For 2020, I’m creating a syllabus for self-study to help me achieve the goals I’ve set, and to help me take control of my to-be-read pile. It’s the perfect blend of art, business, and witchcraft, which is hopefully what 2020 is all about.

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Creating a Syllabus for Self-Study: The Books I'm Reading in 2020 | This syllabus for self-study will guide my reading habits and support the goals I'm making for the new year ahead. Want to know more about creating a syllabus for self-study? Click through to read!

Original photo by Sebastian Mantel 

The reasons for this syllabus are many.

I’m a self-improvement junky, and yeah, Chad. I know how cliché that is. But your opinion is irrelevant, especially since I’m so self-improved that I’m so much better than you.

Also, I quit my job last week.

That’s right, fam. Your girl gave notice and is no longer a full-time instructor at the University of Oklahoma. While I will miss some things about teaching, I know this is the right decision for me.

For 2020, I'm creating a syllabus for self-study to help me achieve the goals I've set, and to help me take control of my to-be-read pile Click To Tweet

(P.S. If you want news like that about my life as it happens, you should follow me on Instagram. My followers found out just hours after it happened, and they got a great pic of the sun rising over OU’s campus.)

This year is going to be a time where I’m wearing many hats and building a lot of shit. In addition to this blog and the freelance writing I do, I’ll still be all over YouTube. I’ll be working on a novel and working with coaching and consulting clients, and I’ll be contracting with a tech startup as their social media and content manager. Oh, and if you liked The 90-Day Novel Planner, just wait.

Planners and journals abound in 2020!

I’ll talk more about that on January 1 on my post for that day, and I’ll give you a run down of my goals for 2020 then. They’re still percolating in my head right now, but know that they will be supported by this syllabus.

(If you’re looking to make some goals for 2020, maybe check out my post on setting goals and defining success, this post on developing a growth mindset as a writer, or this on about how you have to just keep going.)

And, I guess I should announce that this is the last blog post for 2019. I thought about releasing one on Christmas, but your girl is tired, yo. And the TV movies are too good on that day anyhow for me to even compete.

So now that this is all clear, let’s talk about how I’m creating a syllabus for self-study.

Creating a Syllabus for Self-Study

One of the hardest things for me as an instructor at a university was the jealousy I had for my students.

I wanted to be where they were. I wanted to be learning. I wanted to be going to school.

And, to a certain extent, I was. There is no teacher out there who doesn’t learn a million and one things every single day.

But I wanted to learn the easy shit — you know, the stuff in the text book. I need a long vacation from learning hard life lessons and stuff about my own subconscious and how different personalities work together and the limits of compassion and how much stronger my boundaries need to be.

And until we have free higher ed here in the U.S., I will probably never get a Ph.D. So, if I want to be a student, I’m going to have to do it all on my own.

Enter my syllabus for self-study.

This syllabus is designed to support my new life as a creative entrepreneur. But it’s also a lot more than that.

I’ve spent the past few years really figuring out what I want to do with my life and getting comfortable in my own skin. I’ve put myself out there, and it’s starting to pay off.

RELATED POST:  Books for Creatives

I’m also exploring spirituality and how it fits with my life. Which shouldn’t be so weird, but I’ve never belonged to any church, faith system, or belief. So, your girl is dipping toes here and there.

So, this reading list is designed to help me continue figuring out what I want out of my professional and spiritual lives, while simultaneously reinforcing that backbone I’ve been building.

And all of that brings me to my word of the year for 2020.

My Word for 2020 is Integration

It’s time to bring everything together in one place.

It's time to bring everything together in one place. Click To Tweet

That shouldn’t be so hard, but I’ve always segmented my life. I have silos where relationships and parts of me belong.

I’m never the same person with different groups of people. This isn’t because I’m trying to con anyone. It’s because historically, I haven’t felt safe being myself in a lot of places.

The one exception to this is my online persona. I’ve always felt safest online, which is weird considering how much late 90s media existed about how terrible people online are. But this blog and social media have always been a place where I feel like I can actually say what I want.

Now, I need to do that in real life.

So I will spend 2020 integrating the different silos of my life. I will be the person I am in all settings. Or at least, where and when I can. I’m not trying to show up to someone’s wedding in a fancy old church and scream “fuck” at the top of my lungs, even though I often want to do that.

I’ll also be integrating the things I’ve learned and have been working on.

It sounds weird, but 2019 went by too fast for me to even take stock of what was happening. I just pushed myself on to the next thing and kept grinding away, hustling my ass off, as it were, and now I don’t remember the majority of the year.

This is largely a function of working multiple full-time jobs, because your girl wasn’t going to give up what she wanted to do just because the day job wanted so much of her.

But now I need to slow down. My nerves feel liked the frayed ends of an old MacBook charger, and I want to have quiet mornings, time to journal, and a place to keep my thoughts.

That’s why this year is going to focus so much more on tracking than planning.

I mean, I’ll still be planning. I can’t stop. It’s my Type-A/anxiety brain self-soothing behavior of choice. (So is nail biting!)

I’ll be using a Miquelrius notebook for tracking different aspects of my day and for journaling. You can check out the notebook set up below, and get some more information about how I’ll be using this notebook.

My Self-Study Reading List

With integration being the learning objective for 2020, creating a syllabus for self-study was pretty simple. I picked books that I already had and needed to read (some for the second time) and I created a schedule that will keep me on track.

I will also be reading fiction through the year, but these books are the ones specifically for my year of integration.

I hope to set aside some time most mornings so I can read, drink coffee, and journal about it.

Ongoing through 2020

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron

I’ve never made my way all the way through this one, and I’m excited to prioritize it in 2020.

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

If you’re a weird girl or someone who majored in a liberal art, chances are you’ve heard about this one. It’s such a dense book, and I’m looking forward to jumping into it. It came highly recommended by a woman who is my hippy guide into this crazy life.

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The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life by Jessa Crispin

I bought this book the minute it came out, and it kind of just sat on the shelf. As I dive deeper into tarot, I’m absorbing a lot of information form tons of different sources. I’m also excited to incorporate tarot more into my everyday creative practices.


Llewellyn’s 2020 Magical Almanac: Practical Magic for Everyday Living

Your girl is building a spiritual practice, y’all.

Llewellyn’s 2020 Witches Companion: A Guide to Contemporary Living

Where does one even get eye of newt these days? Trader Joe’s?


Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Oddly enough, I’ve had this on my shelf since undergrad and have never read it. I’ve tried, but mostly I’ve been in too manic a state to take it all in. I think this will be a great addition to my integration year.

Wicca: A Modern Practitioner’s Guide by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

Witches are citing their sources in 2020, so I’m starting with accessible stuff and moving on down the line. I think it’s important to research where stuff comes from, because there’s a lot of cultural appropriation in new age stuff. So, your girl is reading up, and building a practice that makes sense for me.


The Emotion Code: How to Release Your Trapped Emotions for Abundant Health, Love, and Happiness by Dr. Bradley Nelson

I’ve slowly been having some emotions released over the past year, and man, was I full of generational panic, terror, and frustration. I want to learn how to release emotions on my own, and to continue the work that I started this year.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

This is another one of those writing books that I should’ve read by now, but I’ve never made it all the way through. I’m not sure why, either.


The Witch’s Book of Self-Care: Magical Ways to Pamper, Soothe, and Care for Your Body and Spirit by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

A random thought for creatives: What sort of muse are you bringing into your space when you create? Are you taking care of yourself in a way that would encourage your spirit guides or The Empress to show up for you? This is the year that we stop working in dirty yoga pants with greasy hair and create a practice that sustains us and attracts the energy we want to bring into the world.

The Dance of Deception: A Guide to Authenticity and Truth-Telling in Women’s Relationships by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.

This is one that I’ve read before, but it’s time for a re-read. I’m mostly done with performing my emotions and my gender in a way that makes people comfortable, but this book is a great reminder of why.


The House Witch: Your Complete Guide to Creating a Magical Space with Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

I’m working on making my home office a space that is both productive and conducive to creativity. I probably need to do this with the rest of the home too…

The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins

Admittedly, I’m more interested in this book for the way the author built his career and less in the actual content, but I think it’s definitely something that I will enjoy.


The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

I’ve documented my inability to garden on this blog, but I think that was largely due to the season of life I was in. So, it’ time to try again, and this time, to do it in a more intentional way.

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You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

By this time, six months into my self-employment journey, I will need a reminder that I am a badass.


The Wander Society by Keri Smith

This is the year we lean into being space cadets, gang, even though I guess I thought that was what 2016 was gonna be.

Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck

This is a synchronicity read. Beck was mentioned in a book I was reading, on the same day that my friend, Marnie texted our group chat about this book, all while I was listening to the Magic Lessons podcast and she was a guest. Sooooo. The universe was basically saying to get this on your reading list.


The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

Your girl is busting through resistance this year, so this book is a necessary re-read.

The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz

Ah, client work. Something that has terrified me since I started my career with it. But I’m looking to put myself in a place where I can find the right clients for me, and do the work that works best for me.


Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig

Chronk Mandog is a genius. If you haven’t read Wanderers, get on it.

Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business by Paul Jarvis

Hey! I’m an entrepreneur, and a company of one!


Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future by Patrick Hanlon

This book was recommended by Tim Schmoyer at Megaphone Summit this past year, and I purchased it immediately. But I haven’t started reading it yet. Gotta be honest here, the cover is off-putting. But I think the information is going to be helpful.

How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by Keri Smith

Y’all remember when I said I was gonna space cadet? I meant it.


Becoming by Michelle Obama

I dream of someday being as poised and educated as Michelle Obama. That won’t happen, but I feel like reading this book will help me escape into that fantasy for a while. Also, she’s a very accomplished woman and can probably teach us a lot.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

I’m pretty minimal already, but I would like to reinforce some of the ideas of minimalism, just because if you aren’t conscious of it, stuff creeps in.


First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety by Sarah Wilson

It’s no secret that I have anxiety. It’s why I make lists and planners. It’s why my nails are bitten waaaaaaay past the quick. So I’m interested in reading how others deal with anxiety, and I’ve heard great things about this book.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

December is a month that’s not very inspiring to me, so I need some reminders about creativity. This will be a good re-read for that.

Are you making a syllabus for 2020? What books are you planning on reading? Click To Tweet

What Are You Reading in 2020?

Are you making a syllabus for 2020? What books are you planning on reading? What’s your focus for the year?

15 Responses

  1. That is a damn fine syllabus!! Thanks for sharing and inspiring me to make my own.
    Good luck with your Artist’s Way journey!
    I read Wander Society and Steal Like an Artist this year and LOVED them. I revisit Bird By Bird yearly. It’s one of my fave writing books. Now off to make my own reading list for 2020. 😀

    1. I’d love to see your list when it’s ready! And I’m super excited to dive into Bird by Bird. Maybe I’ll be a yearly reader…

  2. I’m about to create a 2020 reading list for Hoot Institute’s 2020 book club! I think there will be at least two of yours that are on my list, as well. Two books per month was my feeling, too, so thanks for that validation. lol

  3. You’ll love The Creative Tarot, I’m currently reading it and it’s super good. Another book I recommend, if you’re able to add another, is called Tarot for Self-Care. Great blog post, gonna be starting my own blog next year!

    1. Good luck on the blog! I love hearing when people plan to start one. And I’ll check out Tarot for Self-Care! Sounds perfect for me!

  4. I’ve been excited about this since I saw it in your Insta story! You’ve inspired me to be more intentional about my reading. Building a spiritual practice that fits me is something I’ve been working on, but really want to hone. I can see now that I’ve been missing having that in my life, it’s just figuring out what that looks like now that is the challenge.

    1. I totally feel that! I’ve been dipping my toes in various things and trying to build a practice that works for me, which means I need a spiritual system where I can take what works and leave the rest. I’d love to see a reading list you make for yourself, if you choose to do so!

  5. I simply adore the idea of creating a syllabus! In fact, I think I’ll follow your lead and do likewise. Regarding your choices, consider the audio version of Bird By Bird. That’s what I did the first time and then read the paper copy a few years later. Excellent. Of the others you chose, I’ve read Essentialism, The Art of Work and Becoming, Becoming was especially good. Like you, I’ve read part of The Artist Way but never finished it. The same is true for Finding Your Own North Star. I have a copy of Writing Down the Bones but haven’t read it. Sounds like I already have a few for my own syllabus. 🙂 One thing I had already planned to do is to revisit some classics I read during my first degree as an English major. I’m sure I would view them differently now than I did in my late teens.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the books you’ve selected as the year progresses.

    1. Thanks, Dee! I’d love to see your final list that you come up with. And you are brave for revisiting the classics. I don’t know if I could do it.

    1. Heck yes! I’m excited to see what you do this year. And if you have an books you’d recommend for me, send them my way!

  6. I’m pulling out the four on your list that I already have—Artist’s Way, Bird, Bones, and Badass—plus adding four or five more here.

    Maybe they will help me figure out what I want to do with my life now that my kiddo is about to graduate high school. I think I’d like to write again, and I want to get paid for it. But I don’t know what to write. I’d also like to work from home and not go into an office and work for a company that doesn’t value my work as shown in my paycheck.

    My website hasn’t been updated in forever. I’m just wasting money at this point.

    Basically, I need a life coach. 🤷🏻‍♀️😊

    1. Girl, I feel this so hard. Start small with something you can change right now — like your about page, and then let the momentum build like an avalanche.

      I’ll keep an eye out for writing jobs that pay well. I know they’re out there. You’re giving me some posts ideas for 2020, because I know there has to be good writing gigs out there, and working from home is the holy grail.

      1. From 2000-2010 I worked for home as a copy editor for our local daily paper. It was great. Then Advance Media decided to “go digital” and cut jobs.

        Anyway, I miss working from home and want to find a way to do it again. And make a comfortable living.

        I appreciate your posts. They keep me from giving up and give me lots to think about.

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