THE JOY OF DOING THINGS BADLY by Veronica Chambers

Please note: My “Reading Reflections” are not reviews. They are simply my thoughts in response to certain passages.

The Joy of Doing Things Badly: A Girl's Guide to Love, Life and Foolish BraveryI probably never would have picked up this book if two of my best girl friends hadn’t recommended it. It’s nonfic, which isn’t my usual fare, but it’s got a lot of heart.

We think we have to be perfect for other people to love us, when in fact the opposite is true. We are loved for our imperfections — for our funny faces and walks and dances and songs. (28)

The funny thing is, love creates a sort of perfection. God knows our parents, our friends, and our significant others are far from perfect. But don’t they seem that way to you sometimes? Don’t their faces seem slimmer, their laugh lines less prominent, their quirks more endearing?

(Frankly, this is one of the reasons I hate when the love interest in a novel is described as “perfect.” YA novels seem particularly prone to this. It’s one thing if the protagonist comes to view their love interest as perfect, but it’s quite another thing to think that from the outset.)

I do not want the objects I own to outlast the friendships they sprung from. (37)

The stuffed pig still sits on my dresser, and there’s a box of photos, dried flowers, and ticket stubs in the closet of my parents’ house. Then there’s the red elastic bracelet in a box next to my desk, the pin that reads “prose before hoes.”

Even the people that I’ve let go of… Well, I guess I kept a few pieces. Sometimes I wonder if they have too.

People always ask me if I write in a journal every day. They imagine that because I’m a writer, writing in a journal must be like a pianist practicing. My lofty answer is that writing is only a small part of my job, the bigger part of my job is actually reading, observing, and researching. (56)

I hate when I goof off, wasting time that I could be using to write. But almost as much, I hate when I’m not goofing off, and someone assumes that I am. Reading, thinking, blogging — they’re all part of this.

We map the cities we love with landmarks: our favorite shops, schools we once attended, the addresses of men we once loved. (82)

I think that’s what homes are to me: an amalgam of personal landmarks. Houston, Taipei, Pittsburgh, Madrid, Cincinnati. I might not know all their histories, all their roads, or even all their languages. But in each of these cities, I can show you where I felt something. I can show you where I lived, and it will have nothing to do with a building.

When I am insecure or self-critical, my friends are both mirrors and crystal balls. They reflect all the good things about me I cannot see, and they assure me that my future is as bright as I want it to be. (192)

I don’t think this means that your friends verbally reassure you. At least, that’s not what I take it to mean. It’s more like… Your friends say (figuratively) a lot about you. They show what kind of person you are, and what kind of person you want to be. That’s why it’s important to seek out people who challenge and motivate you. Who are doing things you respect, who have qualities you admire.

For the record, my friends constantly amaze me.

Success surely means surrounding myself with loving people who bring me joy. (194)

Everyone has their own definition. This is definitely a part of mine.

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9 Comments

  1. Someone asked me this past weekend if I thought my undergraduate degree (in English) helped me develop as a writer, and I told them that I thought blogging had been much more instrumental. They looked at me like I was crazy.

  2. RTW

    “Your friends say (figuratively) a lot about you. They show what kind of person you are, and what kind of person you want to be.”

    Amen to that. I couldn’t have gotten through a lot of things without my amazing friends.

    And this too: “Success surely means surrounding myself with loving people who bring me joy.” My family and friends are my highest priority– and whenever I end up worry about work or other life decisions, I always come back to the people who I love and who love me.

    BTW I really like this series. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I think my favorite passage is:

    We think we have to be perfect for other people to love us, when in fact the opposite is true. We are loved for our imperfections — for our funny faces and walks and dances and songs. (28)

    So true.

  4. Thank you for reading this book and putting the best bits up (there isn’t too much non-fiction in my personal library) for us to read. :) Your observations are always interesting, and spot-on. xx

  5. Les

    Prose before hoes. Ahahahaha.
    I keep pieces of everyone, I think, even if I don’t want them. My mind isn’t designed to let go easily. Aside, nonfic has been my choice more often than not lately.

  6. Love this. Particularly the part about reading/observing/researching. So much of my time is spent doing those things and it’s completely invaluable.

  7. Sonja-
    Lol. I don’t know if I’d say blogging/the online writing community has helped me *more* than my degree (in creative writing)… They’re valuable in different ways.

    RTW, Juliann, and Sarah-
    Thanks!

    Les-
    Hee!

    “My mind isn’t designed to let go easily.”

    Ditto.

    Mandy-
    Right on!

  8. Jon

    I love that last quote from the book. It’s easy to get lost in the definition of success, whether money, fame, power, etc, but its real meaning is pretty simple.

  9. md

    the quotes on friendship reminded me of my amazing friends, who are there, even if they are not here. i needed the reminder, so thank you!

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