Research Agrees: You Should Use Money to Buy Time

Loved this piece from a couple of weeks ago, describing a study in which researchers found that people who pay others to do work they don't want to do are happier for it: "New research is challenging the age-old adage that money can't buy happiness. "The study, led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School, suggests that using money to buy free time -- such as paying to delegate household chores like cleaning and cooking -- is linked to greater life satisfaction. "People who hire a housecleaner or pay the kid next door to mow the lawn might feel like they're being lazy," said study lead author Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at Harvard Business School who carried out the research as a PhD candidate in the UBC department of psychology. "But our results suggest that buying time has similar benefits for happiness as having more money." I've been preaching this for years, often getting pushback about the whole "laziness" thing, or from people who believe that … [Read more...]

The Joys of Being a Late Bloomer

This piece originally appeared on the blog of The Woman and the Owl Foundation, a fantastic group that, "explores and encourages the development of women spiritual leaders of all faiths and backgrounds through education, community, and support." I also did a video interview with them which you'll find here. Many thanks to Jessamine Dana for the opportunity, and to you for reading. - Hillary I struggled professionally throughout my twenties and thirties. True—I had jobs, and some of them were neat. I was a computer journalist for a while, and also a serial entrepreneur who founded a computer consulting business, a freelance writing business, and a dot-com (remember those?). In none was I entirely comfortable, which probably also explains why in none did I score a solid success. And so, I hit my early forties somewhat in the wilderness. It wasn't just about having a career—I desperately wanted to make my mark on the world, and also desperately wanted to do whatever I could to help alleviate the world's … [Read more...]

Exclusive! John Scalzi’s Time Management and Career Tips

Last week, the publishing world was abuzz with the news that bestselling science fiction author John Scalzi signed a movie-star-like $3.4 million publishing deal for 10 books. Scalzi is someone I admire enormously, not just for his writing and career success, but because he's a genuinely nice guy, both offline (I've seen him at science fiction conventions) and online. Along with his time management and career strategies, Scalzi is a social media powerhouse, so I also interviewed him on his social media strategies. And he's an out, proud, and smart feminist, antiracist, and LGBT ally who regularly speaks out in support of social justice; and who, in consequence, has been a target of some of the Internet's obnoxious regressive elements. (Whom he handles with impressive good humor.) So another thing I asked him was about how he balanced his politics with his public professional persona. Along with novels such as Redshirts, Old Man's War, and the new Lock In, two must-read Scalzi pieces are his poignant … [Read more...]

Why Amazon is This Writer’s Best Friend

Right now, there's a contract dispute going on between Amazon and the publisher Hachette Book Group, with the result that Amazon is delaying shipment of some Hachette books and removing "pre-order" buttons from listings of others. Read some news stories and you might think all authors are pro-Hachette and anti-Amazon. But that is not at all the case. Many of us strongly support Amazon, including famous writers like Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, and Bob Mayer, and many lesser-known writers--like me. One reason is that this is no David-and-Goliath story: in 2012, Hachette, a division of the multinational conglomerate Lagardère Group, pleaded guilty to e-book price fixing. It is no friend to writers, except for perhaps the already highly successful ones. But another is that Amazon has been good to many, many writers. Like me, for instance: thanks to "the Big A," I've been able to create a mini global publishing empire, with books in English, Spanish, Japanese, and soon, Hindi and Russian. I sell hundreds … [Read more...]

Why People Quit Big Projects (And How Not To!)

The below fantastic article from ThesisWhisperer.com is aimed at graduate students, but really pertains to anyone who is struggling, or has struggled, with a big project. (Just substitute “boss” for “supervisor” if needed!) Thanks to the the Thesis Whisperer herself, Dr. Inger Mewburn, Director of Research Training at the Australian National University, for kind permission to reprint. I've edited it for brevity, added some formatting, and also annotated it with some of my own thoughts and solutions. And your own thoughts and feedback are always welcome. - Hillary Why do people quit the PhD? by Dr. Inger Mewburn As it turns out, we already know quite a lot about why people quit their PhD. In her 2006 paper, “The Changing Environment for Doctoral Education in Australia”, Margot Pearson summarises prior research, mainly conducted in the United States, and names a complex set of interlocking factors: research mode (full time / part time or movement between the two) structure of the … [Read more...]

Why Tough-Guy Metaphors About Creativity Don’t Work

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the best writers on the web right now, using his Atlantic.com blog and other venues to discuss race, culture, history, and a myriad of other topics. He writes long, thoughtful pieces, and even his commenters can be dauntingly erudite. He's currently debating New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait on whether there's a "culture of poverty" in U.S. black communities, and while the debate is definitely worth checking out for its main points, I glommed onto this statement by Coates: "The set of practices required for a young man to secure his safety on the streets of his troubled neighborhood are not the same as those required to place him on an honor roll, and these are not the same as the set of practices required to write the great American novel." Let's talk about that. There is no shortage of grandiose or martial metaphors for writing and other creative work, and no shortage of assertions that suffering and isolation are the natural realms of the artist. You'll … [Read more...]

Do You Suffer From Marketer’s Block?

Recently, I've noticed an interesting evolution in the writing productivity classes I teach. Up until a few years ago, writers almost always took one of my classes because they were procrastinating or blocked on a book or other work. These days, however, many who take my classes have finished their book: it's their marketing they're stuck on. And many of those who are stuck are indie publishers. What gives? To understand what's going on, you first need to understand that procrastination isn't caused by laziness, lack of discipline, lack of commitment, or any other lack, but disempowerment. Disempowerment means you're not missing anything; just separated from, or constrained from using, that which you have. Locate and remedy the disempowering forces in your work and life, and your energy, discipline, commitment, etc., will "automagically" reappear. Here's more info on how to do that.  So what would disempower an indie publisher? The major disempowering forces are: perfectionism, ambivalence, resource … [Read more...]

Wise Words From John Scalzi About Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Your Legacy

Related to my prior post on why you should take an expansive view of success, here are some wise words from science fiction author John Scalzi, one of my favorite bloggers. Inspired by the recent death of British SF writer Colin Wilson, he writes on why you should just do your work and not worry about your legacy: Gaze, if you will, on the New York Times obituary for Philip K. Dick, on March 3, 1982. It is four graphs long (the final two graphs being two and one sentences long, respectively) — which for a science fiction writer is pretty damn good, when it comes to obits in America’s Paper of Record, but which, shall we say, does not really suggest that Dick’s notability would long survive him. Now, look at the voluminous record of writing about Dick in the NYT post-obit — an index of five pages of thumbsuckers. Pre-death, I find one note about Dick in the index, and it’s one of those Arts & Leisure preview bits. So, yes. The obit was not the final word, because the work continues — or at least, can. … [Read more...]

Are You Waiting for Ideal Conditions to Start Your Project?

Recently, someone mentioned she was waiting to clear “a big chunk of time” before starting a project. Other things people wait for are: The kids to be in school (or out of the house entirely). A better work space (either at home or elsewhere). More money. Retirement. ”To do more research.” While there is often some logic to waiting, it's usually better just to get started. For one thing, the impulse to wait is usually partly a response to perfectionist fears of failure, success, and showing the work. (And, often, no matter how well rationalized, it's entirely a response to perfectionism.) So don't wait: do your work in short intervals — even five or ten minutes at a time, if that's all you have. (Here's the technique.) You'll not only vanquish any perfectionist fears, but transform your work from a cold theoretical endeavor into a warm, living project that you'll be inspired to continue working on. In fact, people who do this often discover that, while they might like the extra time, … [Read more...]

Who Makes the Best Mentor? And Coming to Terms with My $14,500 Mentor Failure

Who makes the best mentor? According to research, it's not the star performers: In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, for example, Jerker Denrell of the University of Oxford and Chengwei Liu of the University of Warwick counsel us to model ourselves on solid, second-tier performers, not the flashy types who come in first. The researchers reported on the results of a game played in many rounds. Over time, the most skilled players came to inhabit a second tier of reliable competence. Those who succeeded spectacularly—who took their places in the first tier—were often not the most skilled, but rather were those who got some lucky breaks early on or took big risks that happened to pay off. Emulating these top performers would probably lead to disappointment, since imitators would be unlikely to replicate their good fortune. Because luck and risk play a dominant role in extraordinary outcomes, Denrell and Liu write, “extreme success or failure are, at best, only weak … [Read more...]

Seth Godin and Jennifer Crusie on Artistic Legitimacy

Following onto the post about Amanda Palmer's exhortation to legitimize yourself as an artist, instead of waiting for gatekeepers to do so, here are marketing guru Seth Godin and best-selling romance author Jennifer Crusie on the same topic. First, Godin: No knight, no shining armor "Sure, Seth can do that, because he has a popular blog." Some people responded to my decision to forgo traditional publishers (not traditional books, btw) by pointing out that I can do that because I have a way of reaching readers electronically. What they missed is that this asset is a choice, not an accident. Does your project depend on a miracle, a bolt of lightning, on being chosen by some arbiter of who will succeed? I think your work is too important for you to depend on a lottery ticket. In some ways, this is the work of the Resistance, an insurance policy that gives you deniability if the project doesn't succeed. "Oh, it didn't work because we didn't get featured on that blog, didn't get distribution in … [Read more...]

Amanda Palmer on Why Artists Should Self-Promote (Bonus: How To Do It Without Selling Out!)

Last week I wrote about Amanda Palmer's excellent keynote speech for the Grub Street Writers' Muse and the Marketplace conference, where she made an impassioned plea for artists to validate themselves instead of waiting for a publisher, gallery owner, studio, or other gatekeeper's endorsement. She also had a lot of useful things to say about self-promotion: Another image struck me, and it was this: the garrett. the one in the attic. i’ve thought about it before when asked about the music business. the garrett belongs to that set of romantic notions we all had or have, painters, writers, musicians, and how they work. “up there.” with a pen, a paintbrush, a piano. by candlelight. alone. the space is isolated and fraught with artistic tension. drunk. chainsmoking. agonizing. creating. up here. in the garrett. separate. then…. down to the ground floor, out the front door: you have the marketplace. loud. the stalls of exchange. the sound of bargaining and bartering and changing cash registers. … [Read more...]

Inger Mewburn on Racism in Academia

A very good and honest piece from Inger Mewburn, a.k.a., The Thesis Whisperer, about waking up to racism in academia, and her own white privilege: At the time Joe and I were both looking for more permanent work in academia. It has to be said that neither of us were having much luck. I barely waited to put in my lunch order before debriefing him on my latest unsuccessful job interview. Once again, I had been passed over for a man who, I felt, was less qualified to do the teaching than I was. It was my 5th knock back and I was beginning to seriously question my sanity. At the time I didn’t understand that people don’t get jobs in academia just because they are good at stuff like teaching. Connections, histories, reputations – they all matter. Now it’s perfectly obvious why a professor, who had run out of soft money, would make sure his best research assistant got hired, but at the time I blamed it all on the gender thing (I still don’t think I was entirely wrong to do so). So I got my rant on to Joe, who ate … [Read more...]