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Three Good Books

For writers, by writers, thinkers, and doers.

I don't read a lot of books.

There's a groundless belief, even among bright people, that reading a bunch of books is the surest path to bettering yourself. The belief came from a time when a) no other media were widely available and b) most books were of at least some substance. This is not the case today. A majority of  books now are tools for self-promotion, fast-buck projects, souvenirs, autobiographies unread by their subject, and virtue-signalling devices. 

So I don't read a lot of books. I read what I like, and for reasons of my own.

Here are three books I recommend, two from close friends. If my friends wrote books I didn't like I'd be polite, but I wouldn't go out of my way to committing an entire newsletter to promoting them. Yet here we are. These really are books worth your time.

The first is Save the Cat. Everyone who knows me has heard me preach the wonders of this book. It explains the principles of storytelling in a way that anyone can understand and put into practice for not only screenwriting but also for every other story form, from a pitch to a novel. The late Blake Snyder's book has sat atop its category on Amazon for about a decade and remains there today.

If you want to tell stories and watch them get results -- and be able to do it over and over again -- read this book. 

(You can also learn it directly from me. Sign up for my storytelling seminar, May 26. Scroll down at this link to find me and register via the PSA -- it's for everyone, even if you're not a speechwriter.)
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Speaking of the PSA, its founder David Murray released An Effort to Understand earlier this year to acclaim from professional communicators all over the map. That's because it's a call for something everybody claims to want but almost nobody stops to actually, you know, do: if we are going to understand our neighbors and frozen-out former friends, we are going to have to listen to some ideas with which we may disagree; this so we can find if not common ground then at least common concerns.

David thinks that we spend more time urging others to do this than we ourselves spend making the attempt. We need to replace convenient caricatures and broad labels with the reality of the lives of others, which typically turns out to be a lot more like our own reality than the screamers on TV enjoy making us believe. Besides, if we can't disagree and get along we're just marking time until the inevitable civil war. As the Drive-by Truckers sang, "Somethin's gotta give pretty soon." 

The power of the book is that it makes you think about your own attitude toward civility. It makes you want to do better. The delight of the book? His crackling use of language, his humor, his candor, his willingness to be in print the way he is in person. I once told him I thought that was risky. He said he didn't much care. I'm admire that more every day.


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Finally, I met April Shprintz when she attended my speechwriting course at Georgetown a couple years back. (You can attend next week. Sign up now. There are about three slots left.) We hit it off immediately. She gave me great guidance to build my practice and improve my mindset. I use her techniques every day now, especially in the way I organize my day. Other tips I was pleased to find I was already using, which is part of what brought us together. In exchange for what she did for me, I gave her some writing advice. Turns out her project was this book, Magic Blue Rocks: The Secret to Doing Anything.

This book is an introduction to April's philosophy, my favorite part of which is that we find true satisfaction when we give of ourselves without expectation of getting anything in return. It's a freeing, enriching way to live, and not easy until it becomes habit. Combine that with the big idea in the six stories in Magic Blue Rocks, that the thing that limits us most is not our lack of ability but our unwillingness to pursue dreams despite barriers. You'll come to see that barriers tend to fall for those who run at them ceaselessly, and with their eye not on what is but what we want our world to be. You're going to love April's relentless support for better things in youre life.

Three books. Three ways to improve your skills and your outlook. Enjoy.

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Hire me to teach, speak, or write. I'm at Mike@MikeLongOnline.com.


© 2021 Mike Long. All rights reserved.
Burke, VA  22015
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