What’s this? You want me to elaborate? I thought the message was pretty clear in the title of the post, but okay, large and empty box…

Book Two is done.

I’d been putting it off for the past two months, since I got back from my summer in London. Why? Probably because not having finished editing it kept it going for me – tied me, in an odd way, to the UK, where I wrote the bulk of it. Because once the edits are done, that means it’s no longer a work in progress, but a complete work – and then what?

What to do when a child leaves the house for good? When the wolf I’ve been raising since he was a puppy must go back into the wild? What, Jack London, WHAT?!

Well, I could do what many newly set-free parents (or wolf caretakers) do – take up some sort of new addiction to fill the time: shopping, drinking, making long distance prank phone calls to China.

Or I could simply write a new book*. After all, there’s one more in this trilogy, and infinite possibilities beyond that.

*This is where the metaphor must end, because while you can just write a new book when the other ends, you really shouldn’t just pop out a new baby every time your other child grows up, or buy a wolf pup when White Fang gets older. Because it’s illegal. Don’t buy a wolf.

I’m going to ask that you forgive this post ahead of time- there may be typepos, there may be sentences that just sort of…

And there may be some things that just plain make don’t sense.

I’ve been writing all morning, not working on the edits two book too, like I told myself I wood; but working on a short story for an upcoming writing competition.

If you’re unfamiliar, a writing competition is a little something that writers do from time to time when they A) Need some quick money, B) Need some inspiration to get the writing juices flowing, C) are avoiding working on what they’ve actually said they would work on, or D) All of the above.

I’d say I’m pulling a solid D right about now. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Tangent: Recently I read a book, and somewhere in there, the author told me that this kind of behavior is okay. That there is no perfect plan or schedule for creativity, and that it will just unfold as it wants to. She’s a published author, this lady, so I know she must be right. (Fact: Published authors are always right. So take these words as infallible.)

(Actual Fact: I’m also a Fiction writer, and my line between reality and fiction is fuzzy at best. Take these words as signposts to a truth somewhere very far off in the distance.)

Anyway, if I am to believe this other author, who is NOT a fiction writer, and so must, as a rule, be correct (right?), flitting from one project to the next, from writing, to painting, to teaching, to blogging… well, it’s just all a part of the process.

The only thing you really have to go on is the feeling you get during and after you’re doing what you’re doing. NOT before – we all know how much we dread the things we love before we do them. Who knows why, but I’ve often put off writing, painting, and yes, when I was little, sleeping and bathing, for as long as I could, only to find that when I did, I was much better off. (Except for that one time I got shampoo in my nose. I still don’t know how this happened.)

If you find yourself in that magical, creative, nothing-else-exists zone doing – what – gardening? Painting? Writing? Programming a computer? Whatever it is that gets you there, follow that. It doesn’t matter how it comes to be – whether you’re flitting from one project to the next, or seeing one through until the end. That’s that “bliss” that people are always talking about following.

And in a very meandering way, I’m just trying to say that for me, writing is that place, be it a short story competition, a book, a comic, or a blog post, that reading back probably won’t make much sense. But you know what? It feels good. So here we are.

Follow your bliss. Write, read, create, discuss, play… Do it for the sheer joy of doing it. Do it because you love it.

It’s not a contest.

Unless, of course, it’s a contest.

Books can change lives. In this Ted Talk , Lisa Bu discusses just that. And it got me thinking, what books have shaped my life? The way I write today? The way I act? The way I think?

What books have made me… me?

So here they are. The 10 most influential books (so far) in my life:

1- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Not because this was my favorite of the series (it’s the fourth, if you must know), but because this was the first book that really drew me completely into a world I found much cozier and more welcoming than the one I was in at the time. Books are an escape, but to me, even today, this series feels like home.

2- Where the Red Fern Grows
I can’t exactly say why this one sticks out in particular – perhaps it is because I love dogs so much, or perhaps it is because this was the first book I ever remember making me cry (okay, cry is an understatement.) I read this in fourth grade when my best friend’s mom had just passed away. I suppose it stands out because it was during this year that I began to understand loss in a real way.

3- Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing
Not at all a Fiction, like WTRFG, but for me, one of the weepiest reads of my life. It is about a woman, Anita Moorjani’s near death experience. It will make you look at life – and death – with new eyes.

4- The BFG
The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… it’s hard to say which has been the most influential in my reading, writing, and just plain living preferences. These books, from the earliest of ages, had me diving deep, deep, deep into my crazy imagination. It’s my favorite place to be.

5- Why Is God Laughing?: The Path to Joy and Spiritual Optimism
I believe this was the first of my many Deepak Chopra books. It’s a great, light introduction to the prolific (and genius) writer – an almost childishly simple look at God, life. And that’s what I love about it. Why should things be any more complicated?

6- The Tao of Pooh
Along the same lines as No. 5 – The Tao of Pooh brings a much needed lightness to the spiritual conversation. Plus, it’s Winnie the Pooh!

7- The Secret
Go ahead. Are you done sneering? That’s fine. This book may have gotten an awful lot of flack for promoting goals based around wealth – and let’s be honest, fulfilling one’s one selfish needs. But it got a lot of people talking about something bigger – what you put out, you bring back (sometimes tenfold!). You create this thing you call life, and this book really brought that into a sharp relief for me.

8- The Hobbit
The Hobbit over the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Really? Yes, really. The Hobbit was one of the first Fantasy books I ever read, and no matter how many times I read it, at no matter what age, I still love its simplicity. The whole thing feels, to me, very much like taking a stroll through the Shire.

9- The Giving Tree
This book is perfect in its simplicity, from its words to its loosely sketched illustrations. ‘Nuff said.

10- The Fault in Our Stars
Oh, John Green, you emotional ninja! This was the first of Green’s books I ever read – when I was done, I promptly bought all of the rest and read them, back to back. This book introduced me to beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping YA fiction, ripe with complex and utterly real characters- of which there are a surprising number of books. If you want any more recommendations in this vein, just ask. 🙂

Bonus- The Fantastic Fable of Peter Able
Of course this book changed my life. Not only is it the first I’ve had published on a large scale, but writing it (along with its sequel) has gotten me through a lot of life’s difficulties. I don’t know where I’d be without it.
(Thanks, Peter!)

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars