If We Could Turn Back Time: Cher Models Nonperfectionism!

I've always loved Cher's tweets: they're so playful and sincere, even when she's making a sharp political point, which she does often. So naturally, I loved this New York Times piece about her Twitter style: She pays little to no attention to rules of grammar, like punctuation or sentence structure, and she capitalizes many words individually, causing her messages to read like bad novelty T-shirts or mock propaganda posters. She frequently — and comically — tacks on extra signoffs at the end of her tweets (“I was looking at tweets & saw that i really hurt someones feelings ! Im sorry. It was light blue background with white egg shape . Bye” ). She loves to load her tweets with emojis — her favorites include the birthday cake, sweat droplets, prayer hands and the American flag — even if they aren’t related to the subject matter of her message....The day after Christmas, she wrote, “Adults are SO PACMAN,” and a few weeks before that, she posted a message that simply said: “We Should B Vigilant, Aware Of … [Read more...]

How to Get Out of a Slump

I got a lovely note from a reader that included this passage (reprinted with kind permission): "For the last one and a half week I have been in kind of in a slump, disappointed after a school assignment I had trouble finishing. I thought I finally had my writing problem under control, but ended up using the whole exam reading and taking notes, never getting to the point of actually writing the paper. Since then, affected by the disappointment, I have struggled to follow through on my weekly schedule,  feeling uncommited and inadequate and procrastinating by frenetically thinking and reading about self improvement. But yesterday I picked up your books again, and read page 50 in 7 Secrets about back sliding. I decided to test scaling back for while - at least for some hours. So, with a compassionately objective statement of "You know what; lets just go for a walk, shall we, and bring some nice baked goods and just think stuff through?" - I did just that. And felt such a surprising, huge sense of relief! … [Read more...]

Lively Interview on Writing Productivity and Overcoming Perfectionism (30 mins)

Check out this fun 30-minute interview I did on boosting writing productivity and overcoming perfectionism. The interviewers were the lively and knowledgeable Dr. Bob Wright and Christine Wright of StressFreeNow: … [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...]

Well Paid New York Times Writers Have Interesting Theoretical Discussion on Whether Poverty is Good for (Other) Writers

"Do Money Woes Spur Creativity or Stifle It?" This was the dingbat question editors of the New York Times Bookends column considered worth debating this week. I'll share my full comment on the piece in a moment, but first: can you even imagine asking this about practitioners in any non-arts field? I can't! Gives you a sense of how artists are valued in society. Unfortunately, the two writers the Times chose to address the question waffled and waxed poetic and seem to have needed to show off their erudition. So the question didn't get shown up as the bonkers thing it really is. If I sound peeved it's because I think it's obnoxious and irresponsible for editors and writers who are presumably being paid well for their work to speculate airily on whether poverty is good, especially in a field where so many wonderful and talented people go underpaid. Here's my answer - it would be great if you could take a moment to "like" it on the NY Times website. "The answer to the question in the title is … [Read more...]

Sisyphus should not be your role model! (Or, what to do if you’re distracted by the Internet.)

Wasting too much time online? The solution is actually easy: disconnect. At various times, and in various situations, I've done all of the below—and sometimes two or more at a time: In households where others needed WiFi access, I've chosen not to give myself the WiFi password. That meant that while everyone else could access the Internet freely from any location, I had to take my laptop to a specific location (usually, in another room from where I was working), and plug in a cable. In households where I was alone (for instance, when everyone else was out at work), I unplugged the wireless router. (Note: not the modem, which can cause IP address hassles!) I blocked my PC's access to specific problem sites (like addictive games). It's easy! Just Google “How to block a Website in Windows [or Mac or Linux]” and follow a reliable-looking set of instructions. I worked on a “vanilla” PC from which all Internet access, email, games, and other distractions had been removed. (And used a separate PC for those … [Read more...]

How to Have a Beautiful Soul

Some books that profoundly influenced me in 2014, and that I urge you to check out, are: Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature. A massive but highly readable book whose encouraging thesis is that humans are getting less violent over time. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals. About Lincoln and his cabinet. Spellbinding history and vivid psychological portraits. (The Spielberg movie Lincoln was based on it.) The audiobook was fantastic. Paul Stamets, Mycelium Running. Since moving to the midwest, I've become obsessed with mushrooms—growing and hunting them, that is; I've always been obsessed with eating them—and mycologist Stamets is the visionary genius of mushrooms. Watch his entertaining seminar to learn why “the future is fungi,” and how mushrooms can transform medicine, agriculture, ecology, and pretty much everything else. Then check out his fun book. Ken Ilgunas, Walden on Wheels. Autobiography of a young man who was so determined to avoid the college-loan debt-trap that he lived in a van … [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...]

Ann Patchett on Surviving Creativity’s Core Disappointment

Ann Patchett has many useful things to say about writing in her new essay collection, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and in particular about the core creative challenge of surviving the fatal moment when, having finally summoned the courage to bring your vision to life, it immediately disappoints: "Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words. This is why we type a line or two and then hit the delete button or crumple up the page. Certainly that was not what I meant to say! That does not represent what I see. Maybe I should try again another time. Maybe the muse has stepped out for a smoke. Maybe I have writer's block. Maybe I'm an idiot and was never meant to write at all...."Somewhere in all my years of practice, I don't know where exactly, I arrived at the art. I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling I killed it along the way. I … [Read more...]

New Yorker Cartoonist Shows What to do When You’re Stuck on a Piece

  Please check out this wonderful piece by New Yorker cartoonist Drew Dernavich, in which he discusses his creative process for a cartoon. He submitted it in 2007, but it was rejected. At that point, he did NOT do what many perfectionists would do, which is to either: (a) despair, and maybe give up cartooning, or (b) grind down and start reworking the cartoon to death, probably bringing all his other work (not to mention, his life) to a standstill. Instead, he simply set the cartoon aside and moved on to other projects. He did that for six years! Dernavich writes: "As I retrace my steps in those six years, I can definitely see the formula for success. My approach was to say “whatever,” move on to the next thing, forget completely that I had ever done this cartoon in the first place, go to sleep, get up the next day and drink coffee, eat and drink as I usually do, work at some stuff, work at some other stuff, get up earlier some days and later some days, do social things every once … [Read more...]