Seth Godin on Why You Shouldn’t Take Critics Too Seriously

"Have you noticed just how often the critics disagree with one another? And how often they're just wrong? "And yet we not only read them, but we believe them. Worse, we judge ourselves, contrasting our feelings with their words. Worse still, we sometimes think we hear the feared critic's voice before we even ship our work out the door... "Every single book I've written has gotten at least a few one star reviews on Amazon. Every one. The lowest possible rating, the rating of, "don't bother reading this, in fact it never should have been written." Not just me, of course. Far better writers, writers like Fitzgerald, Orwell and Kincaid have gotten even more one-star reviews on their books than I can ever hope to." Link I will only add that if you have perfectionist tendencies, then your inner critic is probably the least reliable critic of all. … [Read more...]

What Procrastination Looks Like

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Study: College Students Motivated by Intrinsic Rewards do Better Than Those Motivated by Money

The trouble is that many lower-income students don't have the luxury of studying an unremunerative field just because they're interested in it. According to this University of Rochester study, many choose a major more on the basis of whether they feel they can earn a living doing it than any intrinsic liking for it. This may be one reason why lower-income students as a group don't do as well in college as upper income ones: The study found that students motivated by a desire for autonomy and competence tended to earn higher grades and show a greater likelihood of persistence than did other students. (The findings were controlled for academic background and various other factors, and were based on surveys of 2,500 students at a community college and a liberal arts college that were not identified.)... For instance, wealthier students appeared more likely than low-income students to achieve success based on their interest in studying certain subject areas. It's not that low-income students don't want to … [Read more...]

Jerry Seinfeld to Writers: “No Slack For You” Even on Festivus!

We like to look for one primary secret to the success of the superstars of the world, even though almost always a combination of factors, people, and circumstances were involved. It remains instructive though when a highly successful professional freely offers the big reveal on how they got to the top. As reported in Lifehacker, software developer Brad Isaac has such a story to tell about Jerry Seinfeld, and it’s not “about nothing.” Isaac knew Seinfeld as a nightclub comic before he hit it big in television, but already it was clear he was on his way up. He asked Jerry what the big secret was, and he got an answer. Productivity is everything in writing. Only through having a mountain of material can you cull out the crap and leave an abundance of actual nuggets of great quality. And the one and only way to attain this level of productivity is to write something every day. He didn’t mean 364 days a year. You don’t take a day off on the Festivus for the Rest of Us. Writing every day meant just that to … [Read more...]

Finals Week to Netflix (Procrastination Illustrated)

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Does Dopamine Create Motivation?

  Scientists now believe it does.   "It was believed that dopamine regulated pleasure and reward and that we release it when we obtain something that satisfies us, but in fact the latest scientific evidence shows that this neurotransmitter acts before that, it actually encourages us to act. In other words, dopamine is released in order to achieve something good or to avoid something evil", explains Mercè Correa. Studies had shown that dopamine is released by pleasurable sensations but also by stress, pain or loss. These research results however had been skewed to only highlight the positive influence, according to Correa." I'm pretty sure that - except perhaps in cases of serious depression - the environmental influence on motivation is going to far outweigh the dopamine influence. Regardless of your level of dopamine, if you're perfectionist or ambivalent about your work, or stressed, or under-resourced, or in a hostile context, your motivation will suffer. It's useful to … [Read more...]

Franz Kafka’s Writer’s Block

Mason Currey, author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, writes about three procrastinating writers, Edgar Allen Poe, William James, and Franz Kafka: "In 1908, Kafka landed a position at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute in Prague, where he was fortunate to be on the coveted “single shift” system, which meant office hours from 8 or 9 in the morning until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. This was a distinct improvement over his previous job, which required long hours and frequent overtime. So how did Kafka use these newfound hours of freedom? First, lunch; then a four-hour-long nap; then 10 minutes of exercise; then a walk; then dinner with his family; and then, finally, at 10:30 or 11:30 at night, a few hours of writing—although much of this time was spent writing letters or diary entries. In his letters, Kafka complained that his day job was holding him back, but as Louis Begley argues in his excellent biographical essay on Kafka, this was really just an excuse. Begley writes, "It is rare that writers … [Read more...]

Writer’s Block: Erykah Badu Gets It Right

Singer Erikah Badu's fantastic advice re writer's block: "Don't worry. When U have NO content to express the emotion U are feeling. It's not writer's block. It's just downloading time." ht Sheldon Levine, Sysomos Here's another singer who gets it. … [Read more...]

Writer’s Block is Universal

Sheldon Levine at Sysomos used his company's social media analytics platform to see how often people mention writer's block online, and who is mentioning it. He got some interesting results, including: Of the 100 days I looked at, 54.7% of all the social mentions of writers block that I found came from the United States. People in China seemed to suffer from writers block the second most, but they only accounted for 17.9% of the conversation. Something interesting to point out is that the other countries that had a significant amount of chatter about writers block were also “Westernized” countries like the UK (8.5%), Canada (3.8%) and Australia (3.5%). He also found women mentioning it more than men: Pretty fascinating stuff, but even he admits this is nowhere like science. The high proportion of blocked writers in western countries may reflect that people in those countries feel free-er to write. (As opposed to those at risk for jail or worse.) Also, men still tend to seek out help for emotional … [Read more...]

Guest Post: Tips for Thesis Writers: How to Get to the First Draft

Terrific advice for all writers from Ph.D. student Nolanne Chang, reprinted with kind permission. Here's her blog. She sounds very empowered as she works to create a context that supports her writing productivity! - Hillary Previously in my posts I’ve outlined my feelings on the general structure of writing a science thesis, and what the style and substance of each section should be. In this set of posts I’ll discuss my retrospective advice on the easiest way of writing a thesis. 1) Write a Literature Review your first year Quite a large portion of my literature review/introduction section of my thesis was written in the first year of my PhD. In my second year this was easily cut, pasted, reformatted, tweaked, and with the addition of a few paragraphs made up the introduction section to my transfer report (standard mid-way thesis in England). In the third and fourth years, I updated the original literature review to include the latest papers and to incorporate changes in the experiments that had … [Read more...]

Scrivener Word Processor 50% Off at Amazon

Scrivener is an excellent word processor for long-form writing in particular. It was designed from the ground up with writing efficiency in mind, and harkens back to the golden age of word processing when we had speedy and versatile tools like Wordstar, WordPerfect, Textra (my favorite!), etc. It's currently 50% off at Amazon - $20. Not sure how long the sale will last, so get it soon. If you're not familiar with it, hop over to the Literature and Latte site, download a free copy, and do a quick trial of it first. Some features: Corkboard - In Scrivener, every document is attached to a virtual index card onto which you can jot a synopsis; moving the cards on Scrivener’s corkboard rearranges their associated text in your draft. Outliner - View and edit the synopses and meta-data of your documents in Scrivener’s powerful outliner. Organise your ideas using as many or few levels as you want and drag and drop to restructure your work. Scrivenings - Scrivener’s innovative “Scrivenings” mode … [Read more...]

Why Shouldn’t You Strive for Happiness Late in Life?

My dad was an intelligent, creative, and incredibly thwarted guy who was miserable most of his life. I suggested a few times that he get therapy, and the answer was always, "What do you think I am? Nuts?" And so he never got happier. So I'm really happy to read that more elderly people are willing to consider therapy: “For people in their 80s and 90s now, depression was considered almost a moral weakness,” said Dr. Gallagher-Thompson. “Fifty years ago, when they were in their 20s and 30s, people were locked up and someone threw away the key. They had a terrible fear that if they said they were depressed, they were going to end up in an institution. So they learned to look good and cover their problems as best they could.” But those attitudes have shifted over time, along with the medical community’s understanding of mental illness among seniors. In the past, the assumption was that if older people were acting strangely or having problems, it was probably dementia. But now, “the awareness of depression, … [Read more...]

Artist Sol LeWitt’s Productivity Advice: Create More by Focusing on the Work Itself

This short movie contains many F-bombs but offers valid productivity advice: The movie's text is an F-bombed version of a letter from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse, who struggled with self-doubt: Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping,…Stop it and just DO!… Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety… You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!… Try to do some BAD work – the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell – you are not responsible for the world – you are only responsible for your work – so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be… I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest … [Read more...]

On Being a “Good Enough” Parent

We live in an age of perfectionist parenting, but one mom was smart enough to bow out: I wish my new-mommy-self had been familiar with the philosophy of the “good enough” mother. Donald Winnicott, a British psychoanalyst coined the term in the 1950′s while studying the interactions of mothers and their infants. He believed mothers did not need to be perfectly attuned to the needs of their child but just “ordinarily devoted” or “good enough”. He explained such a mother strives to protect her child from overwhelming extremes of discomfort or distress. “Good enough” goes beyond mediocrity. It involves making rational choices when faced with challenges and then striving for improvement. It does not include the compulsive behavior that results when driven toward an illusion of perfection. … [Read more...]

David Foster Wallace: Perfectionism as Paralysis

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