Willpower vs. Books: Guess Which Wins

A little over a week ago, I was deep in the woods at the Kanuga Conference Center near Asheville, North Carolina, sleeping in a cabin by night, and attending workshops by day. Kathleen Adams, her staff and volunteers organized a memorable weekend for Journal Conference 2016. I met so many accomplished, beautiful, open-hearted women (and a couple of beautiful, open-hearted men, too) and loved leading the Wild Voice, Wild Writing workshops. I’m still savoring the experience and the people and the writing and the stories and oh, yes, the full moon. (We howled!)

And then there was the bookstore. I have put myself on a book-buying diet the last few months. Ever since I imagined “the big one” hitting one morning during yoga practice and all my books tumbling down on me, I’ve been limiting buying, frequenting the library, and thinning out my bookshelves. But then, this happened:

books from journal conference

It could have been much worse. Fortunately, I already have many of the books that were available in the conference bookstore, and also, I kept reminding myself that I was on this diet, and besides, I was in North Carolina, far, far from home and I wasn’t even going home after the conference. I was going on to St. Petersburg, to stay with friends for a few vacation days.

So, with those limitations and a ton of willpower, these are the few books I did purchase:

Your Brain on Ink: A Workbook on Neuroplasticity and the Journal Ladder, by Deborah Ross and Kathleen Adams

Such fascinating, interesting research is coming out of how the brain functions, all those neurons and chemistry and the symbiotic relationship of our receptive selves, our psychological selves, and our expressive selves—compelling stuff. Even the word “neuroplasticity,” intrigues. I’ve been a fan of Kathleen Adams since I discovered her book, Journal to the Self, way back when, and was honored when she invited me to contribute a chapter for another book she edited, Expressive Writing: Classroom and Community. Now I’m excited to see what new information she and her co-author, Deborah Ross, have in store for us.

The Art of Slow Writing, Reflections on Time, Craft and Creativity by Louise DeSalvo

This book has been on my “want” list for some time. I’m already a believer from my own experience and from what I’ve been taught by my best teachers. I preach the gospel of slow down, too. But sometimes it’s good to be reminded of why we do this and how we do it. I haven’t cracked this book open yet, but I expect it will be littered with sticky notes and highlighter as soon as I do.

Keepers of the Trees, A Guide to Re-Greening North America, by Ann Linnea

At Journal Conference 2016, I wasn’t able to participate in Ann Linnea’s morning workshop that took writers out in nature, though I did see them all tromping by as I led my own workshop. Knowing I was going from the Conference in North Carolina to visit good friends in Florida, one of whom is a tree-keeper and tree-lover, I wanted to get Ann’s book as a gift. The true stories of other Keepers of the Trees are accompanied by gorgeous photographs. An altogether beautiful book by a beautiful writer.

Why We Write About Ourselves, edited by Meredith Maran

This book is subtitled Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature. I’m doing quite a lot of research into writing memoirs these days. I love the genre, and have read scores of memoirs as well as worked with writers who are writing their stories. Yet I’ve always been one of those who thought “my life, who cares?” But of late, I’ve been thinking more about journeys I’ve taken and pilgrimages I’ve made and the idea of containing these stories within the memoir structure may be the next long-commitment writing I want to do. We’ll see. Meantime, I’m gathering information.

Journaling by the Moonlight, a Mother’s Path to Self-Discovery, by Tina Games

I bought both the book and accompanying card deck. The book is aimed at young mothers, and though I am a mother, I am far from young. But I was so inspired by Tina Games, her presence and her lightness of spirit, that I wanted to have her book and the accompanying deck.

The photo above also shows my scrabbled red spiral-bound that I wrote in and made notes in and the Journal Conference swag bag I carried around all weekend. But the bag has no zipper so no way to securely pack all the new books and there’s no way I was going to try to carry all of them aboard the plane. And my suitcase—well, if you know me at all, you know there was no room left in there to pack even one more thing. This glitterly salute to South Carolina was all I could find at the small Greenville/Spartanburg airport so I could check the books to my next stop—St. Petersburg, FL—where I have not bought any more books, but then, I haven’t left yet either.

glitter bag

How does your willpower measure against buying books?

20 thoughts on “Willpower vs. Books: Guess Which Wins

  1. Hi Judy… such a pleasure to stumble upon this so many months after our wonderful time at Kanuga, makes the memories start to flow and they’re welcome. I was there, as I said… wrote with you in your workshop… bought your book as well (have been a devotee for years with your first book– you should see how swollen it is with things I’ve added to it as markers)… bought books like you did (no control!) but to read that you have the same response to earrings as I do (never met a pair I didn’t like) makes me crack up in kinship. Thanks for your blog and your workshops & your books.

    • Hi Lisa, How great to hear from you. Thanks so much for finding me here and bringing back those memories of the time at Kanuga. I still smile when I think of warm community and instant friendships and connections. What a fine time.
      Thanks too for your support for me and my books. I’m delighted they serve your writing. Let’s just keep doing this!
      all best,

  2. It’s like this: I don’t hang onto stuff. I just don’t. Not books, not clothes, not furniture. However your A Writer’s Book of Days and Wild Women Wild Voices are part of the book shelf. I think they grew there. Twice already I went through WWWV. Always something to learn on a next time around.

  3. I’m both delighted and honored to see my book and journaling card deck among the collection you took home from Asheville. 😊

    And how wonderful it was to meet you in person after many years of following your work. Your workshop, “Wild Women, Wild Voices” inspired so much within me that I had to buy your book! ✨

    I’m looking forward to staying connected! 💞

    • Thanks so much for visiting my site and commenting on the post, Tina. Such a pleasure to meet you in person at the Journal Conference, and to get your beautiful book & deck. Let’s keep this up.

      I hope you find many stories in the Wild Women book, you surely are one and I love your howl!

  4. So nice to meet you during the Kanuga conference! A weekend that changed me in many ways! I had brought “Why We Write About Ourselves” with me to the conference and enjoyed reading it on my cabin porch each evening. Great book!

    I, too, need a book diet, and have come to the conclusion I want to buy books only from independent booksellers. I’m on a crusade to bring one to my hometown…sharing my recent blog post about books and bookstores – http://randomconnectpoints.blogspot.com/2016/01/gather-sip-and-readthe-case-for-local.html.

    Your “Wild Woman” book that I bought at the conference is next on my reading list.

    • Hi Reba,
      Thanks for visiting and for telling me about your blog post about books and bookstores. I’ll go there next. Meantime, about independent booksellers–these are the best people and their shops my favorite place to go. One of the things I most appreciate is that my local Indie bookseller, Anne Mery at West Grove Collective, knows what authors I like, and what books I like in all the different genres I read. She’s introduced me to many new authors because she knows what to recommend. Used to be one of my favorite things to do in any city I was visiting was locate the Indie bookstore and pay a visit (and almost always come away with a book or two!).

      Thanks, also for buying Wild Women, Wild Voices. I hope you enjoy it and it brings forth a few stories. I’d love to hear from you after you’ve had a chance to read it.

  5. I hate being on a book buying diet. I love books, but especially reference books…Some of the titles you have mentioned look very interesting.

    • HI Carmelle,
      I know. hard to be on any kind of diet, but for some of us, limiting book-buying is more difficult than saying no to another piece of pie. (Don’t ask me about earrings, though). Thanks for your comment. I always appreciate hearing from you.

  6. Hello Judy
    Already difficult to be in a book’s diet time, but reading about your list…it’d be just impossible 🙂
    Thank you for these new ideas!

    • Thanks for commenting, Patricia. Let me know if you read any of these and what you think. I’ll do the same.

  7. Dear Judy,

    Thank you for this honest and interesting post. I share your love of all things “book.” Every time I’m in the library, I usually peruse the shelves of free books and books for sale. I usually go home with a few. I very much like your choice of books. I have been a fan of brain research for awhile now and am glad that scientists are getting around to discovering more of how this remarkable organ works. As for trees, and the art of writing slowly, it goes without saying that both books would interest me. Hopefully, you might share any insights you glean with the rest of us.
    Arlene Kosakoff

  8. Now with my second novel out for sale, I am committed to buying the work of other authors. We have a splendid new library in Fallbrook, and I appreciate one or two of my new novels changing hands for reading, but darn it, I support authors! I buy for my Kindle and when one of my favorite (make that obsessed with) authors debuts a new novel, I buy it printed on paper; trade or hardback. I like the notion of buying used books, which I do for research–mostly because no “new” copies exist, but when it means paying my author friends, that’s my obligation as a working writer. What goes around comes around, so Judy, I support your purchasing even as you winnow out your library shelves.

    • Thanks for posting this, Sarah. I’m with you on supporting writers by buying their books! And I so appreciate it when others buy mine. I sometimes buy used books, too, and visit the library and exchange books with friends. I haven’t made the switch to Kindle yet, but I have downloaded to my iPad and read a book or two that way. Still, I like holding a “real” book in my hands, smelling the paper and glue and ink. Good luck with your second book out there in the world.

    • You’ve seen my bookshelves, Jill, so you know I needed to resist. As it is, my “to read” pile is “too large.” But so many good books and so much to learn and to enjoy and to experience. Thank you, writers.

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