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...]

Fall Coaching, Classes, and the State of the Books!

Hi Everyone, Please see last week’s newsletter in which I described my new newsletter approach. Thanks to the many good people who wrote in with comments and/or in support of my new plan. I always welcome, and thrive on, your input. Below are my coaching, teaching, and writing plans for the fall. Some good opportunities to jumpstart your productivity! Best, Hillary Coaching Current clients - Remember: coaching hours are usable for one year after purchase. If you've got 'em, use 'em! If you don’t know what to use ‘em for, email me: we’ll figure it out. Former clients - I would love to hear from you. Please send an update and if you have a concise question or two that I can answer quickly for free, I will be happy to do so. Prospective clients – From my coaching page : Every season I take on a limited number of new coaching clients. They’re typically ambitious, focused individuals who want to make the fastest possible progress on one or more of these goals: get more work done each day; … [Read more...]

Fan Mail From Novosibirsk

I was thrilled to get some fan mail from Novosibirsk today: Hello, miss Rettig! My name is Alexander, I’m writer from Russia. Couple weeks ago I found your book - and it was like a revelation for me. I always want to be a writer. I was started to write seriously three or four times - and always crashed myself down with fears and doubts. In January I started it again, now more seriously than ever, I really worked hard, but in June I started to feel the ghost of defeat again… And then I find your book. All my fears, all my doubts, all unspoken words about my writing was there! I couldn’t believe it! I was searching for things that you wrote FOR YEARS (it’s true!). Now I have it all in one book on my shelf! Amazing! Procrastination is not defeated, but now I have a deadly weapon for it. So I just want to say my biggest thanks to you for this book. Here it is: THANK YOU VERY VERY VERY MUCH!!!:) And one more little thanks for preface for the Russian edition;) Writing is so solitary and it can be easy to … [Read more...]

Productivity Tips from Alex the Parrot

I just finished reading Irene Pepperberg's wonderful book Alex & Me, about her work and relationship with Alex, the African Grey parrot who became internationally renowned for his cognitive and communications skills, including being able to hold simple conversations, spell simple words, and do simple math. Turns out he could procrastinate, too. One problem Pepperberg had with Alex and the other parrots she worked with was that they got bored during the repetitive testing needed to gather data. When Alex didn't want to participate, she notes, he often would, “indulge in some suddenly urgent preening.” That's procrastination mimicking productive work, in case you didn't recognize it! It's no different than someone who decides to do “some suddenly urgent” laundry or lawn-mowing instead of his or her writing or other work. Alex apparently also mastered at least two key time management techniques. The first was saying no to unwanted work. Here is an example from the book: K (one of Alex's testers): … [Read more...]

“Wise and kind and supportive.”

Kari Sperring - I've just been reading Hillary Rettig on writing (recommended to me by Stephanie Burgess and I am very grateful to her for that, for it is excellent). One of the things she writes about is how invested writers become in our work and its reception. It can sometimes become all tangled up in our sense of identity, and if it is rejected or ill-received, it feels like an attack on our inner, most sensitive selves. I've been in that place and it hurts. But, as Rettig points out, this belief, however natural, is also not the whole truth. We give others too much power over us, and she offers ways of retaining our love of our work without allowing others to destroy us through negative criticism or commentary. Like The Gift, it's an excellent book, and I recommend it -- it's called The Seven Secrets of Prolific Writers, which is the sort of title I usually avoid, for such books are often prescriptive, but this one is not. It's wise and kind and supportive.   … [Read more...]

7 Secrets of the Prolific Gets 150th 5-Star Amazon Review

Read it here - and thanks everyone! (If you haven't yet reviewed it please do so--that's the single best way to support my work.) … [Read more...]

Meet Compassionate Objectivity, The Antidote to Guilt

“I should succeed at this job despite the fact that we're severely under-resourced and my boss is chronically disorganized. If I don't, I’m a loser.” “If I don’t sacrifice everything to my kids, I'm a terrible parent.” "If I don’t get my hour of exercise in every single day, I'm just a lazy slob.” “If my book doesn't sell well, I must be a crappy writer.” You've probably experienced the above or similar thoughts at different times. No matter what the project, or how well we've done, it seems like we can always do a better job. And yet, guilt and shame won't help you be more productive—in fact, they are far more likely to rob you of confidence and motivation. People who continually berate themselves for not having done “more and better” need to consider whether that behavior is actually productive. The truth is that we all have limits on our time, money, energy, and other resources; also, that we all need to devote a big chunk of them to our own needs. Another truth is that life is pretty hard. … [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...]

What Muhammad Ali Can Teach You About Getting More Work Done

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” That famous quote from Muhammad Ali really does captures the spirit and essence of productive, joyful work. Let's break it down: 1) “Float like a butterfly.” You move lightly and freely around and through your work until you see an aspect of it that inspires you. (Inspiration = an easy opportunity to do a bit of writing, editing, outlining, planning, telephoning, or other work.) And then you: 2) “Sting like a bee.” Go right for it; do the work as much and as well as you are able. And do it with assertiveness and gusto. But once you've done your best, don't push it! You never see insects “push it.” Instead, when they think they are done stinging in one place, they go out and float again until they find the next opportunity to sting. You also never hear butterflies and bees say self-critical things like, “Damn! That sting wasn't all it could have been.” Or, “Why couldn't I have gotten more pollen out of that flower?” Or, “Wow, I really do suck as a … [Read more...]

John Scalzi on Why You Should Never Let Your Reviewers Get You Down

The Inimitable One offers a list of one-star reviews of books that later went on to win science fiction's celebrated Hugo award. My favorite is this review of Scalzi's own novel Red Shirts, which actually uses the word "onanistic": This is an onanistic shallow and very disappointing book. Little or no character development. What should have been an interesting short story based on a somewhat interesting conceit has been puffed out to novel length and suffers hugely from the increased exposure. Don’t waste your time or money… The only interesting element was the coda about writer’s block which, I fear, seems to be very close to home for him as reflected in recent work. Also, this review of Neil Gaiman's classic The Graveyard Book reminds us that some.reviewers.just.don't.get.it: I am amazed that this book has won awards — I wonder about the judges who voted for this completely unsuitable book. The book revolves around graveyards, murder, ghosts and a child called Nobody. Being called nobody … [Read more...]

“Essential Guide to a Better Authorship”

A fantastic review of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific from The Metapsychology Online Reviews: The book constantly reminds the reader that moralistic labels are useless and poisonous. Lightened up by the witty illustrations by Barry Deutsch (just to quote one: the monolith a la 2001: A Space Odyssey vs. a spaghetti snarl) it is devoted to humorously locating all the disempowering forces which prevent from accomplishing a written product. And a joyful life as well.  The secrets anticipated in the title are revealed as the table of content comes to a disclosure after a very effective introductory first chapter devoted to the mechanics of procrastination.  You can read some sample chapters here. Buy it here. … [Read more...]