atmosphere above you exerts 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi). The deeper you go, the stronger that pressure; at the Titanic’s depth, the pressure is about 6,500 psi. Soon, the pressure gauge on UW’s test tank read 1,000 psi, and it kept ticking up—2,000 psi, 5,000 psi. At about the 73-minute mark, as the pressure in the tank reached 6,500 psi, there was a sudden roar, and the tank shuddered violently.

“I felt it in my body,” an OceanGate employee wrote in an email later that night. “The building rocked, and my ears rang for a long time.”

“Scared the shit out of everyone,” he added.

The model had imploded thousands of meters short of the safety margin OceanGate had designed for.

This conversation took place in July 2016, long before the Oceangate Titan imploded on its way down to the wreckage of the Titanic. This tragedy can be traced to a series of lies, personal hubris, and cheating. While creativity and dreams were certainly involved in this work, there’s something to be said about working with and trusting experts when universal laws are at play.

Read more about the backstory of the Titan here.

Video of the Day

Ludwig Göransson’s work on the Oppenheimer score, especially “Can You Hear the Music?” offers great insights for teachers as designers of learning experiences. His process with Christopher Nolan shows the value of collaboration and giving space for creativity. Starting with a simple four-note baseline that evolved into something complex reminds us that big ideas often start small. Experimentation and iteration were key, reflecting the importance of trial and error in the classroom.

Göransson’s focus on the emotional core of Oppenheimer’s journey underscores the power of integrating emotional and narrative elements into lessons. His blending of mathematical elements with music demonstrates the benefits of interdisciplinary approaches. The innovative solutions to recording challenges highlight the need for adaptability and problem-solving. Finally, his emphasis on impactful elements over complexity reminds us to prioritize clarity in lesson design. Teachers can create engaging and effective learning experiences that resonate deeply with students by seeing themselves as designers.

Final Thoughts

I’m watching the 1948 film version of Hamlet and am fascinated by the practical effects. What were they doing in 1948 to make a ghost on film? Does anybody know or can direct me to some reading?

It still amazes me that I can be blown away by work done over 70 years ago.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

cerro gordo

Greetings Starfighters,

Pardon my absence for the past couple of weeks. The closing of one school year is generally filled with preparations for the next school year, mostly comprised of meeting after meeting filled with lots of planning.

In my case, I’m also catching up on professional development hours. Taking a new position so close to the beginning of a school year and taking most of the year to find your footing in said position does little to help get those crucial PD hours in when you’re just trying to stay afloat.

But I’m back and should be bringing you regular updates again unless the galactic overlords play havoc with the latest beef shipment at Costco…

Anyhow, my brain is consumed these days with creating new professional development sessions for teachers and prepping for our annual Doc Week gathering with the Educational Leadership Studies doctoral students on campus at the University of Kentucky.

As our program is fully online, it’s the only chance we have to get together in person, share some laughs and stories, and commiserate on our struggles as we walk down the doctoral path. Ultimately, it’s about connecting with a tribe of peers, something that can help all of us get through whatever struggles we’re experiencing.

For now, on with the show…

Quote of the Day

“So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

“So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

Musical Interlude

Bruce Springsteen — No Surrender — Live in Dublin 2024

Long Read of the Day

In June 1944 the landings had been a long time coming. After a series of crushing defeats between 1939 and 1942, the comeback of the British Empire and the USA in World War II began in North Africa in 1942 and continued in Italy 1943. But, it was the landing in Normandy in June 1944 that were the decisive breakthrough. The destruction of the German forces in Northern France opened the door to the liberation of Paris and to the eventual meeting with the Red Army in Central Germany in May 1945.

We’re only a few days removed from the 80th anniversary of D-Day, and these reflections from Adam Tooze are a compelling read.

Video of the Day

One of my favorite YouTube channels belongs to Brent Underwood. Brent took up residency in Cerro Gordo, California, just as COVID broke out here in the US. Now, that may not sound all that interesting until you learn that Cerro Gordo is an abandoned silver mining town that some say is haunted.

Let the fun begin.

Brent has worked for the last few years to restore the town, even rebuilding the American Hotel for future travelers (he published a book about his journey recently). It’s not hard to look at all the Cerro Gordo restorations as one massive project-based learning unit, albeit far more expensive and lengthy than anything we could ever pull off in a school setting (but it sure would be fun to try, wouldn’t it?)

Last year, Brent hosted a race from the entrance of the Cerro Gordo road up to the town itself. Again, that may not sound all that interesting until you learn that the road is about eight miles long, mostly dirt and gravel, and achieves nearly 5,000 feet in elevation gain over those eight miles.

In other words, it’s a hell of a run. 230 people signed up for this year’s race on Memorial Day weekend. Here’s the recap:

Final Thoughts

My friend, Brian Rodman, is publishing his book, Memoirs of an Angel, on Kickstarter later this month. It’s a great blend of horror, spirituality, and good ol’ storytelling. From Brian,

It’s been almost two thousand years since the Final War destroyed planet Earth, and nearly a thousand years since The Grand Republic brought peace and order to an otherwise chaotic world. Every day, ordinary citizens of the Republic work, play and rest with the knowledge that utopia is well underway. But Jonathan Young knows better than to put hope in such things. For as long as he can remember, his entire life has been an ongoing battle. And once he comes face to face with Etrulia, the Witch of Endor tonight, that battle and his torment will end one way or another. Across space and time, two elohim race against the Dark Kingdom of the unseen realms to venture inside the mind of a demon-possessed boy, attempting to free him from the clutches of the diabolical Xexxus, Last of Legion. However, the further they progress on their mission, the more they realize this possession is much more malevolent than it seems. Mattia Bajuma, a Cleric of the High Council of The Grand Republic, flees to the witch-infested land of The Grey. Her mission: to find her old Mentor, Obadiah, and seek his guidance in a desperate bid to save her young client. This new world order, with its utopian façade, threatens to euthanize the innocent. But Mattia, with her unwavering determination, is willing to risk everything to save him. These lives will intertwine and crash together across the seen and unseen realms. They must learn to unite if they are going to prevent what is seemingly becoming inevitable…the undoing of the order of the cosmos; the destruction of The Cosmic Wheel.

If this sounds interesting, head over and get on the notification list.

memoirs of an angel

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Why Play Is Essential For Children: Psychologist Peter Gray Sounds the Alarm About Excessive Adult Oversight & What It’s Doing to Kids’ Mental Health

person wearing black round analog watch on left wrist while holding basketball on right hand
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Research psychologist Peter Gray discusses the decline of free, unstructured play in children and its impact on mental health. Gray argues that the decrease in children’s independent play since the 1960s has led to marked declines in resilience, increased anxiety, and depression. He challenges the notion that smartphones and social media are the main cause of these issues, instead attributing them to the limitations imposed by adults on children’s independence. Gray advocates for fostering more independence and resilience in children through initiatives such as play clubs and increasing opportunities for unstructured play in communities and schools.

Let the Children Play: For the Learning, Well-Being, and Life Success of Every Child
  • Hardcover Book
  • Sahlberg, Pasi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/22/2020 (Publication Date) – OUP Oxford (Publisher)

Key Takeaways

  • Free, unstructured play is essential for children’s mental health and development. It helps them acquire life skills, make friends, and solve problems independently.
  • The decline of children’s opportunities for independent play since the 1960s has corresponded with an increase in anxiety, depression, and suicide among children and adolescents.
  • The modern era has seen a shift towards overscheduled, adult-supervised activities for children, leading to less time for unstructured play, reduced recess and lunch periods at school, and an emphasis on academic performance over holistic development.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

8 Strategies to Improve Organizational Learning in Public Schools

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Professional learning communities (PLCs) are pivotal in fostering meaningful and sustainable changes in the ever-evolving education landscape. Drawing from extensive research and real-world examples, here are eight strategies that PLCs can implement to improve organizational learning in public schools.

1. Empower Teachers as Leaders and Change Agents

One of the most effective ways to enhance the impact of PLCs is by empowering teachers to take on leadership roles. Teachers are not just implementers of change but also key drivers. By recognizing their agency and providing opportunities for leadership, schools can leverage their educators’ unique insights and expertise. Empowered teachers can lead initiatives that align with the broader goals of school improvement, creating a more dynamic and responsive educational environment.

2. Develop a Shared Vision and Culture

A clear, shared vision is fundamental to driving deeper learning and student success. Establishing a school-wide culture that values continuous learning and promotes collective responsibility for student outcomes is crucial. Schools prioritizing creating and sustaining a positive organizational culture are often more successful in implementing and maintaining changes. This shared vision should be reflected in the school’s daily practices, language, and interactions.

3. Promote Collaborative Inquiry and Reflection

Collaboration and reflective practice are cornerstones of effective PLCs. By fostering a culture of collaborative inquiry, teachers can engage in joint problem-solving and share best practices. Structured collaboration allows teachers to collaborate on curriculum design, student assessment, and instructional strategies, leading to more cohesive and effective teaching practices. Regularly scheduled meetings and collaborative planning sessions are essential for this process.

4. Use Data to Inform Practice

Data-driven decision-making is a powerful tool for improving instructional practices. Within PLCs, teachers should use student performance data to identify areas for improvement, develop targeted interventions, and monitor the effectiveness of these interventions. By grounding changes in evidence, teachers can tailor their strategies to meet the specific needs of their students, ensuring that their efforts are both effective and efficient.

5. Engage in Continuous Professional Development

Ongoing professional development is vital for keeping teachers abreast of the latest educational research and practices. Providing job-embedded professional development opportunities, such as workshops, coaching, and peer observations, can help teachers refine their pedagogical approaches. Professional development should be context-specific and aligned with the school’s goals and vision, ensuring it is relevant and practical for teachers.

6. Leverage Technology to Enhance Learning

Technology, when used purposefully, can significantly enhance teaching and learning. Incorporating digital tools and resources can facilitate student collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. Teachers should be supported in integrating technology to enrich the learning experience rather than merely automating traditional practices. This approach can help students develop essential 21st-century skills and engage more deeply with the curriculum.

7. Build Strong Community Partnerships

Developing partnerships with local businesses, organizations, and experts can extend learning beyond the classroom and provide students with real-world experiences. These partnerships offer additional resources and expertise, making education more relevant and meaningful for students. Engaging the community in the learning process can also create a supportive network that enhances the overall educational experience.

8. Cultivate Trust and Professionalism

A culture of trust and professionalism is essential for fostering innovation and continuous improvement. When teachers feel supported and valued, they are more likely to take risks, experiment with new approaches, and learn from their successes and failures. Building a trusting and professional environment involves creating conditions where teachers can collaborate openly, share ideas, and work together towards common goals.

Implementing these eight strategies can significantly enhance organizational learning within public schools. By empowering teachers, fostering collaboration, using data effectively, engaging in continuous professional development, leveraging technology, building community partnerships, and cultivating a culture of trust, PLCs can drive positive and meaningful changes that lead to improved student outcomes and a more dynamic learning environment.

Martinez, M. R., McGrath, D. R., & Foster, E. (2016). How deeper learning can create a new vision for teaching. The National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future. Retrieved from NCTAF.

Seashore, K. R. (2009). Leadership and change in schools: Personal reflections over the last 30 years. Journal of Educational Change, 10(2-3), 129-140. doi:10.1007/s10833-009-9111-4.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!