Tag Archives: reading

7 Celebrity-Written Essays That Are Worthy To Read

celebrity-written essays

Every so often, an artist switches genres. A rock star becomes a country singer, a jazz singer becomes a hip-hop artist. Then there are times when they switch crafts altogether. A pop star becomes an actor. An actress becomes a painter. And, sometimes, a celebrity picks up the pen and becomes a writer.

Though writing is a serious craft and not something to be taken lightly, and certainly not something honed overnight, there are some celebrities who manage to capture an idea and paint an image with words in the same way they light up the screen when on camera. When they get it wrong, they may get it horribly wrong, but, on occasion, celebrities have written some things that are actually worth reading.

Here are my top 7 celebrity essays:

Remembering Marlon Brando – Jack Nicholson

Sometimes it’s the passing of a celebrity that inspires another one to pick up the pen. In Jack Nicholson’s tribute Remembering Marlon Brando to his friend and colleague Marlon Brando in “Rolling Stone Magazine” in 2004, he reminisces about the first time he saw Brando pulling up on the MGM lot, their years as neighbors in Los Angeles, the pranks that Brando used to pull on him and his deep appreciation for Brando’s genius. Nicholson’s tribute lets the light shine through the guarded image of two of Hollywood’s macho men.

Matt Damon’s Marathon – Matt Damon

Did anyone know that Boston-born actor Matt Damon was a Boston Marathon fan? With his father, uncle, brother and nephews having taken on the challenge, Damon’s essay titled “Matt Damon’s Marathon” published in the Boston Globe recounts the actor’s nostalgia for the event’s earlier days. You can practically see the actor cheering on his father as he makes his way over the course when he describes his father’s running strategy, blow by blow.

At the famous Heartbreak Hill, he explains that “At this junction, in particular, a palpable bond exists between audience and athlete, forming a distinctive stew of sympathy and suffering that has lasting effects for both parties.” He also eulogizes some of the changes that have occurred, namely the focus on charity and fund-raising that the event has come to represent. Damon’s essay came out just a week before the tragic bombing that killed several participants and fans.

A Mother’s Prayer for Her Daughter – Tina Fey

An excerpt from comedic actress Tina Fey’s book “Bossypants” went viral on the internet. The excerpt titled “A Mother’s Prayer for Her Daughter” is poignantly humorous as it lists the myriad of modern frustrations and humiliations she would like both her and her daughter to be spared: “First Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches” and “Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance.” Fey combines her comedic flair with the poignancy of motherhood in this hilarious piece. Its popularity shows that her prayer echoes that of many a mother of young girls.

My Medical Choice – Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie’s high-profile essay, “My Medical Choice”, published in the New York Times about her preventative double mastectomy has been lauded by the medical community for its role in encouraging women to get breast cancer exams. Jolie’s choice to make public this intimate information carries extra weight because of her role as a celebrity and a symbol of feminine beauty which has made her famous.

In her essay, she describes the rare gene BRCA1 that caused the death of her mother and which she inherited. Jolie’s doctors estimated that her chance of getting breast cancer was as high as 87 percent. Her reason for publishing the essay was so that other women could be aware of the gene and its risks and get tested before it was too late.

The Death of My Father – Steve Martin

Comedic actor Steve Martin who has published several essays in “The New Yorker” and a collection of essays in the book “Pure Drivel” wrote a very personal essay in 2002 titled “The Death of My Father”. In it, he digs through his childhood and his relationships with his mother and sister as well as the strained relationship with his father to find the threads that tie them together.

He recounts his father’s sometimes stinging criticism of his career and his difficulty in accepting his son’s comedic antics. Finally, he narrates the last days of his father’s life and the final words and reconciliations they exchanged. It’s a beautiful piece that serves to remind its readers of the importance of forgiveness.

The Meaning of the Selfie – James Franco

Actor James Franco dishes his philosophical take on selfie-culture in his widely-read article titled “The Meanings of the Selfie” in the New York Times. Franco is a frequent contributer to the “New York Times” and the “Huffington Post”. Often criticized for posting excessive selfies and called “The Selfie King” Franco has written an essay that is part humor/part sociology. He dissects the meaning of the selfie in our technological age: “We all have reasons for posting them, but in the end, selfies are avatars: Mini-Me’s that we send out to give others a sense of who we are.”

Open Letter to Miley Cyrus – Sinead O’Conner

Sometimes a celebrity feels called upon to offer guidance to an ingenue. Sinead O’Conner’s open letter to pop star Miley Cyrus printed in “The Guardian” in 2013 addresses the issue of sexism in the music industry. O’Conner was prompted to write the letter in response to Cyrus’ claim that her controversial and highly sexualized video for the song “Wrecking Ball” was inspired by O’Conner’s 1990 music video for the song “Nothing Compares 2 U”. O’Conner calls out the differences in the way she carefully crafted her image to avoid exploitation and warns the young star of the dangers of selling your body which often leads to selling out your talent.

How To Read Right For Better Writing

read right for better writing

You’ve heard it a hundred times, haven’t you? If you want to become a better writer, you need to read more.

And it’s not just good advice for professional writers either. Writing well helps anyone to communicate better, to express their thoughts and feelings with greater clarity. And a greater understanding of the written word helps us to develop a better comprehension of the world around us.

It’s clear that reading and writing go together. But to fully understand the benefits of reading and how it applies to better writing, let’s first look at some of the reasons why we should read. And then we’ll go into how to read more effectively.

Reading is Primary

Dan Kurland at criticalreading.com gets right to the point. “Reading is primary. One can only write as well as one can read.” You have to first understand how language works as a reader before you can communicate as a writer.

Improving your reading skills will help to understand “how thoughts are developed and how meaning is conveyed in a written discussion.” And Mr. Kurland further urges us to become “more aware in our reading” in order to extract meaning from the written word. “When we see how we draw meaning from others, we can see how to instill meaning in our own work.

Reading Gives You Language

The following snippet on language is from Joanna June:

“Reading exposes you to the words, vernacular, relate-able stories and information to describe something you know but didn’t have the language for previously.”

And a few more practical aspects of developing your reading skills are:

  • It will improve and reinforce your vocabulary development.
  • It exposes the reader to different writing styles and models.
  • Reading expands and deepens your approach to subject knowledge.
  • It gives you the opportunity to comprehend a topic at your own pace.

Jeff Goins emphasizes the point that to become better at their craft, “Writers need to read. A lot. They need to grasp the art of language, to appreciate the finer points of words.” And reading will help you do that.

Reading Expands Possibilities

Not only is reading instructive, it’s also inspirational to read the works of others as it keeps our flow of words fresh and in a state of evolution.

Also, through the practice of reading more, you avoid slipping into writer’s rut. That is, as you broaden your perspective and knowledge base through reading, your writing skills naturally expand and grow correspondingly.

Now let’s move on to some techniques to improve your reading effectiveness.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

While it’s fine and well to study the style and characteristics of your own genre and favorite authors, to really reap the benefits of reading you’ll have to “venture outside of your normal reading realm.” This is from Joel Goldman who believes that writers should read from a buffet of styles and topics.

This is a common theme in all of our research for this topic – read outside of your normal sphere of influence. Read romance, thrillers, non-fiction, biographies, magazines and manifestoes. Basically, anything you can get your hands on.

Mr. Goldman also presses the writer to “Read things that would normally turn you off.” This will broaden your perspective and gain a better understanding of the appeal of the subject matter, and its audience.

Develop the Reading Habit

We’ve established that to be a better writer, you’ll need to read more. And to benefit fully from reading, consider developing it into a habit.

  • Determine what your reading goal is and set up prompts to remind you. This is important in the beginning to stay on track – use post-its, journal about your goal, set reminders on your computer, etc.
  • Plan ahead to determine when you can read. If necessary, start small and grab 10 or 15 minutes when you can. At bedtime, coffee breaks, lunch, or waiting for appointments… by doing this four or five times a day, you can clock an hour’s worth of reading. And again, set up appropriate cues to trigger the new behavior you’re trying to develop.
  • Always have some reading material with you;:a book, magazine or a longread online. And keep a stash of books in the places you’re likely to read: your purse or messenger bag, by the bed or your favorite chair and in the car.
  • Take notes. In 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, author Dan Coyle references some interesting research. People who read 10 pages then stop and take notes in summary form, retain 50% more information than those who read 10 pages four times in a row. Jotting down notes in bullet points is equally effective.

Study the Mechanics

With every book you read, try to establish a little distance from the plot and begin to notice how the author has put it all together. You’ll still be reading for pleasure, but a bit of emotional separation will help to develop your scrutinizing skills.

Some observational practices to employ are:

  • Study the authors’ style and voice, and the manner in which they’ve developed characters.
  • Analyze the plot and identify the main ideas.
  • Learn to skim as you read to glean the gist of the material.
  • Scan the text for pertinent information, and re-read what’s relevant.
  • Think about what the author is saying. And,
  • How they’re saying it. Try to identify the unique manner in which they group words together, or the patterns and rhythm they use to convey an idea.

Well, clearly there are plenty of good reasons why reading will help us to become better writers. Put into practice some or all of the above ideas to improve your reading abilities. And as you start reading more, you’ll experience a growth in your comprehension, communication, and knowledge base – which will naturally lead to greater writing success.