Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Fiver.

1. Off to a late afternoon chat at Starbucks at the Lodge with a fellow writer; although she's much more successful than I am at this writing thing. I've also got a Nordstrom gc and a J.Crew gc burning holes in my pocket.

2. Transition for me to take more responsibility at my job has begun. I'm nervous, but excited. I really love my job. It's more wonderful than even I imagined it would be.

3. I'm totally clearing my brain out with Quicksilver and iGTD. What an amazing set of widgets.

4. M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water was fantastical and yet I have to say "eh." It wasn't my style, although Paul Giamatti was incredible as usual.

5. I like books: reading, planning, and writing them. This is becoming obvious to me. My writing of shorter pieces will only support my book addiction.

Up for this weekend: lots of reading. I have a pile of books that I need to just sit down and read. Probably some weeding in the yard too.

Keep Moving Forward!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More tech talk.

So, I don't have to use what I wrote in Ruby just to use Quicksilver with iGTD, but if I want to back up my iGTD, I need to do so. Fine. For now, my .Mac will back up for me.

Or not, if I continue to figure out how all this works together.

So, for those who wrote to say they were not sure what I was talking about, here's an example of how I'm using my Macbook as my to-do list.

Before, using OmniOutliner and kGTD, I would type a task into the program, but I was in the program and my mind would immediately go blank. Staring at a to-do list that demands lots of organization upfront will make me go blank every time!

Now, I can be typing in another program, Word or Adobe or even checking email and I just press the command key (on a Mac) and my Quicksilver box pops up. I can quickly type @ followed by six custom categories I've picked. I'll use @Fiction as my example. So I type that, then a space and then the task I want to file into my Fiction subfolder. So, @Fiction Prepare a 200-word section of my in-progress novel to send to my writers group--that's it! And then press enter. That task is automatically filed into iGTD into the correct folder and I can forget about it. I have another category @Home and I just added a reminder to myself to call my sister about a paint color. It's one less thing on my mind and I can trust that iGTD will keep it for me. Plus, with Growl, I can assign it a time and start and end date and Growl (as well as iCal) will remind me about it later.

Does that help?

What kind of free programs can you find that will help you streamline your work and to-do lists?

Technology to Write With

The beauty of a Mac is in all the widgets that can do countless things automatically for you. I've just started reading Timothy Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek and have downloaded the new (to me, at least) iGTD program to go with Quicksilver, because between David Allen's Getting Things Done and Ferriss' 4-Hour Workweek, I realized yesterday, I waste way too much time in trivial administrative tasks. I also have too much in my head. I need technology to help me. (You can do this too, just go over there . . . see my blog roll? There you go. Now click on 43 Folders!)

I'm even starting to program in Ruby, which astonishes me to no end in order to get Quicksilver, iGTD, and Growl to work together on my Macbook to automate my to-do list. This is going to be great!

But first, some back story: Last week I began putting together a writing notebook to organize my writing life. Well, I quickly found out that I didn't want to write down every single task, because it took too long. I didn't want to record each query on a paper form; again, it took too long. So I figured out how to configure the Mac widgets. If I get it to work right today, I can be in the middle of another project (surfing the web, backing my data up to .Mac, writing), and suddenly, as I remember a task, I can call up the Quicksilver widget, type in the task, and if I did my Ruby programming right, that task will automatically be filed into my iGTD exactly where I want it.

Life is good. I may have to email my Ruby expert over in North Carolina though, because me writing Ruby? This is so not me.

Keep Moving Forward.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Writing and Walking.

I'm thoroughly inspired by Chip Scanlon again this morning. (He's got good stuff!).

Also, get this.

I'm out running a bajillion errands yesterday afternoon after work, in masses of Seattle traffic, trying to not get my brain sucked out by the inane commute radio talk and I get a brainstorm. Something my sister said to me sets me off on this idea for an essay on change. Usually, writing notes while driving is not wise for me, so I kept repeating key phrases to myself and then pulled into the post office parking lot and grabbed the index cards that Anne Lamott suggested writers keep everywhere (cars, bedside tables, back pocket on a walk, etc.) and I was able to capture not just one essay idea, but two. Just from quickly jotting two key phrases down on their respective cards. I literally danced into the post office to mail my Netflix movie (Friends with Money with Jennifer Aniston--skip it--trust me) and to check my po box.

I felt in control of the flow of ideas. This is huge.

I'm working very hard on process over here (with help from Boice and other authors) and this was a major breakthrough for me.

Now off to write those essays! I got a list of essay markets the other day.

Keep Moving Forward.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oh, To Write All Day

Have you ever color-coded your hours in a day? It's shocking to realize how much time you waste.

So I should have plenty of writing time during the day according to my color codes. It sure doesn't seem like it, after a 40-minute conference call this morning and other phone calls and getting my work ready today.

But, I am reading Boice again.

1. Use brief, daily sessions (even 5-10 minutes in the midst of daily schedules) as times for deliberate exercises of revising, annotating, and reorganizing your notes. This time is not usually meant for entering new notes; it is more for noticing and planning.

2. During these brief sessions, experiment with schemes for organizing ideas into diagrams and themes that can become outlines and/or plot lines for manuscripts. Draw actual designs and maps to see how things fit together; use free writing to find out what themes you can express.

3. Make a conscious effort to delay closure in these sessions. Practice patience by spending more times at playful reconfiguring, particularly at times when patterns and themes seem settled upon. Post a sign, like Kafka's that says "Wait."

4. If you get stuck organizing your ideas, work up a second, related project; the cross-transfer of ideas may help unblock you. Or the experience might convince you that the first project is abandonable.

5. Set deadlines for cutoff points where, ready or not, you will go public with your working materials. While you should caution your friends and colleagues that your ideas are still formative, you can legimately ask for useful feedback about what works and doesn't in your schemes. In particular, solicit coments about what you have done well (compliments are valuable) and about what you might do better: Have you missed something? Are you right in suspecting that some ideas aren't fully developed or interconnected at one point or another? Does the organization seem obvious, or involving?

6. If you want to work at the task of collecting on your computer, find someone knowledgeable about software packages (de.lic.ious for Mac/PC, Quicksilver for Mac only, both are free!) that file materials and ease the task of accessing and rearranging them. But at the same time, set firm limits on time invested per day in learning and practicing computer technologies; both software and journal keeping have remarkable potential for engaging writers in habits that become ends in themselves.

I love this!

Keep Moving Forward.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday Morning Blue.

I got to have my 5-mo-old niece (and her mom, my sister, and dad, as well as my other sister) for a weekend visit. We went to the horse races on Friday night and then out shopping on Saturday and it was so fun that Monday morning seems rather blah. I mean, there's no cooing, drooling darling to giggle at this morning.

Today starts the Freelance Success Summer Query Challenge that will run into August. This is when a bunch of professional writers (I think around 40 or so) divide into teams and write blizzards of magazine article or essay queries or letters of introduction (LOIs) to new magazines or corporate writing prospects for points. The most points wins the challenge.

It is usually a heady time, with us writers taking huge risks and sending half-baked query ideas out to as many markets as possible (at least for me). But a lot of writers actually get a lot of writing business from these and end up surpassing monthly or yearly goals.

As for me, I'm concentrating mostly on essays, book reviews, and corporate clients, with the occasional article query thrown in. (I am still not a 30-minute query writer yet.) My natural writing style is the essay and book review, so I hope to sell all those essays I've been working on this spring.

My quick point earner will be the corporate work, however. I intend to contact multiple corporate clients for my bulk points.

I just have to work really hard for the morning and half of the afternoon for my daily work and then the rest of the day I can write. Einstein did this in his patent office job. He was able to complete all his patent work in just two hours in the morning and spent the rest of the day on his own experiments and writing. He won the Nobel prize while still employed at the patent office.

Keep moving forward.