Tips for a Distracting Time

It's been a crazy and, in many ways, difficult week here in the U.S. If you're having trouble working (as I am and I know many others are), grab your timer and do short intervals. (Even a minute or two!) You will make progress and, perhaps even more importantly, keep the material fresh in your head so that you can re-enter it more easily when you have more focus. And who knows? Maybe a couple of minutes will lead to a couple more, then a couple more, etc. Did I tell you I sometimes use dice? I have a great purple set from Chessex (gamers' choice; a cheap indulgence). Sometimes I roll a die to decide which part of my manuscript to work on. (Which chapter or section; they're all numbered.) It adds a bit of color and fun to the process, and randomness is a great tool against perfectionism because you can't really take a piece of writing that seriously when you're only working on it because you rolled it. For those (understandably) upset about the U.S. election, a few tips: Don't perfectionistically … [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...]

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...]

What is the biggest barrier standing between you and greater productivity?

In my case, it used to be perfectionism that shut down the creative process before it started. I spent nearly five years writing and rewriting the same novel chapter because I was terrified of having others see it and judge it. Then - as I got less perfectionist - my biggest barrier became time management. I had to learn to aggressively get rid of unimportant and even semi-important activities to clear lots of time for writing and my indie publishing business. Nowadays, I'm not very perfectionist, and I also have more time. But I still have to watch myself because it is easy to say "yes" to requests I really should say "no" to, and even short digressions for nonessential tasks turn out to be surprisingly big drains on my time, attention, and energy. So I really work to keep those to a minimum. I'm also working on becoming a more efficient writer -- a.k.a. "boosting my writing tempo," as I discuss in Chapter 5 ("Optimizing Your Writing Process") of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific. Specifically, that … [Read more...]

Check out my BoomerCafe piece!

For BoomerCafe I wrote a piece on how, in my fifties, and in the face of a growing realization of my mortality, I'm finally learning to play defense in terms of my ambitions. All this would be a bummer if I didn't have so much to be grateful for and defend. Check it out! … [Read more...]

Homage to Rosie and Cinnamon

One of the events that most moved me over the past year was the tragic and joyful life and death of Rosie the Chihuahua. Rosie was the victim of a backyard breeder/hoarder who made money selling puppies, including from fashionable “designer” breeds. In their quest to create “teacups,” “merles,” and other designer dogs, many such breeders wind up with deformed and chronically ill dogs in their litters, and Rose was one of those. Along with her shockingly deformed muzzle, she also suffered from mange-induced fur loss, immune suppression, scoliosis, and fused leg bones. (Some of these conditions were from lack of care rather than genetics.) Looking at her picture, you can't even recognize her as a chihuahua. Rosie grew up in a crowded, chaotic house with more than 40 dogs, where, despite her serious health problems, she never once saw a veterinarian. Who knows what successes of intelligence, insight, perseverance, resourcefulness, and plain old toughness she had to accrue just to survive? Eventually, Rosie … [Read more...]

By Popular Demand: Billy on Parquet

He's not so easy to photograph as he's a wiggler. Also, he's not the most facially expressive of dogs--it's all in the eyes and body language. But here's a pic. Oh, and we've had him two months and 0 "accidents" in the house. OLD DOGS RULE. … [Read more...]

“Weight Loss for Writers” Class Premiers Online Jan 6

I've been waiting to teach this for years, and am so excited! We're going to get healthier and write more. Description follows. Space limited, so register now. Lots of writers struggle with their weight, but has it ever occurred to you that weight gain has a lot in common with that other common writer's malady, writer's block? It does! They're both examples of chronic procrastination, and as such can be resolved using the same techniques and tools. Longtime SavvyAuthors favorite Hillary Rettig, a master at helping people get more productive in their writing and life, invites you to join her for a unique class that will not just help you lose weight, but might even help you get more writing done! You'll learn what weight-related procrastination truly is (hint: NOT laziness or lack of discipline willpower), what causes it, and how to overcome it. Each week Hillary will post two lessons related to procrastination, perfectionism, time management, ambivalence, traumatic rejections, or another relevant … [Read more...]

I’m Interviewed at the Vegan Business Connection

You can learn about my current and past work here; also some tips for entrepreneurs. Link … [Read more...]

I don’t often repurpose a blanket rack as a scarf and jewelry holder…

...but when I do, the result is so good I just have to share it...             I have this preconception about myself that I'm not so good at home decor, so when I do come up with a clever idea it feels great. Plus, the rack was $10 off CraigsList - so score! … [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...]

Guest Post: Soul Mates and Wound Mates

Below, one of the best essays I've read about relationships anywhere. I hope it's as meaningful and useful to you as it was to me! It's the first of two guest posts by Newton, MA-based Linda Marks, MSM, a super-smart and innovative psychotherapist, lifework counselor, and author. Her newsletter is one of the first things I read when it shows up in my inbox, and you can subscribe for free at her blog. More info on Linda here, and thanks to Linda for kind permission to reprint! – Hillary So many of us wish to meet a "soul mate," another human being with whom we share a deep connection, with whom the level of intimacy seems rich and endless, and where we may feel like we've known the other person forever, even when we have just met them. With a soul mate, we can talk about seemingly anything, and the potential for joy, growth and fulfillment through relationship seems profound and exquisite. What we often don't take into consideration, and may not be aware of, is that when we have a deep connection with … [Read more...]

Live From Kalamazoo: A New Shot at Love

A little over a year ago, I was invited to write a letter to a newborn baby, Toby. In it, I wrote about the benefits of being generous, and in particular generous in love: “I’ve also given away lots of love. Often that love was returned, but sometimes it wasn’t, which was painful. But as Billy Joel sings in The Longest Time, 'I have been a fool for lesser things.' I believe it is always worth taking a chance for love.”* I remember hesitating after writing that: would I come across as pathetic or needy? Was the Billy Joel reference too common? (Maybe I should have quoted someone more "intellectually impressive"?) But I went with it, and was glad I did. Honesty and boldness are their own rewards, since they help you overcome shame and feel more secure in your own skin. And I did get a couple of emails from people who said my email inspired them to take some risks in love. Here's the incredible thing, though... Not two weeks after writing that letter, in the kind of coincidence you would scorn if you saw … [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...]

Designer Milton Glaser’s Universe of Abundance

An important element of perfectionism is a sense of scarcity and deprivation, so this quotation from iconic graphic designer Milton Glaser offers an important antiperfectionist message: "If you perceive the universe as being a universe of abundance, then it will be. If you think of the universe as one of scarcity then it will be...I always thought that there was enough to go around - that there are enough ideas in the universe, and enough nourishment." Want to live and work in a universe of abundance? Then work to overcome your perfectionism. ht Brainpickings' Explore project … [Read more...]