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Archive for November, 2010

Write or Die!

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Last week, I discovered a tool called Write or Die.  Besides having an awesome name, it’s also a fun writing tool.

At the above link, you can find the settings for the tool on the right.  Alternatively, you can use my settings (1000 words in 60 minutes).

The basic concept behind Write or Die is that you need to make the most of your writing time.  In normal mode, the background slowly fades from white to blood red whenever you stop typing.  If you stop typing for too long, you get an “annoying sound”–for my tries, I heard:

This is a great tool for when you’re having trouble getting started with your writing session, have a deadline you’re trying to hit, or just to help you fight the temptation to check your email while writing.

Check out Write or Die and let us know what you think!

Three Things I Learned This Weekend

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

This weekend, I did something I rarely do any more.

I relaxed.

When I entered the weekend, I was feeling stressed:

  • I hadn’t made as much progress as I’d wanted with my novel
  • I hadn’t finished all of my tasks from the previous week
  • My wife took a trip to the urgent care center on Friday (she’s fine, just a pulled muscle)
  • I had virtually no downtime the week before

By the time Friday evening rolled around, I realized something:  I was in no shape to work on anything, and I needed a break.

Saturday morning, I decided I was going to have a stress-free weekend.

I decided I wasn’t going to:

  • Care about how much progress I made on my novel.
  • Try to play catch-up on tasks from the week before.
  • Keep up on email (okay, so I broke that decision Sunday afternoon).
  • Watch Twitter (this was perhaps the most difficult–hard to believe how addicting it is)

I decided I was going to:

  • Catch up on that TV series I’ve been meaning to watch (Flash Forward).
  • Let myself experience the show without a computer in my lap.
  • Have fun with my neighbors and their children at our Saturday night gathering.

What I found was that I actually learned something by doing nothing.  Specifically, I came away with learning three things this weekend:

1.  It’s okay to take a weekend off

In our hectic lives, there are so many times where we feel pressured to have something going on every night and weekend.  We push ourselves so hard that we find ourselves wondering how we’re going to get it all done.

Deciding to let some things slide was difficult for me. I hate finishing anything late–in fact, most of the time I finish early.  However, I have no pressing dates at the moment, so now was as good a time as I was going to find for letting myself off the hook for once.

I also had an opportunity to watch a show (again, Flash Forward) that I’ve been really looking forward to, and was able to really focus on it.  I even got my wife involved in the show, though it wasn’t something she’d normally watch.

2.  You can learn a lot about writing by watching TV

One of the things I noticed about Flash Forward is that every detail had meaning in the story. There were times when a character couldn’t avoid his or her fate, and there were times when a character misinterpreted what would happen to them.  Regardless of what the detail was, it kept viewers asking how it was important to the overall story.

Another good thing about the show is how every scene felt tense and urgent.  I had to pause the DVD to go use the restroom because I was concerned about missing some small detail that would unlock the overall story.

The final detail here that struck me was how much Flash Forward reminded me of the writing process (I’ll follow up on this in a future blog post).  There are often many paths a novel could take, and even if you know the beginning, some of the events in the middle, and the end, you don’t really know how the novel is going to form until you start writing it.  However, by the end, the decisions made by each character form the events that surround them.

As an aside, I also bought the novel to compare it to the show, and to pick up on a couple of the more subtle descriptions the author must have used.  Even if they’re not the same, I would guess it must be a decent read.

3.  Time with friends is more enjoyable if you’ve turned off work

By distancing myself from other tasks earlier in the weekend, I was able to really focus on having a good time with our friends.  We spent a lot of time playing games, talking and laughing, as well as playing with the kids.

As an aside, kids generally don’t care about what it is that you do for a living.  They just care that you’re there and paying attention to them.  Sometimes it’s nice to take time to recognize that.

How about you?  What did you learn this weekend?  Have you ever turned off everything else while you focus on just taking time to relax?

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