Joy Returns! and The Girl Within

The Girl Within by Emily Hancock

Long ago, a therapist recommended that I read this book. The Girl Within asserts that there is a magical period for girls that women often forget. During that era, roughly eight to ten years of age, a girl feels free to explore her creativity and her sense of adventure. She feels smart, bold, and independent. But, after that time, the girl enters a phase where, according to our culture, she needs to change. She needs to shelve that self. She needs to think more about pleasing others and getting along.

This book inspired me to write Joy Returns!. When I was in that magic age, I played piano. I remember sitting down at the bench and feeling that I was at my command station where I was captain of my spaceship that transported me to galaxies far beyond daily life. Then, when I was eleven, my family moved to California. Before we left, my beloved teacher told me and my parents that it was extremely important that I continue with the piano, that I had a gift that I should pursue. We took the piano with us, but when we got to California, I told my parents that the piano was boring. I said I would take guitar lessons. I went to one lesson; the teacher made a pass at me, and I told my mother that I didn't want to go back. I never told her why. The piano sat in the front room, unplayed.

Years later, as an adult, I sat in a living room with a group of people wearing name tags. It was a meeting of personal historians, professionals who captured the life stories of their clients through books, videos, and CDs. I didn't know if I wanted to be a personal historian, but I knew that I wanted to work with them as a transcriber and as an editor.

As I sat in my chair, I read the name tag of the woman sitting next to me, “Emily Hancock.”

The meeting was just about to start, but I had to ask, “Did you write The Girl Within?”

She looked a bit stunned. “Yes. How did you know?”

“It was one of the most important books I ever read,” I told her.

More time passed. When it came time to write Joy Returns, I knew I wanted to write about a girl who discovered the power of the piano who, despite everything, persevered. In the beginning phases of writing that book, when I had all sorts of notes and lists but it felt impossible to create coherent paragraphs, I contacted Emily Hancock and asked her if could treat her to lunch. At that time, Emily lived ninety minutes away from me. I didn't care. I would have traveled five hours for that lunch.

When we met, we talked about writing and projects. That night, back home, I decided I wanted to try writing in bed. That proved to be extremely important. I'll write more on that later. But none of my books would have come to life without The Girl Within.

You can find The Girl Within here.

The Power of Quiet

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Sometimes you need a book to tell you something that you really should already know. That's what happened to me with Quiet.

Actually I had to run into the book twice before I fully acknowledged its message to me. I first found Quiet at my friend's house. I was sitting on the couch, and the book spoke to me from the coffee table. (With a title like Quiet, you would think it would whisper, but it actually called quite loudly to me.) My friend had a few things to do before we could go out. I picked up the book. I opened it up at a random place and began to read. Then I started to laugh that hard belly laugh that happens when you encounter stories from members of your tribe.

In Quiet, Susan Cain spells out the differences between extroverts and introverts and explains how our culture is geared towards rewarding people who are outgoing and sociable, extroverts by nature. She tells stories of introverts who have figured out how to happily live in an environment that is often not built for them. She gives strategies for how to flourish in personal and professional relationships. She advises parents on how to advocate for their introverted children.

But somehow after that, I forgot about Quiet, and I signed up to go to a writing retreat where I would be away from home and around people for an extended period of time. Let's just say it did not go well. And when I limped back to my palatial fortress, frayed to my last nerve, one of my few coherent thoughts was, “I need to get on Kindle, and I need to buy Quiet. I need to read it from beginning to end. I need to own it now to forever remind of me of the kind of person I am.”

You've probably already heard of Quiet. You've probably read it, too. It's a popular book, and I'm so happy that Susan Cain wrote it. But in case you missed it, I wanted to bring it up because so many creative people are introverts. We require regular solitude. We need to constantly negotiate a way to navigate the waters of “normal life.” If we fail to heed our inner barometers, we're miserable and can be seen as crazy. I know all about it. That's why Quiet is one of my favorite books.

You can quietly find this book here.