Last Week’s Links

After Blast, New Yorkers Examine Themselves for Psychological Shrapnel

A poignant article about a recent bombing in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. The “psychological shrapnel” of such an event can be just as traumatic as physical injury.

7 Surprising Facts About Creativity, According To Science

brain02For just about all my writing life I’ve known that I get my best ideas in the shower. This article based on the book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire says that I’m not alone in this: The first of these seven surprising facts is “72% of people have creative insights in the shower.”

Read how solitude, daydreaming, and even trauma can contribute to creativity.

Rethinking madness: inside the world’s oldest mental asylum

For years, the term ‘asylum’ has evoked images of chaos and cruelty – in spite of the mental health community’s attempts to give it new meaning. Examining 700 years of history at the world’s oldest psychiatric hospital, Bethlem, a new exhibition intends to set things straight.

A fascinating look at Bethlem Royal Hospital in the Beckenham area of south London, the asylum that give us the word bedlam.

Where Creativity Comes From

Scientific American summarizes research of species other than humans to try to find an answer to the question of where creativity comes from.


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – 2016 Week 39

Thanks to Cee for this weekly challenge: Share Your World – 2016 Week 39


Cee writes on her blog that the questions for this week’s and the next two weeks’ challenges come from kids. And they ask the darndest things!

A class you wish you would have taken?

I wanted to take music appreciation in college but was afraid to because it was notoriously difficult. For exams, the professor would drop the needle on a record (yes, it was that long ago) and you’d have to identify the composer, the work, the movement in the work, and the significance of the excerpt. I was a scholarship student, and I was afraid I wouldn’t do well enough to keep my financial aid. (Not only was this the dark age of vinyl records; it was also the dark age before the pass/fail grade option.) I sometimes think I should check out a music appreciation course at my local community college, but instead I just listen to my favorite music, even though I can’t articulate exactly what I’m listening to and why I enjoy it.

What’s your favorite comic figure and why?

Calvin and Hobbes. I like the humor and the truthfulness of the presence of an imaginary friend.

Come on, now admit it: You had an imaginary friend when you were a kid. Heck, I had two, although they were people, not stuffed animals, and I think they were sisters both to each other and to me, an only child.

Name something you wish you could like.


Boy, do I wish I could like exercise. Even during the times in my life when I exercised fairly regularly, I never enjoyed it. It was always a chore, something that I knew I had to endure for a set amount of time.

Who was your best friend when you were 10?

My childhood best friend was Esther. We lived near each other in a small New England town, and whatever age children can be said to know each other was the age at which we met. We are still friends today, even though we live on opposite coasts of the U.S. I think it’s remarkable that we’ve known each other literally all our lives.

What sign are you? Do you believe in astrology?

I am a Virgo. I don’t believe that astrology determines our lives; I’m in control of my life and make my own choices. However, I do fit the major characteristics of a Virgo—organized and analytical—and occasionally chuckle to myself when I realize how like a Virgo I’m acting.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

My hometown Seattle Mariners are still chasing the possibility of a wildcard playoff spot, and I’m looking forward to their last two games. If they don’t make it, at least my first team, the Boston Red Sox, will be in the postseason.

I hope you all have a great week filled with good friends, good food, and good fun.


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – 2016 Week 38

Share Your World – 2016 Week 38


Are you a hugger or a non-hugger?

FrayneI was never a hugger—until I met Frayne. We met at a book group in our local Borders store and quickly became close friends. She was one of the warmest people I’ve ever known. She’d arrive at book group with a big “Hello, darlings!” and brighten up the day. She was a tiny person, barely five feet tall, but she had a big heart. And she loved to hug. When she wrapped her arms around me, I’d shrink into myself and stand awkwardly, uncomfortable with the contact and not quite sure how to respond.

I hadn’t known Frayne for very long when I found out she had cancer. “You’d better learn to hug back,” I told myself, “and you’d better learn it quickly.” I only knew her for about three years, but I still thank her every time I hug a friend for teaching me this remarkable life lesson.

What is your least favorite Candy?

As much as I love chocolate, I don’t much like Three Musketeers bars. I think it’s the whipped texture that I don’t like; I’d rather have my chocolate in a more substantial format. I also don’t much care for cotton candy. A small bite or two tastes good, but after that the taste becomes overwhelmingly, unbearably sweet. I might buy it occasionally if I could just buy that first couple of bites, but I resent having to pay a bunch of money for all the rest of the stuff on the stick, which I don’t want.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “fun”?

Travel. I love to see new places and new people, to learn about different customs, languages, and ways of life. There’s nothing more fun to me than a trip to somewhere I’ve never been before.

List of Favorite Smells: What smells do you love? Whether it’s vanilla scented candles or the smell of coffee in the morning or the smell of a fresh spring rain…make a list of all the things you love for a little aromatherapy.

bouquet of lilacs and tulips
bouquet of lilacs and tulips
  • freshly brewed coffee, especially the current seasonal pumpkin spice
  • lilacs
  • clean sheets, even without the benefit of fabric softener
  • pot roast cooking on the stove
  • pumpkin or apple pie baking in the oven
  • turkey roasting in the oven



Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

We’ve had quite an unhurried, unstressful, peaceful week. I’m looking forward to more of the same next week.

Until then, I hope you all have a great week.


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The Bullet Journal, Minus the Hype, Is Actually a Really Good Planner

I keep finding articles on use of the bullet journal. This one contains good advice for how to create and adapt a bullet journal for your own needs. There are lots of links here to give you many variations to explore.

Every time I read about the bullet journal, I think of how inconvenient it must be to try to keep all this information in a bound notebook. If I were to try this system out, I’d want to use a disc notebook rather than a bound one. A disc notebook allows for easy removal and rearrangement of pages.

I’ve used Levenger’s Circa notebooks for several years now, and I love them (Disclaimer: I have no affiliate or other relationship with Levenger; I’m just a satisfied customer.) If you do an internet search for a term like discbound notebooks, you’ll find oodles of entries. Here are a few links to check out if you think a discbound notebook would be a good start for a bullet journal:

Anti-Intellectualism and the “Dumbing Down” of America

I first became aware of the lack of critical thinking skills of high school graduates back in 1971, my first year of teaching college composition. I began my first semester with the goal of teaching students how to structure and write convincing essays, but I soon discovered that I needed to take a giant step back and start with teaching students how to evaluate and choose source material for use in their essays. In the 45 years since then I’ve seen this trend grow alarmingly. In this article business leader Ray Williams discusses this :disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture”:

There has been a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in America, unlike most other Western countries. Richard Hofstadter, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his book, Anti-Intellectualism In American Life, describes how the vast underlying foundations of anti-elite, anti-reason and anti-science have been infused into America’s political and social fabric. Famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Memory: The Weirdest Ever Fact is Actually True, Study Reveals

Scientists have long known that recalling a particular memory strengthens it. But recent research suggests that “Recalling one memory actually leads to the forgetting of other competing memories.”

As Seattle grows up, views can go away — and take real value with them

Views give us a reference point and connect us to where we are, and to nature, and to each other. They inspire us to get up, get out, get involved. They make that tiny in-city studio, or whatever space we’re currently sharing with 10 similarly rent-challenged roommates, feel bigger, lighter, better.

Sandy Deneau Dunham looks at how the rise of nearby buildings that change our view can have unexpected impact on all aspects of life.


© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – 2016 Week 37

Share Your World – 2016 Week 37


Have you ever owned a rock, pet rock, or gem that is not jewelry?

I have a lovely pair of bookends made of amethyst quartz geodes. Unfortunately they’re at work in my office, so I cannot take a photo of them right now. But trust me, they’re beautiful.

What is your greatest strength or weakness?

I think that perhaps my greatest strength is empathy for others, something I acquired as a result of verbal and emotional abuse in my childhood and adolescence. Because of my experiences, my mantra is “I should not be the source of someone else’s pain.” When tempted to make a cutting remark, I try to remember what it felt like when I was verbally humiliated or castigated.

What makes you feel grounded?

Seeing Mount Rainier and watching the waves roll in.

ocean waves

Would you rather never be able to eat warm food or never be able to eat cold food?

These “either/or” questions are always so hard. If I had to choose, I guess I’d choose not to have cold food, since I certainly would want my meals to be warm.

But wait—does that mean I could never again have ice cream? See, I just can’t do this. I want my steak warm, but I also definitely need my ice cream.

Pumpkin Blackberry Ice Cream

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week contained several pleasant activities to occupy my time. I’m looking forward to a lighter schedule in the coming week so that I can catch up on some of the work I’ve been neglecting.

Have a pleasant week, everyone!

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The Insidious Imps of Writing

One of my own toughest writing challenges has been to shake myself out of the impersonal aridity of academic writing and assume a more open persona. I therefore found this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Mark Edmundson, professor of English at the University of Virginia, helpful. Here’s his advice:

Slow down and make contact with a dreamier, more associative part of your mind.

People Who Write Well Do This One Simple Thing, Psych Study Finds

Forcing yourself to type slower could improve the quality of your writing, a new study finds.

Participants in the study who typed with only one hand produced higher quality essays, researchers found.

journal_writingThe same approach of writing more slowly will also help people who write with pen or pencil on paper, according to the article. However, do not slow down too much, the article warns: “When people slow to below the rate of normal handwriting, their quality gets worse, previous research suggests.”

A creative writing lesson from the ‘God of Story’

Novelist Tim Lott on

… the classic text Story by Robert McKee. The so-called “God of Story” (as Vice magazine dubbed him) has been explaining his theory of how and why dramatic narratives emerge for 35 years, to the fascination of playwrights and screenwriters – his alumni have so far mustered 60 Oscar wins, including, among many others, William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) Paul Haggis, Peter Jackson, John Cleese (who has attended the story seminar three times) and the entire writing staff of Pixar. However, McKee receives a more sceptical response from most novelists, at least, most non-genre novelists like myself.

McKee’s book is the bible among screenwriters and other folks in the movie production business. In fact, the subtitle of McKee’s book is “Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting.” But Lott says that many novelists shy away from McKee’s concept of story structure because they feel it goes against the grain of creativity and produces formulaic work.

Use your life stories to get the job

The use of storytelling in the business world has developed into a hot topic. Here Gabrielle Dolan advises job applicants on how to use personal storytelling during a job interview to move beyond their printed resume and to make themselves stand out from all the other applicants. To demonstrate during the interview that you’re the right person for the job, she writes, “you also need to demonstrate your values and create a connection. One of the most effective ways to do this is by sharing a variety of work related and relevant personal stories.”

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – 2016 Week 36

Share Your World – 2016 Week 36


If you were given a boat or yacht today, what would you name it? (You can always sell the yacht later)

Aren’t boats traditionally named after women—something like Mary Jane or Lucky Lady?

But I like to buck tradition. I’d name my boat No Regrets because that’s the attitude I’ve adopted after studying life stories and thinking about my own life for several years. Of course I’ve made mistakes, done some things I shouldn’t have done, and failed to do some things I should have done, but instead of regretting them I’ve chosen to embrace them as learning opportunities along my life journey. Instead of regretting parts of my life, I own them as part of my experience, and therefore part of me, who I am and who I’m still becoming.

Which of Snow White’s 7 dwarfs describes you best? (Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey) Plus what would the 8th dwarf’s name be?

Definitely Sleepy. And the 8th dwarf’s name would be Casually Dressed.

Name a song or two which are included on the soundtrack to your life?

  1. All You Need is Love
  2. Till There Was You

Complete this sentence: I like watching…

… sports, at least right now: the U.S. Open Tennis tournament and the Seattle Mariners making a frantic run for the second wild-card playoff spot. In fact, this afternoon I’ll be switching back and forth between tennis and baseball.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

This past week I’ve watched a lot of televised tennis and baseball, which I have enjoyed but which has also not left me much time for all the blogging I want to do. Next week I hope to get caught up on some of that blogging, but we have a couple of events scheduled that may get in the way. Thank goodness WordPress allows backdating.

I hope everyone will have a week filled with discoveries, laughs, and enjoyments!

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Interesting articles from around the web.

30 Powerful Habits That Encourage Happiness and Mental Strength

Psychotherapist Mike Leary explains that, to create change in your life, you need to fight the three Newtonian laws of motion: inertia, impact, and reaction. But if you’re committed to making some changes, he offers 30 habits that can help you succeed.

And don’t be overwhelmed by that 30, which might seem like a pretty big number. His advice is pretty straightforward, and if adopting 30 habits seems daunting, pick one at a time to focus on for a few days.

21 Amazing Movies That Actually Understand Mental Illness

One of my pet peeves is that books and movies sometimes present mental illness in a whimsical or otherwise inaccurate way. Here Emily Casalena discusses 21 movies that get mental illness right.

Warning: “There are quite a lot of spoilers in this list, so beware!”

The Story of How Handwriting Evolved, and May Soon Die Off

journal_writingJessica Kerwin Jenkins writes about the book The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting by Anne Trubek. Jenkins concludes:

“We will lose something as we print and write in cursive less and less, but loss is inevitable,” Trubek concludes. Though one technology often supplants another, that doesn’t necessitate concession. Considering its rich significance, instead of hustling handwriting off to the graveyard, perhaps what’s called for is resurrection.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Share Your World – 2016 Week 34

Share Your World – 2016 Week 34


What is your favorite comfort snack food?

My favorite comfort foods are not snacks, but a meal: a gooey grilled cheese sandwich with creamy tomato soup.

Is the paper money in your possession right now organized sequentially according to denomination and with the bills right side up and facing the same way?

Yup. I’m a Virgo—it’s what we do. Arranged from smallest denomination in front to largest in back, all bills right side (with the particular President’s face) up, as neatly flattened as possible.

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing?

We’d probably try to chase it, but it would flatten itself and go through some tiny little space and we’d never be able to get at it. Then I wouldn’t worry about it until I saw it again.

Would you rather not be able to read or not be able to speak?

If I had to choose one, I’d definitely prefer not be able to speak. I assume that if I could still read, I’d probably be able to write down whatever I wanted to say. I’d get to spend my life passing notes. And not being able to speak would mean I wouldn’t ever have to engage in idle chit-chat in social situations.

But not to be able to read … Just shoot me.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week was a low-key one for us, which means I loved it. Next week we are going on a group trip to Victoria, BC, Canada, and I’m looking forward to that.

I hope everybody has a great upcoming week!

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

These are pieces from across the web that caught my eye this week.

How language is processed by your brain

An overview of how our brain processes language, with an emphasis on how learning a new language can help the brain grow.

Four Things To Do Outside The Office To Boost Your Creativity

Aimed at business professionals, this article explains why these four activities may boost creativity:

(1) taking a bath
(2) observing the details of the world around us
(3) working at a coffee shop (or in other surroundings with moderate background noise)
(4) walking

Syllabus: Using Poetry and Fiction to Encourage Experiments in Nonfiction

Writer Chelsea Hodson explains how books that blend or cross genre lines can help writers be more creative and experimental in their own writing. She discusses five books here.

The System I Used to Write 5 Books and Over 1,000 Blog Posts

journal_writingWell known writer Jeff Goins explains his three-step system for discovering ideas and developing them in writing:

(1) collect ideas
(2) write and save
(3) edit and publish

Experienced writers probably have their own ways of following these three steps, but Goins’s system may help beginning writers get a handle on the process.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown