Luck? Or work? Veritasium proves that it’s both, and not only that, but you need to believe it’s only work, or your luck won’t help. Read More
I like to fool myself that I’ve got a fairly decent sense time. This, of course, is utter hogwash.
Humans live in relative time. We simply do not know how time passes, we can’t feel it, can’t predict it. And it’s doing pretty weird things to our sense of self, or rather our sense of accomplishment.
For example, I’ve been writing every day. For the past month, every single day. But some days, even though I’ve marked down that I’ve written, even though the writing has felt quite long and hard, I haven’t accomplished much.
Other days, even though I feel that I’ve just written a little bit and I would have liked to write more, I’ve written thousands of words.
Both of these feelings are false.
Fortunately, I’m pretty good at noting when I start and stop my writing sprints. And amazingly on the days when the writing has felt like it’s taken forever but I haven’t accomplished much, I haven’t spent much time writing.
See, my writing speed is fairly constant around 1500 usable words per hour. So it’s the total amount of time I spend writing that determines my total output. It’s simple math. However, when I consult my feelings, it’s anything but simple.
On days when I produce less, I feel that I’ve spent more time and more effort on my writing, and on days that I produce more, I generally feel that I’ve spent less time and less energy to produce more.
What’s going on?
What’s going on, is that my flow, my enthusiasm, and my natural fear of encountering difficulties collaborate to make my sense of time as accurate as that of a five-year-old waiting for Santa Claus.
But the more sprint’s I do, the less that feeling persists. Basically, the more I write, the more I feel like writing, and the less time and effort I feel that I’m spending.
Note the key word “feel” here. It’s got nothing to do with actual, observable, measurable time. Everything is about feeling. That’s why time gets shorter the more I write.
It’s a like warming up before a workout. You warm up, and warm up, and it’s hard. You’re still stiff, maybe hurting a bit from the last workout, and things aren’t going so great. But then you move along into the exercise itself. And after about 10, or 15, or 20, or however many, minutes, you hit your stride.
You’re feeling good about it. You’re no longer thinking about how heavy those weights are or how long you’ve been running or biking or swimming. You’re just doing your thing, in the zone.
Writing is exactly like that. Getting into the zone takes time and that time feels like a long, hard slog with a heavy backpack. In absolute terms it can be minutes, maybe quarter of an hour at most, before things get into flow. But those beginning moments, the warm up to the writing feel long. Especially before you begin, when they feel infinite.
That little warm up hump is enough to put a lot of people off, stop them from writing entirely. I know that I’m one.
My methods to break through this brain-hurdle is to count my writing as starting. If I just sit down and start, I get to count that day as having written.
This means that no moment, even if it’s only three minutes of cycling through old text, is wasted. I get to chalk it up as writing.
It gets me past the hard relative time and into the easy relative time. Not always, but often enough. Not reliably, but often enough that I can reach that relative time that just flows, effortlessly and swiftly, like a brook in spring where the words tumble, waiting to be caught.
It doesn’t always work. I’ve got days where the beginning time really feels infinite, and I can’t get past it. I’ve got days when I’m too stressed out, too tired, to worn and depressed and just plain fed up to write.
But the more I write, and the more used I get to the habit of starting, the quicker I get into fast time.
And that’s where I want to be.
Knowing that others have been rejected before you, that authors you admire, who’ve won prizes and gone on to glorious careers, have been badly rejected, can ease your burden. Here are some of those rejections. Read More
Writing to the Point is a short (152 airy pages) yet deep (spanning everything from “Chapter 1: The Basic Basics” to dealing with agents and who to format a manuscript) writing advice book. It took me slightly less than an hour-and-a-half to read, and I haven’t come away from a writing how-to book this turbo-charged in a long, long time. Read More
And I should have seen it coming.
I’ve learned some things about myself, things that I can’t seem to change. First off, I’m a carrot type of guy. I work best when I’m motivated by positive feelings. Negative motivation, stress, and pushes don’t work for me. And I know that I’m not alone. Read More
Sometimes they use variations “I’m going to write when I retire.” “When the kids are older.” “When this project at work is finished.” If only they’d have the time.
Well, friend-of-a-friend, since I don’t have the courage to take you by the ear and shake you, I’ll do the second best thing. I’m going to lampoon you on the Interwebz. I’m going to prove to you that you’ve got the time to write, using cold, hard math. Read More
Ours is not to reason why, Ours is but to do or die[note]Contrary to popular belief, this has nothing to do with the US Marines, Iwo Jima or the Battle of Ypres. The original quote, “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die”, comes from the poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson, and translates to: “damn, what idiots”.[/note].
What a load of bullshit.
The ability to reason why is central to human experience. It is what drives us to purposeful action and what separates us from the animals – experiments have shown animals to be able to reason (horses, for example, can do arithmetic on the level of a 4-year-old), be optimistic or pessimistic (shown in both birds and mammals using colored coded learning/unlearning models), and learn to read and write (dolphins can learn a symbolic language and use it to communicate with humans, as do chimps). However, no experiment has managed to show that animals have the ability to self-analysis.
Humans do. And it’s one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to productivity. Read More
You have to begin, over, and over, and over again. A new story, a new chapter, a new sentence.
You have to begin. That’s all there is to it.
For me, beginning is always hard. I know of people who look at the page and don’t know what to write. I don’t. If I look at the page, I start to write. It’s the moment before, right as I start the computer, think about what I need to do, that’s the hardest.
I know I should begin. I know that as soon as I begin I’ll be able to write, I’ll be getting somewhere, anywhere. But the moment before I start, that’s pure fear.
I’ve been writing professionally for over fifteen years now, and I still have trouble beginning. I still feel the fear. Read More
Up until that point I spin, I flow, I tap the words out like a prima ballerina flying across the keyboard. But once I start to approach the dreaded limit I slow down, meander, erase and finally stop.
For years I thought that this was some sort of magic limit, a curse that would strike me the moment the count reached 999. It didn’t matter how great the idea was, how motivated I was, how rested, how revved. Come word 1000 and everything fell apart. I resigned myself to writing short pieces.
But about six months ago I sat down to write up an idea which had been bouncing about my head for a while: an introduction to Intellectual Property law aimed at game designers. Read More
Or, I’m not lazy as such. I’m more of a work avoider.
Ok, I’m not really a work avoider. I love to do stuff. I just have a bit of trouble getting started.
Folks, my name is Filip and I’ve got procrastinitis. I procrastinate. Not because I want to. Not because I need to. Not even because I don’t want to do the work. I procrastinate because it’s hard getting started.
There are a lot of reasons why you can’t get started. Perhaps you don’t know what you want to do. Perhaps you don’t have the skills. Perhaps you don’t have the time[note]No, you aren’t going to get more time by waiting. That way lies madness, I tell you, maaaaadness.[/note].
But perhaps all you’re missing is the right hook. Read More