Tag Archives: This is How

Reading Circles – {This Is How}

reading circles

We’re in the middle of a short series, where we read Augusten Burrough’s kick-in-the-pants of a book called This Is How and share snippets we’ve found to be insightful or thought-provoking.

As we round out the end of a year and turn towards a new one, where many people start making new resolutions or coming back with renewed resolve towards previous ones, I’d like to share this piece from him:

I am a complete and total fuckup. Which is exactly why I am equipped to write this book and tell you how to live…

{He explains how he got into ring making.}

…Each time, I tried to make one nice ring. Each time, I totally failed.

Until ring number 301. Which was suddenly, inexplicably cool.

Now I make more good rings than lousy ones. There are always new mistakes to make. But I almost never make my old, rerun mistakes.

Perfectionism is the satin-lined casket of creativity and originality. If you are a perfectionist, at least stop telling everybody you’re one and try to get over it yourself, alone in your home with the lights off.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try your best or that it’s okay to get lazy. What it does mean, though, is if you approach a piece of writing or a photo or a canvas with thoughts to making it “perfect” you are not thinking about the art. You are thinking about yourself. You are not being present in the moment. You are only rubbing a soft, familiar spot on your ego. Why? Because you’re already thinking about what other people will think of it and of you, before you’ve even made a mark on the page.

Moreover, perfectionism suggests that there is an ideal, a standard of “perfection.” If there is an ideal, then that suggests everything else is not that ideal. If there’s only one way to do something, then practically by definition, that one way becomes unoriginal.

So, do the best you can, but do it your way. Don’t fear failure; if you do something to the best of your ability enough times, you might just strike on gold you’d never have found if you hadn’t given yourself the opportunity.


Reading Circles – {This Is How}

reading circles


For the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing snippets of wisdom from Augusten Burrough’s book, This is How.

Today, I wanted to share this passage:

But feelings, no matter how strong or “ugly,” are not a part of who you are. They are the radio stations your mind listens to if you don’t give it something better to do. Feelings are fluid and dynamic; they change frequently.

Feelings are something you have, not something you are. Like physical beauty, a cold sore, or an opinion.

This passage resonates so much with me personally because, once I moved to Thailand, I would get regular and intense panic attacks. Sometimes they would last a few hours. Sometimes I would panic for days. And seriously, the only thing that got me through them was the knowledge and experience that at some point it would pass. I knew that no matter what I was feeling at any given moment, eventually I would feel something different.

So how does this knowledge help us as writers?

Well, for one, if you’re feeling something sharp, poignant, intense, indelibly you, WRITE IT DOWN – even if it means pulling the car over and scribbling on a scrap tissue rummaged out of your purse while your kids are demanding lunch and to know why. Feelings are fleeting, and sometimes we only have moments to capture a truth.

And sometimes what you’re thinking when you’re feeling is not what you’re feeling at all. Sometimes you have to write out your thoughts because it’s like the packaging that wraps itself around the gift that is what you’re actually experiencing. You have to shed the shiny, crisp paper to find the truth inside. Like when we think angry thoughts only to find out that what that anger really is is fear.

We really only find out who we are when we’re willing to let feelings go.

Did you find any insights in Burrough’s writing? Feel free to share it in the comments!

Reading Circles – This is How

If you “Like” Bigger Picture Blogs on Facebook (and if you haven’t yet, WHY haven’t you??), you might have seen a picture I shared via Augusten Burroughs…it’s a picture of a towel hanging, and there was a story attached on the side.

In the story, Burroughs says, ” When I was finished, I experienced the most unfamiliar thing: calm. And I realized that taking action and doing something I didn’t know how to do but had to figure out on the fly had been enough to occupy my brain and prevent it from skipping ahead in search of the next cliff, hurricane or Very Bad News waiting for me around the next corner with a chloroform-soaked rag and a burlap potato sack.” And he followed it up by saying, “When your actions and your thoughts are in the same room at the same time doing the exact same thing, you’re “living in the moment.”

And I thought, if someone can unpack a moment like that so well, he’s gotta’ be worth a read. So I looked him up and discovered he wrote Running With Scissors  (which has been turned into a movie) among several other books, both fiction and not.

I discovered he wrote a book called This is How. I clicked on the excerpt, without really knowing what the book was about, and I found a chapter on how to be confident. Smuggled in that chapter was this line:

“Generosity feels something like gratitude and pleasure blended together.”

He was talking about how we think confidence is a human trait, and if that’s the case we should be able to feel it like we feel generosity – and what we think we feel as confidence is actually mistaken. What we’re really feeling is competence.

But that line struck me. That generosity is a feeling of gratitude. In being thankful, and grateful, our hearts are more open and generous. It is in gratitude, we find charity and selflessness.

It’s a self-help book of sorts, though not the typical kind. Think Brene Brown, but delivered by a cussing New Yorker male. He may not be for everyone. But I figured a novelist writing about confidence had to be worth checking out because I’m pretty sure I’ve met a confident novelist never.

And sometimes what we need most to free ourselves as writers is not skills, but confidence. Augusten Burroughs seems particularly adept at uncovering and examining all our hidden feelings, and unpacking them for what they really are – not just the labels we attach to them. Which is ALSO an important trait for writers, to go beyond the cliche by cultivating a habit of taking everything under the microscope.

So for our next read, I’d like to put forth Augusten Burrough’s book, This is How.

I’ve taken a brief look at it and, from what I’ve seen so far, I’d say there are some moments of amazing insight in here. Not all are things I’d agree with – and some chapters, I’d even be tempted to say “Who gives you the right?” But I guarantee there are things in here that’ll make you think about things differently and see them in a different light – and that’s always a good thing.

So if you’re on board, see if you can pick up his book sometime this week and we’ll start this journey together the week after Thanksgiving!

Happy Friday everyone!