One to Watch – Nico Walker’s Cherry

Apparently Nico Walker got a bunch of attention from BuzzFeed, even before he published a list of books that have most influenced him to Good Reads, though that is where I found him.

I think I fell in love with the guy when he wrote in his recommendations,

“I’ve been asked to put together a list of the five most formative books that I read in jail. I’m supposed to tie them in somehow with my own book, Cherry, so forgive me when I do that.”

Either that, or when he’s talking about Turgenev’s Sketches , the guy who lived war, and addiction and bank robbery says:

The spirit of the thing is beautiful. It overflows with love. And like all good books, it confirms all kinds of various things that you knew but you didn’t know you knew, that you hadn’t ever brought out and put into words before, though they were there for a long time, dormant down in your soul somewhere. The eternal truths. The ones that when one of them gets found out, you say, Yeah that is it, isn’t it.

At this point, Walker still has 2 years in prison, so it must be a little rough promoting his new book, but the New York Times and Esquire have taken an interest, and there are rumors of movie deals put on hold because he’d run out of phone minutes in prison. The Washington Post had a neat article about the cool cover design – a skull half hidden in a field of small white stars. I read the excerpt in Esquire, and am not sure I like the kid in the book all that much, but it reads like something worth reading.


Clean (Part 1)

When watching other people clean, I have a deep sense of my own lack of domesticity. HK came over today to do her first cleaning. I was impressed with her easy movements and attention to detail – like cleaning was this relaxing thing that you could do with grace and style. Hm. Go figure.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate a tidy environment, but it seems to take so much additional effort to maintain that state that it seems both unprofitable and unrewarding.

On the recommendation of a friend, I recently purchased the audio version of Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” WC said that she really responded to the emotional promise of having an uncluttered environment, and I seem to be moving tentatively towards Minimalism, and an uncluttered tradition, so I thought I’d give it a try.

WC was right.

In fact, I also stopped listening to the book so that I could spend some time visualizing an uncluttered space, and the relaxed and uncluttered life that is supposed to go with it.

I’m not holding my breath, but it’s worth a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Remote Work

My professional world got tipped sideways last June when we heard the announcement that my company had lost a big contract and jobs would almost certainly be on the line. They were. But it took months to figure out the exact ramifications. Who was going to stay and who was going to go? And now, nearly 9 months later, we finally all seem to be settling into our new roles.

For me, that includes the brand new experience of working exclusively from my home. My employers are headquartered on the far side of the continent, but they made an exception for me and have allowed me to stay put, and work remotely.

Mostly, this makes me ecstatic. I have a great job – a promotion over the one that I left behind, and an opportunity to learn new things. My VIP and I can stay in the house we built, in a beautiful location where VIP has a steady job. And the flexibility of the remote work situation has not been lost on me.

Friends pointed out early on that in Europe the “standard work day” would be shifted to the afternoon, leaving mornings open for exploration and adventure while still leaving time for a full work day later on. It’s not a vacation. Honest. I’m just “working remote”.

However, I’m also familiar enough with people who work remote full time to know that it’s not all stars, rainbows and working in your slippers either. Social and professional isolation. Boundary setting. Staying motivated and productive. These are all challenges that I was well-aware of when considering the option.

In preparation, I started researching and tried to anticipate the issues that would present the biggest challenges for me. I changed the guest bedroom into an office, and made that my “working space”. I put intentional effort into getting together with friends – even if it meant a long drive that used to be on my commute, but was now out of my way.

I read articles – many many articles – so many articles, that by the time I finally managed to pick up the book Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, I was already familiar with most of what they had to say. In fact, I’d already read several of the chapters of the book in article format.

(This seems to be a new style of book that I’ve been coming across more recently. It is really just a collection of articles by the author(s), sort of like a blog, but with the pretension of outside publication. Overall, I prefer actual books, with a consistent flow and the assumption that if you’ve mentioned something at length earlier, you don’t need to cover it all again three chapters later. Maybe I’ll write more about that  later.)

However, I did get one new idea from the book that I’ve been trying to take advantage of as much as possible.

You can work from anywhere! No, no, stay with me. Before I read this book, I had imagined myself holed up in my home office most of the time – like AN office, just not THE office (European not-vacations being the exception). But the beauty of remote work goes beyond that. At 37 Signals (the author’s company) people work in the office part of the day, and then work from home. Or they work one day from a coffee shop and the next day from their living room. They work on airplanes, in hotel rooms, and on the beach if they can get a decent internet connection. It’s obvious. But at the same time, I didn’t really get it until just recently.

Of course, everything new is exciting, and I’ve only been at this ‘remote’ thing for a month. The realist in me is just waiting for The Dip. But for now it’s all so wonderfully exciting.

For more reading on remote working, I just ordered The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun, about his experiences with remote work at Automattic, Inc., the company behind I’ll let you know how that goes.

I haven’t even downloaded the book to my phone yet, but it’s already off to a good start. The title alone makes me smile, and I enjoyed the few articles I glanced through from Scott’s blog. The article on his favorite books is definitely one to return to.

The War of Art

I recently finished listening to The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. It was recommended on one of the Tim Ferriss podcasts that I’ve been enjoying so much lately.

The War Of ArtIt struck me as a Dude’s book. But I loved it for that.

The first section is about taking all the miscellaneous stuff that keeps you from pursuing a creative ambition and giving it a capital letter and a shadowy cloak so that you have something to do battle against. In fact, I don’t know if Pressfield capitalized Resistance, since I listened to it as an audiobook, but it would shock me if he didn’t.

Resistance is subtle and sneaky. It sabotages your creative output by telling you what you can’t do, and giving you a thousand excuses for putting off that project until tomorrow, or the next day/month/year. And the really treacherous part – is that some of those reasons are reasonable and true. The moment your wife goes into labor really ISN’T the time to sit down and begin your next novel. Nor are the sleepless days after when you need to enjoy your new baby. Nor the toddler years when the kids get so active that it’s almost a full time job just to chase them down. Nor the elementary school years…

Pressfield also described his encounters with Resistance surrounding writing The War of Art. Resistance whispered that he was a novelist, not a non-fiction writer. Enjoy success by sticking to what you know. Also, who was he to tell people what to do? As if he had all the answers. This last one struck me particularly hard. Hadn’t I just said that to myself about an idea for an article?

For me, Resistance has a prissy little side-kick too. Perfectionism. I imagine her alternately as a pinch-faced girl with a very long and pointed nose to look down on things, or as a fussy parrot that constantly repeats, “You know, that’s not very good.”

I have a friend, who created something new each day and posted it to a blog. It might have been a single photograph, or a new meal, or a painting, depending on the day and the amount of time available. That was before I met her, but one of the things that I admire about her now is her ability to fearlessly put things out into the world. I want that.


Engarde, Resistance. I’ll take you and your squeaky little parrot too.