A couple of days ago, I was rooting around, trying to find some stuff to donate to Amvets since I committed to leaving a bag out for them. I looked at my bookshelf and started pulling books out…and then I noticed a theme.

With the exception of the Writer’s Market at the bottom of the stack, all of these books that I pulled to donate to Amvets are books I bought ages ago with the hopes that they would help me get to various personal goals. How’d it work for me? Let’s see.

1. Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James (subtitle: 100 Ways to slow down and enjoy the things that really matter). Are you kidding me? When I bought this book about ten years ago, I had no idea how simple my life was at that time. The complexities that came on board naturally as a result of having two growing boys, a couple of different jobs, starting a writing career, and countless other things outweighed the ideas in this book (though good ideas…) by about 500 tons. Though I read it way back then and enjoyed the ideas inside, I am simplifying my life by getting rid of this adorable little book.

2. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This one I didn’t buy for myself. Someone gave it to me. It’s one of those touchy-feely self-help-without-being-overly-preachy kind of books. Honestly, I only skimmed through it because I don’t like these kinds of books. Again, good ideas inside about improving life from the inside (of me) out, but I think we can all agree that if I’m not going to finish reading it, it’s out.

3. Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. Out of this whole stack, I spent the most time with this one. I saw Julie on Oprah years ago, promoting this book, and she was such an eyeopener for me. I wanted to minimize our clutter (which I did), and I wanted what was left to be organized in little boxes, baskets, and drawers, everything labeled and everything having a place. Though I made progress, I never made it that far. This was the one book in the stack that I thought hard about before putting it outside for Amvets. Thanks Ms. Morgenstern; I loved your book, but I think I can take it from here.

4. I’d Rather Be Writing by Marcia Golub, Writing In Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity by Susan K. Perry, Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing by Writer’s Digest, Writing Personal Essays: How To Shape Your Life Experiences For the Page by Sheila Bender. I did not read ONE of these books. I started the book by Sheila Bender, but put it down promptly due to being too busy with my life experiences to read. With all due respect to the authors of these books, I don’t need you, and I’m quitting you. My bookshelf needs room to breathe, and it needs room for books of a lighter fare: books that are more enjoyable as an escape, because that’s what I want to take my precious time to read.

5. The 2005 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. Ahhh…I loved this book. I got rid of it mainly because I already published my book. I have another children’s book in my head, but by the time I get it done I will probably need the 2010 edition of this book. So, goodbye to you.

I’m at a crossroads in my life, I’ve discovered recently. Along with not feeling well for almost three consecutive weeks (I’m finally on the mend and feeling very much like good old Melisa with one S, thank goodness), I have made some personal observations about how I deal with life, and it’s time to make some different choices.

Where do the books come in? What’s the big deal? Well, I’ll tell you. All of those books represent my trying to learn how to do something and not really just giving “it” a go. When I was thinking about this whole situation last night, I couldn’t get the movie (sorry in advance about this comparison!) “Romancing the Stone” out of my head. Here you have Joan Wilder, the author of romantic novels (played by, of course, the amazing Kathleen Turner) who was a mousy, shy little thing. She got involved in trying to rescue her sister–who was kidnapped and taken to, I believe, Cartagena. She met and fell in love with the rugged and dangerous Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) and finally LIVED the life she wanted to live, the one she had only been writing about.

BTW, Jim, if you’re reading this, no worries. I’m not going to Cartagena.

My point is, whenever I get to some sort of crossroads, I think that–for the most part–I’ve been taking the more-traveled path. It’s time for me to stop trying to read about doing something…and just do it. Leap out of my box, if you will.

I have simplified certain things in my life, without help from those books.

I have decluttered over the past ten years or so (though on some days you wouldn’t believe it, it happened) on my own.

My first feature magazine article submission–ever–was accepted enthusiastically by a national trade magazine and then, a year later, I made money on the same article because a sister publication wanted the reprint: without having read those books.

Regarding my health? I am getting older. Can’t do anything about that. There are certain things that I have to start doing, to take care of myself. I’ve known about these things for ages. I don’t take care of myself, and this practice has to stop.

For example: I am a total Diet Coke & Coke Zero ho. LOVE THEM. Should I drink them? No.

Another example: I don’t get enough sleep. I know this. Lack of sleep is helping to make me less healthy than I should be. Should I go to bed earlier? Yes.

I’ve read about these things (and more) for years, especially being in the fitness industry. Heck, I TELL people to do things that I haven’t had the willpower to do myself. Bad girl. No more.

DOING gets me results.

OVER-THINKING, READING about “how to”, and MAKING EXTENSIVE PLANS for things I cannot control (and not following through) does not.

This time, I’m going to take baby steps on the road less-traveled. Wish me luck.