On Trying to Write While Sitting in the Midst of the Battle of Hogwarts

An author friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook (and gave me kind permission to post): “Almost impossible to work these days. It feels like I'm sitting in the entrance hall of Hogwarts trying to write...while the final battle with Voldemort and the Death Eaters is raging around me.” She's not alone. Recently YouTube celebrity (and prolific vlogger) Hank Green tweeted: “This election has been consuming. It's been a source of constant anxiety and is reinforcing unhealthy behaviors for me.” (He followed up with one that said: “But that's mostly because, it matters so goddamn much.”) To which, prolific, bestselling, science fiction author John Scalzi replied: “The damn election is partly why I am behind on this book I'm writing. I hate I'm distracted, but it's my country.” Okay, so if you’re finding the election distracting—and my apologies to my non-US readers for another U.S.-centric newsletter, but the principles do apply generally—you’re in good company. And I’m with you, by the way: … [Read more...]

Why You Don’t Want to be Donald Trump

One thing I teach, in my writing and business classes, is how to effectively promote yourself. I have a handout (see below) summarizing the three “Promotional Personalities”: Arrogant Idiot Properly Proud Shy And Self-Effacing I came up with these because so many students were reluctant to promote their work because they were afraid of being (or being perceived as) arrogant, obnoxious, and/or pushy. And so they would err on the side of caution and become too shy and self-effacing. I wanted to show them the productive "middle way." The first time I ever taught all this in class, I asked who would be a good example of an Arrogant Idiot. Several students immediately shouted out, “Donald Trump!” And so, ever since then, I've used the adjective “Trumpish” to describe the Arrogant Idiot. And, in fifteen+ years of teaching, no one has ever pushed back. Of course, arrogant idiocy* isn't the worst thing about Trump—his racism, misogyny, and fundamental dishonesty and lack of integrity are. So … [Read more...]

An Insanely Simple Tip That Will Make Your Writing Sessions Fly

Ditch your clock! I mean at your workspace. I got this idea this summer, when I was doing a lot of tabling (at the farmers market, PRIDE festival, etc.) for our group Vegan Kalamazoo. Each gig was between three and six hours. On days when I wore my watch or kept my cell phone on, it was hard not to check the time every few minutes—and so, just as it does for bored schoolchildren or office-workers who watch the clock all day, the day draggggged. (Note: tabling isn't boring! I love meeting new people and talking about veganism. But there's no doubt it's work.) But on days when I left my watch home and shut off my phone, I entered a kind of time-free zone, and the day was much pleasanter and seemed to go much faster. Eventually, it occurred to me that if I got rid of the clock on my computer screen my writing sessions would seem faster, too. And I did, and they did! This isn’t a new idea, by the way. It’s why, for example, you’ll only rarely see a clock in a supermarket, store, casino, … [Read more...]

Beware Post-Summer Situational Perfectionism!

Note – this one's a bit late, partly because Labor Day was late this year. But hopefully it will still be in time to help a few people. In any case, the principles apply after any break, so if necessary consider it a piece of early advice for the upcoming holiday season! - Hill A few people have told me they've been having trouble getting back to work after summer vacation. They're telling themselves (and others, unfortunately, are also telling them) stuff like: “Okay, summer's over. I've had my break. Now, I'd better get back to work. In fact, I need to work extra hard to make up for lost time.” That's an example of situational perfectionism, which is any condition that causes your perfectionism to spike. And, like all perfectionism, it's a dead end. Putting pressure on yourself only causes your creative, productive self to rebel and shut down. Also, let's not forget that many vacations are not actually that relaxing. One person I spoke with did a “service vacation” where she nobly but stressfully … [Read more...]

Fall Coaching, Classes, and the State of the Books!

Hi Everyone, Please see last week’s newsletter in which I described my new newsletter approach. Thanks to the many good people who wrote in with comments and/or in support of my new plan. I always welcome, and thrive on, your input. Below are my coaching, teaching, and writing plans for the fall. Some good opportunities to jumpstart your productivity! Best, Hillary Coaching Current clients - Remember: coaching hours are usable for one year after purchase. If you've got 'em, use 'em! If you don’t know what to use ‘em for, email me: we’ll figure it out. Former clients - I would love to hear from you. Please send an update and if you have a concise question or two that I can answer quickly for free, I will be happy to do so. Prospective clients – From my coaching page : Every season I take on a limited number of new coaching clients. They’re typically ambitious, focused individuals who want to make the fastest possible progress on one or more of these goals: get more work done each day; … [Read more...]

Update! And Why Self-Censorship Doesn’t Work

I hope everyone had a great summer! I continue to thrive in Kalamazoo. You haven't heard much from me, lately, for a few reasons: I've been busy working on my next book, a version of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific just for undergraduate students. (More on this in future newsletters.) The local vegan group I cofounded two years ago, Vegan Kalamazoo, has really taken off. We’ve now got hundreds of members and do several activities each month. Running it is now at least a quarter-time job. I’ve also been doing more blogging on effective vegan activism. For those who are interested, here are some of my articles: Compromise Isn’t Complicity, The Myth of the Overnight Vegan Conversion, and (an oldie, just fyi) The Rise of Nonperfectionist Veganism. I was given the opportunity to blog on Balloon Juice, one of my favorite blogs. It gets between 15-50K visitors a day (more during times of political excitement—like now!), and is also read by influential bloggers, members of the press, and others. So it’s a … [Read more...]

Fan Mail From Novosibirsk

I was thrilled to get some fan mail from Novosibirsk today: Hello, miss Rettig! My name is Alexander, I’m writer from Russia. Couple weeks ago I found your book - and it was like a revelation for me. I always want to be a writer. I was started to write seriously three or four times - and always crashed myself down with fears and doubts. In January I started it again, now more seriously than ever, I really worked hard, but in June I started to feel the ghost of defeat again… And then I find your book. All my fears, all my doubts, all unspoken words about my writing was there! I couldn’t believe it! I was searching for things that you wrote FOR YEARS (it’s true!). Now I have it all in one book on my shelf! Amazing! Procrastination is not defeated, but now I have a deadly weapon for it. So I just want to say my biggest thanks to you for this book. Here it is: THANK YOU VERY VERY VERY MUCH!!!:) And one more little thanks for preface for the Russian edition;) Writing is so solitary and it can be easy to … [Read more...]

If We Could Turn Back Time: Cher Models Nonperfectionism!

I've always loved Cher's tweets: they're so playful and sincere, even when she's making a sharp political point, which she does often. So naturally, I loved this New York Times piece about her Twitter style: She pays little to no attention to rules of grammar, like punctuation or sentence structure, and she capitalizes many words individually, causing her messages to read like bad novelty T-shirts or mock propaganda posters. She frequently — and comically — tacks on extra signoffs at the end of her tweets (“I was looking at tweets & saw that i really hurt someones feelings ! Im sorry. It was light blue background with white egg shape . Bye” ). She loves to load her tweets with emojis — her favorites include the birthday cake, sweat droplets, prayer hands and the American flag — even if they aren’t related to the subject matter of her message....The day after Christmas, she wrote, “Adults are SO PACMAN,” and a few weeks before that, she posted a message that simply said: “We Should B Vigilant, Aware Of … [Read more...]

Why “Positive Procrastination” is (Mostly) a Scam

Every week, it seems, someone publishes an article about how procrastination can be good for you. This week it's The New York Times. I am all about using whatever productivity techniques work for you. But in my experience pro-procrastination techniques work for very few people, and are actually more likely to undermine your productivity than boost it. The below piece—an excerpt from my forthcoming book on productivity for undergraduates—explains why. I hope you find it useful, and if you do, please share it! Why “Positive Procrastination” is (Mostly) a Scam People procrastinate in two basic ways: “unproductively” and “quasiproductively.” Unproductive Procrastination (UP) is when, instead of your scheduled work, you do a low-value activity like video games, Web surfing, or television. (Yes, in some cases these can be high value. But usually they aren't, especially if they're being used as a means of procrastination.) Quasiproductive Procrastination (QP) is when you procrastinate via an activity … [Read more...]

How John Scalzi Meets His Deadlines

This week, bestselling author John Scalzi blogged about how he's going to meet his 2016 deadlines: "For me, the major problem is not writer’s block or plot issues or anything structural involving the novel; I generally don’t have problems with those once I start, and with this new novel, thankfully, I didn’t have any real issues starting. "No, the problem is that the Internet is an attractive nuisance. And not just in the sense of that it distracts me when I need to be writing. No, as I get older, I find that actually plugging into it before I do any novel writing scrambles my brain enough to make it hard to get any appreciable progress made for the day. I think this is a combination of me getting older and the Internet just plain doing a better job of angrying up the blood or otherwise distracting me. I also think it also has to do with a certain amount of habituation, i.e., if I’m checking email, by brain just goes “Oh, we’re on the Internet now,” and just fires up those parts of my brain that work on … [Read more...]

How to Get Out of a Slump

I got a lovely note from a reader that included this passage (reprinted with kind permission): "For the last one and a half week I have been in kind of in a slump, disappointed after a school assignment I had trouble finishing. I thought I finally had my writing problem under control, but ended up using the whole exam reading and taking notes, never getting to the point of actually writing the paper. Since then, affected by the disappointment, I have struggled to follow through on my weekly schedule,  feeling uncommited and inadequate and procrastinating by frenetically thinking and reading about self improvement. But yesterday I picked up your books again, and read page 50 in 7 Secrets about back sliding. I decided to test scaling back for while - at least for some hours. So, with a compassionately objective statement of "You know what; lets just go for a walk, shall we, and bring some nice baked goods and just think stuff through?" - I did just that. And felt such a surprising, huge sense of relief! … [Read more...]

Russian Translation of 7 Secrets of the Prolific Now Available!

And it's got an amazing cover!               Thanks to the good people at Mann-Ivanov-Ferber for the translation.     … [Read more...]

Some Awesome Links and See You in Colorado and Missouri!

Busy preparing for my Colorado and Missouri trip. As my Facebook friends know—and, by the way, you're invited to become one—I've morphed into a mushroom fanatic since moving to the midwest, and will be attending the Telluride Mushroom Festival. Oh yeah, and I'll also be giving a bunch of writing-productivity and joyful-activism workshops, and would love to see you at one if you're in the area. Please check my calendar for dates for these and my upcoming Michigan workshops! I've got some great articles queued up for September, to get us all revved for the new work year. In the meantime, below are some really awesome links. I hope you enjoy them, and please, please, please enjoy the rest of your summer! If you haven't yet been to the beach or the woods or the mountains, that's your homework. :-) The Links: Success at any Age YES! Perfectionists often feel bad about what they perceive to be a lack of life progress—a tendency hugely exacerbated by many societies' youth fixation. This article offers a … [Read more...]

Reminder: Upcoming Workshops in Colorado, Missouri, and Michigan

Hope to see you at a workshop! Always check my calendar for the latest dates and information. … [Read more...]

Lively Interview on Writing Productivity and Overcoming Perfectionism (30 mins)

Check out this fun 30-minute interview I did on boosting writing productivity and overcoming perfectionism. The interviewers were the lively and knowledgeable Dr. Bob Wright and Christine Wright of StressFreeNow: … [Read more...]