Channeling da Vinci - Part I
Plus a #bookgiveaway!
This week I’m talking about a whole slew of cool and curious things, including Leonardo da Vinci, fun ways to learn, amazing advice for writers, many things that bring me joy, and a book giveaway of two novels: The Last Beekeeper by Julie Carrick Dalton and The Society of Shame by Jane Roper.
Over twenty years ago, I found myself drawn to a book called How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb. This was hot on the tail of working my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I was looking for more ways to spark my creativity and productivity (also, on a total side note, if you are keen to dig into the Artist’s Way, my friend Cathy Elcik’s excellent substack, HIBOU, is a great place to start). Later, the book appealed to me because I was working toward my M.A. in Critical & Creative Thinking at UMass Boston, and it hit a bunch of notes in the areas I was studying.
Additionally, I was drawn to the idea of Leonardo as a “Renaissance Man” and how he didn’t have a specific area of interest or expertise. I’ve always felt like I didn’t quite fit in one box or another. Sure, I’m a writer, but I’m also a music lover, a teacher, a public speaker, a gamer, a nature lover, a culinary enthusiast, a reader, and a lover of art, with interests in history, technology, science, astronomy, mythology, psychology, mysticism, fantasy, and so much more. The idea that one can have multiple talents and interests really spoke to me.
Gelb’s book is wonderful in many ways, but I especially loved that he riffed on Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences. Taking that model, he developed a series of principles embodied by Leonardo that you can apply in your own life.
Here are the principles:
Curiosità: An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
Dimostrazione (demonstration, testimony, proof): A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
Sfumato (“going up in smoke”): A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
Arte/Scienza: The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination; whole-brain thinking.
Corporalita: The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
Connessione (connection): A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena; systems thinking.
What a list! I’m going to tackle the first two today and will share my thoughts on the other five in subsequent newsletters.
I have an endless source of curiosity. One way I satisfy it is by voraciously reading and consuming information. One of the best newsletters I subscribe to is The Hustle, which, in all transparency, is owned by the company I work for, HubSpot. It’s a newsletter about business, but honestly, it’s one of the most interesting newsletters I think I’ve ever subscribed to. It’s full of things I didn’t know I wanted to know, like why snow costs America a fortune every year, how emojis can be evidence in court cases, or the business history of the ouija board. Every week I am always learning something new.
And I must recommend Open Culture, a fantastic website with a massive source of possibilities for learning. You can find thousands of free courses in all manner of topics, as well as language lessons and even textbooks. Their curated lists of free recordings are endless treasure troves of wonder. You can hear Fitzgerald reading Shakespeare, enjoy lectures by Jorge Luis Borges or watch the Nobel prize acceptance speeches of Hemingway, Steinbeck, or V.S. Naipaul. There are free art and images, eBooks, and lists of over 4,000 free movies. It’s how I found this odd gem, Wes Anderson’s film Castello Cavalcanti, not even 8 minutes long.
Oh, and if you want to satisfy a bit of your own Curiosità about Critical Thinking, which I previously mentioned, I have a tip for you. Some of you may know that I’m a professor for HubSpot Academy, and as part of my work there, I developed a course on Critical Thinking & Problem Solving that anyone can take for free! I talk about Multiple Intelligences, among many other things. You can sign up here.
All posts on Taste Life Twice are free and publicly available, but if you like my work, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.
I certainly have made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I try not to think about the big ones as “mistakes” and rather, more like a wobbly step on the path. Some of the wobblier steps include:
Not realizing how much my amazing new wave haircut would mess up my eyesight. I was essentially wearing an eyepatch for nearly three years straight.
There are definitely relationships that I look back at and think, omfg, what was I thinking? And who hasn’t had that? But each one taught me something significant; whether it was that I should value myself more, be more thoughtful about balancing my emotional output (when I fell in love, I REALLY fell in love), or when to say, enough is enough.
However, I did get married very young, at 22, to someone who I deeply cared about and who was the sweetest and kindest human being, but my heart wasn’t where it needed to be to stay with him for the rest of my life. That lasted seven years. But I learned a lot about love, what I would compromise, and how to be a better person in a relationship. My now husband, Joe, and I are celebrating 20 very happy years of marriage this year.
In my work life, I have certainly made countless mistakes. Some of it was inexperience. Some of it was because, too often, I talk before I think. Some of it was not knowing how my resting bitch face caused some managers to make assumptions about me and my happiness/approval of situations. You can see a bit of that in my photo above. I came into that understanding long after it had proven specifically to my detriment (long stories). And now that I’m on film all the time, I can see it whenever I play back a video. Everything about me changes when I smile, and I hate to admit it, but all those jerk men who told me to smile in my past—and there were a lot of them—were actually right that I should smile (note, that doesn’t make it right for them to tell me how to look to make them feel happy). Even my husband often thinks I’m upset about something when I’m merely just thinking. So I’ve learned I need to smile more, and really, that’s not a bad thing.
I’ll open up that curiosity cabinet again in the future to go through the other five da Vinci values.
In the meantime:
A Wealth of Writerly Advice
If you are a writer and you aren’t listening to author Michelle Hoover’s 7 AM Novelist podcast, then you really need to remedy that. She started out last fall with a really amazing series of podcasts with a stunning cast of authors walking you through everything you need to know about writing books, from beginning to publication. Now she’s started it up again, expanding on that with a variety of topics tied to a writing challenge. My writing partner Anjali Mitter Duva (author of Faint Promise of Rain) spoke yesterday about her journey from a writer to deciding to become a publisher. One of my other partners, Henriette Laziridis (author of Terra Nova), will be talking about Solving Literary Problems with Non-Literary Forms on March 14th, and on March 28th, I’ll be discussing Research How-Tos alongside Lara Prescott (author of The Secrets We Kept). The number of people I know speaking in this series is pretty long, and I can’t name them all here, but trust me, it’s worth tuning in!
What’s Bringing Me Joy This Week:
I love this illustration I saw on Reddit, by Tokyo-based illustrator, Luis Mendo. I’m super sad that the print is sold out.
I’m planning a trip later this year to London (part of the book I’m writing now is set there!), and I love using WanderLog to keep track of everything I want to do. Also, ChatGPT is excellent at helping you plan an itinerary, but that’s a story for another post. 😉 I have LOTS of thoughts about ChatGPT.
I also love this glimpse into London’s recent past—the 1960s London Bridge. All those men in black suits!!
And Now, It’s Time For A…
I’m so thrilled to be able to offer these books up to a couple lucky readers! I adored them both, for very different reasons, but at the heart of each of them is a woman with a mission you’ll be able to get behind. Read on for my reviews.
The Last Beekeeper
I can't stop thinking about this book. The characters of THE LAST BEEKEEPER are deeply imprinted upon my mind, and the whole wild situation that they have found themselves in, trying to survive in a world in which all the bees are gone--or are they? Julie Carrick Dalton weaves a cautionary environmental tale into a tapestry of family intrigue, growing up, and finding friendship and love among unlikely people. Sasha is a powerful protagonist, and her search for truth will keep you turning page after page. Definitely grab this book ASAP and put it right on the top of your to-read list. You won't regret it!
Kathleen Held is the hero we all need! How apropos that I finished reading this on National Women's Day? It's the book we all need right now, a light in a tunnel through a world that often seems dark and devoid of humor. THE SOCIETY OF SHAME is a funny and fun romp through the more ridiculous parts of the world in which we live--celebrity shame, viral hashtags #YesWeBleed...HA! and the dangerous side of our online lives. Roper's wit is spot on, and you'll find yourself laughing and laughing with every page (that you won't be able to stop turning). A truly hilarious book, right up there with Maria Semple's WHERE DID YOU GO BERNADETTE and Amy Poeppel's THE SWEET SPOT.
Do you want to win one of these books?
UPDATE— THIS GIVEAWAY HAS CLOSED. Winners will be announced in my next newsletter!
Your name will be thrown into the hat for a shot at a paperback copy. This giveaway closes at midnight on 3/11/23. Winners will be notified within 48 hours of the giveaway close.
A couple of things: you must be 18+ and a United States resident (pesky international laws make it tricky to do giveaways across the world). If you are someone who loves rules, you can find the obligatory rules info here.