One thing I want to do this year is build an essential bookshelf of resources that mean a lot to writers. This is the second in the series. In January, we looked at books that first got us seriously interested in writing, and why they had that effect on us.
Since February contained Valentine’s Day, this blog is about books we fell in love with during the past 12 months. What non-fiction books have we read in the last twelve months that we absolutely loved? What motivated us, consoled us, made us better people, or helped us realize we were fine, just as we were?
My personal non-fiction breakthrough book in the past year was Susan Cain. Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Broadway Book, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-307-35215-6.
I know we’re talking about books, but if your to be read stack is as big as mine and you don’t think you’re going to get to Quiet any time soon, here is Susan’s 2012 TED Talk about the same topic. It’s 19 minutes long and well worth watching.
I gained a lot of helpful, workable information from this book. It helped me aim for a, literally, quieter week. I’ve decreased or stopped patronizing stores and eating places that are noisy. The quieter a business is, the less likely they are to have blaring background music, the more I’ll go there. Our meals now begin with five minutes of silence, so that we can concentrate on the food, and on being with one another. In addition to tea breaks during the day, I also take quiet breaks.
I also learned about two works myths that need busting.
Two work myths
1) Brainstorming — invented in the 1940s/1950s by Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osorn (BBDO) founder Alex Osborn — doesn’t work, and in fact, is counterproductive. Data has been available since 1963 to debunk brainstorming, but we’ve not been listening. What works instead is when a person, alone in a quiet environment, has time to think about a problem and possible solutions. Group work happens after the quiet work. It’s not the usual brainstorming session of throwing uncensored ideas into a pot, but of each person having time to present their ideas, along with a summary of the pros and cons of the solutions.
2) In 1993, Anders Erricson proposed that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get really good at something. I turns out that it’s not the number that important, it the way practice is done. The most rewarding practice hours are spent alone, in a quiet environment, in serious study and experimentation. A recent Forbes blog talked more about this.
Being quiet isn’t the same thing as being shy or being an introvert. All people, from the shyest to the most gregarious, need silence. They just need it in different amounts and at different times.
The sweet spot for quietness is a place of balanced stimulation. It is different for every person and different for the same person in different situations. Unfortunately, we live in a one size fits all myth. Everything from the size and design of hotel conference chairs to 50-minute class periods to music played in malls and restaurants is out of an individual’s control. We are desperately in need of a “Quiet Now” movement.
Quietly now, tell us what non-fiction books have meant a lot to you lately.