Father’s Day Post: Betty Ming Liu on Making Peace with an Authoritarian Father

Betty Ming Liu on making peace with her deceased dad: The war is over. Even though my father was a tyrant who made me miserable, I’ve fought hard to reclaim my life and get to happiness. So after all the years of weeping and blowing my nose at the shrink’s office, letting go is possible. This Sunday, I will celebrate. Finally. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you, Dad. To be honest, part of me can’t believe I just typed those words. But what a relief! This moment has been a long time coming. My father died 37 years ago when I was 19 and he was 70. It was 1976 and we had reached a tense truce in our constant arguing. To cope, I was a few weeks into a new tactic: Instead of talking back, I shut up and silently obeyed his orders. After all, I lived under his roof and had no money or means to survive on my own. (Or at least, that’s how I viewed the situation.) More here. … [Read more...]

Reader Response: Self-Compassion DOES Overcome Procrastination in a Day!

In response to my recent piece on How to Get Over Procrastination in a Day, a reader wrote: "I want to thank you for your recent blog on how you avoided writing one day and had self-compassion. When I read it, I was having a "blank mind" day, filled with personal and writerly insecurities; and when I read that, I gave myself permission to do other things and remembered the rest of the day to be compassionate. By the late afternoon, I did some editing, and felt pleased and relaxed to do so. Reading your inner thoughts "I'm a failure" etc, helped me to feel that I am not alone, and that if you could do this, so could I." … [Read more...]

Excellent Beginner’s Guide to Google+

Martin Shervington's site. … [Read more...]

How to Get Over Procrastination in a Day

On Tuesday I procrastinated worse than I had in months. I couldn't even approach my desk, and spent a large part of the day in bed. Not sick: just hiding. I was unhappy about this, since I have deadlines like everyone else. And a part of me was thinking things like: “This sucks.” “I'm falling further and further behind.” “I make my living helping people solve this very problem. How mortifying.” “I'm a fraud—and everyone's going to find out I'm a fraud.” (That's two giant terrors bundled into one concise package, by the way!) “What if I never recover from this and am blocked the rest of my life?” (That's called catastrophizing.) (Notice how the anxiety escalates.) Because of my experience helping myself and others through situations like this, I knew that, as tempting as it might be to just give in to an orgy of self-recrimination and panic, doing so would only make the problem worse. So I spent the day just hanging out: watching videos, reading Jane Austin for the umpteenth time (as well … [Read more...]

Amanda Palmer on Artistic Legitimacy

Musician Amanda Palmer recently gave a keynote at Grub Street Writer's Muse and the Marketplace Conference. She's whip smart and really "gets" this brave new world of social media, and so we should always listen to what she has to say. Her talk at Grub was about something much more important than social media: it was about legitimacy. That's a huge topic in artistic productivity, and a major focus of class discussions. Some writers think, for example, that until they've been published in the "right" way and by the "right" people, they aren't "real writers." So: Published by a commercial publisher? Real Writer! Go forth and conquer. Indie published? Fake Writer! Hang your head in shame. Published in established literary magazine. Real Writer. Published on a blog (yours or someone else's)? Fake. Similarly, some artists believe they're not "real" until they've been invited to participate in certain shows, represented by certain galleries, or reviewed by certain magazines. Feelings of illegitimacy … [Read more...]

Erasmus on Writing

              Courtesy Grub Street Writers … [Read more...]

A Failed Bird Rescue Attempt

Saturday morning, I idly looked out my window and saw, as usual, my elderly neighbor Vinnie sitting on his folding chair on the sidewalk doing his sudoku. And then something extraordinary happened--a stunning, yellow cockatiel flew down and landed on the sidewalk not ten feet from him. I watched for a few moments while Vinnie stared at it in disbelief, then got up and approached it in obvious perplexity. "Okay, so this is really happening," I said to myself. I was still in my bathrobe, but wanted to help. Although I have no experience with birds, I must have once heard that, "to catch a bird, use a towel," so I grabbed one and headed out. The bird, who was clearly someone's escaped companion, was very tame and let us get close to him (or her). I stuck out a finger, hoping he would perch; he only gave me a (friendly? boundary-establishing?) nip and backed off. Vinnie then proffered his sudoku book, which the bird disdained to stand on. I remember thinking to myself something along the lines of, … [Read more...]

Welcome Time Management Ninja People!

  Happy to have you here! These articles may be of interest: How to Live your Summer Life All Year Long. What To Do if You Have a Tendency to Overgive. Betty Ming Liu Quits Her Job  How to Spend Your Weekend (Just in Time!) … [Read more...]

Useful Apps for Mac and iOS Users

  Ph.D. student Reid Leamaster reviews some useful writing productivity apps, including several for taking notes and organizing information. His latest review is an app called Flowstate, which, if you stop writing before the end of your designated interval erases everything you've written. Yes, you've read that right. Sounds crazy and coercive to me, but someone must have thought it was a good idea. … [Read more...]

One of the Best Time Management Pieces I’ve Read

  This piece on time management by Jamie Rohrbaugh gets a lot right: "This is the list of priorities I came up with for my life: One-on-one time with God in prayer and personal study. My health and my husband. (I wasn’t married yet, but I was thinking long-term and couldn’t choose between health and husband.) My family. My job. Church work. My social life. "When I drafted this list, I realized that my choices were way out of order. I was spending time on low priorities and neglecting high priorities. My life was topsy-turvy, and I hadn’t even realized it. "So I started changing things. For example, I stopped volunteering for things at church that I wasn’t gifted to do. It was hard to say “no” to enthusiastic recruiters, but it really helped my stress level. I also had to stop going out with friends so much, and I used that time to hit the gym after work instead." I'm an atheist, so obviously am not endorsing the "God" part. But still, the purpose of time management is to align … [Read more...]

How to Live Your Summer Life All Year Long

  Summer is a time for play, but what does your play tell you about the life you'd really like to be living? Many of us, during the summer: Relax Get more athletic Get more sensual (Shakespeare didn't write A Midwinter Night's Dream, after all!) Interact more with nature, and Dress more casually and comfortably, at work and elsewhere. We also use our vacations to: Travel Catch up on family and friend time, and Make progress on an important goal (book, thesis, art, volunteerism, etc.) Why wait for summer to do all this? Or, asked another way: wouldn't it be wonderful if we could live more actively and authentically the rest of the year? Of course there are barriers: notably, for many people, work (or school) and family responsibilities. But think about how big a role habit and convention may be playing in your situation: If you haven't taken a vacation in years (an American disease, it seems), find and learn from others who have. If you have been taking a … [Read more...]

Writer’s Block is Always Caused and Curable

This essay by Fairfield University professor Elizabeth Boquet on how her writing productivity suffered when she switched from teaching to administration is a perfect illustration of the principles that: 1) procrastination/writers block/underproductivity are always caused (versus being some kind of intrinsic moral flaw like "laziness" or "lack of discipline"); 2) the causes are always outside ourselves, in our current or past contexts; and 3) it's *far* more productivite to problem-solve around the causes than succumb to shame, blame, or guilt. Oh, and 4) THE PROBLEM IS SOLVABLE. … [Read more...]

In Defense of Self-Help Books

I'm totally loving this Psychology Today post by Deborah Hill Cone on how it's snobbish to put down self-help literature: I will come clean. At my grimmest moments I would turn again and again to books which helped change my perspective and get “another way of thinking about life” although they might not be the ones I put on my bookshelves alongside high-brow economic texts or prize-winning novels. But hidden under my bed, as though too risqué, are the books I find most medicinal during the long dark tea time of the soul. They include The Grief Recovery Handbook by John. W. James and Russell Friedman, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers and You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. Lately I have also found The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels very helpful. "The motivation book that everyone in Hollywood is obsessed with,” as Vanity Fair described it, niftily avoiding the S and the H words. I’m not the only one who has a secret self-help book stash. You don’t get anyone more intellectual than … [Read more...]

New Parenthood Can Lead to Situational Perfectionism

A new parent writes to syndicated advice columnist Carolyn Hax about how stressful it can be: I’m a new mom of a pretty but challenging 6-month-old boy. I am a naturally decisive person; however, the anxiety I’m feeling over making the “right” decisions or providing him the “right” things has been difficult to cope with. For example, since I’ve gone back to work, I haven’t been able to pump enough milk, and I’ve needed to start supplementing with formula. I intellectually know this is fine and many babies have formula, but for some reason I’m beating myself up over it. Why can’t I produce enough milk, why can’t I provide what I’m supposed to for him, etc.? Also with regard to other things — like when to stop swaddling at night, how and what solids to feed him — I feel so worried I’m going to do something that is less than optimal that might hurt his development. I’m second-guessing myself very often and starting to drive myself crazy, and I know that isn’t good. Do you have any suggestions for how to … [Read more...]

Harry Potter and the Boggart Perfectionism

Harry Potter fans recall boggarts as creatures who live in dark household spaces like cupboards and closets and who, when you encounter one, take on the appearance of whatever it is you are most afraid of. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, there's a great scene where Professor Lupin and his students provoke a classroom boggart into repeatedly changing appearance: To terrorized student Neville Longbottom, it appears as Severus Snape in full glower. To arachnophobic Ron Weasley, it appears as a gigantic spider. And to ultra-perfectionist Hermione Granger, it appears as Professor McGonagall telling her she "failed everything." Perfectionism works the same way! It will not just manifest itself as your worst professional fear, but if you do manage to dispel that fear, it will gladly morph into any other fear you might have. Some forms your perfectionism boggart might take include: "My work is unoriginal." "My insights are mundane." "I can't do characters." "My book won't … [Read more...]