When your creative, optimistic, ambitious muse abandons you to take a nap, the best you can do is to go on an adventure or pick up a book (or both if you’re lucky). Maybe it’ll create a spark, but even if it doesn’t, at least you will have learned something or enjoyed something along the way.

I’m sure I’ve been working too much and stressing too much (especially considering the racist edge upon which our country seems to be teetering) which has caused somewhat of an internal systems collapse and complete lack of blogging on my end. Since I can’t seem to muster any output, I’ve been settling for input as the summer heaves to a close. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

  1. The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? by Dale Russakoff
    • Ever wonder what happened with all that money Mark Zuckerberg and a bunch of other philanthropists threw at the Newark City School District? Many arguments can be made and much can be learned from this experiment – but you can’t learn anything if you don’t educate yourself about what actually happened. Start with this book by the journalist who covered the whole thing.
  2. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
    • I make a conscious effort to read books by women and minorities since theyare so often overlooked and underrepresented in literature and academics (and okay, basically everywhere), so I was super happy to find this bestseller in the “freecycle” area of our building’s basement. Written by an American woman born to Chinese immigrants, this novel interweaves stories told from different perspectives in Chinese-American families, exploring the difficulties and gaps that divide the Americanized daughters from their Chinese-born mothers – and ultimately, what ties them together.
  3. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
    • I don’t usually get to read recently published books because, well, I just haven’t budgeted my life that way. I typically read books years after they come out and are available at my local library. But I was very happy at my last trip to the library to stumble upon this book by Christina Baker Kline who wrote Orphan Train (a New York Times bestseller that I haven’t read, but maybe you have). After many starts and stops with other novels, I was thrilled to pick up a book that I didn’t want to put down. This enchanting, introspective, and intelligent novel delves into the life of the woman, Christina, who was the subject in a drab painting that I would never have even noticed at the MoMA had my artsy friends not pulled me over to admire each individual brushstroke (Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World”). Since childhood, Christina had suffered a progressively debilitating condition that could not be identified nor treated by doctors at the time. Wyeth’s painting shows her sitting awkwardly in a field, looking up to the house where she lived. Apparently, Wyeth had seen Christina crawling across the field to her house as her disease progressed and she lost the ability to walk. In the novel, told from Christina’s perspective, Kline deftly analyzes and questions the traditional parameters of a life worth living.
  4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
    • A wonderful, fast-read told from the perspective of a boy who has autism. This was also made into a Broadway play which a filmmaker friend of mine says is excellent. Alternating between devastating, hopeful, and funny, Haddon allows us to imagine the world from a different perspective and glimpse what it might be like to live on the spectrum.
  5. The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease by Robert Scaer or The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk
    • As I posted on my social media account after reading both of these books: If you or anyone you know has ever experienced any kind of trauma (which is all of us), you must read these books, or at least one of them. And that goes especially for anyone in a “helping” profession such as doctors/nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, teachers etc. For entirely too long we have separated the mental state from the physical state of our bodies. Of course, as it turns out, they’re very much intertwined. And you certainly can’t treat one without the other. Physical trauma causes mental trauma; and mental trauma causes physical trauma. Educate yourself. (The Body Keeps the Score is less science-y and a much easier read while The Body Bears the Burden goes more in-depth into the neurological basis of trauma and it’s physical manifestations. Additionally, the former discusses trauma more broadly while the latter focuses more specifically on car accidents, chronic pain, and their relationships to prior trauma).

We can’t be creative all the time. If you’ve lost your edge, just take a step back and find some “input” that hopefully, eventually will increase your output.  What are you reading this summer? What do you do to spark creativity?