Inspiring Post-Election Words from Atul Gawande and Perennial Wisdom from Gene Sharp

I’ll send out another productivity newsletter in a bit, but in the meantime, Atul Gawande’s New Yorker piece offers one of the most healing and encouraging responses to the election I’ve seen. Excerpt: To a large extent, though, institutions closer to home are what secure and sustain our values. This is the time to strengthen those institutions, to better include the seventy per cent who have been forsaken. Our institutions of fair-minded journalism, of science and scholarship, and of the arts matter more now than ever. In municipalities and state governments, people are eager to work on the hard problems—whether it’s making sure that people don’t lose their home if they get sick, or that wages are lifted, or that the reality of climate change is addressed. Years before Obamacare, Massachusetts passed a health-reform law that covers ninety-seven per cent of its residents, and leaders of both parties have affirmed that they will work to maintain those policies regardless of what a Trump Administration … [Read more...]

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...]

On Trying to Write While Sitting in the Midst of the Battle of Hogwarts

An author friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook (and gave me kind permission to post): “Almost impossible to work these days. It feels like I'm sitting in the entrance hall of Hogwarts trying to write...while the final battle with Voldemort and the Death Eaters is raging around me.” She's not alone. Recently YouTube celebrity (and prolific vlogger) Hank Green tweeted: “This election has been consuming. It's been a source of constant anxiety and is reinforcing unhealthy behaviors for me.” (He followed up with one that said: “But that's mostly because, it matters so goddamn much.”) To which, prolific, bestselling, science fiction author John Scalzi replied: “The damn election is partly why I am behind on this book I'm writing. I hate I'm distracted, but it's my country.” Okay, so if you’re finding the election distracting—and my apologies to my non-US readers for another U.S.-centric newsletter, but the principles do apply generally—you’re in good company. And I’m with you, by the way: … [Read more...]

Exclusive: Sharon Shinn’s Time Management Tips!

I was recently thrilled to have the opportunity to interview bestselling fantasy / science fiction / romance / young adult novelist Sharon Shinn. Why all the genres? She's incredibly prolific. Moreover, she's prolific while holding down a full-time job. A writing job! It's just incredible. I just had to find out how she does it--especially because she also happens to be one of my favorite authors. I especially love her popular Samaria series (the first volume of which, Archangel, is shown below), but all of her books are filled with great characters, suspenseful plots, fabulous world-building, and the kind of well-crafted prose that's a joy to read.   I hope you find Sharon's time management insights as useful and inspiring as I do--and thanks to Sharon for the interview! (Also see previous interviews with best-selling science fiction writer John Scalzi and acclaimed free software activist and MacArthur "Genius" Richard Stallman.) - Hillary 1. You are someone who works full time who has managed to write … [Read more...]

Russian Translation of 7 Secrets of the Prolific Now Available!

And it's got an amazing cover!               Thanks to the good people at Mann-Ivanov-Ferber for the translation.     … [Read more...]

Reminder: Upcoming Workshops in Colorado, Missouri, and Michigan

Hope to see you at a workshop! Always check my calendar for the latest dates and information. … [Read more...]

Upcoming Workshops and Classes (May – July 2015)

Online, July 6 - August 3 The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Basics of Joyful Production SavvyAuthors.com More info / To register Inspiration exists and is available to everyone at almost any time. Underproductivity, procrastination, and blocks are solvable problems. The secret to achieving a state of near-perpetual inspiration (a.k.a., “flow”) is to switch from a scarcity to an abundance mindset, and also from a shame/blame mindset to one focused on problem-solving. In this workshop by Hillary Rettig, author of the best-selling The 7 Secrets of the Prolific and The Lifelong Activist, we'll delve deep into the heart of underproductivity so you can see, once and for all, what forces are holding you back. The we'll discuss solutions—lots of them—that you can start using immediately to boost productivity and reduce stress. This online workshop is for all writers—including creative, academic, student, and those who write on the job. Older: Boston, Wednesday March 25 (this coming Wednesday!) 7:00 - … [Read more...]

Don’t Let Unintended/Unwanted Consequences Hold Back Your Projects

Reblogged from the Thesis Whisperer. The anonymous author of this piece, originally entitled "What's it like to Finish?", does a great job of articulating how even a great success, like finishing a thesis, will almost always yield some unwanted consequences. Often we at least intuit these, and the fear of them can cause us to procrastinate, since delaying our project is a great strategy for avoiding them. All of this applies to all writers and other creative workers, of course, and not just Ph.D. students! Your thoughts, experiences, and questions are, as always, welcome in the comments.--Hillary In the weeks and months leading up to the submission of my PhD, I found myself imagining what life would be like on the "other side." As a means of forcing myself over the final hurdle, I visualised how amazing it would be to be free of the thesis, to once again recover my weekends and my academic freedom, and how relieved I would be to hand over the culmination of three and a half years’ work. And yet, when … [Read more...]

And for those of you who happen not to live in Cleveland :-) …

Don't forget my upcoming online classes! ALL writers are invited to take the next two classes, including fiction, nonfiction, academic, nonprofit, business, and "other" writers. Online classes are cheap, convenient, fun, and there's lots of free parking. :-) Plus, you'll get loads of support and individual attention. - Hillary Online (Everyone welcome!), May 11 - June 7 Weight Loss for Writers SavvyAuthors.com More info. Why I'm teaching a course on Weight Loss for Writers Online, July 6 - August 3 The 7 Secrets of the Prolific SavvyAuthors.com More info. Procrastination, perfectionism and writer's block are NOT caused by laziness, lack of discipline or lack of commitment. Rather, they are habits rooted in fear and scarcity - and the great news is that once you start addressing those problems, the procrastination itself is often remarkably easily solved. This lively and interactive workshop by The Seven Secrets of the Prolific author Hillary Rettig will teach you how. First, we'll … [Read more...]

Talking TWICE in Cleveland Tomorrow! (Saturday, 4/25 – 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.)

Late notice, but I'll be doing a double workshop on (1) how to do joyful vegan activism, and (2) writing productivity TOMORROW, Saturday, April 25, from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.  Details here. You can come to one or both workshops - both will be lively and fun! You are also invited to come before the workshop and share an awesome and fun and friendly VEGAN POTLUCK! Needless to say...nonvegans, semivegans, vegancurious, and EVERYONE welcome. See you tomorrow! … [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...]

On The Importance of Going OFF the Internet

Going off the Internet seems a radical act, but for most people it's essential for creativity. The Internet is inherently and continuously interruptive, and that's not a good mix with creative work, or productivity in general. In classes, I quote Jonathan Franzen (“It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”) and other famous writers on the importance of disconnecting. Then I urge students to disconnect by having two computers: a stripped down, "vanilla" one without any Internet connectivity, games, or other distractions. That's the one you write on. And, a "normal" computer where you do all your other work Alternatively, you could use a non-WiFi-enabled computer, and only connect to the Internet intermittently via a cable located far from your writing desk. You can do this even if the rest of your household uses WiFi simply by not saving the WiFi password in your computer. I did that for years--I had no idea what the household WiFi password … [Read more...]

Be Sure to Check the “Preapproved Payments” Page on Your PayPal Account Every So Often…

...and to cancel those preapprovals no longer needed. I just found that I've been paying $10/month to elance.com. Unlike more honest, forthright companies, they don't send account statements, so it's easy to forget you've subscribed and are paying. I haven't used elance probably in a year, so this was wasted money. … [Read more...]

Why, in Writing, Process Trumps Product, And Why You Shouldn’t Worry About The Quality of Your Work

Everyone's obsessed with quality, but the way to achieve it is not to focus on it. That's because: 1) Quality is an Emergent Property An emergent property is one that's intrinsic to a system, and that arises organically as that system operates. Think of relationships: if you try to force them, they wither and die. The best relationships are not forced, but arise naturally as the yield of many interactions. Quality in writing and other work similarly occurs organically via an effective process, through your numerous interactions with your subject matter. It's the result of your years or decades of preparation--your reading, writing, training, life lessons, etc. In other words, your ability to write well is "part of your DNA." You don't have to force it. And, in fact, you shouldn't force it because... 2) Striving for Quality is Inimical to the Creative Process If you focus on achieving a quality outcome, you'll likely either: (a) Succumb to perfectionist terror and get stuck midway through; or (b) … [Read more...]

I Bought the World’s Best Coffee Mug at Goodwill Recently, and The Best Part is…

              no matter what J says to me, I can respond simply by pointing at it. … [Read more...]