Thank you Fast Company!

I'm kvelling! A few weeks ago a wonderful Fast Company writer, Stephanie Vozza, approached me for input into an article on how to be as productive as possible during the summer. I told her that I actually thought the opposite: that summer should be for relaxing, and, moreover, that in summer people often relax into their authentic selves. So the goal should really be to carry one's summer productivity habits and attitudes into the rest of the year, so one can live more joyfully and authentically all year long. It was a pretty contrarian view and, to be honest, I didn't expect Stephanie to rework her entire article around it. But that's exactly what she did! Huge props to her and also to her editor for approving the switch! The result is this article and I couldn't be prouder or more honored. I hope it inspires many people (including all of you, my FB friends) to live their summer life all year long. Many thanks to Stephanie and Fast Company! Also, here's a blog post in which I also explored this idea. … [Read more...]

Parenting Is Not a Zero Sum Game!

From Evelyn Tsitas, an exceptionally useful blog post about what it took for her to write her thesis: Admit it, if you are a mother, there is always that nagging voice somewhere – yours or some critic – that says ‘intense focus and study at the expense of much of everything else in your life will be bad for your young children.’ Rubbish. Low expectations, complacency and laziness* are limiting. Constantly pushing your boundaries and challenging your comfort zone, on the other hand, teach children not to be limited in their aspirations while at the same time reinforcing that anything worth achieving takes hard work, and sacrifice.If you are completing your doctorate and fretting about your children taking a back seat, don’t worry. The mum up late studying, turning down social invitations, spending holidays at the computer or university library may be absent from her children’s lives in some ways, but she is abundantly present in ways which matter in the long term. I can tell you first hand that far … [Read more...]

Six Things To Do If You’re Having Trouble Finishing Your Work

Here's the list: (1) Show it! Often we procrastinate because we’re afraid to show our work to anyone. (“Afraid” is probably putting it lightly—we’re often terrified.) So stop hoarding your work and start showing it. But be judicious: there’s no point in showing to clueless or callous people. Show only to kind supporters who “get” what you’re trying to do. Start now! Show bits and pieces, or the whole thing. Invite any feedback, or certain kinds of feedback, or no feedback at all. (Tell your audience what you want!) The showing, not the feedback, is the important part. (2) Finish small stuff. Finishing is a skill you can practice. If you’re a fiction writer, write anecdotes and vignettes. (Bring them to completion, and then show them.) If you write nonfiction, write up (and show) one small point instead of several big ones. If you’re stuck on a complex email, write (and send) several small ones instead. (Here’s how to overcome email overload.) Then move on (gradually) to finishing bigger … [Read more...]

Do You Have a “Room of ReQUIETment?”

Continuing on last week’s Harry Potter theme, I want to ask you: Do you have a “Room of ReQUIETment?” Of course that’s a play on Room of Requirement, the fantastic room at Hogwarts that could be anything, supply anything, a student needed. Back in 1929, Virginia Woolf published A Room of One’s Own, which discussed, among other things, a creative woman’s need for space and privacy. (Of course, men need these things, too—it’s just that fewer women had them in Woolf’s day.) But physical space isn’t enough. You also need a quiet, capacious mental space that’s free of judgment, worry, and external concern; and in which you can invent and play and create freely. I call that your Room of ReQUIETment. Create it using the nonperfectionism techniques I’ve written about in The 7 Secrets of the Prolific and elsewhere. See also: Joyful Productivity and The Woodland Trail Metaphor Harry Potter and The Boggart Perfectionism … [Read more...]

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...]

The Problem With Daily Word Counts

This list of the daily word counts of famous authors has been making the rounds. The top producers, by far, are the late thriller writer Michael "Jurassic Park" Crichton and the late British historical novelist R. F. Delderfield, who both apparently wrote 10,000 words a day. Then we've got one 6,000-word-a-day chap (thriller writer John Creasy), a few 4,000 and 3,000 words-a-day producers (Anne Rice, Iain Banks, Frederick Forsyth), and a host of 1,000 to 2,000 word producers. On the low end, we've got Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene (one of my idols), and Civil War historian Shelby Foote, who all clock in at a meagre-seeming 500 words a day. There are huge problems with this list. First, it's a hodgepodge. It contains famous writers and obscure ones; literary novelists and formulaic pop-fiction ones (plus, as noted, at least one historian); those writing by hand and those using computers; privileged Victorian and mid-century-American white male writers and less-privileged contemporary female writers … [Read more...]

Marriage Equality and How to Cope with Success-Related Losses

Last week was amazing, here in the U.S. We started with despair (at the murder of the nine black parishioners by a Confederate-flag-wearing white supremacist in Charleston), followed by hope (a newfound widespread rejection of said flag), relief (the Supreme Court ruling preserving the Obamacare subsidies), and, finally, jubilation (the ruling establishing marriage equality as a fundamental right). Whew! The marriage equality ruling was amazing not just because it represented a vast amount of liberation, but because it happened decades ahead of schedule. "I didn't expect to see it in my lifetime," is a common refrain among middle-aged and older activists. Although some gay and lesbian couples have been attempting to marry for more than forty years—in some heartbreaking cases, legally-recognized gay marriages were invalidated by courts—up until a scant eleven years ago, there hadn't been a legally-protected gay marriage in the U.S. That there's some lightspeed progress. Young activists, in … [Read more...]

Don’t Let Unintended/Unwanted Consequences Hold Back Your Projects

Reblogged from the Thesis Whisperer. The anonymous author of this piece, originally entitled "What's it like to Finish?", does a great job of articulating how even a great success, like finishing a thesis, will almost always yield some unwanted consequences. Often we at least intuit these, and the fear of them can cause us to procrastinate, since delaying our project is a great strategy for avoiding them. All of this applies to all writers and other creative workers, of course, and not just Ph.D. students! Your thoughts, experiences, and questions are, as always, welcome in the comments.--Hillary In the weeks and months leading up to the submission of my PhD, I found myself imagining what life would be like on the "other side." As a means of forcing myself over the final hurdle, I visualised how amazing it would be to be free of the thesis, to once again recover my weekends and my academic freedom, and how relieved I would be to hand over the culmination of three and a half years’ work. And yet, when … [Read more...]

How to Deal With Your Family Over the Holidays

For many people, holidays are incredibly stressful. Even leaving aside issues related to family history and dynamics, when people who happen to be related but don't have much in common get together there can be multiple points of contention, including food, politics, and religion. Here are some tips for coping. 1) Educate Yourself (or Refresh Your Education) in Effective Communication. My favorite communications primer is actually a classic parenting book, “How to Talk so Kids Listen and Listen so Kids Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It’s a quick read with fun cartoons, and I recommend it to everyone regardless of whether they have kids. You can use its tips and techniques for getting along with, and resolving conflicts with, everyone, including adult family members, friends, and coworkers. This New York Times article on resolving family conflict is also excellent. It turns out that there’s a whole host of simple things you can do to defuse conflict, like sitting down or stepping … [Read more...]

My Most-Read Posts from 2013

My most-read posts from 2013, in case you've missed any of them. Why, in Writing, Process Trumps Product, And Why You Shouldn’t Worry About The Quality of Your Work This is Called Situational Perfectionism Why You Shouldn't Wait for Ideal Conditions to Start Your Project What to Do If You are Stuck in the Middle of a Project Amanda Palmer on Why Artists Should Self-Promote (Bonus: How To Do It Without Selling Out!) Want to Get More Work Done? Then Show it Early and Often Six Things You Should Never Say to a Photographer Live from Kalamazoo: A New Shot at Love How to Measure Your 2013 Successes so as to have a Happier, More Productive 2014 (Part I) (Part II's coming!) Giant Page of Tips for Finishing NaNoWriMo or AcWriWriMo (useful for any writing project!) … [Read more...]

Thank you AmEx OpenForum…

...for including this blog on a list of The 10 Small Business Bloggers to Follow in 2014! … [Read more...]

Mushroom Picking in Michigan

We found...                               … [Read more...]

Guest Post: Your Power Zone

Second guest post by Linda Marks. Given that, the older I get, the more life seems like a balancing act, the below rings very true. When reading it, bear in mind that procrastination and underproductivity are caused by disempowerment. So, we can infer that moving too far along any of the dimensions Cedar identifies can lead to procrastination. – Hillary Cedar Barstow of Right Use of Power defines power as "the ability to have an effect." She underscores the truth that "how we use this ability is the difference between abuse of power and use of power for good." Cedar has identified four different dimensions with goals that relate to power, each of which has two polarities. When we tend to behave at one extreme or the other, we find ourselves losing power. When we work to find a balanced place in the middle of each continuum, we can live in "the power zone." Here are the four dimensions Cedar has identified: Be informed and aware Goal: Use power to evolve relationships and situations. Polarities: … [Read more...]

Why the Middles of Projects are Tough (Part 3): Middles Have Middles!

I previously wrote about how the middles of projects are tough: *They're the place where the work seems to get much tougher right at the same moment that your enthusiasm starts to ebb. *They're a much bigger part of the project than most people realize. (Around 80%!) However, there's another problem with middles: they have middles! Yes, you can have a middle-of-a-middle. Here's how it works: Many endeavors begin with a “honeymoon period” where the work is fresh and new, the possibilities seem endless, and you're filled with energy and enthusiasm. That's the beginning of the project. Alas, like all honeymoons, it too soon comes to an end. Reality sets in, and inevitably disappoints. The work doesn't come together as easily as you had at first imagined, and you become aware that what you write may never live up to your pristine early vision. Your motivation wanes, but you resolve to soldier on. And then, you hit a point where everything seems particularly bleak. I call that the “anti-honeymoon,” … [Read more...]

I’m Offering a Powerful and Economical Online Class/TeleCoaching Bundle at The Loft

Super-thrilled to be teaching an online class at The Loft, one of the world's premier community writing programs, starting September 30. Even more thrilled to be offering a class/coaching bundle. The class will set you up for greater productivity; the 40 minutes of individualized telephone coaching will personalize the class information and help you amplify the result. All students also get a free e-book of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific. More info. For more classes (online, Boston, and Hyannis) check out my Events Page. … [Read more...]