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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Life in Lessons (My First Steps)

I am interested in a great number of things. I have stacks of books that I want to read as well as stacks of books that I currently am reading. It finally dawned on me that there were some books that I wanted to stay in touch with but did not have the daily time to devote to this task. So I set up a plan to visit one of the following six books each day. Here is my list of books that I currently work through each week in case you wish to join me on this process and journey.

Life’s Companion by Christina Baldwin: This is an excellent book! A dear friend gave me this book about 20 years ago when I was exploring the idea about becoming a writer in all seriousness. This book encouraged me to begin journaling, and I have kept up this process ever since. I will be working out of this book each week, generally on Sundays. In my opinion, there is no better book about journaling than this one. This book has been my “Life’s Companion” for decades, and it will continue to be for years to come.

Napoleon Hill’s A Year of Growing Rich (52 Steps to Achieving Life’s Rewards) by Napoleon Hill. I have read through this book several times, a lesson each week. These steps are excellent reminders of the power of living a good life. I usually read a step for the week on Mondays.

The Writing Diet (Write Yourself Right-Size) by Julia Cameron. I am a big fan of Julia Cameron's work (e.g., The Money Drunk, The Artist's Way, and many other books about creativity or writing). I am always mindful of those little daily practices that will add up to good health, and this Cameron book intrigued me with the idea that I could use the power of writing to lead me and keep me on the path to continuous good health. I usually read something from this book on Tuesdays. 

The Artist's Way (a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity) by Julia Cameron. I try and include at least one (maybe two because I am a Julia Cameron junkie) of Ms. Cameron's books because I have found them to be very powerful tools to unlock resistance to creativity and creative work. I find her message inspiring and have followed her advice for years. If you think I am productive and you aspire to do similarly, consider visiting this book as your first introduction to Ms. Cameron's work. I am working from this book on Wednesdays. I have visited and reflected on topics from this book for several years now, and I can attest that this book lends valuable insights into the artistic (creative) process.

Getting Things Done (the Art of Stress-Free Productivity) by David Allen. This is another book that I visit again and again over the years. I have podcast and blogged about my insights into this method if you would like some additional ideas. You can find links to these articles and podcast episode here or go to the pages link in the right sidebar menu.

I usually skip Fridays because of a timing issue. I have a very early morning Skype lesson call, and I find that I have to minimize what I can try to accomplish during my morning time. I find it easier to call this my "morning off" rather than stress myself about getting more than the bare minimum finished.

A Writer's Book of Days (a Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life) by Judy Reeves. This book is organized generally by the month. Every four to five days there is a short reading of about one page and several suggested writing prompts for each of the days. I do not aspire to use each writing prompt, but I find that visiting this book each week keeps my creative mind alive and energized. And some of the prompts are very interesting and stay in my mind for days (e.g., December 29: "These are the delicacies of a ruined evening").

If you choose to purchase any of these books for yourself, please consider using the links that I have provided. There is no additional cost to you, but your purchase would help to provide a small benefit to the blog and podcast. I really appreciate your support!

This week, I am thinking about several things, and in a way these things all relate to each other. I will set out my process and reveal what has sparked my interest and my thinking as the week unfolds, and then I will write occasionally about my personal journey. For now, I list the tools and resources that I visit each week.

I would be remiss if I did not offer you my list of daily reading. The following list is my absolute must list. I open these books before I write a single word in my morning pages journal or my laptop. These are my daily tools for self reflection and my life's journey through the year 2018.

The Daily Stoic (366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living) by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. This book is fantastic! Based on the writings of the Stoic philosophers, the daily essays focus on three main disciplines: perception, action, and will. I highly recommend this book as something that everyone should read and will benefit from doing so. And anyone who has followed my advice agrees that this book is very helpful to provide us with a framework for living a good life in all of its possibilities.

The Daily Stoic Journal (366 Days of Writing and Reflection on the Art of Living) by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. A companion book to The Daily Stoic, this journal contains weekly lessons and provides opportunities to write a short reflection in the morning and evening. By short, I mean just a paragraph, or a few bullet points, or perhaps even a lesson if you desire. Using this journal will guide me through the year with excellent lessons in reflection. I look forward to using this tool.

Opening Doors Within by Eileen Caddy. For those of you who are spiritually minded, this is a tiny book of daily reminders to look around us and appreciate the spiritual nature of our world, our gifts from God, and how God works within us. These small daily reminders keep me grounded about the important connections I make with others and my world around me. This is a lovely little book that I make sure to toss in my suitcase when I travel because of its strong influence on my attitudes and actions.

The Artist Within Me (A Teacher's Year of Creative Discovery) by John Jacobson. This book was recommended to me by a new teacher and I found it helpful to remind me about staying creative while I am teaching. Too often we teachers burn out or lose our creative energy because of self doubt, busy schedules, or mundane teaching chores. This book helps to clean up the sludge of these burdens and reminds and encourages us to bring more creative light into the world. This is the new book that I have added to my daily list this year.

I plan to share some of my thoughts, questions, and insights with my readers throughout this year. The above list of books is my set of tools for making this journey. I hope that you will join me.

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I hope that you will join me in this journey of living a life in lessons in 2018. I am excited about the possibilities for growth as a teacher, and I hope that you will share my excitement and come along with me.

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2018 by Paula E. Bird


  1. I'm so glad to have found your blog! I'm a high school senior, and I've been teaching for a few years now, and I am going into music education after I graduate.

    I have one question for you- do you have any advice for a student preparing for college auditions and is SICK of their pieces? That's where I'm at right now, and its rough. Audition are only 2 months off.

    Thanks for your time!

    1. Well that's a great topic! I have that same problem when I get ready for recitals. I find it helpful to have a list (short) of various types of things to think about, such as bowing/articulation, tone & vibrato, intonation, shifting, rhythm. Then I choose one of these areas to focus on for that day. I also have a small bag of tricks that I use as "games" to play with myself to keep my interest and focus, because if we do not pay attention to focus, our brains are wired to turn off when things become routine. So I use my metronome regularly (and set it to subdivisions), my tuner to check often, and my recording equipment to record myself regularly. You can send videos to friends. How about doing a little mini challenge for yourself as an Instagram or Facebook live stream thing for 30 days? Let me know what things you've tried and what you found helpful. If you have an instagram account, let me know so I can follow along. -- Paula

    2. Mostly I am struggling to speed up my Kabalevski Concerto. Any tips?

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Try the ideas in this article: