New Class! How to Write a Lot (Online)

I hope everyone is doing okay during this difficult season. I'm doing well, and so are most of my loved ones. Like everyone else, here in the US, we're all under a lot of stress, both due to the pandemic and also our political situation. The next few months are guaranteed to be difficult, so I hope everyone is doing tons of self-care, and also socially distancing and masking. Anyhow some news: I'M TEACHING AGAIN!  I took a hiatus for several years while writing my new book (soon to be announced), but my teaching resumes on Saturday, August 29, with a brand-new, full-day (10 am - 5 pm) ONLINE version of my popular Grub Street Writers workshop, How to Write a Lot.           I will be sharing many new techniques from my forthcoming book, Productivity is Power. Whether you write creatively, for work, or for school, they will work for you! Course summary: 10 am     The Truth About Procrastination 11 am     Breaking Free of Perfectionism 12 pm     The … [Read more...]

We’re All Done With Pandemic Shaming!

Happy to report that there's been a swift and strong pushback on the whole "use your pandemic time productively" push. From the meme world...                 From the New York Times...   ...and from J.K. Rowling herself! No quote tweeting, but if you're a 'life coach' who's on here implying people are losers if they aren't learning a new skill/building a brand while on lockdown, maybe stop. People have challenges you know nothing about. Sometimes getting through something is more than enough. — J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) April 3, 2020 Love to see the culture getting smarter and more compassionate! Stay well, and stay nonperfectionist! … [Read more...]

Focusmate: a Productivity App That Really Works!

So I don't recommend products or apps very often, and when I have, the results have been mixed. ( IS a good indie-bookstore-supporting substitute for Audible, but CBD oil as a sleep aid is probably an expensive placebo at best.) But I have NO hesitation in recommending Focusmate, an inexpensive app that gives you a work or study "buddy" on demand. One of the core problems and paradoxes of productivity work is that many kinds of work demand solitude (for thinking and concentrating), and yet few of us seem to tolerate it well. (We get lonely and restless and distracted.) The most effective solution for many is to work quietly alongside a buddy who is doing the same. A good buddy can be hard to find, however; and even if you're lucky enough to find one, it can still be hard to schedule a time together, and to not chat when you should be working. Focusmate is really as close to a perfect solution as you can get. It's basically a calendaring program combined with videoconferencing. Use the calendar … [Read more...]

Roll Over Beethoven!

At a recent performance of Johannes Brahms’s First Symphony, the conductor told how, when Brahms was just starting out, the elder composer Robert Schumann praised him to the high heavens. Here’s the story: Brahms was only twenty years old and as yet little known….Robert expressed his admiration first in a letter to Joachim, and then in an article for the Neue Zeitschrift, entitled “Neue Bahnen” (“New Paths”). He praised Brahms in extravagant language, proclaiming the arrival of a young musician “called to give expression to his times in ideal fashion: a musician who would reveal his mastery not in gradual stages but like Minerva would spring fully armed from Kronos’s head. And he has come; a young man over whose cradle Graces and Heroes have stood watch. His name is Johannes Brahms…” Partly as a result of Schumann’s extravagant praise, many considered Brahms the natural successor to Beethoven, and predicted that his first symphony would be “Beethoven’s Tenth.” It took Brahms 21 years to finish that … [Read more...]

Nope, “Perfectionism in Moderation” Isn’t a Good Thing

Writer Lindsay Ellis recently tweeted about imposter syndrome (where you think you aren't up to the task, have everyone fooled, and are destined to be revealed as a horrible fraud). Unfortunately, she gets it wrong. She writes: "Because the thought patterns that lead to imposter syndrome need not always be a net negative - on some level, it is a form of perfectionism, but perfectionism can be harnessed as energy to create better, more thoughtful work. Perfectionism in moderation need not be destructive." You won't be surprised to hear that I emphatically disagree with that last sentence. My responses below. As someone who specializes in helping writers and others overcome #perfectionism and procrastination, I have to respectfully disagree. I believe perfectionism is always harmful because it disempowers you.... — Hillary Rettig (@hillaryrettig) March 1, 2019 Perfectionism's main tools are harshness and coercion - including imposter syndrome. They are inhumane and thus immoral … [Read more...]

Now Do an Email Sprint With Me

Here’s another good technique: email sprints. Take a clicker* and use it to keep track while sending out ten QUICK emails in rapid succession. I love doing email sprints. You can fit them easily in between other tasks and they clear out your inbox like nothing else. Sprinting also gives you a wonderful little productivity “lift” and helps you practice the valuable skill of sending terse emails. Here are some good quickies to send: A thank you. A check in with a professional or personal contact. A reply to a scheduling email. A reply to a question. The key, as mentioned above, is “terse.” No more than three sentences in each mail, and bonus points if you can get one down to a few words, as in: “Yes-thanks!” or “Not a good fit--sorry!” or, “7 pm OK?” or, “Thought you’d like to see this!” Now, of course it’s possible to get too terse—but making that mistake occasionally is far better than overdoing all the dozens, or hundreds, of emails you’re receiving every week. Like most productivity … [Read more...]

Let’s Talk About “Situational Perfectionism”

“Situational perfectionism” is when something causes your perfectionism to spike above its usual levels. (Which usually, in turn, causes your procrastination to spike!) It’s a common phenomenon, with many causes. Here are a few: A prior failure. Often, when we perceived we’ve failed, we get more afraid of future failures. (The solution is to not make such a fuss over failure.) But, paradoxically... A prior success can also do it! That’s because you feel (often rightly) more scrutinized. Second Novel Syndrome is a classic example of this type of situational perfectionism, and even J.K. Rowling experienced it after the success of the first Harry Potter book: “For the first time ever in my life, I got writer’s block...The stakes seemed to have gone up a lot, and I attracted a lot of publicity in Britain for which I was utterly unprepared.’” Fortunately, she got over it, but many writers and others, alas, never do. Labels can be a problem! Labeling your project “urgent,” “important,” or “difficult” … [Read more...]

Does Writer’s Block Exist?

A coupla tweets for your delectation: Lookee here! Another guy--and they almost always seem to be guys!--claims #writersblock doesn't exist. They seem to come out of the woodwork every once in a while. — Hillary Rettig (@hillaryrettig) May 7, 2018 "Writer’s block is a delicious myth" How callous and condescending, not to mention, #clueless, can you get? #writersblock #writers — Hillary Rettig (@hillaryrettig) May 7, 2018 Here's the full quote from the original article: Writer’s block is a fiction. That’s not to say I always feel like writing, or that I have some big idea percolating. I don’t know if you can force out good sentences or great ideas, but that doesn’t mean you cannot write. You can always write garbage; goodness knows, I write plenty of that. Sure, there are days I don’t feel like looking at my computer or picking up a pencil. Such days, I read; reading is inextricably linked with writing, so you can grade yourself on a curve and say that counts. And there are … [Read more...]