29 July 2012

This Is For Everyone

Like many people, I watched the London Olympics Opening Ceremony this weekend.  I say weekend, as Friday night in UK, is Saturday morning here in New Zealand, but it was great to be able to watch the event live.  There were many spectacular happenings, but one that got me thinking was Tim Berners-Lee appearance.

We often glibly talk about how things have changed, without really stopping to think how true that is.  From New Zealand I can text or ring family in England as if they were next door, and I have friends I've never met through Twitter, blogs, email and online forums, groups and courses.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, I taught a lot of computer programmes, and among the subjects was an introduction to the Internet and internet searching. At that time, while Google was one of the main search engines, there were several others that were used as much, and Google hadn't entered our vocabulary as a verb!

The internet is an everyday tool for many of us, and has certainly changed the way we do business, shop and interact with each other.

What Tim Berners-Lee gave to the world is nothing short of amazing.

27 July 2012

Deadlines and Positive Thinking

I've just finished a work project with a very tight deadline. I've had more than a few of those this year, and I enjoyed a wonderful moment of lightness as I uploaded the documents, and metaphorically watched them disappear.

Deadline is a very negative word. Out of interest I looked it up in the dictionary, the first two definitions were exactly as I had expected, but there was a third.

'(Formerly) a boundary around a military prison beyond which a prisoner could not venture without risk of being shot by the guards.'

And I thought my deadline was bad!

When I'm not actually stressing about a deadline I enjoy the work I do, and the fact that mostly I work from home.

I realise that it's not so much the activity, but how I view it, that defines how I feel about it.

So taking this idea further - enjoying every day is about looking at daily activities in a positive way.  Finding a way to make those tedious tasks more exciting or fun.  That's what we do with children, make a game of putting away the toys or clothes, or even eating their vegetables.

I'll let you know how it goes.

20 July 2012

Keep Moving

One of the simplest ways I've found to get over a slight mental stumbling block, whether on my creative writing or non-fiction, is to move away from the computer.  Often it's just the equivalent of a walk to the water cooler.  For me this is to the fridge, or tap to fill my water bottle.  

I can't count the number of times I've mulled over a section of dialogue, the assessment questions I need to create, or a topic for this blog with a white fog drifting through my head.  I walk away from the computer and something comes to me.  It's like magic.

I change my perspective and my thoughts change.

I like that thought on a bigger scale as well. Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.

For a while every time I've thought about my WIP I've thought about how stuck I am with the plot, and yes, I'm over the 'losing the plot' jokes!

So I'm taking my own advice and changing my perspective. After all I'm only stuck if I decide I'm stuck and don't try to move forward.

16 July 2012

Who Changed That...

I'm busy at the moment with various learning and development projects, but one thing that never seems to change is the sudden about-turn that's required when one project goes quiet for whatever reason, and another suddenly becomes vitally important with a deadline of yesterday.

I've often joked about the saying 'the only constant is change', but it's so true.  How many industries and jobs are there now, that didn't exist 10 years ago?

This reminded me of a book I read a number of years ago - Who Moved My Cheese. If you haven't read it, then get a copy.  It's a small book and doesn't take long to read.  

Here are a couple of the points that resonated with me.  

Change happens: Whether we want it to, or dread it.  Whether we go with it or bury our heads, change happens.

The biggest inhibitor to change is you. Oh no it's not, we say, but it is comfortable here, and things are very nice.  Why can't they stay the same? 

When you move beyond your fear you feel free.  This is an interesting one.  I tend to think of fear as terror or horror, but fear is also something that stops us doing things.  So when we push ourselves to get beyond it, we feel an amazing exhilaration.  It's a great feeling, and there's nothing quite like it.  We should all do it more often.

There's a difference between activity and productivity.  Even knowing this, I still find myself busy, but not always productive.  It's so easy to spend time on blog posts, emails, Twitter etc. and not actually produce the all-important word-count. 

It also has a lot to do with making goals, and prioritising what's important.  

Most of us don't have control over every hour of our day.  We have work, families and other committments, but what about the hours we do have control over?  What do we do in that time? 

Do we spend it watching TV or on activities that contribute to our goals?  Putting it like that makes it sound virtuous, but dreary.  Ultimately we have to decide for ourselves.  At the moment I'm very aware of time, and that we don't always have the endless supply of it we often imagine.  

Change happens - embrace it, or at least deal with it.

Get busy and don't wait to live the life you've been dreaming.

12 July 2012

Self-discovered Learning

Most of my non-fiction writing and work is in the Learning and Development area. In a recent article I came across this quote.

'The only kind of learning which significantly influences behaviour is self-discovered learning - truth that has been assimilated in experience.'  Carl Rogers.

Self-discovered learning isn't necessarily learning something on your own, it's the discovered element that is important.  For example, you're giving a presentation and want the audience to remember an important statistic.  It's pointless giving it to them.  Make them work for it.  Let them discover the information themselves.  It will remain with them for longer than you telling them, even if prefaced with the words - this is very important.

So how does this relate to writing?

I've blogged a number of times about the benefits of writing groups, and a couple of years ago I had an experience of self-discovered learning through the writing group.

At one meeting several of the group pointed out a number of places where I was 'walking the dog'.  If you've never heard of the phrase it basically means that you over-describe an everyday action, like making a sandwich or getting ready for work in the morning.  It's something that can be left out, or covered in a sentence.  

I knew all about 'walking the dog', I could see it in other writing, but that night it was as if someone had just removed a blindfold.  I looked at the extract and suddenly saw it in my own writing.  How could I have missed it before!

I was walking the dog.

It was an interesting learning experience, and I'm now aware of 'walking the dog' in a way I wasn't before.

Self-discovered learning - truth understood in experience.

08 July 2012

Beautiful Blogger Award

I had a lovely surprise when I logged onto Twitter the other day, and found that I'd been given the Beautiful Blogger Award - not sure whether it's supposed to be me that's beautiful, or the blog!  Hopefully the blog. 
Thank you to Di Jones for this award, and phew, no big award ceremony so I don't have to rush out and buy something new to wear.

I've done some research and discovered that instead of the award ceremony I have to:
1. Post the award logo on my blog (tick)
2. Acknowledge the person who nominated me (tick)
3. Tell you seven things you didn't know about me
4. Pass the award onto seven other people.

Okay here goes with the seven things you don't know about me.

I run first thing most mornings - not very far or very well, but as it helps with the writing inspiration I'm trying to keep it up.

I have a scar on my leg where I was burnt by a hot water bottle.  Fortunately I was too young to remember it happening.

I've lived (in no particular order) in New Zealand, Cyprus, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales and spent a lot of my school summer holidays in Ireland as my mother was Irish.

At last count I've lived in around 20 houses - not surprising considering the point above.

I'd never broken a bone until about two years ago when I managed to break three at the same time.

Most of my mother's family were farmers, and during one memorable holiday (for the rest of the family - again I was too young to remember), I got chased by a flock of geese (which is probably the reason I don't like them) and managed to fall in a very muddy pond in my best dress.

I live about 10 minutes walk from the beach and would hate to live further away from it than that.

Time now to nominate seven blogs I enjoy reading, and therefore the new recipients of the Beautiful Blogger Award.  Here they are (big drum roll) in no particular order.

Sarah Duncan -  always great writing advice

David Gaughran - again great writing/marketing/publishing advice

Raptitude - musings on life and what makes humans do what they do

Rebecca Leith - a writer and blogger I discovered through Twitter

Anita Chapman - Anita has some beautiful photos on her blog and has collaborated in some great short stories - you can find the links on her blog

Catherine Ryan Howard - great advice on self-publishing and writing

New Hen on the Blog - a writing friend I met online

Duolit - Publishing/marketing advice

Oops that's eight, now you also know I can't count!

Thanks heaps to these bloggers, and all the many others that share their experiences and knowledge.  Have a great week. 

05 July 2012

Brain Stress

I'm not good at multi-tasking.

I used to say this apologetically, feeling there was something wrong with me, or that I was owning up to some deep dark secret, but now I say it proudly.

Over the past couple of years I've read enough to know that jumping from one activity to another is not necessarily a good habit.

This is an interesting infographic on digital stress and our brains, and what happens to our concentration when we are multi-task - certainly something to take into consideration when the tasks are important.

The suggestions in the What Can Help section aren't new, but I've found implementing similar initiatives has been very useful in helping my productivity.

Limiting the number of times I check email and use the internet, together with completing similar tasks at the same time helps immensely. I've also found the kitchen timer very useful in helping to keep me on track with work. I set it for fifty-five minutes and keep writing until the alarm goes off. I then have a five-minute break to have a drink/snack, stretch, and do something different to keep my inspiration up. Every second or third break (depending on what else is going on), I take a slightly longer break and use it to check emails, or do a group of those similar tasks.

Since doing this I've been a lot more productive when writing, and if you're keen on knowing how productive you are, you can check your word count every hour.

01 July 2012

Good Titles

I've written a couple of times about my problems with titles. My very first post about 18 months ago was on trying to come up with a name for the blog.

Over the weekend we've watched some films from a few years ago, one being State and Main.  I was wondering what the film title meant, and how it fitted when I got the answer. The car accident happens on the corner of State and Main, and later the accident becomes a pivotal point of decision and change for the character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. I liked it the way they used an almost insignificant item (intersection of two roads) as the title of the film, as what it stands for becomes highly significant.

That got me thinking about other film and book titles that I've liked for various reasons. The ones I've mentioned here aren't necessarily the greatest films or books, just that the titles have resonated with me for various reasons.

Back to the Future - the film has been around for so long and we're all so used to the title we don't think about it, but initially it took me a while to get my head around the idea of going back to the future, after all don't we go forward to the future.

I liked these next titles because they pull together items that don't usually belong together, but have meaning in the film/book. The Hurt Locker. The Devil Wears Prada. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

I thought The Time Traveller's Wife was an excellent title as the idea of time travel is always an interesting one, but this adds something more specific. Who is the time traveller? Who is his wife?  What impact does the time travel have on her/them?

Thank you for smoking - a twist on the usual sign - Thank you for not smoking.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - we're used to Lonely Planet Guides, and travel guides to various countries, but the Universe!  Though obviously the title does need to have something to do with the book content, rather than just being a brilliant title.

Looking at these titles, and the reasons I think they worked, gives me a few pointers for selecting a title. Taking a critical choice or action from the manuscript, or looking at disparate items/names/places and using them together. 

Now I'll have to get working on a title for my current work in progress!