The Ultimate Writer’s Guide to Great Productivity by Tim Grahl

A while ago, I subscribed to updates from Tim Grahl (founder of Out:think, “a firm that works with authors to build their platform and sell more books”). A few of his ideas have really resonated with me, and I especially appreciate this latest post where he shares a clearly-written plan for increasing productivity, whilst cherishing family, work, and fitness.

A friendly reminder - Photo by K A Brown

A friendly reminder – Photo by K A Brown

Grahl has included some free templates with the post. You need to provide an email address to get the download.

My personal takeaway from this online guide is:

-Don’t sit down in front of the computer without a clear plan of what I want to achieve.
-Plan writing goals longer-term.
-Stop reading material on questionably-relevant topics.
-Buy an alarm clock and start using it!

A Tale of Broken City (Teaser)

Below is the poem that serves to anchor and provide the foundation for my new story about New York. For me poetry is the best way to test and experiment the “essence” of a story, not the “moral” and never will be.

What is your style or method to create the foundation of a story?

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Gust tempers down, clouds spread out,

the bare decorated with a few sparkles

faint and trying

 Overpowered largely by manmade flashes

Glamour continues to razzle dazzle

Makes believe the real never leaves the surface

Jungle is never safe

Tangled chaos have their own gestures

Wild yet stylish, cast a spell of a remarkable assumption

 That a straight yet lifeless monument

Can rule how we walk on the moon

Offer an achievement of concrete illusion

 Sun just beams, wind whispers in caution

Seems intangible but filled with veracity

In its original form, simmering the collapse

 The Lust for everything

The Loneliness of having all

The Learning with long form writing

 Save an urban cynicism of being passive aggressive

Take a break, sip an ice tea

Some fires still wait to be ignited

 A caveman once made a discovery

An obelisk can float again

To witness the fall and salvage climb

Writing for Therapy

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” –Graham Greene

Recently, while dealing with the fast approaching death of my cat, Thor, I was once again reminded of the benefits of writing as therapy. In the days before his death, I wrote him a letter, reflecting on his four short years, and what he had come to mean to me just by being present through so many trials and triumphs. In the end, when letting a dear friend read the very personal story, she pointed out that the letter wasn’t just to Thor, but also to myself.

Recently, The New York Times posted an article entitled, “Writing Your Way To Happiness.” In it, psychology professor James Pennebaker, speaking on his work and research on the benefits of expressive writing, is quoted saying, “The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go. I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.”

Have you ever written a personal story as therapy? Did it help you process what you were going through, or even change the course of your life in some way? I think I’m still processing. Perhaps there is still more of my own story to write.

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Inspiration by Nature

In my last blog I wrote about how inspiration can hit you at any time, anywhere. Knowing when you’ve been hit is usually fairly obvious – it’s like mercury racing through your neural channels. Then there are those wonderful, frustrating moments when you’re stumbling around something, feeling the shape of it, sensing it’s there without quite being able to rip that nugget of silver ore out of the bedrock (this is often because the damn lump of metal is bigger than you realise…). Sometimes you’re just picking up one rock after another hoping for a promising vein.

One thing I’ve found is that unless you’re really lucky, that silver ain’t gonna drop in your lap. You have to at least look at some rocks, maybe handle a few. Loosely translated into my own writing process, this means I should be thinking about what I’m writing now, planning to write, or the world I’m writing about fairly often. While walking around with some music on, while waiting in line for something, and, as I intimated last time, while on the John. That headspace acts like a combination of magnet and lens – bringing those nebulous particles of inspiration closer, and making it easier to spot them for what they are.

Last time out I mentioned how looking at some old art gave me a moment of inspiration. Another one that I recognised when it hit me also came from a visual source, but this time from nature.

In my first year in Taiwan, October 2008, I took a three-day break from work to head over to Hualien on the east coast. I went by myself, and with no planning, figuring that I could wing it. This was successfully managed and I had a really good few days. Since I was on me tod, I was writing on the train, and at the end of the day in my hotel room, thus putting myself in the headspace I talked about above.

On the second day of the trip I went to Taroko Gorge, booked into a hostel in Tiansiang, the village in the middle, I got there about mid-day, and decided to spend most of the remaining daylight exploring the Huoran Pavilion Trail, which began right outside the hostel. It was a steep one, and involved some scrambling and a bit of hauling myself up on a rope. For most of the way there was undergrowth all around me, but when I hit the top the world suddenly opened up. All I could see for miles in every direction were treetops, cliff faces, waterfalls, and mountain peaks. And an awful lot of sky. It was beautiful, and I took a bunch of pictures, but I also spent a long time just looking around. What would it be like to live up here? I wondered.

Then I felt the telltale tingle of inspiration open up, demanding attention. That same group of people I mentioned in the last blog, who’d formed a civilisation in the mountains where the guy (Aglaris) had found the goddess in the cave, would live in a place like this. They’d spend most of their lives feeling peaceful, contemplative, like I was right then. That’s going to inform how they think, how they speak, how they act around other Aglarin (the name I gave them) and around others. They’d think pretty deeply. They’d take their time. They’d have a close-knit community because they would have more time to be in sync. They’d share, because the sky and the view belongs to everyone.

I went back down the trail with a much better idea of the Aglarin as a people, and the specific Aglarin I’d encounter in what I wrote than when I’d started the climb. Thanks, Nature.