You Can Literally Do the World’s Toughest Rock Climb and People Will Still Find Something to Criticize

So after seven years of planning and preparation, and nearly three weeks of grueling effort and inspiring teamwork, two guys succeed at literally the toughest rock climb in history and some people can still find something to criticize. When I first spotted the critical comments alongside the New York Times articles on Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell’s Yosemite Dawn Wall free climb I couldn't believe it! They seemed not just petty and banal, but completely insensible to the awesomeness and beauty of what these guys were doing. Turns out I wasn't the only one who noticed them. Adventure-Journal.com's Brendan Leonard compiled some in his article NY Times Commenters Explain Why The Dawn Wall Climb Is Dumb. Here's a sample: “They have supplies delivered to them!? That’s like climbing with a porter. Not legit.” “Impressive, but nowhere near as impressive as actually free solo climbing without any ropes, where one slip would mean certain death....The only serious risk here is failure, which is no big … [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...]

How to Deal With Your Family Over the Holidays

For many people, holidays are incredibly stressful. Even leaving aside issues related to family history and dynamics, when people who happen to be related but don't have much in common get together there can be multiple points of contention, including food, politics, and religion. Here are some tips for coping. 1) Educate Yourself (or Refresh Your Education) in Effective Communication. My favorite communications primer is actually a classic parenting book, “How to Talk so Kids Listen and Listen so Kids Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It’s a quick read with fun cartoons, and I recommend it to everyone regardless of whether they have kids. You can use its tips and techniques for getting along with, and resolving conflicts with, everyone, including adult family members, friends, and coworkers. This New York Times article on resolving family conflict is also excellent. It turns out that there’s a whole host of simple things you can do to defuse conflict, like sitting down or stepping … [Read more...]

The 14 Rules of Prolific Writing

The proper goal for all writing projects should be to “Get it done.” (Not fabulousness, comprehensiveness, to create a best seller, “revolutionize my field,” impress my advisor/family, make a fortune, etc. See Rule #13 on Quality, below.) Use a speedy, free-writing, free-revising technique. Aim for a large number of quick drafts where you make a few easy changes, versus a small number of “megadrafts” where you try to change every single thing that needs changing. (The latter technique wastes time and catalyzes perfectionism.) The proper number of drafts is “as many as it takes.” Use Anne Lamott's “one inch picture frame” technique, from her book Bird by Bird, to avoid overwhelm:  “All I have to do is write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being. All I am going to do right now, for example, is write that one paragraph.” When you run into a problem, don't stop and ponder; solve it via writing about it. Don't research during your … [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...]

Hello Crewel World!

And knitting world, scrapbooking world, decoupage world, etc.! Check out my post on How to Get More Crafting Done in 2014. Many thanks to Lois Winston, author of the fun Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, for the opportunity to guest blog at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. … [Read more...]

Recognizing and Valuing Your Successes. Part II: Character and Moral Successes

In my last newsletter, I discussed the importance of not undervaluing your work successes. Perfectionists tend to ignore or devalue all accomplishments other than “the big score,” which is a very demoralizing and demotivating mindset.) But it's also important to recognize your “character successes,” and I list some types of those below. I decided to write this newsletter because I know so many people who work hard at meaningful endeavors, including art, activism, small business, or simply trying to live an ethical life; and who are extremely hard on themselves when they falter. Some of this extreme self-blame is probably due to perfectionism. But some happen when people don't fully recognize the nature of the barriers they're up against, or the magnitude of their accomplishments in the face of those barriers. Some barriers are personal or familial, and we shouldn't underrate those; but society itself can be a huge barrier when it pays lip service to virtues like caring, compassion, courage, honesty, … [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...]

On the Topic of Not Waiting for Ideal Conditions to Get Started

Here's a gent who, having lost a lot of his vision in old age, continues to paint amazing things **using Microsoft Paint.** Very inspiring - and you won't believe what he can do. … [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...]

When Adversity Strikes Be Sure You’re Framing It Properly

New York Times health columnist Jane Brody writes about a new book, The Gift of Adversity: The book’s titular message — that adversity can be a gift — is especially relevant now, as millions of Americans who have lost jobs struggle to reinvent themselves. After 20 productive years as a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Rosenthal felt he was essentially forced out by new leadership. “This kind of thing happens to many people in all fields,” Dr. Rosenthal wrote. “Sometimes you need to accept that it’s time to move on — and to do so.” And so he did, becoming an independent clinical researcher, private clinician and, perhaps most important of all, an author of science-based nonfiction written in an entertaining and accessible style. In an interview, he offered this message to people in midlife who have lost jobs: “Accept the situation and view it as part of a national trend, not a reflection of your personal worth. Reach within yourself to see what else you can do, what you value, then … [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...]

Why the Middles of Projects are Tough (Part 2): Plus, How to Have Fun Revising!

Middles are Tough. Last time I wrote about how the middles of writing and other projects can be difficult, citing Dante's Inferno, which begins “midway upon the journey of our life," and John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress, in which the protagonist, Christian, literally bogs down midway, in the infamous “Slough of Despond.” Middles are where your enthusiasm ebbs often at the exact moment when the project itself seems most chaotic, disorganized, and daunting. They're a double whammy, in other words. But that's not all... Middles are massive. Anne Lamott famously said, in Bird by Bird, that every piece of writing begins with a “shitty first draft,” but it's probably more like ten, twenty, or thirty shitty drafts. Make sure you understand what a “draft” is, though: *It's a single, quick run-through of your piece (or chapter or other section), during which you correct its obvious and easy problems, and partially correct its hard ones. *You move quickly and lightly through the piece, making … [Read more...]

“Her Face Went From Scowl to Peace”: 7 Secrets of the Prolific Helps Lifelong Procrastinator and Her 12-Year-Old Daughter

From the mailbag: I just wanted to thank you for putting together this comprehensive book. I've suffered from writers block/perfectionism my whole life, and once in a while I break through, but then get bogged down again. Your book confirmed some of the core discoveries I made overcoming my blocks, but has done so much to help me see the bigger picture. I love the list of the attributes of perfectionism. I love the description of compassionate objectivity and recently conveyed it to my 12 year old daughter who was feeling discouraged that she wasn't amazing after a half hour of ice skating instruction. Her face went from a scowl to peace -- it made so much sense to her. I also love the section that talks about the stages of writing and how we have to retreat to stage one whenever we start to feel unsafe. Read sample chapters here. Buy it here. … [Read more...]