Cathaoir Synge

The Dirty Secret Behind Writing Advice

I’ll start by saying that I have always advised writers in good faith. I would never suggest a writer undertake something harmful, obstructive, or a waste of time. But lately I’ve started idly imagining how my favorite author, Alain de Botton, would react if he read advice on my professional blog. (Go follow Alain de […]

Reading Notebook #8: Another Secret to Success Is Confidence

From “Beyond the Elevator Speech” by Michael Carroll, Shambhala Sun (March 2010) My survey indicates that most of us think we want to be happy, successful, and stress-free at work, but we also know that such aspirations are wishful thinking. We all know that work offers both success and failure; happiness and angst. We know that work, […]

Reading Notebook #7: The Secret of Successful People (at Work)

From “We Can Measure the Power of Charisma”, Q&A with Alex Pentland, Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2010); read full article at HBR site. The more successful people are more energetic. They talk more, but they also listen more. They spend more face-to-face time with others. They pick up cues from others, draw people out, and get […]

Reading Notebook #6: Why the World Needs More Women Directors (Like Ephron & Taymor)

From “Man of Extremes”, a profile of James Cameron by Dana Goodyear, in The New Yorker (October 26, 2009) Cameron behaves as if he were the embattled protagonist of one of his own films—an ordinary Joe beaten on the anvil of extraordinary trials. “The words ‘No’ and ‘That’s impossible’ and phrases like ‘That can’t be […]

Jane Friedman (1994)

The Art of Losing Things Isn’t Hard to Master

I am very careless with my belongings. This past week, when I flew to NYC for Digital Book World, I left my purse and coat in the plane overhead bin. I walked right out of JFK after claiming my bags, climbed in a cab with a colleague, and it never occurred to me I didn’t […]

Downtown Cincinnati Demolition

Why People Stay at (or Leave) Their Jobs

No talented person stays at a company for a paycheck or a sense of security. Talented people stay because they feel happy, challenged, and—most importantly—valued by their superiors. The #1 important factor for any employee is a belief that senior management is interested in his/her well-being. The basic human need to feel part of something […]

Reading Notebook #5: Life Patterns & Something Out There

From “The Secret Cycle” by Nick Paumgarten, in The New Yorker (October 12, 2009) And yet patterns exist, and we slowly discover them. Seasons, migrations, moons: the template is there. Consciously or unconsciously, most people accept certain components of cycle theory. We seek and see patterns in things. It is the way our minds work, […]

Jane at AWP 2009

What Does a Brand Manager (or Community Leader) Do?

I’m often asked what my job at Writer’s Digest encompasses, or what my typical day is like. My official title is Publisher & Editorial Director of the Writing Community. Internally, I’m referred to as a Community Leader, or CL for short. Sometimes I call myself a brand manager, like on LinkedIn. But none of these […]

Bog Myrtle Beer & Irish Coffee Recipes

Upon arrival at the Irish farm in Kilgarvan, a bottle of homemade bog myrtle beer was waiting in the kitchen, as a welcoming gift. Apparently, bog myrtle leaves were used to flavor beer before hops became popular in Britain, and they are still used as a flavoring agent in Swedish spirits. (Bog myrtle leaves pictured […]

12 Actions and 12 Diversions

12 Self-Creating Actions and 12 Preoccupational Diversions

[Click here for full-size image.] On the last page of my 2009 Museum of Lost Wonder calendar, I found the following. Find out more about Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke. 12 Self-Creating Actions Not seeing: or not-knowing, leads to Wonder and curiosity. This starts the whole big wheel rolling. The lost blind man is […]

Amelia Earhart

Reading Notebook #4: Not to Endure Even an Attractive Cage

From the New Yorker article on Amelia Earhart by Judith Thurman (September 14, 2009) [From Earhart’s letter to her husband on her wedding day] You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which mean so much to me. … In our life together I shall not […]

Inis Meain

Ireland 2009: All Experience Is an Arch

I returned home Monday night from a 3-week holiday in Ireland. (Read previous entries on this trip here and here.) A quick index of the trip: Canceled flights: 2 Delayed flights: 3 Re-routed itineraries: 1 Airport shutdowns: 1 Hotel shutdowns: 1 Road shutdowns: 1 Occurrences of lost luggage: 4 Unexpected nights spent in Dublin: 4 […]

Michel de Montaigne

Reading Notebook #3: I Distrust My Thoughts

Snippets from “The Life and Essays of Michel de Montaigne” by Jane Kramer, in the September 7, 2009, issue of The New Yorker. Montaigne … often warned his readers that nothing he wrote about himself was likely to apply for much longer than it took the ink he used, writing it, to dry. … “Yes. […]

Art of Possibility

Reading Notebook #2: Invent a Story That Enhances Your Life

Snippets from The Art of Possibility by Benjamin & Rosamund Zander.(See a really cool TED talk by Benjamin Zander.) It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us. … Virtually everybody wakes up in […]

Top 10 Moments on Inis Meain

1. Arrive at cottage late at night. The only heat source is the small stove in the living room. Unable to light a fire (run out of matches), so bundle up in coat, scarf, hat, and climb in bed under 3 layers of blankets. 2. Awake to pleasantly warm cottage (after taking off layers while […]

Reading Notebook #1: You Can Write Well & Behave Badly

From “Slang-Whanger” by Arthur Krystal in New Yorker (May 18, 2009) We don’t for a moment believe that Hazlitt is inept, or unattractive, or capable of behaving like a lunatic. You can’t write well and behave badly. But, of course, you can, and Hazlitt did. He cheated on his wife, alienated friends, and when Napoleon […]

Immigration Officers and the Meaning of Existence

I wasn’t expecting trouble when I passed through immigration at the Dublin airport. I’m American, I’m privileged, and I look like I spend a lot of time reading indoors. I was the second person standing in the non-EU control line. The person ahead of me was a young guy who wasn’t wearing any shoes. Earlier, […]

Stone Shed in Ireland

My First Post (From Ireland)

On December 16, I left the United States for a 2-week vacation in Ireland. A key objective while I’m here (in the quiet and remote Aran Islands) is to rebuild my homepage. Good progress today.