Cat is Literal Writer’s Block

Children's author Deborah Underwood catches her cat Bella in the act of literally being a writer's block. (Sitting on one of Deb's notebooks.) Read an interview with Bella here. Like all cats, she's got opinions! … [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...]

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...]