Coping with the Many Silly / Annoying / Challenging Comments and Questions People Direct at Writers

Excerpted from Hillary Rettig's book The Seven Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Writer's Block. From now through August 15, you can preorder it at a huge discount! Click here. You'd think that having people ask questions about what you do wouldn't be such a big deal. But in a world where most people... *are suspicious of, and/or outright afraid of, the unconventional *believe in big wins, overnight successes and other perfectionist tropes *have no idea how hard writing is, or how long it takes to complete works, or the time and effort it takes to create and sustain a writing career *conflate your value as a human being with how much money you earn *believe the canards listed in Chapter 6.1, and deprecations listed in Chapter 6.7, and *are happy to pronounce judgments on people or paths they know little about, a writer is always going to be on the defensive. Some of the questions that really irk writers are: “What do you do?” “What do you … [Read more...]

"To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete."

"To accuse others of one's own misfortune is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one's education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete." - Epictetus, a Stoic, A.D. 55 -135 (Thanks CT!) … [Read more...]

Preview! The Seven Secrets of the Prolific Cover

Here's the draft cover for my new book, The Seven Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Writer's Block. I love it! The book will be out in August. … [Read more...]

The Lifelong Activist now online!

I'm very pleased to announce that the entire text to my book The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way (Lantern Books, 2006) can now be found at For those who aren't familiar with it, the book is a self-help guide for activists, organizers, educators, human service workers and others with a strong progressive mission. Its sections are: Managing Your Mission: so you can determine your authentic path and not act out of guilt, shame or obligation Managing Your Time: so you can create a schedule that allows you to live your mission, and to achieve the most within that mission Managing Your Fears: so you can follow the schedule without succumbing to procrastination, perfectionism or blocks Managing Your Relationship With Self: so you can be the strongest, most empowered, and most joyful person you can be. (And why that goal is fundamentally progressive.) Managing Your Relationship With Others: so you can leverage your energy, time, skills and other … [Read more...]

Perfectionism and Human Relations

Or, more specifically: sex. I mainly write on procrastination and perfectionism in one's work, but the same principles apply in other parts of our lives. Here's Andrew Sullivan nailing it (so to speak) relative to perfectionism in our sex lives: "If your standard is never to commit a venial sin, you will almost certainly fail. And you may set up a destructive pattern of perfection, failure, depression, more failure, more depression, a new commitment to perfection, failure ... and so on: rinse and repeat. I think that cycle is horribly destructive and believe that moderation and risk-minimization is a safer guide to avoiding sin than total abstinence." … [Read more...]

How Much Does Labeling Hurt?

How much does it hurt when parents or others unfairly label us? An acquaintance recently told about how, after her 13-year-old daughter broke her wrist playing sports, her Dad, who had taken her to the hospital, responded to her expressions of pain by telling her, "Don't be a wimp." Later, when Mom showed up, the daughter's first words were not about her painful injury, but an outraged and accusatory: "He called me a wimp!" The painful physical injury was insignificant compared with the emotional hurt of being unfairly labeled. Dad probably meant well, but I can easily picture that girl in therapy, years from now, telling the therapist about how, when she broke her wrist, her dad told her not to be a wimp. … [Read more...]

The Perils of Overgiving

There are plenty of selfish people in the world - no doubt. But most of the people I encounter in my workshops and coaching have the opposite problem - they're overgivers, perennially sacrificing their needs and missions to others'. That's a much nobler problem, but still a problem. Here's what happens when you overgive to your job; an activist campaign, community group, or business venture; or other people: 1) Of course, you don't get to live out your own mission. This almost guarantees bitterness, regret and remorse. 2) You're probably exhausted, and possibly broke. This means your lifestyle is not sustainable - which, in turn, means that all the projects and relationships you contribute importantly to are also not sustainable. (And if your contribution is not important, why are you giving at all?) 3) Dangerously, you attract the wrong people - those seeking to exploit you, evade responsibility or accountability, or both. 4) You compromise your effectiveness and growth. Good time managers devote as … [Read more...]

Emo About the Commute

this guy sounds pretty emo about his commute, but I actually agree with him 100%. commuting is dreadful and cars are the most overrated appliance. The less I drive, the less I want to drive. … [Read more...]

Stephen Hawking on Leveraging Your Strengths

In this interview, Hawking gives the same basic advice I hear from successful people in every field: don't worry about your weaknesses or "deficits," focus on leveraging your strengths: "My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically." … [Read more...]

Greetings Greenhorn Connecters!

Happy to see you here - feel free to browse, kick the tires, etc. If you have questions or comments, please leave them in the comments box or feel free to email me. Thanks! Hillary … [Read more...]

How to Overcome Procrastination by Lowering Your Energy of Activation

I've been obsessed lately with the concept of energy of activation (Ea) - the energy you put into a system to get it to change. Without Ea, the chemicals just sit there. With it, they spurt and fizz and combine and do all kinds of other jazzy things. Remember catalysts, the chemicals that speed reactions? What they actually do is lower Ea so reactions can proceed more easily. If there's a task you procrastinate on, try reducing its "Ea" by, (1) optimizing your environment, and (2) getting some of the preconditions out of the way earlier. If it's writing, make sure that the sound level and decor of your room are optimized. Also, that your equipment is well running. Writing is hard enough without having to simultaneously struggle with too much noise (or quiet), disorganization, a flaky PC, etc. Also, reorganize your schedule so that writing gets your best time and attention, and you're not battling fatigue or distraction. If it's exercise, try putting on your exercise gear first thing in the morning so that … [Read more...]

Shakespeare on Ambition

Hamlet: To me [Denmark] is a prison. Rosencrantz: Why then your ambition makes it one. 'Tis too narrow for your mind. Hamlet: O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams. Guildenstern: Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream. The common interpretation of this (at least on the Internet) is that Hamlet is pretending to be thwarted by the fact that his uncle, and not he, got the throne after his father's death; and the gullible R&G fall for the pretense. But he's talking about something much darker, of course - being imprisoned by the knowledge of his father's murder and his own need to both cope with the horror and avenge him. On a surface level, it works pretty well for perfectionism, though - in the sense that often it's the comparison between what we have, and the perfectionist things we want/expect for ourselves, that causes problems. The excerpt also reminds me of … [Read more...]

Perfectionism Quotes

Here's a fantastic page of them: Some good ones: A child becomes an adult when he realises that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong.--Thomas Szasz Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.--Gandhi, 1931 In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism.--Hannah Arendt The way to succeed is to double your error rate.--Thomas J. Watson. I need to read that Arendt book. … [Read more...]

Vegan Integrity and the Fate of a Vegan Whistleblower

Blogger Quarrygirl recently published an expose showing that VegNews magazine was using stock photographs of meat and dairy dishes to illustrate articles about vegan food. In one case, the magazine actually photoshopped out the bones from a photo of spare ribs to make the dish look vegan. While she has plenty of admirers, she also has detractors, many of who claim her expose is harmful to veganism - or, as it is often put, "doesn't help the animals." This saddens me, actually, because not only did she absolutely do the right thing, but if anyone hurt the cause it has been VegNews, which compounded its initial ethical blunders by justifying them with a breezy and unconcerned and (in the corporate-damage-control sense) incompetent, "Everyone does it." The issue is not, in fact, what "helps the animals," but what "helps the movement," which is a different thing. Movements involve strategy, and for strategies to be effective, they must be built on a strong and consistent moral framework. Moreover, every … [Read more...]

Arrows all the Time

In his essay On the Sublime Greek philosopher Longinus said that creators must be ready when the “arrow of inspiration” strikes. What the prolific know is that there aren't just a few arrows out there: it's arrows all the time. Just work to eliminate your obstacles to receiving and working with them. … [Read more...]