Writers in their natural habitats

I think this has to be one of my favourite photo galleries of all time. In the series entitled, Where I Write, photographer Kyle Cassidy has captured the natural habitat of over a dozen writers – that is, the environment in which they work.

Cassidy started the project when he had a rather serendipitous opportunity to visit the office of science fiction writer, Michael Swanwick.

“It was like I’d cracked open his skull and seen the gears of genius. The best way I can describe it is as a nest, made out of books, as intricate and well assembled as a Nevelson sculpture.”

There is something absolutely mesmerizing for me to look at these wonderfully chaotic and cozy spaces, bookshelves overflowing, kooky keepsakes dotting desks and ledges. The gentle disorder radiates creativity.

Sometimes I get exasperated when the papers and books pile up around my desk. I see those clutter-free-in-20-minutes articles and feel like I should throw everything out and have dust-free empty spaces around me when I work. But looking at these images makes me love my little writing space just the way it is. It’ll never make the pages of Architectural Digest but, like the spaces captured in Where I Write, it’s my own little universe of memories, dreams, ideas and aspirations. And I love it, dust and all.

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Sona si Latine loqueris (Honk if you speak Latin)

AUDENTES-0AFORTUNA-0AIUVATAlthough the origins of English are a merry mix of many languages and dialects, a significant number of words have their roots in Latin. We still use of lot of Latin phrases in everyday life; sometimes we understand the phrases simply from having heard them used in context. But do we know exactly what we are saying?

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Top 10 quotes for writers

Idea copySometimes you sit down to write and nothing comes. Or, everything comes tumbling out in a raggedy mess. When I hit those speed bumps, I like to take a deep breath and get a little inspiration from people who know what I’m going through: other writers.

Here are my ten favourite quotes for writers, from writers.

 

We as writers must stop getting in our own way. We need to sit down and write every day. Work on short assignments – take it bird by bird. — Anne Lamott

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. — Elmore Leonard

Every writer I know has trouble writing. — Joseph Heller

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
—Mark Twain

Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life. — Hunter S. Thompson

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. — Stephen King

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. — Anton Chekhov

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning. — Peter De Vries

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. —W. Somerset Maugham

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.― Douglas Adams

What are your favourite quotes?

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Productivity porn and structured procrastination

Overwhelmed, too much to do, too little time: story of your life lately?

All kinds of people have their take on how to get more done with less effort and more efficiency, right? Well, here is an excerpt from an oldie but a goodie: Marc Andreessen’s The Pmarca Guide to Personal Productivity.

Productivity porn consists of techniques, tactics, and tricks for maximizing personal productivity — or, as they say, “getting things done”.

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The Google guys

Larry Page and Sergey BrinI was leafing through  an old Brandweek “Best of the Decade” issue from 2014 and stopped on the page where they listed their “Media Entrepreneurs of the Decade”. It was the Google guys. Of course.

But more interestingly, to me at least, was that the co-founders of Google, Lawrence “Larry” Page and Sergey Brin, were both born in 1973.

Making them (you know it) Xers.

So don’t say we never gave you nothin’. 😉

I was leafing through Brandweek’s Best of the Decade Issue that came out in December and stopped on the page where they listed their “Media Entrepreneurs of the Decade”. It was the Google guys. Of course.

But more interestingly, to me at least, was that the co-founders of Google, Lawrence “Larry” Page and Sergey Brin, were both born in 1973.

Making them (you know it) Xers.

So don’t say we never gave you nothin’.

By the way, if you try to trackback the article on the Brandweek site, you just get the title and a picture of (why am I not surprised) Steve Jobs. The quintessential boomer.

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Timeless advice on communicating ideas

RBC Communication of IdeasThe basic principles of good communication haven’t changed over time. If anything, technology has made clarity, brevity and the astute choice of words more important today than it ever was. Anyone who has tried to pack a complex idea into 140 characters on Twitter can surely appreciate this.

Unless you are writing creative fiction or poetry, choosing simple and direct language to communicate your ideas is always the best practice. Save the $100 words for Scrabble, as one of my profs used to say.

Years ago, after my father passed away, I found this little gem of a book among his belongings. “The Communication of Ideas” was published before I was born, in 1963, and is a selection of monthly newsletters of the Royal Bank of Canada. Good for a laugh or two, right?

Not so fast.

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Simple language makes you sound smarter

It's Complicated by Hugh McLeod
The urge to whip out some fancy multi-syllabic piece of obscure vocabulary can get away from you. Words like “declivity” or “orthogenesis” can be tempting to use to flex one’s intellectual muscles.

And people will be impressed with your superior intellect, right?

Wrong.

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Get yourself together, career-wise

Typical of my generation, I expect that I will have to work as long as my health will permit. I don’t expect to retire to Sunnyside Estates and play golf and go on cruises. With my temperament (and financial prospects) I don’t ever expect to enjoy the luxury of retirement. Period.

Best case scenario, I will be a consultant into my 70s.
Worst case scenario, Wal-Mart greeter.

That’s why Peter F. Drucker’s article in the Harvard Business Review, “Managing Oneself” was such a good read. Not only does the article help you to identify your goals, progress, strengths and weaknesses, it also helps you think about the second part of your life and the challenge of changing careers in mid-life. Which, let’s face it, Gen-Xers are virtually guaranteed to have to do.

My key take-aways:

“Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong.”
How to use feedback analysis to set goals, review your progress and see if you really know where your strengths lie.

“Amazingly few people know how they get things done.”
How do you best perform? Are you a “reader” or a “listener”? Trying to stuff yourself into style of performing that doesn’t fit with your temperament is one of the greatest predictors of failure and dissatisfaction.

“[The] mirror test: Ethics requires that you ask yourself. What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”
If your most basic values are in conflict with the organization for which you work, it’s only a question of time before you either have to leave, become bitter and ineffective or get turfed out.

“[M]ost people, especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties.”
That’s  why knowing your strengths, values and how you best perform will help you to understand where you do and don’t belong – turning down offers that you know will not be successful for you, however appealing. No time to waste.

“People who manage the second half of their lives may always be a minority.”
How and why you should start planning a second career, a parallel career or a social venture. Now.

My favourite quote:
It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.

In other words, don’t waste precious time trying to excel at something you think you “should”. Evaluate your strengths and work from them.

Typical of my generation, I expect that I will have to work as long as my health will permit. I don’t expect to retire to Sunnyside Estates and play golf and go on cruises. With my temperament (and financial prospects) I don’t ever expect to enjoy the luxury of retirement. Period.

Best case scenario, I will be a consultant into my 70s.

Worst case scenario, Wal-Mart greeter.

That’s why Peter F. Drucker’s article in the Harvard Business Review, “Managing Oneself” was such a good read. Not only does the article help you to identify your goals, progress, strengths and weaknesses, it also helps you think about the second part of your life and the challenge of changing careers in mid-life. Which, let’s face, Gen-Xers are virtually guaranteed to have to do.

My key take-aways:

“Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong.”

Using feedback analysis to set goals, review your progress and really see if the thing you think are your strengths really are.

“Amazingly few people know how they get things done.”

How do you best perform? Are you a “reader” or a “listener”? Trying to stuff yourself into style of performing that doesn’t fit with your temperament is one of the greatest predictors of failure and dissatisfaction.

“[The] mirror test: Ethics requires that you ask yourself. What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”

If your most basic values are in conflict with the organization for which you work, it’s only a question of time before you either have to leave, become bitter and ineffective or get turfed out.

“[M]ost people, especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties.”

Knowing your strengths, values and how you best perform will help you to understand where you do and don’t belong – turning down offers that you know will not be successful for you, however appealing.

“People who manage the second half of their lives may always be a minority.”

How and why you should start planning a second career, a parallel career or a social venture. Now.

My favourite quote:

It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.

In other words, don’t waste precious time trying to excel at something you think you “should”. Evaluate your strengths and work from them.

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Fixed Schedule Productivity: nice method if you can do it

Like everyone these days, I get overwhelmed by the tasks I have to accomplish in a day, a week, a month. I am always on the lookout for systems, methods, tricks, approaches that will help me sort it out, get it done and hopefully not require sedation.

The Study Hacks blog has an interesting article about “Fixed Schedule Productivity”.

The gist:

  1. Figure out the amount of time you have (or want to allot) to the things you must get done.
  2. Insert your tasks to fit into that block of time, eliminating time wasters from your schedule.
  3. Say no to things that will throw this out of whack, even if it means pissing people off.

Number 3 is the hard part. Especially when your schedule consists almost entirely of out-of-left-field requests and falling-from-the-sky demands.

I’m going to give it a go and see what happens. Sorry if I have to piss anyone off.

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It’s never too late

Never too late I liked this post on The Next Web’s Entrepreneur site. Sometimes we count ourselves out because we think the ship has already sailed. But it’s never too late to do something great – and, as Gen-Xers know, to learn something new and start again.

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