Lyrical Guy Embodies Perfectionism (Now With More Hemingway)

Someone posted an entertainingly macho/perfectionist take on writer's block. I'm not going to link to the original, in the interests of protecting the misguided, but it does provide us with a valuable teaching moment, displaying as it does such vivid examples of perfectionism as: Harsh Judgements ("Those who complain about writer's block are just looking for an excuse to not write.") Macho Grandiosity ("There are times when you hit a perfect phrase--just two or three words that sing, that shine in the darkness, that illuminate a dark area where the monsters come from. And when you do find those two or three words that sparkle in the fog of the mundane existence of an everyday routine, you create magic, and life is really worth living all over again.") Overidentification With the Work ("Writing is life and life, writing.") Hyperbole ("Writing for some of us is just as vital as the blood that runs through our veins.") And he illustrates it all with a picture of the patron saint of grandiose … [Read more...]

Mayo Clinic Poll: Half of Americans Would Consider Donating a Kidney to a Stranger

Great news. And here's the link to my kidney donation story. … [Read more...]

Interesting Links: Critical Thinking, The Internet and Democracy, 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

A Great Overview, in plain-sense language, of How to Read and Write Critically, and why you should. The Internet is Catalyzing Democracy and Freedom It's the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. … [Read more...]

The Importance of Daily Rituals to Writers, Artists, and Other Creators: What Would Flaubert, or Beethoven, or Balzac, or Edward Gorey Do?

An entire chapter of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific is devoted to the topic of resources and requirements needed to be a prolific writer. It's not a trivial topic, as abundantly resourcing yourself can mean the difference between being and being blocked. Here's an excerpt: Writers, like other artisans, tend to be fascinated by the work habits, tools and techniques of their successful colleagues in particular. John Gardner wrote, in On Becoming a Novelist, “The single question most often asked during question-and-answer periods in university auditoriums and classrooms is: 'Do you write with a pen, a typewriter, or what?'” (This was in 1983, so computers weren't part of the scene.) Fortunately, many successful writers are generous with that kind of information. The Paris Review editorials are a treasure trove, as are The Guardian series on Writers' Rooms and Rules for Writers. Pragmatic descriptions such as the above are antiperfectionist and ungrandiose: they generously support other writers' … [Read more...]

Just Because…

Boston is on lockdown this morning, so here's a yellow bird. … [Read more...]

“Minecraft” Creator Blocked

Markus Persson, the creator of the megapopular game Minecraft, is blocked on his next project. Sounds like a classic case of situational perfectionism to me. SP often follows a huge success or an early success. (See, also, this.) He sounds like a genuinely nice guy (among other things, a supporter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and I wish him well. … [Read more...]

Feeling Powerful Makes You Think Better

I'm turning into a big fan of Annie Murphy Paul's Brilliant Blog. The advice in this article on thinking more effectively by locating your centers of power nicely complements The 7 Secrets of the Prolific's thesis that procrastination is caused by disempowerment. I particularly like Paul's advice to find a role in which you feel powerful (as opposed to struggling for your power in a role that's not a good fit), and to pay attention to your posture and physical bearing, as some postures help you feel empowered while others disempower you. The posture thing also has a gender dimension, as nicely illustrated in this New Yorker cover featuring former vice president Dick Cheney and his "boss" George W. Bush in an apron. It's from yet another great Annie Murphy Paul post … [Read more...]

How to Spend Your Weekend

Some great suggestions from Laura Vanderkam author of What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend: I like her #2 and #3 best: 2. They Don't Go Limp. If you spend your workweek running -- or worse, flying -- from place to place, you may think you want to collapse on the couch all weekend. But resist the urge: First, it’s impossible to do "nothing." Second: Think of the logistics. Want tickets to Cirque du Soleil? So do other people. Need a babysitter? She won’t show up on a whim. Finally, research into human happiness is finding that anticipation accounts for a major chunk of the mood boost associated with any activity. One well-known Dutch study of vacationers found that holiday-goers were happier than people who weren’t taking vacations, but the increased happiness largely happened before the trips, as people anticipated the fun to come. Compare it to opening Christmas presents: The act only takes an hour, but seeing wrapped gifts under the tree stretches out the joy for weeks. If you make a … [Read more...]

Prolific Robot

An artist did this for me a while back at a science fiction convention: … [Read more...]

Is Perfectionism Genetic? (Plus Solutions)

This Wall Street Journal article is old, but still worth checking out. It reports on twin studies showing that some young kids seem to have a biological predisposition to perfectionist behaviors like getting unreasonably upset if their shoelaces are different lengths, or to "[idolizing] the bodies of models and celebrities." However, the article is quick to point out that environment factors outweigh the possible genetic ones. The article also points out some useful solutions, including: 1) Exposure Therapy: "Make small mistakes and do not fix them," she says. Tie your shoes unevenly. Leave a comma or a period out of a paper. "People are not big fans of this at first," she concedes. "But they do learn that a small mistake doesn't make a whole project worthless." A recovering perfectionist herself, Dr. Przeworski says she is crocheting a blanket that is full of dropped stitches." I recommend a similar technique and love her blanket! 2) Using Timers to Delimit Projects: 'I decide on a reasonable … [Read more...]

Attention all Graduate Students and Junior Faculty

A new cycle of the Academic Success Catalyst Program - 4 weeks of small-group conference calls - starts next week. The ASCP is for graduate students, postdocs, junior faculty, and other junior academic researchers who would like to: • get more productive in their writing and other work • finish their thesis, papers, or other projects • have an easier time finding a job • have better relationships at work and at home, and • be more strategic and effective in building their career. Not to mention…feel less stressed, more optimistic, more revitalized, and more connected with their work! More info. … [Read more...]

Wednesday Dog: Bowled Over

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Healing Strategies

I live right near Boston's Logan Airport so my main Marathon experience happens just before and after the race, when my normally sedate T (subway) line fills up with hundreds of incredibly skinny, fit, and exuberant people from all over the world who have flown in to take part. I was out of town when the bombing happened, and can only imagine what the post-race T crowds headed back to the airport must have looked like. Marathoning is such a pure and wholesome endeavor; I wish all the marathoners well, and hope (believe) that the incredible skills, dedication, and perseverance that brought them to the point where they could run a 26.2 mile race will get them past this week's horrible trauma. So what can people do to heal? The currently popular WWII English mantra "Keep calm and carry on" is useful, to a point. But a bit too passive. Better advice is to take active steps to regain your perspective: 1) Boston's Museum of Fine Arts offered free admission on Tuesday. Don't know if they're still doing … [Read more...]

Tuesday Dog: Slickered

              from Cute Overload … [Read more...]

You Get There in the End

Below is a lovely meditation on procrastination and the virtues of persistence from Sven Herselman.  Used with kind permission. Procrastination, I'm the master of it, or maybe it's sometimes the master of me. I also enjoy going camping, but I have to admit that even though I have been living for over a year in one of the very best countries for camping, I haven't managed a weekend away. The latter is probably the reason behind the former. My wife and I had been making plans to go camping since late last year (yes, the procrastination is that bad sometimes). We bought all the kit that a camper needs - tent, sleeping bags, camping table, camping chairs, gas burner, the list seems stupidly long at the end, but I guess it's all needed. We had initially planned to go for a weekend at Lake Rotoiti around mid to late February - the time that the weather is at its best, and most importantly its warmest. Well, one thing came up on the first weekend we had set aside then another thing on the … [Read more...]