Literary Titan Interviews Amrita Rose about her book, No Plaid Suits: How Not to Have a Boring Normal Life.
TL: This is a unique approach to self-help that shares life skills that will improve a person’s quality of life in practical ways. Why was this an important book for you to write?
AR: No Plaid Suits grew out of a desire to share what I’ve learned about personal resilience, finding joy, and creating a life of adventure and freedom with a broad audience. I’ve always been most interested in helping people experience the world in new ways, whether through making art, learning to move in yoga and breathing practices, or seeing new perspectives and options through the coaching and workshops I offer.
The book is a series of essays that began as daily blog posts. I’d write in the local coffee shop for a few hours each morning. Occasionally I’d get stuck for a topic so I’d ask the person next to me, “What is one thing you’d love to know by the time you go to sleep tonight?”, and I’d write about that. In asking the question, it opened the door to some wonderful conversations and to my growing awareness that my professional life has been, what one person termed, “a portfolio career”. When I laughed and asked what that actually meant, she said that I had tried my hand at so many things and created overlapping work in divergent areas, all while being willing to move around the country in search of a place that felt like home.
To many people, this sounds either brave or stupid. For me, it’s always been about looking hard at what is not working well and releasing it. Sometimes that’s a job, a relationship, or where I’m living. Other times it’s habits or patterns of my own behavior that I see are holding me back. So I ditch them and figure out what action I need to take next. That’s really what all change is about for each of us—and sometimes that change is harder to make by yourself, so that’s why I coach and why I wrote the book.
I really want people to understand that there are always choices in life. Every minute we have a choice of what action to take next. Often we gloss over the habitual actions we take and they pile up until we find ourselves stuck in jobs or relationships or places that don’t feed our souls. In those moments it can be impossible to see what the chain of actions was unless we take some time to dive deep inside ourselves and be totally honest about how we got here. That’s where good self-development books, or a great coach or coaching workshop, can help. They can each help us see our blind spots, and once we recognize them for ourselves, we can change the behaviors that got us stuck in the first place.
LT: I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
AR: The hardest parts were the memoir sections because I don’t tend to think of my life as all that extraordinary. To me, it was just what I did, or where I lived and what I learned from each experience, but I kept hearing from people that my life is remarkable in many ways and that I should share not only what I know, but how I gained that knowledge in the first place.
I tend to be fairly shy about myself so it was definitely a challenge for me to step outside myself and imagine what I would want to read from an author. What would I want to know about the person who was offering this information? What would help me understand and trust what I was reading and that it would actually help me? I started from that place in writing the four more personal essays and did my best to write them as conversations I was having with an individual reader.
I love it when I can imagine an author’s voice speaking to me. Like hearing Brené Brown, Salman Rushdie, or Jhumpa Lahiri’s voice when I am reading their essays. I hope that readers feel welcomed into the conversation as I do when I read these kinds of writers.
LT: What were some ideas that were important for you to share in this book?
AR: Well, you can tell from the sections that I range from the simple and mundane, like how to set up a pantry or make your house feel like a home, or what to learn to change a tire, to the “harder questions” such as dealing with grief and death and ending relationships. All these are situations that we encounter in life and often think of them as individual events.
There are two levels that feel important to me. First, I want to give readers really practical know-how. Practices and techniques that I have learned through doing a lot! Second, I want to invite readers into a deeper exploration of their own habits and assumptions, because this is where real change takes place. You’ll see this in several of the essays where the object I’m writing about might be something simple like a tire or an eggplant or an origami swan, but the deeper investigation is about increasing one’s resilience or creativity or grit. So it’s that practical, I-want-to-change-the-world-for-the-better aspect that is really the most important for me to share with my readers.
LT: What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Great question! So… if you’ve ever written a book, or tried to, you’ll know that most often as you sit to write the one you think you’re working on…other books show up clamoring to be written first. You have to be kind to each one of these. You sit with each of them for a few minutes, tell it how much you love the ideas and how you’ll write down the gist so you don’t forget them and you swear up, down, and center that you’ll return after you have finally finished this first book and would they please stop interrupting because if you don’t get this first book finished, you’ll get stuck and then none of them will get out into the world where they can be read! Sometimes they listen and let you go on with what you’re working on. Other times, they just take over and write themselves even when all you intended on doing was a five-minute set of notes.
Next up is a series of three kids’ books, though my writer’s group tells me they are actually parables about the universe and humanity. I literally set out to jot a couple of notes down and each time one of the books took over and I found myself, cramp-handed after four hours of writing, with a fairly complete story. So those are next up. The stories are linked, each main character goes on a journey taking them through the world and inviting them to discover something held deep within themselves. They show my naturalist tendencies and beliefs that stories of nature combined with a willingness to open our imaginations can help us return home to our hearts.
They are stories or parables that I hope will help people of all ages find something that brings them hope, joy, and a renewed sense of connection to self.
Not sure of the publication dates yet, but keep your eyes peeled!
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